So nobody does that,
except occasionally, as, for instance, Haemon and Creon1
comes the doing of the deed. It is
better to act in ignorance and discover afterwards. Our feelings are not outraged
and the discovery is startling. Best
of all is the last; in the Cresphontes
for instance, Merope intends
to kill her son and does not kill him but discovers; and in the
of the sister and brother; and in the Helle4
the son discovers just as he is on
the point of giving up his mother.
So this is the reason, as was said
why tragedies are about a few families.
For in their experiments it was from no technical knowledge but purely by chance
that they found out how to produce such an effect in their stories. So they are
obliged to have recourse to those families in which such calamities befell.6
Now concerning the structure of the incidents and the
proper character of the plots enough has been said.
Concerning "character" there are
four points to aim at. The first and most important is that the character should be
good. The play will show character if,
as we said above,7
either the dialogue or the actions
reveal some choice; and the character will be good, if the choice is good.
But this is relative to each class of people. Even a woman is "good" and so is a
slave, although it may be said that a woman is an inferior thing and a slave beneath
The second point is that the characters should be
appropriate. A character may be manly, but it is not appropriate for a woman to be
manly or clever.
Thirdly, it should be "like."8
This is different from making the
character good and from making it appropriate in the sense of the word as used
Fourthly, it should be consistent. Even if the original be inconsistent and
offers such a character to the poet for representation, still he must be
An example of unnecessary badness of character is Menelaos in
; of character that is unfitting and inappropriate the lament
of Odysseus in the Scylla10
and Melanippe's speech11
; of inconsistent character Iphigeneia in Aulis
, for the suppliant Iphigeneia is not at
all like her later character.
In character-drawing just as much as in the
arrangement of the incidents one should always seek what is inevitable or probable,
so as to make it inevitable or probable that such and such a person should say or do
such and such; and inevitable or probable that one thing should follow
Clearly therefore the "denouement"12
of each play should also be the result of
the plot itself and not produced mechanically as in the Medea
incident of the embarkation in the Iliad.