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Works by Aristotle
Pages of Poetics

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of parts, but must also be of a certain magnitude; for beauty

depends on magnitude and order. Hence a very small animal organism

cannot be beautiful; for the view of it is confused, the object

being seen in an almost imperceptible moment of time. Nor, again,

can one of vast size be beautiful; for as the eye cannot take it all

in at once, the unity and sense of the whole is lost for the

spectator; as for instance if there were one a thousand miles long.

As, therefore, in the case of animate bodies and organisms a certain

magnitude is necessary, and a magnitude which may be easily embraced

in one view; so in the plot, a certain length is necessary, and a

length which can be easily embraced by the memory. The limit of length

in relation to dramatic competition and sensuous presentment is no

part of artistic theory. For had it been the rule for a hundred

tragedies to compete together, the performance would have been

regulated by the water-clock- as indeed we are told was formerly done.

But the limit as fixed by the nature of the drama itself is this:

the greater the length, the more beautiful will the piece be by reason

of its size, provided that the whole be perspicuous. And to define the

matter roughly, we may say that the proper magnitude is comprised

within such limits, that the sequence of events, according to the

law of probability or necessity, will admit of a change from bad

fortune to good, or from good fortune to bad.



Unity of plot does not, as some persons think, consist in the

unity of the hero. For infinitely various are the incidents in one

man's life which cannot be reduced to unity; and so, too, there are

many actions of one man out of which we cannot make one action.

Hence the error, as it appears, of all poets who have composed a

Heracleid, a Theseid, or other poems of the kind. They imagine that as

Heracles was one man, the story of Heracles must also be a unity.

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