CriticaLink | Aristotle: Poetics | Guide to Book VI
The Definition of Tragedy
Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions. (51)Following his definition, Aristotle begins to introduce the six constitutive components of a tragedy. The first in the discussion is spectacle, which includes the costuming of the actors, the scenery, and all other aspects that contribute to the visual experience of the play.
Aristotle moves on to elements relating to the humans represented in tragedy, thought and character. Character includes all qualities we associate with individuals represented in the play; the meaning of thought is more elusive, but it seems to indicate the processes of reasoning that lead characters to behave as they do.
The final component is plot, which Aristotle defines as "the arrangement of the incidents" (51).
These six elements can be organized, as Aristotle shows, under the major categories of medium, object, and mode:
The Elements of Tragedy
Thought Thought comprises both the rational processes through which characters come to decisions, as represented in the drama, as well as the values put forward in the form of maxims and proverbs.
Music is described as an embellishment of language. The lines assigned to the chorus in a tragedy are usually conveyed in song accompanied by rhythmical movement.