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and the plot are the end of a tragedy; and the end is the chief

thing of all. Again, without action there cannot be a tragedy; there

may be without character. The tragedies of most of our modern poets

fail in the rendering of character; and of poets in general this is

often true. It is the same in painting; and here lies the difference

between Zeuxis and Polygnotus. Polygnotus delineates character well;

the style of Zeuxis is devoid of ethical quality. Again, if you string

together a set of speeches expressive of character, and well

finished in point of diction and thought, you will not produce the

essential tragic effect nearly so well as with a play which, however

deficient in these respects, yet has a plot and artistically

constructed incidents. Besides which, the most powerful elements of

emotional interest in Tragedy- Peripeteia or Reversal of the

Situation, and Recognition scenes- are parts of the plot. A further

proof is, that novices in the art attain to finish of diction and

precision of portraiture before they can construct the plot. It is the

same with almost all the early poets.

The plot, then, is the first principle, and, as it were, the soul of

a tragedy; Character holds the second place. A similar fact is seen in

painting. The most beautiful colors, laid on confusedly, will not give

as much pleasure as the chalk outline of a portrait. Thus Tragedy is

the imitation of an action, and of the agents mainly with a view to

the action.

Third in order is Thought- that is, the faculty of saying what is

possible and pertinent in given circumstances. In the case of oratory,

this is the function of the political art and of the art of

rhetoric: and so indeed the older poets make their characters speak

the language of civic life; the poets of our time, the language of the

rhetoricians. Character is that which reveals moral purpose, showing

what kind of things a man chooses or avoids. Speeches, therefore,

which do not make this manifest, or in which the speaker does not

choose or avoid anything whatever, are not expressive of character.

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