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[1454b] [1] 1The "god in the car"2 should only be used to explain what lies outside the play, either what happened earlier and is therefore beyond human knowledge, or what happens later and needs to be foretold in a proclamation. For we ascribe to the gods the power of seeing everything. There must, however, be nothing inexplicable in the incidents, or, if there is, it must lie outside the tragedy. There is an example in Sophocles' Oedipus.3

Since tragedy is a representation of men better than ourselves we must copy the good portrait-painters who, while rendering the distinctive form and making a likeness, yet paint people better than they are. It is the same with the poet. When representing people who are hot-tempered or lazy, or have other such traits of character, he should make them such, yet men of worth [an example of hardness]4; take the way in which Agathon and Homer portray Achilles.

Keep, then, a careful eye on these rules and also on the appeal to the eye5 which is necessarily bound up with the poet's business; for that offers many opportunities of going wrong. But this subject has been adequately discussed in the published treatises.6

What a "Discovery" is has been already stated.7 [20] As for kinds of Discovery, first comes the least artistic kind, which is largely used owing to incompetence—discovery by tokens. These may be congenital, like "the spear the Earth-born bear" or stars, like those which Carcinus8 uses in his Thyestes9; or they may be acquired and these may be on the body, for instance, wounds, or external things like necklaces, and in the Tyro10 the discovery by means of the boat. There is a better and a worse way of using these tokens; for instance Odysseus, by means of his wound, was discovered in one way by the nurse and in another way by the swine-herds.11 Discovery scenes constructed to prove the point are inartistic and so are all such scenes, but those are better which arise out of a reversal scene, as, for instance, in "The Washing."12 In the second place come those which are manufactured by the poet and are therefore inartistic. For instance, in the Iphigeneia13 Orestes revealed himself. She was revealed to him through the letter, but Orestes says himself what the poet wants and not what the plot requires. So this comes near to the fault already mentioned, for he might just as well have actually brought some tokens.14 And there is "the voice of the shuttle"15 In Sophocles' Tereus.

The third kind is due to memory, to showing distress on seeing something.

1 Hom. Il. 2.155-181, where it is only the arbitrary (i.e., uncaused) intervention of Athene which stays the flight of the Greeks. In the Medea the heroine, having killed her rival and her children, is spirited away in the chariot ot the Sun, a result not "caused" by what has gone before.

2 The μηχανή or "car" was a sort of crane with a pulley attached, which was fixed at the top of the back-scene in the left corner of the stage. By it a god or hero could be lowered or raised or exhibited motionless in mid-air. Weak dramatists thus introduced a car to "cut the knot" by declaring the denouement instead of unravelling the plot by the logic of cause and effect. It was presumably on such a "car" that Medea was borne away.

3 i.e., Oedipus had killed Laius in a wayside quarrel, not knowing who he was. When his subjects at Thebes crave his help to remove the curse which is blighting their crops, he pledges himself to discover the murderer of Laius. It may seem odd that he should not know enough about the details of the murder to connect it in his mind with his own murderous quarrel. But that was long ago, and neither an audience nor a novel-reader is critical about incidents which occur long before the point at which the story begins. See chapter Aristot. Poet. 24.20.

4 Apparently a note on Achilles which has been copied by mistake into the text.

5 i.e., stage-craft rather than staging.

6 As distinct from the body of "esoteric" doctrine circulated by oral teaching among Aristotle's pupils.

7 In chapter 11.

8 A prolific tragedian of the early fourth century. The family are agreeably ridiculed in Aristophanes' Wasps.

9 These were "birth-marks." The "spear-head" distinguished the descendants of the Spartoi at Thebes; the star or bright spot on the descendants of Pelops commemorated his ivory shoulder, and in Carcinus's play it seems to have survived cooking.

10 A play by Sophocles. Tyro's twins by Poseidon, who appeared to her in the guise of the river Enipeus, were exposed in a little boat or ark, like Moses in the bulrushes, and this led to their identification.

11 Hom. Od. 19.386ff., 205ff. The first came about automatically, the second was a deliberate demonstration "to prove the point." Aristotle here distinguishes between a discovery inevitably produced by the logic of events (e.g. it was inevitable or at least probable that Odysseus, arriving as a strange traveller, should be washed by Eurycleia, and that she should thus see the old scar on his thigh and discover his identity) and a discovery produced by a deliberate declaration (e.g. Odysseus's declaration of his identity to Eumaeus). The latter kind is "manufactured by the poet," not logically caused by what has gone before.

12 Hom. Od. 19.392. See preceding note.

13 Euripides' Iphigeneia in Tauris. See Aristot. Poet. 11.8, note.

14 To prove his identity Orestes mentions Pelops' lance and other "things from home," which is much the same as producing visible tokens.

15 When Philomela's tongue was cut out, she wove in embroidery the story of her rape by Tereus. Thus the facts were discovered to her sister, Procne, by deliberate demonstration.

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