Aristotle Poetics 6-9

This section of Poetics deals primarily with tragedies and highlights the importance of action over all other elements. Character, diction, thought, spectacle and song are also discussed, but primarily as they drive and contribute to plot.


Action drives plot as it initiates chains of causal events in tragedies. It it, therefor, the most important element of a tragedy. Character  and thought  drive action, but according to Aristotle, they are less satisfying and action remains the most important element.


While action is the most important of the six elements of tragedy, good tragedies are inlaid with the other five as well. 


1). Action – discussed above.


2). Character – characteristics attributed to the characters. Virtues that lead to the fatal flaw that causes the tragedy.


3). Thought – ideas of the characters conveyed through speech.


4).  Diction – here Aristotle means rhythmic language. Drama in ancient Greece was poetic in nature, though we might also think, more generally, that the words chosen and how they sound contributes.


5). Spectacle – interesting things to look at, hear etc.


6). Song – music.


Aristotle continues to describe the elements of plot. 


1). Completeness – must have a beginning, a middle and an end.


2). Magnitude – refers to length. A good tragedy should be a “length which can be easily embraced by the memory.” 


3). Unity – the action of the plot must center around a central theme.


4). Determinant Structure – the plot must hinge on a sequence of events. All of the events must be necessary.


5). Universality – Characters should act in ways that most people would act in similar situations.


Aristotle concludes by expressing distaste for one type of plot in particular. Episodic plots without “probable or necessary” sequence should be avoided.


Click here to return to part 1-5


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