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Aerial view of Theatre of Epidaurus. Photo: Raymond V Schoder.

Aristotle (Ἀριστοτέλους)'s Poetics (Περὶ ποιητικῆς; Peri poiêtikês; On Poetics) is the earliest surviving work of dramatic theory and the first extant philosophical treatise to focus on literary theory. It was written, depending on the interpretation, sometime between 347-335 BCE.

Subject matter

The Poetics is about two things: "poiêsis understood as poetry, or imitation of action, and poiêsis understood as action, which is also imitation of action. It is the distinctive feature of human action, that whenever we choose what to do, we imagine an action for ourselves as though we were inspecting it from the outside [such as in risking life in battle for the sake of the kalon (the noble, beautiful), acting from a moral virtue, andreia (courage), rather than viewing it as something unpleasant (xiii-xv)]. Intentions are nothing more than imagined actions [all courage is metaphorical (xv)], internalizings of the external. All action is therefore imitation of action; it is poetic." (Benardete & Davis 2002:xvii)

The general, but not universal, view is that there were originally two books to Poetics, one on tragedy and a second on comedy. In the extant text there is no account of comedy. (Benardete & Davis 2002:xi:n3)

Primary witnesses

The now established convention accepts four primary witnesses to the text (texts that do not depend on any other extant source):

  1. The codex Parisinus Graecus 1741 (A), of about the middle or second part of the tenth century (its primacy was first recognized in 1867);
  2. the codex Riccardianus 46 (B), generally dated to the 13th or 14th century, but more probably of the first half of the 12th century (its primacy was first recognized in 1911);
  3. the Latin translation by Moerbeke (Lat.) finished in 1278 (its importance remained not recognized until 1931 and was not published until 1953);
  4. the Syro-Arabic translation (Ar.) by Abū-Bishr made before 934.

Both B and Ar. are incomplete (lacking folios; B starts at 3.1449a28). (Tarán 2012:36,133).

The Arabic translation of the Poetics has been known to exist for close to two centuries, and there have been repeated attempts to use this source by both classicists and orientalists, often working in tandem: Vahlen and Sachau, Immisch and Socin, Butcher and Margoliouth, Gudeman and Tkatsch, and Kassel and Walzer, to name the most prominent (Gutas 2012:xi), and most recently Tarán and Gutas (2012).

The first edition of the Greek text accepting all four texts as primary witnesses is Kassel (1965), which was recently revised by Tarán (2012) holding that all four of them descend, directly or indirectly, from a single manuscript (Ω) written seven to nine centuries after Aristotle.



Mimêsis is differentiated according to "in which" ("in what", heterois mimeisthai), "what" ("on what", hetera), and "how" (heterós), being translated variously as the means employed (matter, medium), the objects 'mimetised' (subject) and the manner in which the mimêsis is effected (mode, method).

Editions: Kassel 1965, Tarán 2012. Translations: Butcher 1895 EN, Whalley [c1970] 1997 EN, Benardete & Davis 2002 EN.


The Poietic Art


§ 1 [1447a8] The poietic [art][1] in itself and the various kinds of it, and what [particular] effect each kind has, and how plots should be put together if the making[2] is to prosper;[3] and how many elements it has and of what kind; and likewise everything else that belongs in this area of inquiry — let us discuss all this, beginning in the natural way with first things.[4]


First Things

§ 2 Now epic-making and the making of tragedy, and comedy too, and the art of making dithyrambs,[5] and most of the art of composing to the flute and lyre--all these happen to be, by and large, mimeseis.[6] But these arts differ from one another in three respects: for they do their mimesis[7] (a) in different matter (in-what), (b) on different subjects (of-what), and (c) by different methods (how).[8]

Differentiation by 'Matter'

§ 3 You know how some people make likenesses of all kinds of things by turning them into colours and shapes[9] — some imaginatively and some [merely] by formula[10] — and how other people do their mimesis with the voice;[11] well, in the same way, the arts we are thinking of all do their mimesis with rhythm, speech, and melody[12], but using speech and melody either separately or mixed together. For example, flute-playing, lyre-playing, and any other [instrumental] arts of this sort — like playing the panpipes — use only melody and rhythm;[13] while the other [verbal art][14] — an art that happens so far to have no name* — uses only prose [speeches] and [unaccompanied] verses, [1447b] and when verses, either mixed or of only one kind.

  • § 3A [A discursive note by Aristotle:] [Speaking of lack of suitable terms,] [10] we haven't in fact even got a common term to cover the mimes of Sophron and Xenarchus and the Socratic dialogues; and again, if somebody should do his work in trimeters, elegiacs, or some other such verse-form [we have no name for it] — except of course that people get into the habit of attaching the word 'poet' to the verse-form, and speak of 'elegiac poets' and 'epic poets' — [15] not because they are entitled to be called poets for the quality of their mimesis but because as practitioners they are lumped together according to the verse-form they write in. And if a man puts together some medical or scientific work in verse, people usually call him a poet; and yet Homer and Empedocles have nothing in common except their use of verse, and properly speaking the one should be called a poet, and the other not a poet but a science-writer — [20] and the same would apply even if he used a combination of all the verse-forms (as Chaeremon did in his Centaur[15]).

§ 4 For these arts, then, let this be our division [according to matter]. There are however some arts that use all the 'matters' we have been discussing — [25] rhythm, song, and verse:[16] for example, the composing of dithyrambs and nomes,[17] and the arts of tragedy and comedy. But these differ again, in as much as the first group [i.e. dithyrambs and nomes] uses all the 'matters' at the same time [i.e. words sung by a chorus that dances], the other [i.e. tragedy and comedy] uses them intermittently [i.e. dialogue versus words and rhythm (though occasionally an actor sings — 52b18), chorus, music, and dancing].

§ 5 These then are the differentiations of the [poietic] arts [in respect of the matter] in which poets do their mimesis.

Differentiation by 'Subject'

§ 6 [1448a] Since poets take their mimesis from[18] men in action,[19] and since these [models] will necessarily be either [morally] serious or mean[20] (because [men's] dispositions almost always follow only these [two kinds] [as effect from cause][21]) they represent men that are either better or worse than the [aristocratic] [5] norm amongst us[22] just as the painters do — for Polygnotus used to paint the better kind of people, and Pauson the worse sort.[23] And it is clear that each of the [poietic] arts we have been considering will also differentiate itself by taking [as models] subjects that differ in this [moral] sense. Actually this [10] differentiation occurs in[24] flute-playing and lyre-music, and in prose dialogues and unaccompanied verses: Homer, for example, deals with the better sort of men[25] while Hegemon of Thasos (the first maker of parodies) and Nicochares (the author of the Deiliad[26]) dealt with the worse sort.[27] The same [15] holds for dithyrambs and nomes: for you can represent the Cyclops as Timotheus did or Philoxenus.[28] And tragedy stands in the same relation of difference to comedy; for the one [i.e. comedy] tends to take as subjects men worse [than the general run], and the other [i.e. tragedy] takes men better than we are.

