Aristotle, who lived between 384-322BC, wrote 'Poetics' but the work is not known to have been widely circulated or published in his lifetime. But Poetics has helped improve understanding about the dynamics of writing drama and poetry since its discovery years after his death.
Poetics was properly translated in Italy during the Italian Renaissance and the time of Shakespeare in 1600. An Oriental version existed in 935AD.
Poetics looks at the fundamentals of writing great tragedy. Aristotle believes the art of good dramatic tragedy is personified by the works of the popular Greek playwright Sophocles.
Poetics considers tragedy to be the dramatisation of a sequence of events which cause a situation to go from good to bad in a logical and surprising way. The dramatic events must show not tell what actually happens and must function according to the laws of logical probability or necessity. The events must evoke strong emotions such as pity caused by the character facing 'unmerited misfortune' or fear caused by relating to the character in adverse circumstances.
The plot is an arrangement of events derived from an unbroken chain of cause and effect. The beginning, middle and end must have causal connections comprising a holistic whole to ensure audiences do not suffer from a suspension of disbelief or become disengaged from the plot.
Aristotle insists characters must be complex not stereotypes. The character like all human beings must have a flaw or make a mistake. This must cause their situation to go from good to bad where they lose something of importance be it power, status or their lives. Aristotle believes a good character has to be highly renowned and prosperous for the fall to be tragic but this view may not be shared today.
The character's speech or action must express their character and their personal motivations must support the plot and its overall holistic theme.
The written character must be relevant to the role, provide a picture of their morality, be true to life and show consistency through necessity and probability. This realism must also show an otherness which shows the representation of perhaps what may be a greater capacity in all human beings. Today, we may describe this as our human ideals but these will be universally recognised as heros and heroines.
Poetics is the basis of Western drama and is used by playwrights and screenwriters alike and is a standard text book in Hollywood. Therefore, most of us know the classic structure of all drama but may now choose to watch the drama at the Cinema or on TV rather than the theatre.--Submitted by drama Bal
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