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not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not

by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty. He must be one who

is highly renowned and prosperous- a personage like Oedipus, Thyestes,

or other illustrious men of such families.

A well-constructed plot should, therefore, be single in its issue,

rather than double as some maintain. The change of fortune should be

not from bad to good, but, reversely, from good to bad. It should come

about as the result not of vice, but of some great error or frailty,

in a character either such as we have described, or better rather than

worse. The practice of the stage bears out our view. At first the

poets recounted any legend that came in their way. Now, the best

tragedies are founded on the story of a few houses- on the fortunes of

Alcmaeon, Oedipus, Orestes, Meleager, Thyestes, Telephus, and those

others who have done or suffered something terrible. A tragedy, then,

to be perfect according to the rules of art should be of this

construction. Hence they are in error who censure Euripides just

because he follows this principle in his plays, many of which end

unhappily. It is, as we have said, the right ending. The best proof is

that on the stage and in dramatic competition, such plays, if well

worked out, are the most tragic in effect; and Euripides, faulty

though he may be in the general management of his subject, yet is felt

to be the most tragic of the poets.

In the second rank comes the kind of tragedy which some place first.

Like the Odyssey, it has a double thread of plot, and also an opposite

catastrophe for the good and for the bad. It is accounted the best

because of the weakness of the spectators; for the poet is guided in

what he writes by the wishes of his audience. The pleasure, however,

thence derived is not the true tragic pleasure. It is proper rather to

Comedy, where those who, in the piece, are the deadliest enemies- like

Orestes and Aegisthus- quit the stage as friends at the close, and

no one slays or is slain.

POETICS|14

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