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....