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Works by Aristotle
Pages of Poetics

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its power by mere reading. If, then, in all other respects it is

superior, this fault, we say, is not inherent in it.

And superior it is, because it has an the epic elements- it may even

use the epic meter- with the music and spectacular effects as

important accessories; and these produce the most vivid of

pleasures. Further, it has vividness of impression in reading as

well as in representation. Moreover, the art attains its end within

narrower limits for the concentrated effect is more pleasurable than

one which is spread over a long time and so diluted. What, for

example, would be the effect of the Oedipus of Sophocles, if it were

cast into a form as long as the Iliad? Once more, the Epic imitation

has less unity; as is shown by this, that any Epic poem will furnish

subjects for several tragedies. Thus if the story adopted by the

poet has a strict unity, it must either be concisely told and appear

truncated; or, if it conforms to the Epic canon of length, it must

seem weak and watery. [Such length implies some loss of unity,] if,

I mean, the poem is constructed out of several actions, like the Iliad

and the Odyssey, which have many such parts, each with a certain

magnitude of its own. Yet these poems are as perfect as possible in

structure; each is, in the highest degree attainable, an imitation

of a single action.

If, then, tragedy is superior to epic poetry in all these

respects, and, moreover, fulfills its specific function better as an

art- for each art ought to produce, not any chance pleasure, but the

pleasure proper to it, as already stated- it plainly follows that

tragedy is the higher art, as attaining its end more perfectly.

Thus much may suffice concerning Tragic and Epic poetry in

general; their several kinds and parts, with the number of each and

their differences; the causes that make a poem good or bad; the

objections of the critics and the answers to these objections....

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