Essential reading for all students of Greek theatre and literature, Aristotle’s Poetics remains equally stimulating for anyone interested in literature. This Penguin Classics edition is translated with an introduction and notes by Malcolm Heath.
In his near-contemporary account of classical Greek tragedy, Aristotle examine the dramatic elements of plot, character, language and spectacle that combine to produce pity and fear in the audience, and asks why we derive pleasure from this apparently painful process. Taking examples from the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, the Poetics introduced into literary criticism such central concepts as mimesis (‘imitation’), hamartia (‘error’) and katharsis, which have informed serious thinking about drama ever since. Aristotle explains how the most effective tragedies rely on complication and resolution, recognition and reversals, while centring on chaaracerts of heroic stature, idealised yet true to life. One of the most perceptive and influential works of criticism in Western literary history, the Poetics has informed serious thinking about drama
Malcolm Heath’s lucid translation makes the Poetics fully accessible to the modern reader. It is accompanied by an extended introduction, which discusses the key concepts in detail, and includes suggestions for further reading.
Aristotle (384-22 BC) studied at the Academy of Plato for 20 years and then established his own school and research institute, ‘The Lyceum’. His writings, which were of extraordinary range, profoundly affected the whole course of ancient and medieval philosophy and are still eagerly studied and debated by philosophers today.
If you enjoyed Poetics, you might like Aristotle’s The Metaphysics, also available in Penguin Classics.