Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Aristotle
Pages of Poetics

Previous | Next


they pass adverse judgement and then proceed to reason on it; and,

assuming that the poet has said whatever they happen to think, find

fault if a thing is inconsistent with their own fancy.

The question about Icarius has been treated in this fashion. The

critics imagine he was a Lacedaemonian. They think it strange,

therefore, that Telemachus should not have met him when he went to

Lacedaemon. But the Cephallenian story may perhaps be the true one.

They allege that Odysseus took a wife from among themselves, and

that her father was Icadius, not Icarius. It is merely a mistake,

then, that gives plausibility to the objection.

In general, the impossible must be justified by reference to

artistic requirements, or to the higher reality, or to received

opinion. With respect to the requirements of art, a probable

impossibility is to be preferred to a thing improbable and yet

possible. Again, it may be impossible that there should be men such as

Zeuxis painted. 'Yes,' we say, 'but the impossible is the higher

thing; for the ideal type must surpass the realty.' To justify the

irrational, we appeal to what is commonly said to be. In addition to

which, we urge that the irrational sometimes does not violate

reason; just as 'it is probable that a thing may happen contrary to


Things that sound contradictory should be examined by the same rules

as in dialectical refutation- whether the same thing is meant, in

the same relation, and in the same sense. We should therefore solve

the question by reference to what the poet says himself, or to what is

tacitly assumed by a person of intelligence.

The element of the irrational, and, similarly, depravity of

character, are justly censured when there is no inner necessity for

introducing them. Such is the irrational element in the introduction

of Aegeus by Euripides and the badness of Menelaus in the Orestes.

Thus, there are five sources from which critical objections are

drawn. Things are censured either as impossible, or irrational, or

Previous | Next
Site Search