CriticaLink | Aristotle: Poetics | Guide to Book IX
Poetry and History
Poetry is more "philosophical" than history, according to Aristotle, because in order to unfold a plot in a manner that is convincing to the audience, the poet must grasp and represent the internal logic, the necessity, of the outcome of those events.
Aristotle condemns poets that simply string episodes together, and reminds his readers that tragic plots must not only be coherent but also inspire "fear or pity" in the audience. He concludes this chapter with a suggestive analysis of surprise in drama: a surprising development in a tragedy is most effective when it does not merely produce shock at an unexpected occurance, but rather has an "air of design" (54) and seems to be the necessary, inevitable (but still frightening) outcome of a chain of actions.