Poetics

by

Aristotle

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Poetry is the form of art discussed by Aristotle in Poetics. According to Aristotle, the term poetry can be applied to any of the following forms: tragedy, epic poetry, comedy, dithyrambic poetry, and music played on pipe or lyre.

Poetry Quotes in Poetics

The Poetics quotes below are all either spoken by Poetry or refer to Poetry. 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 1 Quotes

Let us discuss the art of poetry in general and its species—the effect which each species of poetry has and the correct way to construct plots if the composition is to be of high quality, as well as the number and nature of its component parts, and any other questions that arise within the same field of enquiry. We should begin, as it natural, by taking first principles first.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker)
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

Those who imitate, imitate objects; and these must be either admirable or inferior. (Character almost always corresponds to just these two categories, since everyone is differentiated in character by defect or excellence.). Alternatively they must be better people than we are, or worse, or of the same sort (compare painters: Polygnotus portrayed better people, Pauson worse people, Dionysius people similar to us).

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker)
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

In general, two causes seem likely to have given rise to the art of poetry, both of them natural.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker)
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

It is also clear from what has been said that the function of the poet is not say what has happened, but to say the kind of thing that would happen, i.e. what is possible in accordance with probability or necessity. The historian and the poet are not distinguished by their use of verse or prose; it would be possible to turn the works of Herodotus into verse, and it would be a history in verse just as much as in prose. The distinction is this: the one says what has happened, the other the kind of thing that would happen.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker), Herodotus
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

It is possible for the evocation of fear and pity to result from the spectacle, and also from the structure of events itself. The latter is preferable and is the mark of a better poet. The plot should be constructed in such a way that, even without seeing it, anyone who hears the events which occur shudders and feels pity at what happens; this how someone would react on hearing the plot of the Oedipus. Producing this effect through spectacle is less artistic, and is dependent on the production. Those who use spectacle to produce an effect which is not evocative of fear, but simply monstrous, have nothing to do with tragedy; one should not seek every pleasure from tragedy, but the one that is characteristic of it. And since the poet should produce the pleasure which comes from pity and fear, and should do so by means of imitation, clearly this must be brought about in the events.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker), Oedipus, Sophocles
Related Symbols: Oedipus Rex
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

The most important quality in diction is clarity, provided there is no loss of dignity. The clearest diction is that based on current words; but that lacks dignity (as can be seen from the poetry of Cleophon, and that of Sthenelus). By contrast, diction that is distinguished and out of the ordinary when it makes use of exotic expressions—by which I mean non-standard words, metaphor, lengthening, and anything contrary to current usage. […] So what is needed is some kind of mixture of these two things: one of them will make the diction of the ordinary and avoid a loss of dignity (i.e. non-standard words, metaphor, ornament and other categories I mentioned earlier), while current usage will contribute clarity.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker), Aristophanes
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Probable impossibilities are preferable to implausible possibilities. Stories should not be constructed from irrational parts; so far as possible they should contain nothing irrational—or, failing that, it should be outside the narration (like Oedipus’ ignorance of the manner of Laius’ death) and not in the play itself (like the report of the Pythian Games in Electra, or the man who comes from Tegea to Mysia without speaking in the Mysians). Saying that the plot would have been ruined otherwise is absurd; plots should not be constructed like that in the first place. But is one does posit an irrationality and it seems more or less rational, even an oddity is possible; the irrationalities involved in Odysseus’ being put ashore in the Odyssey would be manifestly intolerable if a second-rate poet had composed them, but as it is the poet conceals the absurdity with other good qualities, and makes it a source of pleasure.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker), Oedipus, Orestes, Odysseus, Homer, Sophocles
Related Symbols: Oedipus Rex
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

Furthermore, if the objection is that something is not true, perhaps it is as it ought to be; e.g. Sophocles said that he portrayed people as they should be, Euripides as they are. That is the solution to use.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker), Oedipus, Sophocles, Euripides
Related Symbols: Oedipus Rex
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
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Poetry Term Timeline in Poetics

The timeline below shows where the term Poetry appears in Poetics. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1. Introduction
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Imitation  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
Aristotle states that he will discuss poetry, both in general and in particular, and he will also discuss the effect poetry has... (full context)
Chapter 2. Poetry as a Species of Imitation
Imitation  Theme Icon
Epic poetry, tragedy, comedy, dithyrambic poetry, and music by pipe or lyre are all forms of imitation,... (full context)
Imitation  Theme Icon
...iambic trimeters or any other form of verse. This art is often referred to as “poetry,” and the people who produce it are “poets.” Yet if someone writes a scientific text... (full context)
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Imitation  Theme Icon
Some arts, including dithyrambic poetry, tragedy, and comedy, combine the use of rhythm, melody, and language. The only differences among... (full context)
Chapter 3. The Anthropology and History of Poetry
Imitation  Theme Icon
...to imitation, as well as to melody and rhythm, it is no wonder that creating poetry is a natural human inclination, especially since verse is a form of rhythm. (full context)
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Imitation  Theme Icon
3.2 Early History. Early in history, poetry branched into two separate types, and these types correspond with the kinds of characters they... (full context)
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
...from improvisation. The same can be said for comedy; however, tragedy came specifically from dithyrambic poetry. From there, tragedy was enhanced and transformed into its “natural state.” Aeschylus increased the number... (full context)
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Imitation  Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
3.5 Epic. Like tragedy, epic poetry is the imitation of admirable people. The difference between tragedy and epic is that epic... (full context)
Chapter 5. Plot: Basic Concepts
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Imitation  Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
History expresses particulars, but poetry expresses universals. A universal is speech or behavior that matches what a certain kind of... (full context)
Chapter 8. Other Aspects of Tragedy
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Imitation  Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
...emotion the gesture is meant to imitate. “This is why,” Aristotle says, “the art of poetry belongs to people who are naturally gifted or mad.” The actions of the insane or... (full context)
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
Episodes must be appropriate and concise in tragedy, but in epic poetry, they are often used to make a story longer. Take Homer’s Odyssey. The story itself... (full context)
Chapter 11. Problems and Solutions
Imitation  Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
Some problems in poetry can be solved with close attention to diction. For example, use of non-standard words may... (full context)
Imitation  Theme Icon
11.3 Conclusion. Generally, objections to poetry usually include one of the following: a poem is impossible, irrational, harmful, contradictory, or incorrect.... (full context)