Aristotle’s Concept of “Plot”

Aristotle's Concept of Plot

Introduction: –

Aristotle’s Poetics has usually been accused of being ‘lopsided’ in its treatment of the topic of poetry, of devoting a significant portion of the discussion to ‘Tragedy’ somewhat than some other type of poetry. This accusation, nonetheless, is met by the answer that the work is of a fragmentary nature, and a misplaced portion might need dealt with different kinds. However, throughout the treatment of tragedy, there’s a slight imbalance.
Of all of the constituent parts of tragedy, plot is given probably the most attentive and in depth coverage. This is no surprise, contemplating that Aristotle thought the plot to be the very ‘soul of tragedy’. It needs to be remembered that Aristotle’s conception of tragedy is ‘biological’ i.e. he compares tragedy to a living organism. Just because the living organism takes on a particular form due to its skeleton, plot provides to tragedy an necessary design. Plot is as necessary to tragedy as the skeleton is to the living organism.

Development of Thought: –

According to Aristotle tragedy is “the imitation of an action, that is serious, complete and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, theseveral kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of those emotions”.

So the tragedy is the illustration of action and action consists of incidents and occasions. Plot is the association of those incidents and occasions. It is best for the poet to select a conventional story after which proceed to make out of it his personal plot. Stories taken from history, mythology or legend are to be most well-liked, for they’re acquainted and simple to perceive and so they function guide-lines for characterization. Having chosen his story or having invented it, the artist should subject it to a strategy of artistic choice and ordering. Only related incidents and scenario are to be chosen and they’re to be organized that they appear to observe one another essentially and inevitably. Moreover, the incidents chosen have to be critical that’s to say weighty of some significance, and never trivial, because tragedy is an imitation of a critical action having sure magnitude.

Read About: Aristotle’s Theory of Imitation

The making of story into plot entails what Humphry House calls “episodizing”, or making into episodes. It is implied that there needs to be a logical connection between the occasions, the entire being ruled by the regulation of probability and necessity. So the tragic plot have to be an entire, full in itself; it ought to have a starting, a middle and an finish. There could be earlier elements of the story the antecedents and that could be communicated by the dramatist in the end. But the start have to be clear and intelligible even with out them. It should not provoke us to ask why and how. A middle is one thing that’s consequent upon a scenario that has gone earlier than and which is adopted by the disaster. The center is all the things between the primary incident and the final. The middle is adopted by the end. An end is that which is consequent upon a given scenario however which isn’t adopted by any additional incident or situation. The middle should observe naturally and inevitably upon the start and should logically result in the end or the disaster. Thus artistic wholeness implies logical link-up of the assorted incidents, occasions and scenario that form the plot.

As regards ‘magnitude’ the plot should have a sure length or size. It needs to be neither too small nor too large. The plot needs to be lengthy sufficient to permit the process of change from happiness to misery initiated by the start to be correctly and utterly developed, however not too lengthy for reminiscence to come across it as an entire. If it’s too small, its completely different elements won’t be clearly distinguishable from one another as within the case of living organism. Within these limits, the plot needs to be as large as possible. O.B. Hardison remarks “The exact rule is that the magnitude needs to be whatever is required for a change to happen from bad fortune to good, or from good fortune to bad via a collection of incidents which can be in accordance with probability or necessity”. In different phrases, magnitude implies that the plot should have order, logic, symmetry and perspicuity.

The plot could have variety however it ought to have a unity. This unity arises from the truth that each event has a logical reference to the remainder of the action and none of them is irrelevant. There could be episodes however the identical have to be correctly built-in with the primary action. Otherwise the episodic plots are the worst of all. The unity of plot doesn’t consist within the unity of the hero; it consists within the unity of action. The plot needs to be an organic whole in order that if considered one of its elements is displaced or eliminated the entire needs to be disjointed and disturbed.

A defective plot is that during which the foundations of probability or necessity aren’t noticed. The finest tragic impact of pity and fear could be produced only if the plot accommodates parts of shock and accident. But there needs to be a form of ‘inevitability’ within the events.

Read About: How does Beckett flout the norms of theater to create a new theater in Waiting for Godot?

