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[1461b] [1] when he says that people make some unwarrantable presupposition and having themselves given an adverse verdict proceed to argue from it, and if what they think the poet has said does not agree with their own preconceived ideas, they censure him, as if that was what he had said. This is what has happened in the case of Icarius.1 They assume that he was a Spartan and therefore find it odd that when Telemachus went to Sparta he did not meet him. But the truth may be, as the Cephallenians say, that Odysseus married a wife from their country and that the name was not Icarius but Icadius. So the objection is probably due to a mistake.

In general any "impossibility" may be defended by reference to the poetic effect or to the ideal or to current opinion. For poetic effect a convincing impossibility is preferable to that which is unconvincing though possible. It may be impossible that there should be such people as Zeuxis2 used to paint, but it would be better if there were; for the type should improve on the actual.

Popular tradition may be used to defend what seems irrational, and you can also say that sometimes it is not irrational, for it is likely that unlikely things should happen. Contradictions in terms must be examined in the same way as an opponent's refutations in argument, to see whether the poet refers to the same thing in the same relation and in the same sense, and has contradicted either what he expressly says himself or what an intelligent person would take to be his meaning. It is right, however, to censure both improbability and depravity where there is no necessity and no use is made of the improbability. [20] An example is Euripides' intro duction of Aegeus3 or(of depravity)the character of Menelans in the Orestes.

The censures they bring are of five kinds; that things are either impossible or irrational or harmful or inconsistent or contrary to artistic correctness. The solutions must be studied under the heads specified above, twelve in number.4

The question may be raised whether the epic or the tragic form of representation is the better. If the better is the less vulgar and the less vulgar is always that which appeals to the better audience, then obviously the art which makes its appeal to everybody is eminently vulgar.5 And indeed actors think the audience do not understand unless they put in something of their own, and so they strike all sorts of attitudes, as you see bad flute-players whirling about if they have to do "the Discus," or mauling the leader of the chorus when they are playing the "Scylla."6 So tragedy is something like what the older school of actors thought of their successors, for Mynniscus used to call Callippides "the monkey," because he overacted, and the same was said of Pindarus.7

1 Penelope's father.

2 See Aristot. Poet. 6.15.

3 Eur. Medea 663. In Aristotle's opinion there is no good reason for Aegeus's appearance and no good use is made of it.

4 i.e., any expression that is criticized should be considered with reference to (1) things as they were; (2) things as thy are; (3) things as they are said to be; (4) things as they seem to be; (5) things as they ought to be. Further, we should consider whether (6) a rare word or (7) a metaphor is used; what is the right (8) accent and (9) punctuation; also where there may be (10) ambiguity and what is (11) the habitual use of the phrase; also we may refer to (12) the proper standard of correctness in poetry as distinct from other arts.

5 Aristotle first states the popular condemnation of tragedy on the ground that it can be and often is spoilt by the stupid vulgarity of actors. So might spectators of certain productions of Shakespeare in their haste condemn the poet. The refutation of this view begins at 6.

6 Cf. Aristot. Poet. 15.8

7 Mynniscus acted for Aeschylus: Callippides belonged to the next generation, end of fifth century. Pindarus is unknown.

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