Differentiation by 'Method'

§ 7 Yet a third differentiation of these arts occurs in the way [20] each [kind of subject — serious or mean] is handled.[29] For it is possible to deal with the same matter and using the same subject [but using different methods]: (a) by narrating at times and then at times becoming somebody different,[30] the way Homer works [i.e. composes], or by one and the same person [speaking] with no change in point of view or of method;[31] or (b) by all the people who are doing the mimesis[32] taking part in the action and working in it.[33]*

  • § 7A [a digressive note by Aristotle:] [25] As we said at the beginning, the mimesis differentiates itself in these three ways:[34] in matter, subject, and method. So in one sense [i.e. according to subject] Sophocles would be the same sort of poet as Homer because both deal with serious men; but in another [i.e. according to method] Sophocles would be the same sort of poet as Aristophanes[35] because both deal with men acting and doing.[36] And that's why some people claim that dramas are called 'dramas' — because they deal with men acting (or [30] doing). <And that in fact is the ground for the Dorians' claim to [priority in] both tragedy and comedy for the Megarians here [i.e. in old Greece] claim that comedy originated in the time of their democracy,[37] and so do the Megarians in Sicily;[38] and some of those in the Peloponnese claim tragedy, and cite in evidence [the derivation of] certain words [i.e. 'comedy', and 'drama'].>[39] For they say that they call their outlying villages kōmai, whereas the Athenians call them dēmoi, and argue that 'comedians' were so called not because of their 'reveling' (kōmazein) but because, driven out of the city in contempt, they roamed from one village (kōmē) to another;[40] [1448b] [1] and that they [normally] use the word dran for 'acting' (or 'doing') whereas the Athenians use prattein.[41]

§ 8 So much then for the differentiae of mimesis, what they are and how many there are.[42] (1997:44-57)


Tragedy is a mimêsis of a praxis.

Editions: Kassel 1965, Tarán 2012. Translations: Butcher 1895 EN, Whalley [c1970] 1997 EN, Benardete & Davis 2002 EN.


A General Definition of Tragedy

§ 17 [...] A tragedy is a mimesis of an action[43] — [25] that is, it is [morally] serious and purposeful, having magnitude[44]; uttered in heightened language[45] and [using] each of its resources [i.e. dialogue and song] separately in the various sections [of the play][46], [the action presented] by people acting rather than by narration; <bringing about through [a process of] pity and fear [in the events enacted][47] the purification of those destructive or painful acts.>[48] (By "heightened language" I mean utterance that has rhythm and melody;[49] and [30] by "each of its resources separately" I mean that some sections [of the play] are carried through in verses alone and others again in [choric] song.)

The Six Aspects of Tragedy-making

§ 18 Since the actors do the mimesis by acting it [out],[50] a first aspect[51] of tragedy[-making] would have to be arrangements for the 'look' (opsis)[52] [of the actors and stage]; then song-making (melopoiia) and the [devising of] speech (lexis), for these are the 'matter' (in-what) the mimesis is done in. By [35] 'speech' I mean [simply] putting together the [non-lyrical] verses, and by 'song-making' just what the word implies perfectly clearly.[53]

§ 19 Since [tragedy] is a mimesis of an action, and [since it] is acted out by certain people acting,[54] and these must necessarily have a certain kind of character and cast of mind[55] (for [1450a] it is in the light of these that we say that their actions are of a certain kind,[56] and according to [their actions] they all succeed or fail):[57] and [since] the plot is the mimesis of the action (for [5] I use 'plot' in this sense — the putting together of the events)[58] and the 'characters' are what allow us to ascribe certain qualities to the actors, and the 'thought' is the places where [the actors] by speaking prove some point or declare wisdom — because of all this, the [number of] 'aspects' to tragedy[-making] as a whole that account for tragedy as a distinct [species] [10] must be [exactly] six: plot and characters and speech and thought and 'visuals' and song-making.[59] The 'matter' (in-what) of mimesis, you see, accounts for two 'aspects', the method (how) one, and the subject (of-what) three; and beyond these [six] there are no more.[60] (1997:66-73)


The failed mimêsis in poiêtikê is the mistake either of poiêtikê itself (due to adunamia of the poietos) or of technê (when attempting the impossible).

Editions: Kassel 1965, Tarán 2012. Translations: Butcher 1895 EN, Whalley [c1970] 1997 EN, Benardete & Davis 2002 EN.


Whalley's manuscript contained no translation of this passage, and the following translation is included in the book as appendix.

Appendix C: Critical Problems and Their Solutions

As for critical problems and their solutions it will become clear what their number and character are, if we consider them in the following way: since the poet is an imitator like the painter or any other image maker, he must necessarily always [10] represent things in one of three possible ways — either (i) as things were or are, or (2) as things are said or thought to be, or (3) as they ought to be. These representations or imitations are communicated in language which may be through terms in current usage or include foreign words and metaphors: these and many modifications of language we allow to the poets. In addition, the same standard of correctness is not required of the poet as of the politician or indeed of poetry as of any other art.

[15] There are within the poietic art two sorts of fault, one which belongs to its essence and one which is accidental. If the poet has chosen to represent something, but does not do it properly because of his incompetence, then the fault belongs to his art itself; but if the fault lies in the initial (incorrect) selection of the object to be represented — if, for instance, he depicts the horse as throwing forward both its right feet at the same time [20] or if he commits a fault which belongs to the range of some other art as, for example, medicine or any other art whatsoever — then the fault is not intrinsic to his poietic art. It is by means of these distinctions that in the discussion of the problems the questions raised by the critics can be answered.

First those that arise from the art itself. If impossibilities have been represented, then a fault has been committed; but [25] this may be justified if the end of the art (what this is we have already discussed) is attained in this way: that is to say, if by these means this or any other part of the poem is made more striking. An example here is the pursuit of Hector. On the other hand, if the end could be just as well or better attained without doing violence to the rules of the other arts, then the fault was not justified; for if possible, no fault at all ought to be committed.

[30] Again the question arises: where precisely does the fault lie? Is it connected with matters which belong to the poietic art directly or an incidental error connected with something else? For it is much less a fault if the painter did not know that the doe does not have horns than if he painted her inartistically. (1997:154)


Page from Parisinus Graecus 1741. [1]
Page from Abū-Bishr, L'Organon, 1027. [2]
  • Parisinus Graecus 1741 [A], Gallica; photo-litographic reprint as La poétique d'Aristote: Manuscrit 1741 fonds grec de la Bibliothèque nationale, intro. Henri Omont, Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1891, IA. From about the middle or second part of the tenth century. Written on parchment. Known to have been in Italy by the 15th century (where it was brought from Constantinople). It was copied at least three times, thereby originating three families of manuscripts. (Tarán 2012:44). Today it is owned by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
  • Riccardianus 46 [B]. Generally dated to the 13th or 14th century, but more probably of the first half of the twelfth century. Known to have been in Italy by the 15th century, in several copies.
  • Moerbeke, Guillelmo de [William of Moerbeka], Aristoteles Latinus XXXIII. De Arte Poetica [Lat.], [1278]; repr., ed. Erse Valgimigli, Bruges and Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1953; rev.ed. by Laurent Minio-Paluello, Brussels and Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1968. (in Medieval Latin). Contained in two existing manuscripts, Etonensis 129, written in Italy c1300, and Toletanus, c1280. Its importance remained not recognized until 1931 and was not published until 1953. The original manuscript is anonymous, it was ascribed to Moerbeke by Minio-Paluello. Its Greek model has came to be labelled Φ.
  • Abū-Bishr Matta ibn-Yunus, "Poetica" [Ar.], in L'Organon, la Rhétorique et la Poétique d'Aristote, et l' Isagoge de Porphyre [Parisinus Arabus 2346], ed. Abū al-Khayr al-Ḥasan ibn Suwār Ibn al-Khammār, 1027, Gallica. (Arabic). The book reproduces Ibn Suwār ibn al-Khammār's copy of Yaḥyā b. 'Adī's autograph of the Organon and contains the text of Aristotle's logical works together with the exegesis of the Baghdad teachers in form of scholia. These include Ibn Suwār ibn al-Khammār's ones. The included translation of the Poetics was made before 934 from a Syriac translation of the Greek text by an unknown translator. The Syriac translation dates from the second half of the ninth century, and its Greek model came to be labelled Σ. (Tarán 2012:144). Gallica hosts a digitized copy of Arabic manuscript owned by the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits.


