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Works by Aristotle
Pages of Poetics

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other personage; none of them wanting in characteristic qualities, but

each with a character of his own.

The element of the wonderful is required in Tragedy. The irrational,

on which the wonderful depends for its chief effects, has wider

scope in Epic poetry, because there the person acting is not seen.

Thus, the pursuit of Hector would be ludicrous if placed upon the

stage- the Greeks standing still and not joining in the pursuit, and

Achilles waving them back. But in the Epic poem the absurdity passes

unnoticed. Now the wonderful is pleasing, as may be inferred from

the fact that every one tells a story with some addition of his

knowing that his hearers like it. It is Homer who has chiefly taught

other poets the art of telling lies skilfully. The secret of it lies

in a fallacy For, assuming that if one thing is or becomes, a second

is or becomes, men imagine that, if the second is, the first

likewise is or becomes. But this is a false inference. Hence, where

the first thing is untrue, it is quite unnecessary, provided the

second be true, to add that the first is or has become. For the

mind, knowing the second to be true, falsely infers the truth of the

first. There is an example of this in the Bath Scene of the Odyssey.

Accordingly, the poet should prefer probable impossibilities to

improbable possibilities. The tragic plot must not be composed of

irrational parts. Everything irrational should, if possible, be

excluded; or, at all events, it should lie outside the action of the

play (as, in the Oedipus, the hero's ignorance as to the manner of

Laius' death); not within the drama- as in the Electra, the

messenger's account of the Pythian games; or, as in the Mysians, the

man who has come from Tegea to Mysia and is still speechless. The plea

that otherwise the plot would have been ruined, is ridiculous; such

a plot should not in the first instance be constructed. But once the

irrational has been introduced and an air of likelihood imparted to

it, we must accept it in spite of the absurdity. Take even the

irrational incidents in the Odyssey, where Odysseus is left upon the

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