Poetics

by

Aristotle

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For an artist to imitate an object of beauty, Aristotle says, that imitation must possess all the parts it aims to imitate, and its magnitude cannot be arbitrary. Magnitude speaks to the actual size of something, but it also refers to metaphorical size and scope. Objects of imitation must be large enough to produce astonishment but small enough to be readily taken in with one view to maintain unity.

Magnitude Quotes in Poetics

The Poetics quotes below are all either spoken by Magnitude or refer to Magnitude. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of Poetics published in 1997.
Chapter 4 Quotes

Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is admirable, complete and possesses magnitude; in language made pleasurable, each of its species separated in different parts; performed by actors, not through narration; effecting through pity and fear the purification of such emotions.

(By “language made pleasurable” I mean that which possesses rhythm and melody, i.e. song. By the separation of its species I mean that some parts are composed in verse alone; others by contrast make use of song.)

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker)
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

Any beautiful object, whether a living organism or any other entity composed of parts, must not only possess those parts in proper order, but its magnitude also should not be arbitrary; beauty consists in magnitude as well as order. For this reason no organism could be beautiful if it is excessively small (since observation becomes confused as it comes close to having no perceptible duration in time) or excessively large (since the observation is then not simultaneous, and the observers find that the sense of unity and wholeness is lost from the observation, e.g. if there were an animal a thousand miles long). So just as in the case of physical objects and living organisms, they should possess a certain magnitude, and this should be such as can readily be taken in at one view, so in the case of plots: they should have a certain length, and this should be such as can readily be held in memory.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker)
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
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Magnitude Term Timeline in Poetics

The timeline below shows where the term Magnitude appears in Poetics. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4. Tragedy: Definition and Analysis
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Imitation  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
...to Aristotle, tragedy “is an imitation of an action that is admirable, complete and possesses magnitude.” Tragedy is written in “language made pleasurable” (meaning language that has rhythm and melody), and... (full context)
Chapter 5. Plot: Basic Concepts
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
5.1 Completeness. Tragedy “is an imitation of a complete, i.e. whole, action, possessing a certain magnitude.” To be “whole,” a tragedy must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. A... (full context)
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Imitation  Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
...being or something else, must possess all the parts it aims to imitate, and its magnitude cannot be arbitrary. “Beauty consists in magnitude as well as order,” Aristotle says. If an... (full context)
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Imitation  Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
Objects possess a specific magnitude, and they should be readily taken in with just one view. The same goes for... (full context)
Chapter 8. Other Aspects of Tragedy
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
...appropriate for a tragedy because it’s so long that the stories wouldn’t have the right magnitude. (full context)