  • Aldus Manutius, "Poetica", in Rhetores Graeci, ed. Demetrios Dukas, Venice, 1508, pp 269-287. The first printed edition, editio princeps. Most likely based on several manuscripts, primarily Parisinus Graecus 2038 (owned by Janus Lascaris who took part in preparing the Aldine edition; it is a distant copy of uncorrected version of Estensis Graecus α.T.3.3 [see below], with some corrections from Riccardianus 46), while incorporating also some readings from Ambrosianus Graecus B 78sup. The standard reference work until Bekker 1831; accepted with no awareness of its secondary and derivative nature. (Tarán 2012:46-47)
  • Bekker, Immanuel, "Περὶ ποιητικῆς", in Aristotelis opera. Volumen Secundum, Berlin: apud Georgium Reimerum, 1831, pp 1447-1462, IA, Google (reverse page order). Establishes pages, columns and line numbering which is still the norm, although numerous individual changes were accepted since then. Based on three manuscripts: Parisinus Graecus 1741 (still considered to be one of the four primary texts), (Vaticanus) Urbinas Graecus 47 and Marcianus Graecus 251 (both derivative works of the 15th century). (Tarán 2012:61-62)
  • Vahlen, Iohannes, Aristotelis de Arte Poetica Liber, Oxford and London: Parker, 1883, IA; Leipzig, 1885. Treats only Parisinus Graecus as a primary witness; although pays some attention to the Syro-Arabic translation (with the help of the orientalist E. Sachau).
  • Bywater, Ingram, Aristotelis De Arte Poetica, Recognovit brevique adnotatione critica instruxit, Oxford: Clarendon Press [E Typographeo Clarendoniano], 1897, IA; 1911, IA. The 1911 edition incorporates the changes he made in his 1909 edition (see below).
  • Rostagni, Augusto, Aristotele, la Poetica, con introduzione, commento e appendice critica, Turin, 1927; 2nd ed., Turin: Chiantore, 1945, 209 pp.
  • Gudeman, Alfred, Aristoteles: Περὶ ποιητικῆς, Berlin and Leipzig: Walter de Gruyter, 1934, 496 pp. Review.
  • Kassel, Rudolf, Aristotelis de arte poetica liber, Oxford: Clarendon Press [E Typographeo Clarendoniano], 1965, Perseus, TLG; repr., ed. D.W. Lucas, 1968; rev.ed., 1972; 1978; 1980, PDF. [text, intr., comm., app.]. Takes into account all four now-established primary witnesses to the text. Lucas's reprint (1968) omits Kassel's introduction. In the reprint, what was probably a printer’s accidental omission of γάρ after καί in 24.1459b10 has been corrected.
  • Tarán, Leonardo, and Dimitri Gutas, Aristotle: Poetics. Editio Maior of the Greek Text with Historical Introductions and Philological Commentaries, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012, Scribd. Greek and Latin edition of the Greek Text by Tarán, Arabic and Syriac by Gutas. Considers all four now-established primary witnesses to the text; holds that they descend, directly or indirectly, from a single manuscript (Ω) written seven to nine centuries after Aristotle in majuscule letters and in scriptio continua, that is without word separation, accents, breathings, and practically with no punctuation. (2012:32,35,148-149). Reviews: Shalev, Ford, McOsker. Publisher.



  • Margoliouth, D.S., Analecta Orientalia ad Poeticam Aristoteleam, London: D. Nutt, 1887, IA. Contains Abū-Bishr's translation (contained in Parisinus Arabus 2346), its comparison to Parisinus Graecus 1741, and a number of commentaries.
  • Tkatsch, Jaroslaus, Die arabische Übersetzung der Poetik des Aristoteles, Vienna: Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1928; 2nd ed., 1932. Contains, inter alia, the text of Abū-Bishr's translation with a Latin translation and notes.
  • 'Ayyād, Shukrī Muhammad, Kitāb Arisṭūṭālīs fī sh-Shi'r, Cairo: Dār al-Kitāb al-'Arabī, 1952; 1967. An edition of Abū-Bishr's translation.
  • Badawī, 'Abdurraḥmān, Arisṭūṭālīs, Fann ash-shi'r, Cairo: Maktabat an-Nahḍa al-Miṣriyya, 1953; Beirut: Dār at-Taqāfa, 1973. An edition of Abū-Bishr's translation.

Medieval Latin

  • Valla, Giorgio, Venice, 1498. Trans. of Estensis Graecus α.T.3.3, a secondary manuscript (Gerardos of Patras's third iteration copy of Parisinus Graecus 1741), corrected partly according to the codex Dresdensis Graecus D 4, itself indirectly derived from a different branch of Parisinus Graecus 1741. Still, it did better than the Latin translation of Averroes and was read widely. (Tarán 2012:44-45)
  • Pazzi [Paccius], Alessandro de, Aristotelis poetica, ed. Guglielmo de Pazzi, Venice: Aldine Press, 1536, [3]; Paris, 1542, Gallica. The first modern book containing both the Greek text and the Latin translation of the Poetics alone, independently of any other work. Improves Valla's. Translated from a different Greek text than the one included in the book. (Tarán 2012:48-49)
  • Robortellus [Robortello], F., Francisci Robortelli Utinensis in librum Aristotelis De arte Poetica explicationes, Florence, 1548. The translation is Pazzi's, also includes the Greek text is based on the Aldine edition, both with Robortello's changes (consulting several manuscripts, although made under the influence of Horace's Ars Poetica). In addition, Robortello included a paraphrase of Ars Poetica and five essays: on satire, on the epigram, on comedy, on humor, and on the elegy. (Tarán 2012:49-51)
  • Madius [Maggi], V., Vincentii Madii Brixiani et Bartholomaei Lombardi Veronensis in Aristotelis librum De Poetica communes explanationes: Madii vero in eundem librum propriae annotationes, Venice, 1550, CASPUR. Translation and the Greek text by Maggi (heavily influenced by Horace's Ars Poetica), commentaries written together with Lombardi; with an essay on the Ars Poetica and another on comedy. Several manuscripts seem to have been consulted. (Tarán 2012:52-53)
  • Vettori [Victorius], Pietro, Commentarii in primum librum Aristotelis de arte poetarum, Florence, 1560. With his own version of the Greek text. Had been able to consult several manuscripts of the Poetics in the library of cardinal Ridolfi, including Parisinus Graecus 1741. He is considered the best Italian Hellenist of the sixteenth century. (Tarán 2012:53-54)
  • Hermann, Gottfried, Aristotelis de Arte Poetica liber cum commentariis, Leipzig, 1802. [text, tr., comm.]


  • Segni, Bernardo, Rettorica et poetica d’Aristotele, 1549. Based on Robortello's Latin translation rather than on the Greek text. [intr., tr., comm.]
  • Castelvetro, Ludovico, Poetica d’Aristotele vulgarizzata e sposta, Vienna, 1570; rev.ed., Basel, 1576; 2 Vols, Bari, 1978-79. Contains the first major commentary on the Poetics in Italian. Castelvetro’s views had a great impact in France, particularly on Ronsard. Castelvetro transposes the whole of the analysis from the world of art to the world of reality; notes that the Poetics is merely a first, incomplete draft or series of notes on the subject, so that it is necessary to complement it, something that his predecessors did not see. (Tarán 2012:54-57). Translates mimêsis as rassomiglianze, resemblance, and not as imitazione, then prevailing way. [text, tr., comm.]
  • Ellebodius, Nicasius [Nicaise Van Ellebode], In Aristotelis de Poetica paraphrasis, [1572]. Unpublished. Written probably in Pressburg. (Tarán 2012:57-58)
  • Piccolomini, Alessandro, Poetica, 1572.
  • Valgimigli, Manara, Aristotele Poetica, 2nd ed., Bari, 1934; repr. in Aristotele: Opere, 4th ed., vol. 10, Rome and Bari: Laterza, 1988, pp 191-271, Scribd.
  • Albegniani, Ferdinando, Aristotele La Poetica, Florence, 1934. [intr., tr., comm.]
  • Lanza, Diego, Aristotele, Poetica, Milan: BUR, 1987.
  • Paduano, Guido, 'Aristotele, Poetica, Bari: Laterza, 1998.
  • Zanatta, Marcello, "Poetica", in Retorica e Poetica, Turin: Utet, 2004.


