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Aristotle: Poetry and its various kinds

Art as Imitation
Poetry in all its various forms is an imitation.  It imitates character, emotion, and action by rhythm, language or harmony.

Differences in this work
Imitations are various, and the variety flows from three main differences in the arts:

1. The Medium of imitation
2. The Objects of imitation (how humans are presented: better than they are, as they are, or worse than they are)
3. The Manner in which these objects may be imitated (If the medium and objects are the same, the author can imitate by narration, his own person, or may be present in all his characters).

Therefore, Aristotle presents medium, objects, and manner as the three differences that distinguish artistic imitation.

Source of Poetics Expression
Poetry comes from two causes deep within our nature:

1. Our instinct of imitation is present from childhood onward.  Humans are the most imitative of creatures.  Imitation brings pleasure and lessons.
2. Our instinct for harmony and rhythm.  This instinct for harmony and rhythm developed into poetry.

Tragedy and Comedy
Poetry, as it developed, moved into two main categories: the imitation of noble actions and the imitation of meaner or lower persons.  The imitation of noble action was done through hymns and heroic epics.  These works fall under the category of “Tragedy.”  The imitation of meaner or lower action was done through satire or lampooning.  These works fall under the category of “Comedy.”

Tragedy is the imitation of an action that is serious, complete and of a certain magnitude.

Comedy imitates a lower form, but this lower form is not necessarily morally bad.  Rather, it carries the idea of ugly; some defect or ugliness which is not necessarily painful or destructive.