Plot and Character

1.0     Objectives
1.1     Introduction
        Self-Check Questions for 1.1
1.2     Relevance of Classical Criticism
Self-Check Questions for 1.2
1.3     Plato’s Theory of Mimesis and Aristotle’s Defence
        1.3.1    Aristotle's Reply to Plato's Objection
        1.3.2    Aristotle's Objection to the Theory of Mimesis
Self-Check Questions for 1.3
1.4     Aristotle’s Concept of Tragedy
        1.4.1     The Definition of Tragedy
        1.4.2     Six Formative Elements of Tragedy
        1.4.3     Plot and Character
        1.4.4     The Tragic Hero
Self-Check Questions for 1.4
1.5      The Three Unities
        1.5.1     Unity of Action
        1.5.2     Unity of Time    
        1.5.3     Unity of Place
Self-Check Questions for 1.5
1.6      Functions of Tragedy
        1.6.1     Why Aristotle had adopted this theory
        1.6.2     The Meaning of Catharsis
        1.6.3     The Relevance of the Theory of Catharsis in the Present                   Scenario
Self-Check Questions for 1.6
1.7      Let us Sum up
1.8      Glossary of Key Terms
1.9      Reading List

    Aristotle argues that, among the six formative elements, the plot is the most important element. He writes in The Poetics. The plot is the underlying principle of tragedy’. By plot Aristotle means the arrangement of incidents. Incidents mean action, and tragedy is an imitation of actions, both internal and external. That is to say that it also imitates the mental processes of the dramatic personae. In answering a question once he said that a tragedy could be written without a character but not without a plot. Though his overstatement on plot, he accepts that without action there cannot be a tragedy. The plot contains a beginning, a middle and an end, where the beginning is what is “not posterior to another thing,” while the middle needs to have something happened before, and something to happen after it, but after the end “there is nothing else.”
    The characters serve to advance the action of the story, not vice verse. The ends we pursue in life, our happiness and our misery, all take the form of action. Tragedy is written not merely to imitate man but to imitate man in action. That is, according to Aristotle, happiness consists in a certain kind of activity rather than in a certain quality of character. As David Daiches says: ‘the way in which the action works itself out, the whole casual chain which leads to the final outcome.’ Diction and Thought are also less significant than plot: a series of well-written speeches has nothing like the force of a well-structured tragedy. Lastly, Aristotle notes that forming a solid plot is far more difficult than creating good characters or diction. Having asserted that the plot is the most important of the six parts of tragedy, he ranks the remainder as follows, from most important to least: Character, Thought, Diction, Melody, and Spectacle. Character reveals the individual motivations of the characters in the play, what they want or don't want, and how they react to certain situations, and this is more important to Aristotle than thought, which deals on a more universal level with reasoning and general truths. Diction, Melody/ Songs and Spectacle are all pleasurable accessories, but the melody is more important in tragedy than spectacle.

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