  • Norville, La poétique d'Aristote, Paris: Thomas Moette, 1671, Gallica.
  • Dacier, André, La poétique d'Aristote, Paris: Claude Barbin, 1692, Gallica, Google; Amsterdam: J. Cóvens & C. Mortier, 1733, IA.
  • Barthélemy-Saint-Hilaire, Jules, Poétique d'Aristote, Paris, 1858, IA, IA, IA.
  • Batteaux, Charles, Poétique d'Aristote, new ed., Paris: Jules Delalain, 1874, Gallica; 1875, Gallica. [4]
  • Cougny, Edme, Poétique d'Aristote: texte grec revu sur les meilleures éditions françaises et étrangères, Paris: Eugene Belin, 1874, IA.
  • Egger, Émile, Aristote: Poétique, Paris: Hachette et Cie, 1875, Gallica; 2nd ed., 1878, Gallica; 6th ed., 1878, Gallica.
  • Ruelle, Charles-Émile, "Poétique", in Poétique et Rhétorique, Paris: Garnier frères, 1883, Gallica, IA; 1922, WS-FR; 2006, HTML.
  • Hardy, Joseph, La Poétique, Paris: Les belles lettres, 1932, 99 pp; Paris: Les belles lettres, 1969; new ed., intro. Philippe Beck, Paris: Gallimard, 1996, 168 pp.
  • Dupont-Roc, Rosalyne, and Jean Lallot, Aristote, La poétique, Paris: Seuil, 1980, 466 pp. [text, tr., notes]
  • Laizé, Hubert, Aristote. Poétique, Paris: PUF, 1999.
  • Bellevue, Odette, and Séverine Aufret, Aristote. Poétique, Mille et une nuits,‎ 2006, 88 pp.


  • Ordoñez, Alonso, La poetica de Aristoteles, Madrid: Antonio de Sancha, 1778, IA.
  • Muniain, José Goya, El Arte poética de Aristóteles, Madrid: Benito Cano, 1798, IA, WS-ES; repr. as El arte poética, Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1948; Buenos Aires, 1948, PDF; 7th ed., 1984.
  • Yebra, Valentín García, Poética de Aristóteles, Madrid: Gredos, 1974, Scribd; 1992, 542 pp.
  • Bacca, Juan David García, Aristóteles. Poética, Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autonomia de Mexico, 1946, PDF; 4th ed., Caracas: Universidad Central de Venezuela, 1982.
  • Clota, Josep Alsina, Aristóteles. Poética, Barcelona: Icaria, 2nd ed, 1994; 2002, 80 pp; 2009.
  • Lluch, Santiago Ibáñez, Aristóteles. Poética, intro. Argimiro Martín, Valencia: Tilde, 1999, 96 pp, Scribd (trans. only).


  • Twining, Thomas, Poetica: Translated, with Notes on the Translation and on the Original, and Two Dissertations on Poetical and Musical Imitation, London, 1789. [tr., comm.]
  • [Anonym], Aristotle's Poetics: Literally Translated, with Explanatory Notes and an Analysis, London: G. & W.B. Whittaker, 1819, IA. [tr., comm.]
  • Butcher, S.H., Aristotle’s Theory of Poetry and Fine Arts, with a Critical Text and a Translation of the Poetics, London: Macmillan, 1895, 384 pp, IA; 2nd ed., 1898; 3rd ed., 1902; 4th ed., 1907; repr. with corrections 1911; 1920, IA, 421 pp; repr. 1923, IA; 1927; 1932, IA. [text, tr., comm.]. The version without Butcher's essay published as The Poetics of Aristotle, London: Macmillan, 1895, 105 pp, IA; 2nd ed., 1898, 111 pp, IA; 3nd ed., 1902, 111 pp, IA; 4th ed., 1907; 1911; 1917; 1920; 1922, 111 pp, IA; 2008, PG. [text, tr.]. The Greek text is based on Bywater's edition, Parisinus Graecus 1741, and Margoliouth's Arabic readings. The 1911 printing of the full volume became widely referred to in the English speaking world, where it became influential, especially among literary critics. (Tarán 2012:67)
  • Bywater, Ingram, Aristotle on the Art of Poetry. A Revised Text, with Critical Introduction, Translation and Commentary, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1909, IA; 1920; 2009, PG. [text, tr., comm.]. The Greek text is an updated version of Bywater's 1897 edition (see above). Treats only Parisinus Graecus 1741 as a primary witness; although pays some attention to the Syro-Arabic translation (Margoliouth's 1887 edition). Particularly valuable is his commentary. (Tarán 2012:66-67)
  • Margoliouth, D.S., The Poetics. Translated from Greek into English and from Arabic into Latin with a Revised Text, Introduction, Commentary, Glossary and Onomasticon, London/New York/Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1911, IA. [tr., comm.]. Proves that Riccardianus 46 is a primary witness to the text. (Tarán 2012:67-68)
  • Cooper, L., Aristotle on the Art of Poetry. An amplified version with supplementary illustrations, Boston, 1913; rev. ed., Ithaca, NY, 1947.
  • Fyfe, W. Hamilton, Aristotle, The Poetics, Vol 23 of Aristotle in 23 Volumes, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, and London: W. Heinemann, 1932, Perseus.
  • Epps, Preston H., The Poetics of Aristotle, Chapel Hill, NC, 1942.
  • Potts, L.J., Aristotle on the Art of Fiction, Cambridge, 1953; 2nd ed., 1959.
  • Grube, G.M.A., Aristotle on Poetry and Style, New York, 1958.
  • Telford, K.A., Aristotle's Poetics. Translation and Analysis, Chicago, 1961; Lanham, MD, 1985.
  • Dorsch, T.E., "Aristotle Poetics", in Aristotle, Horace, Longinus. Classical Literary Criticism, Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 1965.
  • Else, Gerald, Aristotle: Poetics. Translated with an Introduction and Notes, Ann Arbor, 1967.
  • Golden, Leon, and O.B. Hardison, Aristotle's Poetics: A Translation and Commentary for Students of Literature, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968.
  • Hubbard, Margaret, "Aristotle: Poetics", in Ancient Literary Criticism, eds. D.A. Russell and M. Winterbottom, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972, pp 85-132, PDF; repr. in Classical Literary Criticism, eds. D.A. Russell and M. Winterbottom, Oxford: Oxford World's Classics, 1989, pp 51-90.
  • Hutton, James, Aristotle's Poetics, New York: W.W. Norton, 1982. [tr., comm.]
  • Halliwell, Stephen, Aristotle's Poetics: With a New Introduction, London: Duckworth, 1986; University of Chicago Press, 1986; London: Duckworth, 1998. [tr., comm.] [5]
  • Janko, Richard, Aristotle, Poetics I, with The Tractatus Coislinianus, A Hypothetical Reconstruction of Poetics II, The Fragments of the On Poets, Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987. [tr., comm.] [6]
  • Halliwell, Stephen, "Aristotle Poetics", in Stephen Halliwell et al., Aristotle, Poetics. Longinus, On the Sublime. Demetrius, On Style, Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library, 1995, PDF. [text, tr.]
  • Heath, Malcolm, Aristotle: Poetics, Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 1996, 144 pp, ARG. [tr., comm.]
  • Whalley, George, Aristotle's Poetics, eds. John Baxter and Patrick Atherton, Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997, Scribd. Translated from Greek by 1970 but remained unpublished until 1997. Based on Kassel's 1966 edition of the Greek text, accepting almost all errata introduced by Else 1957.
  • Benardete, Seth, and Michael Davis, On Poetics, South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine's Press, 2002, Scribd.
  • Sachs, Joe, Poetics, Newburyport, MA: Focus, 2006, Scribd. Encyclopedic entry on the Poetics by the author.
  • Gupta, Amlan Das, Aristotle Poetics, Pearson Education/Dorling Kindersley, 2007. [7]
  • Kenny, Anthony, Aristotle Poetics, Oxford World's Classics, 2013. [tr., comm.]


