Characteristics of Tragic Plot according to Aristotle

Characteristics of Tragic Plot:

According to Aristotle, the ideal tragic plot has certain major chief characteristics and they are given below –

(1)It imitates ‘a serious action’, and not a ‘trivial’ one.

(2) The action it imitates depicts a ‘change from happiness to misery’ so that it can arise the tragic emotions of pity and fear.

(3) It is ‘a complete whole’ which means it has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

(4) It is of a certain “magnitude’, i.e. size or length. Its length should be sufficient to depict the process of change from happiness to misery, completely and clearly.

(5) It must have unity of action. There must be nothing which means there must be no incident or character superfluous in it, nothing which is not conducive to the process of change.

(6) Unity of action also implies that there should be no plurality of action and there should be only one action. Aristotle rules out double plots, plots having two actions, one tragic and the other comic.

(7) It must have organic unity, i.e. the parts should be proportionately related to each other and the whole. There must be symmetry, proportion, and order, as in the organization of a living creature.

(8) Aristotle lays great emphasis on the rule of probability and necessity. The various incidents must be probable under the circumstances, and they must necessarily follow from the prior incidents. Thus necessity implies logical link-up of the various incidents, events and ‘probability’ implies the integration of plot with character.  The various events must have logical unity; they must also have another unity that is the unity which results from the aim or purpose of the dramatist, that of arousing the tragic emotions.

(9) Plots may be fatal or fortunate. For tragedy, fatal plots are the best.
(10) Simple plots, and plots in which the dramatist has failed in properly linking up the various episodes, are rated very low by Aristotle.
(11) Complex plots are the best, for they are characterized by the element of surprise. They have Peripeteia and Anagnorisis.
(12) In the end, Aristotle advises tragic dramatists to take great care of their denouements, of the resolution of complications. Poetic Justice is not necessary, and there should be no double-ending.