CriticaLink | Aristotle: Poetics | Guide to Book XI

One of the components of the complex plot, the reversal of the situation, is an event that occurs contrary to our expectations and that is therefore surprising, but that nonetheless appears as a necessary outcome. The Greek term for this reversal is peripeteia.

Anagnorisis is the Greek term for "recognition," another component of the complex plot, and describes the often sudden revelation (such as Oedipus's discovery that he has, despite his efforts to avoid it, fulfilled the prophecy that he will kill his father and marry his mother) that propels a tragedy to its conclusion.

The presence of either peripeteia or anagnorisis makes a plot complex, but Aristotle indicates that in the most successful plots both are not only present but also simultaneous.

Aristotle remarks again that tragic heroes (and the audiences of tragedies) experience peripeteia (or "peripety") and anagnorisis as surprises.

At the end of this chapter, Aristotle acknowledges the "scene of suffering" which arouses strong emotions–pathos–from the audience as a third component of the tragic plot. Examples of this scene of suffering include the slaying of Agamemnon or the blinding of Oedipus.