CriticaLink | Aristotle: Poetics | Guide to Book V

Aristotle cautions his readers to understand the characters presented in comedy as more ridiculous than evil; the defects of these characters do not necessarily lead to pain or destruction.

Epic and Tragedy
After a brief discussion of the scarcity of historical information about the development of comedy, Aristotle turns to a comparison of the epic and the tragedy. Epic poetry is limited to one kind of meter (hexameter) and is narrative in form. The events depicted in an epic can also span a long period of time, while the tragedy treats events that take place in a time not much longer than a full day, "one revolution of the sun." This last distinction of the tragedy is a component of the famous unities which later aestheticians and poets took as absolute rules in the writing of tragedies.

All elements of epic poetry, Aristotle concludes, including the idealization of the characters, are found in tragedy, but tragedy does not share all of its formal elements with the epic.