Poetics

A beginning is that which does not itself follow anything by causal necessity, but after which something naturally is or comes to be. An end, on the contrary, is that which itself naturally follows some other thing, either by necessity, or as a rule, but has nothing following it. A middle is that which follows something as some other thing follows it. A well constructed plot, therefore, must neither begin nor end at haphazard, but conform to these principles.

Accordingly, the poet should prefer probable impossibilities to improbable possibilities.

A likely impossibility is always preferable to an unconvincing possibility. The story should never be made up of improbable incidents; there should be nothing of the sort in it.

All human happiness or misery takes the form of action; the end for which we live is a certain kind of action.

And by this very difference tragedy stands apart in relation to comedy, for the latter intends to imitate those who are worse, and the former better, than people are now.

a poet must be a composer of plots rather than of verses,

A sign of this is what happens (10) in our actions, for we delight in contemplating the most accurately made images of the very things that are painful for us to see, such as the forms of the most contemptible insects and of dead bodies.

A well constructed plot should, therefore, be single in its issue, rather than double as some maintain. The change of fortune should be not from bad to good, but, reversely, from good to bad.

Comedy aims at representing men as worse, Tragedy as better than in actual life.

Comedy, as we said, is an imitation of people of a lower sort, though not in respect to every vice; rather, what is ridiculous is part of what is ugly.

Daher ist die Dichtkunst Sache von phantasiebegabten oder von leidenschaftlichen Naturen; die einen sind wandlungsfähig, die anderen stark erregbar.

De lo que hemos dicho se desprende que la tarea del poeta es describir no lo que ha
acontecido, sino lo que podría haber ocurrido, esto es, tanto lo que es posible como
probable o necesario. La distinción entre el historiador y el poeta no consiste en que
uno escriba en prosa y el otro en verso; se podrá trasladar al verso la obra de Herodoto, y
ella seguiría siendo una clase de historia. La diferencia reside en que uno relata lo que ha
sucedido, y el otro lo que podría haber acontecido. De aquí que la poesía sea más
filosófica y de mayor dignidad que la historia.

Even a woman may be good, and also a slave; though the woman may be said to be an inferior being, and the slave quite worthless.

For the essence of a riddle is to express true facts under impossible combinations.

For the laughable is a sort of error and ugliness that is not painful and destructive, just as, evidently, a laughable mask is something ugly and distorted without pain.

For this reason poetry is more philosophical and more serious than history; poetry utters universal truths, history particular statements. The universal truths concern what befits a person of a certain kind to say or do in accordance with probability and necessity—and that is the aim of poetry, even if it makes use of proper names.* A particular statement tells us what (for example) Alcibiades* did or what happened to him. In the case of comedy this is already manifest: the poets make up the story on the basis of probability and then attach names to the characters at random;

Homero, más que ningún otro, nos ha enseñado a todos el arte de forjar mentiras de manera adecuada

it is the function of a poet to relate not things that have happened, but things that may happen,

The greater the length, the more beautiful will the piece be by reason of its size, provided that the whole be perspicuous.” (VII)

the greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.

the laughable is a species of what is disgraceful.

The plot, then, is the first principle, and, as it were, the soul of a tragedy; Character holds the second place.

The poet should even act his story with the very gestures of his personages. Given the same natural qualifications, he who feels the emotions to be described will be the most convincing; distress and anger, for instance, are portrayed most truthfully by one who is feeling them at the moment. Hence it is that poetry demands a man with a special gift for it, or else one with a touch of madness in him; the former can easily assume the required mood, and the latter may be actually beside himself with emotion.

the production of spectacular effects depends more on the art of the stage machinist than on that of the poet.

The same distinction marks off Tragedy from Comedy; for Comedy aims at representing men as worse, Tragedy as better than in actual life. III

Thus, since time immemorial, it has been customary to accept the criticism of art from a man who may or may not have been artist himself. Some believe that artist should create its art and leave it for critic to pass judgement over it. Whereas dramatists like Ben Jonson is of the view that to ‘judge of poets is only the faculty of poets; and not of all poets, but the best’. Only the best of poets have the right to pass judgments on the merit or defects of poetry, for they alone have experienced the creative process form beginning to end, and they alone can rightly understand it.

Tragedy, however, is an imitation not only of a complete action, but also of incidents arousing pity and fear.

Tragedy is an imitation not just of a complete action, but of events that evoke pity and fear.

With respect to the requirement of art, the probable impossible is always preferable to the improbable possible.