  • Ordynskiy, B.I. (Б. И. Ордынский), Aristotel. O poezii [Аристотель. О поэзии], Moscow, 1854, 134 pp. [tr., comm.]
  • Zacharov, V.I. (В. И. Захаров), Poetika Aristotelya [Поэтика Аристотеля], Warsaw, 1885. [tr., comm.]
  • Appelrot, B.G. (В. Г. Аппельрот), Aristotel. Ob iskusstve poezii [Аристотель. Об искусстве поэзии], Moscow, 1893, 97 pp. [text, tr., comm.]. New ed., ed. & comm. F.A. Petrovskiy (Ф. А. Петровский), Moscow: Goslitizdat, 1957, 183 pp; repr. as "Poetika", in Aristotel. Ritorika. Poetika [Аристотель. Риторика. Поэтика], Moscow: Labirint, 2000, pp 149-180, n189, DJVU.
  • Novosadskiy, N.I. (Н. И. Новосадский), Aristotel. Poetika [Аристотель. Поэтика], Leningrad: Academia, 1927, 120 pp, WS-RU. [tr., comm.]
  • Gasparov, M.L. (М. Л. Гаспаров), Aristotel. Poetika [Аристотель. Поэтика], Moscow, 1978; 2nd ed. in Aristotel. Sochineniya v 4 t., T. 4 [Аристотель. Сочинения в 4 т., Т. 4], Moscow: Mysl, 1983.
  • Pozdnev, M.M. (М. М. Позднев), Aristotel. Poetika [Аристотель. Поэтика], St Petersburg: Amfora, 2008, 320 pp.


  • Walz, Christian, "Die Poetik", 2nd ed., in Ausgewählte Schriften des Aristoteles, enthaltend die Poetik, die Politik, Stuttgart: Metzler, 1859, IA.
  • Stahr, Adolf, Aristoteles Poetik, Stuttgart: Krais & Hoffmann, 1860, IA, IA.
  • Susemihl, Franz, Aristoteles Über die Dichtung, Leipzig, 1865; 2nd ed., 1874. [text, tr., notes]
  • Stich, Johannes, Die Poetik des Aristoteles, Leipzig: Reclam, 1887, IA.
  • Gomperz, Theodor, Aristoteles' Poetik, Leipzig: Veit, 1897, IA, IA.
  • Gudeman, Alfred, Aristoteles über die Dichtkunst, Leipzig, 1921, PG. [8]
  • Fuhrmann, Manfred, Aristoteles Poetik, 1976; 2nd ed., Stuttgart: Reclam, 1982; 1994. [text, tr.]
  • Schmitt, Arbogast, Aristoteles: Poetik, Berlin: Akademie, 2008, 820 pp.


  • Pavić, Armin, Aristotelova Poetika, Zagreb: Štamparna D. Albreht, 1869, 103 pp.
  • Kuzmić, Martin, Aristotelova Poetika, Zagreb: Martin Kuzmić, 1902, 82 pp; Zagreb: Naklada hrv.-slav.-dal. zemaljske vlade, 1912, 298 pp; repr. as Aristotel. Nauk o pjesničkom umijeću, Zagreb: Studentski centar Sveučilišta, 1977, 298 pp. [tr., comm.]
  • Dukat, Zdeslav, Aristotel, O pjesničkom umijeću, Zagreb: SNL, 1979; Zagreb: August Cesarec, 1983, 490 pp; Zagreb: Školska knjiga, 2005, 459 pp.


  • Vychodil, Pavel Josef, Aristotelova kniha o básnictví, 1884; 2nd ed., Brno, 1892. [tr., comm.]
  • Groh, František, Aristotelova Poetika, Praha: Společnost přátel antické kultury, 1929, 75 pp; Prague: Gryf, 1993, 67 pp, PDF. [tr., comm.]
  • Nováková, Julie, Poetika, Orbis, 1962, PDF; 2nd ed., 1964.
  • Kříž, Antonín, Poetika: o básnické tvorbě, Prague: Jan Laichter, 1948, 123 pp; repr. as "Poetika", in Rétorika / Poetika, Prague: Petr Rezek, 1999, pp 321-436, DJVU. [tr., comm.]
  • Mráz, Milan, Aristotelés Poetika, Prague: Svoboda, 1996, 226 pp; Prague: Oikoymenh, 2008, 289 pp, PDF (part). [tr., comm.]


  • Norlind, Wilhelm, Aristoteles'om Diktkonsten, Lund: C.W.K. Gleerups, 1927, 75 pp.
  • Stolpe, Jan, Om diktkonsten, Göteborg: Anamma, 1994, 90 pp, Scribd; 2000.


  • Okál, Miloslav, Poetica, Turčiansky Sv. Martin: Matica slovenská, 1944; repr. as "Poetika", in Poetika. Rétorika. Politika, Bratislava: Tatran, 1980; repr. in Láska k múdrosti, Rohovce: Interpopulart Slovakia, 1995, pp 7-54; repr. Martin: Thetis, 2009, 148 pp. [tr., comm.] [9]


  • Đurić, Miloš N., Aristotel, O pesničkoj umetnosti, 2nd ed., Belgrade: Naučna knjiga, 1948, 129 pp; 3rd ed., Belgrade: Kultura, 1955, 158 pp, Scribd; Belgrade: Zavod za udžbenike i nastavna sredstva, 1988; Dereta, 2002; Dereta, 2008, 240 pp.


  • Sousa, Eudoro de, Poética, Lisbon: Guimarães, 1951; Porto Alegre: Globo, 1966; São Paulo: Abril, 1973; Lisboa: Imprensa nacional/Casa da moeda, 1986, PDF, Scribd; São Paulo: Ars Poetica, 1992, Scribd; 7th ed., Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda, 2003, Scribd. [10]
  • Barriviera, Alessandro, Poética, UNICAMP, 2006.
  • Gazoni, Fernando Maciel, Poética, University of São Paulo, 2006.
  • Bini, Edson, Poética, São Paulo: Edipro, 2011. [tr., comm.]


  • Balmuș, C.I., Aristotel, Poetica, Bucharest: Științifică, 1957, PDF, DJVU. [11]
  • Pippidi, D.M., Aristotel, Poetica, Bucharest: Academiei, 1965; new ed., Bucharest: IRI, 1998, PDF. [tr., comm.]


  • Ledsaak, Sam., Om diktekunsten, Oslo: Tanum, 1961, 96 pp, NB; new ed., Oslo: Grøndahl og Dreyer, 1997, 116 pp, NB.
  • Andersen, Øivind, Poetikk, Oslo: Vidarforlaget, 2008, 159 pp. [tr., comm.]


  • Harsberg, Erling, Om digtekunsten, Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1970; 2nd ed., 1975, 86 pp.
  • Helms, Poul, Poetik, Copenhagen: Hans Reitzel, ed. Peter Thielst, 1993; 3rd ed., 1997; 8th ed., 2009, 90 pp.
  • Henningsen, Niels, Poetikken, Frederiksberg: Det lille Forlag, 2004; 2005; 2008; 2011, 190 pp.


  • Podbielski, Henryk, Arystoteles. Poetyka, Wrocław: Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, 1983; 2nd ed., 1989. Repr. in Arystoteles. Retoryka. Poetyka, Warsaw, 1988.


See also commentaries in editions and translations.

