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A Review of "The Nature of Tragedy" Piece by Aristotle

Nyamweya is a Kenyan scholar who has done many years of research on a diversity of topics


Aristotle on the “Nature of Tragedy”

In the poetics, Aristotle equates tragedy to other metrical forms such as the epic and comedy. He argues out that just like poetry, tragedy is a form of imitation which he names mimesis. Nonetheless, he adds that tragedy carries a serious goal and which employs direct action other than narrative in achieving its ends. According to this author, poetry should be a simulation of things as they ought to be and not as they are currently constituted. A good example is ideals and universals. This thus makes poetry to be more dignified and philosophical channel compared to other mediums such as history; which simply records what transpired. For Aristotle, tragedy focuses on bringing about a catharsis of the audience, and to stir in them emotions of fear, pity while also purging them of these sensations in a way that makes them feel uplifted and cleanses after the performance. Furthermore, it is also purposed to enhance their understanding of humanity and gods. This catharsis according to this philosopher is generated through experiencing some moving and disastrous changes in the lives of the protagonist in a play. It should be noted that Aristotle appreciated change as not being always disastrous, had a feeling that this should not be the type that should be exhibited in the best tragedies. For instance, Oedipus at Colonus was regarded to be a tragedy for the Greeks but in actual sense, the ending of this tragedy is not unhappy as could be expected (Aristotle, 2006).

Aristotle presented six core features that should constitute a tragedy. They include scenic effect (spectacles), music (song), diction, plot and character. However, he reiterated that character and plot are the basic ones. Most of Aristotle’s Poets are devoted to the evaluation of proper utilization of these features as well as the scope with various examples derived from a diversity of tragic plays, including but not limited to Sophocles dramas, Euripides as well as the works of Aeschylus. In a practical sense, Aristotle’s elements have been held highly to comprehend Greek tragic drama. Of particular relevance is the statement of the plot being the most critical feature of a tragedy.

For Aristotle, tragedy is an imitation of action, misery, and happiness; rather than of men. Besides, life is constituted of action, while its end is a form of activity rather than quality. As used by Aristotle, the word action refers to what is selected deliberately and as a capability of finding completion in attainment of a particular goal. In this sense, young children and animals have no sense in them, and action cannot be said to constitute the whole aspect of life for any person whatsoever. In this respect, Aristotle had a sense of action in human context as well as a sense of the actions that one need pay attention to. These actions which cannot be captured by a video camera have to be found by the shaping, feeling and intelligent human soul. In this regard, Aristotle insinuates the action of a play as not being on stage but rather within the imagination of the audience. While the actors move, speak, and gesture, the poet who speaks through them, from one imagination to another, in an endeavour to present to the audience, the things purposed and imagined in his mind. This owes to the fact that whatever he or she has made or intends to make is a kind of action which has to be held and seen jointly as attentively and actively by the spectators just like him. The thing which is regenerated in the audience for the audience through a poet’s art is imitation. Further, what is imitated is what determines the human realism and thus making this art a powerful form of human communication. If there is nobody capable of imitating action, then there is a potential for life to wash over humans without leaving a trace.

In his text, Aristotle argues that the poetry art is divided into verse drama (which includes tragedy, comedy, satyr play, epic and lyric poetry. All these genres share the mimesis function which implies imitation of life. Nonetheless, they differ in three core ways which are described by Aristotle as the variation of goodness in the characters, the variation in melody, meter, harmony and music rhythm, and the variation in presentation of the narratives, in terms of acting our or telling the story. By imitation, Aristotle does not imply a kind of mimicry through which the syllables are equated to the sound of frogs. Rather, he is speaking about imitation that is brought about by action and through action note done through simple happenings. Besides, an epic poem utilizes language as its basic tool. For instance, the playing of lure entails melody and rhythm. However, there are poetic forms where all the materials can be blended, an example being a Greek tragic drama that involved a singing chorus, and hence; both language and music were part of the performance.

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