CriticaLink | Aristotle: Poetics | Guide to Book XVIII

The Trajectory of the Plot
In terms of the progression of the plot, Aristotle divides the tragedy in to two parts, the complication and the denouement or "unraveling." The complication extends from the beginning of the play to the moment of peripeteia and/or anagnorisis–the turning point of the plot. The denouement includes this turning point and extends to the conclusion of the play.

Aristotle seems to refine his categories of plot in this chapter, listing the complex plot which turns on peripeteia and anagnorisis, the pathetic plot in which characters are motivated by passion, the ethical plot in which an ethical sense propels the action, and the simple plot, which does not contain peripeteia or anagnorisis. Aristotle clearly favors complex plots which combine all the poetic elements to good effect.

This chapter concludes with an elaboration of earlier remarks on the unity of the tragic plot. Aristotle again asserts that poets should not confuse the epic, which can contain a number of plots and subplots, and the tragedy, which must consist of one focused plot. He also remarks on the role of the chorus, recommending that choral performances be integrated closely into the action of the plot, rather than serving as mere interludes between episodes.