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[1451b] [1] indeed the writings of Herodotus could be put into verse and yet would still be a kind of history, whether written in metre or not. The real difference is this, that one tells what happened and the other what might happen. For this reason poetry is something more scientific and serious than history, because poetry tends to give general truths while history gives particular facts.

By a "general truth" I mean the sort of thing that a certain type of man will do or say either probably or necessarily. That is what poetry aims at in giving names to the characters.1 A "particular fact" is what Alcibiades did or what was done to him. In the case of comedy this has now become obvious, for comedians construct their plots out of probable incidents and then put in any names that occur to them. They do not, like the iambic satirists, write about individuals.2 In tragedy, on the other hand, they keep to real names. The reason is that what is possible carries conviction. If a thing has not happened, we do not yet believe in its possibility, but what has happened is obviously possible. Had it been impossible, it would not have happened. [20] It is true that in some tragedies one or two of the names are familiar and the rest invented; indeed in some they are all invented, as for instance in Agathon's Antheus,3 where both the incidents and the names are invented and yet it is none the less a favourite. One need not therefore endeavor invariably to keep to the traditional stories with which our tragedies deal. Indeed it would be absurd to do that, seeing that the familiar themes are familiar only to a few and yet please all.4

It is clear, then, from what we have said that the poet must be a "maker" not of verses but of stories, since he is a poet in virtue of his "representation," and what he represents is action. Even supposing he represents what has actually happened, he is none the less a poet, for there is nothing to prevent some actual occurrences being the sort of thing that would probably or inevitably happen, and it is in virtue of that that he is their "maker."

Of "simple"5 plots and actions the worst are those which are "episodic." By this I mean a plot in which the episodes do not follow each other probably or inevitably. Bad poets write such plays because they cannot help it, and good poets write them to please the actors. Writing as they do for competition, they often strain a plot beyond its capacity and are thus obliged to sacrifice continuity.6 But this is bad work,

1 The names indicate types. This is obvious, as he says, in Comedy and is also true of Greek Tragedy, which, although it deals with traditional heroes regarded as "real people," yet keeps to a few stories in which each character has become a type. In Chapter 17. the dramatist is recommended to sketch first his outline plot, making it clear and coherent, before he puts in the names.

2 Aristophanes of course did write about individuals. But Aristotle is thinking of the New Comedy, where the names of the characters were invented by the author and there was no reference to real people.

3 The name, apparently, of an imaginary hero. The word might be Ἄνθος, but "The Flower" is an unlikely title for a Greek tragedy.

4 The reason why Greek tragedy dealt only with a few familiar themes is to be found of course in its religious origin. It was the function of tragedy to interpret and embroider myths. Aristotle never gives this reason, but offers instead tbe unconvincing explanation that tragedians adhered to certain "real" stories to gain verisimilitude—and yet he has to admit that, since to many of the auditors these stories were unfamiliar and none the less attractive, dramatists might just as well invent new themes.

5 This term is defined in the next chapter. It seems odd to use it before its meaning is explained. Perhaps we should read ἄλλων(Tyrwhitt)and translate "of all plots."

6 Or "logic." He means the chain of cause and effect, wherein each incident is the result of what has gone before. See the end of the next chapter.

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