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Poetics   


XIV



Fear and pity may be aroused by spectacular means; but they may also

result from the inner structure of the piece, which is the better way,

and indicates a superior poet. For the plot ought to be so constructed

that, even without the aid of the eye, he who hears the tale told will

thrill with horror and melt to pity at what takes Place. This is the

impression we should receive from hearing the story of the Oedipus.

But to produce this effect by the mere spectacle is a less artistic

method, and dependent on extraneous aids. Those who employ spectacular

means to create a sense not of the terrible but only of the monstrous,

are strangers to the purpose of Tragedy; for we must not demand of

Tragedy any and every kind of pleasure, but only that which is

proper to it. And since the pleasure which the poet should afford is

that which comes from pity and fear through imitation, it is evident

that this quality must be impressed upon the incidents.

Let us then determine what are the circumstances which strike us

as terrible or pitiful.

Actions capable of this effect must happen between persons who are

either friends or enemies or indifferent to one another. If an enemy

kills an enemy, there is nothing to excite pity either in the act or

the intention- except so far as the suffering in itself is pitiful. So

again with indifferent persons. But when the tragic incident occurs

between those who are near or dear to one another- if, for example,

a brother kills, or intends to kill, a brother, a son his father, a

mother her son, a son his mother, or any other deed of the kind is

done- these are the situations to be looked for by the poet. He may

not indeed destroy the framework of the received legends- the fact,

for instance, that Clytemnestra was slain by Orestes and Eriphyle by

Alcmaeon- but he ought to show of his own, and skilfully handle the

traditional. material. Let us explain more clearly what is meant by

skilful handling.

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