Aristotle and Sappho III
The Constituents of Tragedy
Scene: At lyceum Aristotle walking with his students.
I implore thee, sage
Nothing in comparison
Having dealt with life
Of polity, rhetoric and
Constitutions, world over
Would the beacon of thy
Lofty intellect, in the recesses
A soul hidden, a love manifest
An imitation, of what is inside
Or what might be. Of the rage
Of your master, Socrates
In conversation. Tell us
What tragedy is, so ramp
So is born the humanity with.
Acting the stories, as they make it
We turn to Spectacle first, the stage appearance
Then comes Melody and Diction, being mediums
While diction is metrical arrangements
Melody is song, Action needs Agents
Of distinctive thought and character
To whom we ascribe certain qualities
A Fable or a Plot, where action is done
In the natural order of the things
Character is the give qualities to agents
And Thought is enunciating a general truth
Providing a particular point.
Nothing the sort, a mind crosseth
The arrow, once in the heart limpeth
Cupid, a lover, from the maze of life
A passing age, a beauty aglow
How would then, a Plot unfold
When living, nothing else
Is a plot tragic.
The plot is simply this, in the present sense
Combinations of incidents, things done
In succession, in a story.
What then constitutes a tragedy?
Six in number.
Of such or such quality
A Fable or Plot, Character, Thought,
Diction, Melody or Spectacle
Two of them arise
From medium of imitation,
One from the manner
And three from objects of dramatic
Imitation; There is nothing nothing else
Of thses six, its formative elements.
I didst not thought either
Which constituent placed where
A poetic diction, beyond reason and logic
An inspiration, who knoweth from where
All is placed as if, by the soft hands
An angel, a muse, god’s hands.
(Now sitting on a marble stone)
Tragedy is an imitation not of persons
It is, of life, an action; of happiness and misery.
The end we live in activity, it is therefore not
The person except for the inner representation
What we do, whether happy or the reverse,
We assign it quality through characters.
So it is the plot that is the end.
What misery that speaketh in love,
A night awake, a mother’s tear,
To some it is something else
To another, else. Do you,
O reason’s advocate, still believe
That in the deep thoughts
Emotions arising, anger and fear
Such cold demeanors as a marble statue?
How inferior are the other parts
In misery, happiness and tragedy
Having given the plot –a combination
Of incidents; a true tragic effect succeeds.
How a human emotion plays
Of nature how you spell the effect.
Lend, O poetess of muses
To the divisions, definition of tragedy.
Dealing with nature and function thereof,
Embodied in three aspects of imitation
Object, medium, manner.
Is imitation of an action of grave seriousness
Complete in itself, and having magnitude.
I lend, but what is magnitude.
By magnitude is implied
That it should be long enough
To produce rise and fall in circumstances,
Of the hero. The medium is language
And all the embellishments it allows.
The manner of imitation is dramatic
And not narrative. One in which characters
Act out the action.
End of Act III
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