The above discussion makes it clear that Aristotle emphasizes the Unity of Action however has little to say concerning the Unity of Time and the Unity of Place. About the Unity of Time he merely says that tragedy ought to confine itself so far as possible to single revolution of the sun. No law is implied here concerning the Unity of Place. Aristotle solely talked about once when comparing the epic and the tragedy that epic can narrate various action happening concurrently in numerous components whereas in a drama such simultaneous action can’t be represented for the stage is one half (place) and never a number of components or places. In this respect too Aristotle was very a lot misunderstood by the Renaissance and the French critics who deduced from his assertion the inflexible unity of place.

Aristotle classifies plots into three kinds: –

Simple Plot, Complex Plot and Plots based mostly on scenes of struggling. 

The phrase Simple and Complex, right here have technical phrases. A simple plot is one which doesn’t have any Peripety and Anagnorisis, however the action strikes ahead uniformly with none violent or sudden change. A complex plot implies reversal of intention or situation and recognition. Reversal of situation is change by which the action veers spherical to its reverse. Recognition is a change from ignorance to knowledge. Both these components of the plot turn upon surprise. Aristotle, nevertheless, prefers the complex plot. The best tragedy is one which ends up from human error, error on the part of friends and relatives, error on the part of the hero himself. The best tragedy is a narrative by which the calamity is due to a false transfer blindly made by a friend or kinsman or by the hero himself. Atkins says “It is a tragedy brought about, not by the deliberate purpose of some evil agent, nor yet by mere chance, but by human error”. F.R. Lucas agrees with Atkins and remarks “there is nothing more brilliant in ‘the Poetics’ than this recognition by Aristotle of the Tragedy of Error, of the Peripetia, as the deepest of all”.

In Aristotle’s conception, “Hamartia, Perepetia and Anagnorisis all hang together in the ideal schematisation of the tragic plot”. Hamartia is the tragic error and it’s associated to the character of the hero however in a successful plot it’s so intently worked into the plot as to be inseparable from it. The miscalculation of the hero causes a series of incidents which outcome within the change from good fortune to unhealthy which the tragic plot depicts. Both Peripetia and Anagnorisis are incidents, and components of the plot.

The Peripetia is the fatal working of the plot to outcome the other of that supposed .For instance events don’t flip up in response to the intentions of expectation of the hero. They transfer in an other way to his intention.

Read About: Comparative Study of Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter

The Anagnorisis is the recognition of reality; it’s the change from ignorance to knowledge. For instance, Oedipus’s knowledge of his parents that motivates him to some action and determines the course of the action within the story Recognition and reversal could be brought on by separate them.

Besides the complex and easy plots there are additionally spectacular plots. This sort of plot relies on incidents of struggling, Aristotle rates it very low. It is the plot which drives its impact from the depiction of torture, murder, maiming, violence, loss of life and so on. According to Aristotle, the tragic impact should be created naturally and never with synthetic and theatrical aids. Such spectacular plots point out a deficiency within the plot.

The unraveling of the plot must be accomplished naturally and logically and never by way of arbitrary units like probability, supernatural intervention and so on. Atkin is of the view that “Gods should intervene only where it becomes necessary to explain the past, or announce future events external to the action”. Aristotle doesn’t take into account poetic justice as needed for tragedy. Similarly there may be happiness for a few of the characters and distress for others. Such a double ending weakens the tragic impact and should be avoided. It is extra correct to comedy. Thus, Aristotle is in opposition to the combination of the tragic and the comic of Tragicomedy.

Read About: To the Lighthouse; Themes

Conclusion: –

Aristotle’s idea of plot is consistent with what we’ve come to call ‘classical’. There is an insistence on order, sample, and design. The chaotic materials of life must be introduced under systematic self-discipline, in order that events appear to occur in a logical sequence with no irrelevancies. There needs to be a single action consisting of episodes, that are logically linked and causally associated. Aristotle considers the ‘fatal’ plot as being more tragic. He prefers that plot which exhibits a change form good to bad fortune as being fitter for tragedy. Further, the complex plot involving Peripety or Discovery, or both, is preferable to easy plot. It is true that the modern idea of tragedy has modified a terrific deal—any living literature naturally includes change and modifications. Yet we discover that in some facets Aristotle’s principle of Plot continues to be very much legitimate, for they’re common ideas.

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Shaheer, owner of Literature Times, is a BS (Hons) English graduate and loves to write literary articles. Apart from that, he loves to explore technology, reading books and writing about his own life.

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