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Works by Aristotle
Pages of Poetics

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of probability, and then inserts characteristic names- unlike the

lampooners who write about particular individuals. But tragedians

still keep to real names, the reason being that what is possible is

credible: what has not happened we do not at once feel sure to be

possible; but what has happened is manifestly possible: otherwise it

would not have happened. Still there are even some tragedies in

which there are only one or two well-known names, the rest being

fictitious. In others, none are well known- as in Agathon's Antheus,

where incidents and names alike are fictitious, and yet they give none

the less pleasure. We must not, therefore, at all costs keep to the

received legends, which are the usual subjects of Tragedy. Indeed,

it would be absurd to attempt it; for even subjects that are known are

known only to a few, and yet give pleasure to all. It clearly

follows that the poet or 'maker' should be the maker of plots rather

than of verses; since he is a poet because he imitates, and what he

imitates are actions. And even if he chances to take a historical

subject, he is none the less a poet; for there is no reason why some

events that have actually happened should not conform to the law of

the probable and possible, and in virtue of that quality in them he is

their poet or maker.

Of all plots and actions the episodic are the worst. I call a plot

'episodic' in which the episodes or acts succeed one another without

probable or necessary sequence. Bad poets compose such pieces by their

own fault, good poets, to please the players; for, as they write

show pieces for competition, they stretch the plot beyond its

capacity, and are often forced to break the natural continuity.

But again, Tragedy is an imitation not only of a complete action,

but of events inspiring fear or pity. Such an effect is best

produced when the events come on us by surprise; and the effect is

heightened when, at the same time, they follows as cause and effect.

The tragic wonder will then be greater than if they happened of

themselves or by accident; for even coincidences are most striking

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