  • Avicenna, al-Shi'er, c1020. Reprint ed. 'Abdurraḥmān Badawī, Cairo: al-Dār al-Miṣriyyah Li al-Tā'līf Wa al-Tarjamah, 1966. (Arabic)
    • Avicenna's Commentary on the Poetics of Aristotle: A Critical Study with an Annotated Translation of the Text, trans. Ismail M. Dahiyat, Brill, 1974. [12]
  • Averroes, c1174. (Arabic). First printed 1481.
    • trans. Hermannus Alemannus, Toledo, [1256]. (Latin). Repr. Minio-Paluello, 1968. This was the work from which knowledge of the Poetics derived in the West up to the second quarter of the 15th century (and somewhat later as well), when the Greek manuscripts reached Italy.
    • Averroes' Middle Commentary on Aristotle's Poetics, trans. Charles Butterworth, St. Augustines Press, 2nd ed., 1999, 178 pp.
  • Vahlen, Iohannes, Aristotelis De arte poetica liber, Berlin, 1867; 1874, IA. Recognized the authority of Parisinus Graecus 1741, assuming it was the only primary witness to the text.
  • Spengel, Leonhard, "Aristotelischen Studien, IV. Poetik", ABAW 11 (1868), pp 269-346. (German). The paper was submitted in 1865, published in 1867, but is part of vol. 11 (1868). Recognized the authority of Parisinus Graecus 1741, assuming it was the only primary witness to the text.
  • Vahlen, Johannes, Beiträge zu Aristoteles Poetik, Leipzig: Teubner, 1914. (German). Preceded by the four-part text under the same title, Vienna, 1865-67, BSB.
  • Svoboda, Karel, L'esthétique d'Aristote, Brno: Faculty of Philosophy, 1927, 212 pp, PDFs. (French)
  • Lobel, E., The Greek Manuscripts of Aristotle’s Poetics, London: Oxford University Press, 1933. Contains a classification of the extant Greek manuscripts of the Poetics written during the 15th and 16th centuries was established. Lobel’s conclusion was that the only extant two primary Greek manuscripts were Parisinus Graecus 1741 and Riccardianus 46, and that all other Greek manuscripts were directly or indirectly derived from PG. Similar conclusion in Harlfinger, D. and D. Reinsch, "Die Aristotelica des Parisinus Gr. 1741. Zur Überlieferung von Poetik, Rhetorik, Physiognomonik, De Signis, De ventorum situ", Philologus 114 (1970), pp 28-50.
  • Montmollin, Daniel de, La Poétique d'Aristote: texte primitif et additions ultérieurs, Neuchatel, 1951. (French)
  • Else, Gerald F., Aristotle's Poetics: the Argument, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, with State University of Iowa, 1957, DJVU. Based on Rostagni's 2nd ed. (1945), but modifies it. Accompanied by the extensive commentary. Chapters 16, 19 (second half)-22 and 25 are omitted. [text, tr., comm.] Review: Combellack (1959).
  • Weinberg, Bernard, A History of Literary Criticism in the Italian Renaissance (1961). Contains a thorough study of the interpretation of the Poetics during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, pp 349-634.



