Tuesday, June 14, 2016

On Aristotle’s Theory of Poetry

J H Randall makes the following commentary on Aristotle’s theory of poetry:

“The poet thus makes the universal pattern of nature clearer than nature unaided by art is able to do, “just as a good portrait-painter reproduces the distinctive features of a man, and at the same time, without losing the likeness, makes him handsomer than he is.” The poet clarifies nature’s pattern. The poet depicts things as they are, or as they are said to be, or as they ought to be—as they ought to be if nature’s aim is to be fully realized. Sophocles, who was Aristotle’s favorite tragic poet, just as he was to be Hegel’s, said, he drew men as they ought to be, while Euripides drew them as they actually are—as they “ought” to be if they were to be fully men. Since the aim of poetry is to “convince,” a convincing impossibility is preferable, and certainly far more effective, than an unconvincing possibility. In other words, it is no answer to the critic to say, “It actually happened! I knew a man who did just that!” If this model is in fact improbable, the poet ought to improve upon nature.”

(Source: Aristotle by J H Randall; Chapter: The Productive Sciences; Page: 291) 

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