Poetics In Plain and Simple English (Digital Download)
Aristotle's "Poetics" is the earliest surviving work of dramatic theory--which is to say he was one of the first to identify and explain what poetry was. It's an important piece of work. But years of bad translations have almost made it unappreciated and inaccessible. BookCaps new translation on Aristotle's classic work explains it in a way that anyone can understand: Plain and Simple English!

If you’ve always been interested in Aristotle, but always been afraid to actually read him, then now is the time to put those fears away!



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Excerpt From Poetics In Plain and Simple English


I plan to write of poetry as a whole and of the various types of poetry, discussing the main features of each type.  I shall examine how the plot has to be structured to create a good poem; the number of parts which make up a poem and their nature; I shall also examine anything else which comes into the scope of the same inquiry.  Let us follow the natural order and begin with first principles.

Epic, Tragic, Comic and Dithyrambic (hymns sung at festivals in honor of Dionoysus) poetry, and most types of music played on the flute and the lyre, are all born from types of imitation (i.e. recreating emotion and action).  However, they are different in three ways: the medium, the voice or instruments used and the manner of the imitation; these are all unique in each case.

For just as there are some people who, deliberately or through force of habit, copy and represent various things through the use of colour and shape, or with their voices, so in all the arts mentioned above the imitation is produced through rhythm, language or harmony; these things may be used singly or mixed together.

So in the music of the flute and the lyre, only harmony and rhythm are used.  This is the same in other, essentially similar, arts, such as the playing of the shepherd’s pipe.  In dancing, only rhythm is used.  Even dancing represents character, emotion and action through rhythmical movement.

There is another art which imitates, in either prose or verse (if in verse it can use different meters or just one), by only using language, but it has not been given a name up to now.  There is no common term which could be used to describe the mimes of Sophron and Xenarchus, and the Socratic dialogues, on the one hand, and on the other poetry in iambic, elegiac or similar meters.  People do add the word “maker” or “poet” to the name of the meter and speak of elegiac poets or epic poets (that is, ones writing in hexameter), as if it is not the emotion which makes the poet, simply the type of rhythm they are using.  Even when a medical or scientific work is brought out in verse then it is customary to call the author a poet, yet Homer and Empedocoles have nothing in common but their use of meter; one is a poet, the other is a physicist.  Even if a poet were to combine all different kinds of meter in his poetry, as Chaeremon did in “Centaur”, we should still give him the general name of “poet.”

Then again there are some arts which use all the means mentioned above, rhythm, music and meter.  These include Dithyrambic and Nomic (sung at religious festivals) poetry, and also Comedy and Tragedy; the difference between them is that in the first type all three are used together, whereas in Comedy and Tragedy first one means is used and then another. 

These, then, are the differences between the arts with respect to the imitation of reality.


Since the things being imitated are men in action, and these men must be of either a high or low type (for these divisions are mainly a matter of moral character, which can de distinguished by being good or bad), it follows that men must be represented as being better than they really are, worse, or the same.  The same happens in painting.  Polygnotus showed men as more noble than they are, Pauson showed them as less noble, and Dionysius drew them as they are.

Now it is clear that each type of imitation mentioned above will have these differences, and imitating things they will each become a unique genre.  Differences can be found even in things such as dancing, flute playing and playing the lyre.  The same is true with words, whether it is prose or verse unaccompanied by music.  For example, Homer makes men better than they are; Clepohon portrays them as they are; Hegemon the Thasian, the creator of parodies, and Nicochares, the author of the Deiliad, makes them worse than they are.  The same is true in the two types of religious songs mentioned; different types may be shown within these, just as Timotheus and Philoxenus showed the Cyclops in different ways.  These differences also distinguish between Tragedy and Comedy: Comedy aims to show men as worse than they are in real life, Tragedy to show them as better.
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