  1. The opening words are peri poiētikēs [technēs] — from which the book takes its title. Neither 'poetry' nor 'the art of poetry' is quite right. The root of poiētikē — poiein (to make, do, fashion, perform) — is a strongly active verb that will dominate the whole discussion in the sense 'to make'. (Emphatically, it does not mean 'to create'.) I have written poietic art rather than poetic art, partly to emphasise the sense of 'making' (and the poet as 'maker'), partly as a reminder that Aristotle does not recognise a distinction between 'art' and 'craft'.
  2. Poiēsis, radically the process of making.
  3. Kalōs hexein — 'to go well with, to work out luckily'. Else translates "to be an artistic success" but I prefer a more direct and idiomatic rendering.
  4. The way the discussion later develops in detail shows that this sentence is neither a systematic preliminary outline nor a statement of the programme Aristotle intends to follow. He seems to be sidling comfortably into his discourse. But by taking his starting point in 'first things' he shows that he is thinking of the poietic art as cause, or 'reason why'.
  5. In the first sentence poiein or some derivative of it is used three times (even recognising that by Aristotle's day epipoiia could mean 'epic' rather than 'epic-making'). Aristotle is clearly not talking about epic, tragedy, comedy etc. as genres or art-forms: he is talking about the making of them.
  6. This word, the plural of mimēsis, is transliterated to avoid using the word 'imitations'. Mimesis is in its form a processive word — a point of great importance for much of what follows. A useful habit is to read mimesis as "a process — mimesis." "The mimetic process is the activity of poiētikē" (Else); its dynamis (potentiality) works towards a telos (end) which is, in both a substantial and an active sense, a poiēma (poem, thing made). Aristotle does not define either 'the poietic art' or mimesis; he leaves both open for exploration and for progressive self-definition in the body of the discussion.
  7. In this paragraph, as in many other places, Aristotle uses mimeisthai — the verb cognate to mimēsis. If the verb is translated 'to imitate', the meaning is deflected towards an assumed commonplace definition for 'imitation'. In order to keep clear that mimesis is an activity or process and not a thing or product, I use the phrase "they do their mimesis"; "they make their mimesis" would also be possible except that it would allow mimesis to be thought of as a product, 'an imitation'.
  8. This sentence does what is the despair of the translator, and does it with Greek clarity and forthrightness and in a manner usual with Aristotle. Literally "they differ in as much as they do their mimesis in different things, of different things, and differently and not in the same way." The traditional abstract terms for these three differentiae are 'medium', 'object', and 'mode'. I prefer 'matter', 'subject', and 'method'. (The three differentiae represent the material, efficient, and formal causes.)
    Matter (in-what). Even if the word 'medium' were not now corrupted below fastidious use, it would not be quite correct here. In current vulgar usage, 'medium' refers to various means of public presentation — printed matter, public speech, stage, film, radio, television: in short, "medium [of communication]" — whatever the question-begging term 'communication' means. Aristotle's three "in-what" differentiae are rhythm, melody and speech. In our way of thinking, these three are not at the same level: rhythm is radical to both melody and speech. Although Aristotle seems to think of each dominantly emerging in dance, music and (dramatic) poetry, he does not encourage us to suppose that he thinks of any one of them functioning in isolation from at least one other. Aristotle's 'in-what' is the physical stuff in which the action is embodied and assumes form — e.g. for music, patterned sound, and for painting, patterned colour-and-line-in-space. We know too little about Aristotle's view about the work of art as 'mediating' between (say) poet and reader to use the word 'medium' confidently. What we do know is that Aristotle has a very strong sense of physical actuality. Since he seems to have been the first to attempt a classification of the arts according to the physical materials they use, the choice of a correct term for "in-what" is important.
    Subject (of-what). 'Object' is unsatisfactory because (a) it tends to imply that the model imposes a predictable or desirable form upon the work of art, as is sometimes naively assumed to be the case for painting; (b) it may be mistaken for 'aim' and become so confused with Aristotle's ideological principle that the starting-point comes to look like the 'end'. 'Subject' presents no difficulty or deflection: we commonly speak of the 'subject' of a book, play, picture, or poem meaning in the most general way 'what it is about' and implicitly what it starts from.
    Method (how). The usual word 'mode' (as in 'narrative mode', 'dramatic mode') is not altogether satisfactory; even though it means 'manner' or 'way', it easily indicates a static classification into which individual works may fall. 'Method' places the initiative in the maker and helps us to concentrate on the work as in process of making or acting--which is consonant with Aristotle's emphasis throughout the Poetics. The word 'method' is familiar enough in twentieth-century critical analysis of prose fiction, drama, and poetry.
  9. Schēma can also mean the posture of an actor or dancer, and the structural 'diagram' of a play — 'plot' in the refined sense Aristotle uses consistently later in the Poetics.
  10. Aristotle's word is 'habit' or 'routine'. Coleridge once referred to Southey's verse as "cold-blooded carpentry," but that is probably stronger than Aristotle intended. The word 'imaginatively' is anachronistic, but I cannot think of a better.
  11. 'Sound' will not do here. Phōnē is specifically the human voice — "the most mimetic of the human faculties" (Rhet 1404a21).
  12. Harmonia — the due fitting-together of musical sounds. For Greek music this applies horizontally (melodically), not vertically (in 'chords') as implied by classical Western use. There is a good article on Greek music in the Oxford Classical Dictionary.
  13. {and the dancer's art uses rhythms alone, without melody, for it is through their rhythmic figures that dancers represent characters, feelings, and actions.} Else, in his Argument, agreed with Vahlen in taking this passage for an afterthought of Aristotle's; it certainly disrupts the run of the sentence. In his Translation he omits it from the text as spurious — which is the way it is represented here.
  14. {epic}. Somebody has introduced the word "epic" into the text here, probably from an explanatory gloss; but it is obviously wrong and is marked as spurious by Kassel. When the phrase on dancing (a) is not allowed to interrupt the sentence, the contrast in the sentence clearly establishes itself: it is between 'bare' instrumental music (without song) and the 'bare' verbal art that uses language without instrumental accompaniment — "an art that happens so far to have no name." The "nameless art" is not what we should call 'lyrical poetry', but prose by itself and verse without music.
  15. {Centaur a mixed epic work — but he [Chaeremon] is entitled to be called a poet.} Whatever miktēn rhapsōdian means, Chaeremon's Centaur (which has disappeared except for five iambic lines) was a drama, perhaps a closet drama, possibly a tragedy but more probably a satyr-play. Yet a rhapsody is normally a portion of epic of a length that can be given at one performance. Chaeremon seems to have been a contemporary of Aristotle. Aristotle's point about Chaeremon is not that he was not a poet but that he used a mixture of all the metres.
  16. It is not clear why Aristotle here shifts from the rhythmos, logos, harmonia of §3 to rhythmos, melos, metron. The change may be gratuitous, but it may suggest an attempt at a less general specification for the last two terms. Metron is used again in §10.
  17. Nomos, originally a tune, applied especially to a type of melody invented by Terpander as a setting for texts from epic poets. Later (as here) the word is used of a choral composition constructed astrophically (cf. Lucas on 47a13).
  18. Literally "the representors represent, the 'imitators' 'imitate'." Since Aristotle is now clearly speaking of the art-in-words with or without musical accompaniment — in our current sense, the poetic art — "poets" is an acceptable translation. It will become clear later that in drama it is the actors, not the poet, who do the mimesis; but for Aristotle the separation would not be a marked one since down to Sophocles' time the poet was principal actor and producer and inventor of the choric dances — a many-sided mimete. (See Lucas on dancers, 47a28, and actors, 62a10.)
  19. Implicitly "men of action in action." "Men acting" is closest to the Greek words but that might seem to point to the actors on the stage. "Men of action" are those who are morally dynamic; in action they do not merely disclose their character but shape and crystallize it. Aristotle never uses the verb prattein alone for acting on the stage (see Lucas, 63n); it is worth noticing that he will soon concentrate on the cognate noun praxis as moral and formative action.
  20. The fundamental principle of Aristotle's theory of character development is that we become what we do, that our actions crystallize into character — which is reason enough to reject as spurious (as Gudeman does) the phrase at a. The distinction serious/mean, which emerges as the basic twofold division in Aristotle's scheme, is comprehensively moral, embracing political, social, and aesthetic dimensions as well as personal behaviour. Spoudaios (superior, morally serious and strong) is an exalted but very substantial term; (cf. the use of chrēstos and epieikes (capable, reasonable) in §§53, 53A below). It stands for the aristocratic flair for action and the heroic virtues of excellence, moral gravity, courage, decision, endurance. Phaulos (mean, trivial, no-account) is not devoid of a hint of squalor.
  21. {for all men differ in goodness and badness of character}. ēthē (characters) here refers, not to the characters-in-the-play, but to kinds of disposition — the whole set of a person as determined and fixed in and by action. The verb in the last phrase of Greek is "follow"; Aristotle clearly wants us to understand that the two categories of character — serious and mean — are all-inclusive: hence the gloss "as effect from cause" (suggested by Lucas).
  22. {or also men of much the same [average] sort}. Lucas points out that hekath' hēmas (with us or amongst us) is equivalent to tōn nun (people now) at the end of §7 which in turn may be an echo of Homer's hoioi nun brotoi eisin (like mortals are now). These two phrases, and the words toioutous and homoious (like [us]) in b and c are innocent of any notion of the "average common man"; Aristotle would probably have considered such a person phaulos — 'mean'. It is tempting in our democratic days to expect a category for the ordinary or common person, but that happens not to be Aristotle's position. The two interpolations b and c not only confuse the clarity of Aristotle's twofold scheme of serious/mean; they are also out of Aristotelean character. Neither Kassel nor Lucas recognises these as spurious, but there is nothing elsewhere in the Poetics to reinforce a tripartite scheme with 'the common man' as a middle term. (See n21 above.)
  23. {and Dionysius [represented] people like us}
  24. {dancing and}
  25. {Cleophon men like us}
  26. Nicochares may be the comic poet of that name who was contemporary with Aristophanes. If the title Deiliad is correct (for the work is lost) the work — presumably an epic — would be to do with cowardice.
  27. Else regards this illustration from Homer, Hegemon, and Nicochares — even when the spurious interpolation b about Cleophon is removed — as "suspicious but not proved spurious." As we shall see, Aristotle thought that Homer was the author of the Margites and so saw him as the primogenitor of comedy as well as tragedy — of phaulos-drama as well as of spoudaios-drama.
