Tragic Plot

Note: If you have any question about Aristotle’s concept of plot, Please, ask in comments.

Aristotle was born at a Greek colonial town in 384 B.C. He was a philosopher, moralist, psychologist, logician and a literary critic. He was a student of philosophic school of Plato in early age but in his old age he himself run the school. He died in 322 B.C.

What is a plot? According to Aristotle the plot is the logical arrangement of events. It is different from story that story is a rough arrangement of events but plot is a creative activity and it is a logical arrangement of events.

Aristotle stated in the ‘definition of tragedy‘ that “imitation of an action that is serious, complete and of a certain magnitude”. The action is imitation of the different aspects of human life, it is not only arrangement of incidents and situations but motives behind the action are also involved. Second point is complete action means the plot have its beginning, middle and ending, here beginning is exposition, middle is climax and ending is denouement. Third point is certain magnitude, it means the duration of the tragedy. The duration of the plot would be neither too long nor too short. According to Aristotle the duration of tragedy would not exceed a full revolution of a sun.

According to Aristotle the plot is of two type simple plot and complex plot. Simple plot is consist of exposition, climax and denouement without peripety and anagnorsis, and then complex plot consist of exposition, climax, peripetia, anagnorsis and denouement.

Plot should be an organic whole. Aristotle compares the plot of tragedy with living organisms that each part or element of plot connected to each other like living organism. The removal of any part destructs the whole, if removal of any event does not affect the whole it is loose plot and not an organic plot.

Aristotle said that avoid these type of plots in which a perfect man falls from happiness to misery because it shock the audiences, a bad man falls from happiness to misery because it only gives satisfaction and a bad man progress from misery to happiness because it is demoralize.

According to Aristotle the plot should have dramatic unity. The dramatic unity is of three type unity of action, unity of time and unity of place. The most important unity is unity of action that action must be coherent whole; each event would be logically connected with other event. Second one is unity of time that plot is neither too short that events have minute detail nor too long that audience forget the previous event but it would have enough length for the change of fortune. Third unity is unity of place that place would not change rapidly from desert to green fields or mountains. Aristotle mentioned only two unities, the unity of place he did not mentioned but renaissance and French critics mentioned this unity.

Aristotle prefer fatal plot on fortunate plot because he prefers the better than average character falls from happiness to adversity not due to depravity but from error of judgment and arouse the emotion of pity and fear.


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