Aristotle defines tragedy in Book VI as "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).
This definition crystallizes much of Aristotle's arguments throughout the Poetics:
- a tragedy is first and foremost the representation of human action;
- the actions represented have serious, often dire consequences and the characters represented are of elevated social status;
- the plot is a complete, coherent whole, lasting long enough to represent adequately the reversal of the hero's fortune;
- the language in which a tragedy is composed employs tropes and other heightened or unusual uses of speech and a mixture of different poetic meters;
- the mode of imitation in a tragedy is drama as opposed to narrative;
- the tragedy arouses pity and fear in the viewer and brings about catharsis.