  28. Timotheus represents the serious strain, Philoxenus the grotesque.
  29. The sentence that follows (1448a20-24) is one of the most difficult in the Poetics.
  30. Else suggests for the last phrase a substantially different reading that would translate: "and then at times bringing on some dramatic character"; but there is no manuscript support for this and the emendation is not noted by Kassel. Else's objection to the canonical text is that, with the clear echo of Plato Rep 392D-394D, mimesis would here mean 'impersonation' — a notion not totally absent from Aristotle's mind but in general an exclusive meaning that he systematically rejects in the Poetics. Homer's projective mimesis in an epic figure does not necessarily imply impersonation, but rather the same dramatic projection that the poet achieves in drama; the poet then becomes not an impersonator but an actor. Plato distinguished between narrative and dramatic methods (though he never used the word dramatikos — that word was coined by Aristotle), and noticed a "mixed method in which the poet from time to time impersonated one of the figures in the narrative."
  31. Literally "without shifting aim." I have chosen a term current in criticism of prose fiction as a hint that Aristotle might have refined this classification if he could have studied the development of European prose fiction.
  32. The 'representors'? — but the word is a present participle. Aristotle holds that the poet properly is impersonal and 'lost' in the mimesis. In drama it is the actors acting, not the poet (unless he is one of the actors), who do the mimesis.
  33. Bywater and Else find a three-fold division in this sentence, corresponding to Plato's three categories which were also traditional with grammarians and rhetoricians: narrative, dramatic, and mixed. Most editors now prefer a two-fold division into (a) narrative, [i] the poet narrating (like Homer) sometimes in his own person, sometimes through another figure, [ii] the poet narrating continuously; (b) dramatic, the mimoumenoi acting and apparently initiating the action throughout. Else notes that in the 'mixed' method the poet and his 'actors' are rivals for the [epic] stage. The point of interest, however, is that in the 'mixed mode' the poet alternates between narrative and dramatic method; the impetus is narrative but there are genuinely dramatic interludes in which the poet acts in his own person, or lets his characters speak (as they do in true drama) as though in their own right. And this happens to endorse the two-fold division. Plato, assigning to mimesis a rather simple and forthright meaning (without which he could hardly have banished poetry from his Republic), sees the mixed form as a 'mode' and the poet's part in it as impersonation. The difference between Plato and Aristotle here turns not on the question about a two-fold or three-fold division, but upon the difference in their meanings of mimesis, Aristotle's being the more allusive and complex. (See also §9 n3 [in the book].) For this reason it is necessary to insist that Aristotle is talking about a method, the way the poet works, and not about a mode, a manner that the work can be seen to have fallen into.
  34. Literally "the mimesis is in these three differences." The process of differentiation is somehow a process of progressive self-specification or self-finding.
  35. This is the only reference to Aristophanes in the Poetics, and there is only one other reference to him in the whole works of Aristotle (Rhet 1405b30). Aristotle did not admire the "obscene abuse" (EN 1128a22) of Old Comedy.
  36. Prattontas kai drōntas, from prattein and dran, here and in the next sentence are nearly synonymous — 'doing' or 'acting'. Prattein is the usual word (and for the important connexion with praxis see §6 n19) but for Aristotle dran, with its cognate drama, is a key word. Here dran provides a modulating link with the argument that follows, in which the radical meaning of drama is established. For Aristotle's unusual use of the word drama and the probability that he coined the words dramatikos and dramatopoiein, see Else, Argument, 107-8.
  37. Early 6th century BC ?
  38. {for the poet Epicharmus was from there, much earlier than Chionides and Magnes}. This argument is questionable and is therefore treated by Else as spurious. The same argument is presented by some later writers, but no authority other than this gloss appears to be claimed in support of it.
  39. The parenthesis in pointed brackets may have been written separately from the rest of the note: see Else, Argument, 117-23.
  40. The correct derivation of kōmōidia is kōmos (revel, carousel), as Aristotle is evidently aware. There was, however, a "widespread tendency in later antiquity to derive kōmōidia from kōme (village)" (Else, Argument, 120-1).
  41. The argument for the distinctively Dorian use of dran is weak; but Aristotle is not hostile to the Dorian Claim, and anyway the word drama had special importance for him (see [n36] above). For Else's claim that this passage of "comfortable prolixity" was added by Aristotle, perhaps with some internal addition, see Argument, 103-23.
  42. Although this sentence is firmly linked to the next sentence by the enclitics men ... de, I have taken it as the last sentence of Part I, as the traditional chapter-division does.
  43. Praxis (action) is a key-word that Aristotle uses consistently not only in the Poetics but also in the Nicomachean and Eudemian Ethics: not just any action, but an action arising from choice, directed towards and implying a telos, and to which other subsidiary movements may be attached without deflecting it. It is therefore by its nature complete, purposeful, self-contained, end-implying (teleios). Also, proairesis (choice) is one of the paramount capacities of the spoudaios. The tragic action (praxis) is a psychic trajectory, declaring itself as arising from choice and bringing itself to a telos. The opening phrase then defines the word praxis by recalling Aristotle's standard assumptions for the word; it is not a narrowing down of the general notion of 'action'.
  44. Literally "having megethos (size, bulk)"; but megethosis now equivalent to mēkos in §16 [in the book] — the length that secures the required concentration within a frame of time (cf. §27 [in the book]).
  45. Hēdusmenos means "giving a pleasant flavour, spiced"; Else translates "language which has been made sensuously attractive." Aristotle says what the 'spicings' are at the end of the paragraph. The word 'heightened' (cf. 'reinforced' of wines) implies a special use of language not alien to the nature of language; but this suggestion of concentration within the resources of language may be un-Aristotelian since Aristotle, like Plato, could think of style as something added to the matter of language.
  46. See §3 where Aristotle makes clear that he thinks of the play falling into two alternating 'parts' — dialogue and song. Lucas, however, supplies hēdusmata (spices) rather than 'sections' — that is, rhythm and rhythm & melody; but that comes to much the same thing, an alternation between verse-dialogue and choral song.
  47. The reason for this editorial gloss is explained in the notes to §§41-43 [see the book].
  48. It seems more than likely that the phrase in pointed brackets has been projected forward as an afterthought from §§41-44 [see the book]. The last phrase reads literally "the purification of such pathēmata (emotions, sufferings)." In §37 [see the book] Aristotle implicitly defines pathēmata (commonly the plural of pathos) by saying that "The pathos is an act which is destructive to life or painful." I follow Else in expanding pathēmata in accordance with the later definition, in view of the extreme emphasis that has in the past been placed on the interpretation of this (possibly interpolated) passage.
  49. {and song}. A spurious gloss athetized by Kassel, apparently based on §4.
  50. Aristotle does not withdraw the mimesis into either the poet or his text: the actors do the mimesis; the poet does his mimesis through the actors, often himself being one of them. We shall see in §66 [see the book] that the play can achieve its telos in a reading (but that may imply an 'imaginative' or 'empathic' performance?).
  51. Aristotle is still considering tragedy as a special instance of poiētikē — the art of making [tragedy]. Meros (here translated 'aspect') means a 'part' as distinct from the whole. I prefer to avoid the static implications of 'part' and 'element', and use 'aspect' for the line-of-approach or the special consideration of the poet from time to time. The temptation in this passage is to think of the 'parts' of a tragedy or of tragedies generally, as though they were constituent 'pieces' that together make up the whole. (Sometimes, however, I translate meros as, 'part'.)
  52. In defiance of the more usual translator's word 'spectacle', I follow Bywater in construing opsis as what it actually means — the 'look', what the eye sees. Opsis applies primarily to the masks and costumes (often splendid), the stage itself being inflexible and usually unornamented (but cf. §12); and this (as Aristotle later points out) is a matter for the mask-maker and costume-designer rather than for the poet. (Neither melopoiia nor opsis is discussed at all in the later full-dress treatment of the six 'aspects'.) But a few spectacular stage-effects in Attic theatre were memorable enough to be recorded (see Lucas, 99) and the deus ex machina must always have been quite a sight; so I render opsis with the uncouth word 'visuals' when the context allows.
  53. Melopoiia is the making of the whole song — words and music. 'Diction' will not do for lexis because Aristotle has already distinguished between 'song' and 'speech' — that is, between words with music and words without music — and he holds the distinction consistently.
  54. The emphasis in this section is not on the tragic poet but on men acting, and on drama (doing, acting: see §7A) as the acting out by actors. The interlocking of mimeisthai and prattein through this section underlines the processive and dynamic nature of mimesis.
  55. In §6 the men-of-action-acting had moral quality that distinguished them as serious or trivial ('heroic' or mean) — 'character' in the moral and political, but not in the theatrical, sense. Here Aristotle first discriminates the activity of dramatic persons or figures into 'character' and 'thought' — a distinction that turns out to be fundamental to his position. Dianoia (thought) is the capacity for making deliberate choices and taking decisions: see later in this paragraph. "On a man's dianoia depends his power to assess a situation, on his ēthos (character) his reactions to it" (Lucas).
  56. {There are two natural causes of actions — thought and character.} A spurious interpolation athetized by Kassel.
  57. Not any action whatsoever, but the action specific to tragedy disclosing itself as 'serious': see §19 n21 [in the book].
  58. This parenthesis is expanded in §23 [see the book]. Though pragmata means 'deeds', 'acts', I follow Else in translating 'events' so that the word 'action' may be reserved for the special word praxis. Again, Aristotle now uses muthos (plot) consistently as the schema of action distilled from the logos (story), thereby desynonymizing logos/muthos and removing muthos from the common sense of 'story'. The muthos — "the soul of tragedy" in §25 [see the book] — when acted out is the mimesis of the action.
  59. If opsis and melopoiia are ignored (because Aristotle does not discuss them further and regards them as marginal or almost inessential) the order is pretty much the order of importance as Aristotle now proceeds to discuss them in detail.
  60. The distribution according to the three differentiae (§2) is: 'matter' (in-what) — lexis, melopoiia; 'subject' (of-what) - plot, character, thought; 'method' (how) - opsis (visuals).