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Pages of Poetics

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till then voluntary. Comedy had already taken definite shape when

comic poets, distinctively so called, are heard of. Who furnished it

with masks, or prologues, or increased the number of actors- these and

other similar details remain unknown. As for the plot, it came

originally from Sicily; but of Athenian writers Crates was the first

who abandoning the 'iambic' or lampooning form, generalized his themes

and plots.

Epic poetry agrees with Tragedy in so far as it is an imitation in

verse of characters of a higher type. They differ in that Epic

poetry admits but one kind of meter and is narrative in form. They

differ, again, in their length: for Tragedy endeavors, as far as

possible, to confine itself to a single revolution of the sun, or

but slightly to exceed this limit, whereas the Epic action has no

limits of time. This, then, is a second point of difference; though at

first the same freedom was admitted in Tragedy as in Epic poetry.

Of their constituent parts some are common to both, some peculiar to

Tragedy: whoever, therefore knows what is good or bad Tragedy, knows

also about Epic poetry. All the elements of an Epic poem are found

in Tragedy, but the elements of a Tragedy are not all found in the

Epic poem.



Of the poetry which imitates in hexameter verse, and of Comedy, we

will speak hereafter. Let us now discuss Tragedy, resuming its

formal definition, as resulting from what has been already said.

Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious,

complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with

each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in

separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative;

through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these

emotions. By 'language embellished,' I mean language into which

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