Poetics

by

Aristotle

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Themes and Colors
Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry  Theme Icon
Imitation  Theme Icon
Fear, Pity, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Component Parts and Balance  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Poetics, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Tragedy vs. Epic Poetry

Aristotle’s Poetics, written around 335 B.C.E., is the oldest surviving work of literary theory, which is an area of study concerned primarily with the analysis of literature. Poetics is a critical look at poetry and the effect it has on those who consume it. According to Aristotle, poetry leads to a sort of “purification” through eliciting emotions—mainly pity and fear—in a process known as catharsis. In his definition of poetry, Aristotle includes…

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Imitation

Aristotle’s Poetics is particularly concerned with mimesis, a Greek word used within literary theory and philosophy that loosely translates to “representation” or “imitation.” In Ancient Greece, where Aristotle lived and wrote, art—including visual art and poetry—was considered mimetic. This idea means that, in one way or another, all art is a representation or imitation of nature, including human nature. Mimesis was a hot topic in Aristotle’s time, and some writers…

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Fear, Pity, and Catharsis

In Poetics, Aristotle argues that the true aim of tragedy is to bring about a “purification” of emotion. Aristotle claims that “one should not seek every pleasure from tragedy, but the one that is characteristic of it.” In other words, since fear and pity are characteristic of tragedy, these are the emotions a tragedy should produce in those who read or view it. This “purification,” or production of fear and pity in the audience…

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Component Parts and Balance

In Poetics, Aristotle examines the defining features of a successful poem, specifically of tragedy and epic poetry. He breaks down the required component parts of an effective tragedy—including plot, character, diction, spectacle, reasoning, and lyric poetry—and he explores each component part individually. He discusses the parts of diction, the rhetoric behind reasoning, and the natural human inclinations that make lyric poetry and spectacle so pleasing and entertaining…

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