Poetics

by

Aristotle

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Recognition Term Analysis

Aristotle defines recognition as “a change from ignorance to knowledge, disclosing either a close relationship or enmity, on the part of the people marked out for good or bad fortune” within a poem, particularly in a tragedy or epic poem. Put simply, recognition is the plot device in which a character understands something that they didn’t previously know. Like reversal, recognition should come from the structure of the plot, and it must occur according to necessity or probability. Recognition should occur because of events, Aristotle maintains, not just after them, and it can involve any number of things, such as people, items, or relationships. Aristotle frequently cites Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex as an example of recognition. In Oedipus Rex, a messenger comes to calm Oedipus’s fears that he has committed incest; however, the messenger ends up revealing Oedipus’s true identity and confirming his fears—that Oedipus unknowingly murdered his father and had sex with his mother. There are several forms of recognition, Aristotle says, but the best kind of recognition arises directly from the plot rather than relying on simple tokens like a physical object or a scar.

Recognition Quotes in Poetics

The Poetics quotes below are all either spoken by Recognition or refer to Recognition. 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 6 Quotes

So there are these two parts of the plot—reversal and recognition; a third is suffering. Of these, reversal and recognition have already been discussed; suffering is an action that involves destruction or pain (e.g. deaths in full view, extreme agony, woundings and so on).

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker)
Related Symbols: Oedipus Rex
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

The best recognition of all is that which arises out of the actual course of events, where the emotional impact is achieved through events that are probable, as in Sophocles’ Oedipus and the Iphigeneia (her wish to send a letter is probable). Only this kind does without contrived tokens and necklaces. Second-best are those which arise from inference.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker), Oedipus, Iphigeneia, Odysseus, Sophocles, Euripides, Homer, Orestes
Related Symbols: Oedipus Rex
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Homer, in particular, taught other poets the right way to tell falsehoods. This the false inference In cases where the existence or occurrence of A implies the existence or occurrence of B, people imagine that if B is the case than A also exists or occurs—which is fallacious. So if A is false, but its existence would entail the existences or occurrence of B, one should add B; then, on the basis of its knowledge that B is true, our mind falsely infers the reality of A as well. An example of this can be found in the bath-scene.

Related Characters: Aristotle (speaker), Odysseus, Homer
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:
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Recognition Term Timeline in Poetics

The timeline below shows where the term Recognition 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
...Furthermore, the most effective way in which a tragedy produces catharsis is through reversal and recognition, both of which are part of the plot. (full context)
Chapter 6. Plot: Species and Components
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Imitation  Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
...action of unity is imitated, but the change of fortune is achieved without reversal or recognition. A complex plot is one in which the change of fortune comes about through reversal,... (full context)
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
6.4 Recognition. Recognition “is a change from ignorance to knowledge, disclosing either a close relationship or enmity,... (full context)
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Recognition combined with reversal involves fear and pity, which are the very foundation of tragedy, and... (full context)
Chapter 7. The Best Kinds of Tragic Plot
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
...be imitated by characters who almost perform a terrible act before being stopped by some recognition. These three possibilities are all there is, as a terrible and pitiable act is either... (full context)
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
...less important, but it is better if the action is performed unknowingly and followed by recognition. There is no “disgust” to be found in an act committed in ignorance, Aristotle argues,... (full context)
Chapter 8. Other Aspects of Tragedy
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
8.2 Kinds of Recognition. The first and least artistic kind of recognition involves tokens: some tokens are congenital, like... (full context)
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
The second kind of recognition is created by the poet, and this form of recognition is not very artistic either.... (full context)
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
The third kind of recognition is the kind that arises from memory, when a character suddenly realizes something they forgot.... (full context)
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
...Aristotle, there are four different kinds of tragedy: complex tragedy, which relies on reversal and recognition; tragedy of suffering, like plays about Ajax; tragedy of character, like Women of Phthia; and... (full context)
Chapter 10. Epic
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Imitation  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
...an epic does not have lyric poetry or spectacle. An epic should have reversal and recognition, and an epic should make good use of reasoning and diction. Homer was the first... (full context)