What is Probability and Necessity by Aristotle

Probability and Necessity

Aristotle in his Poetics talks about Probability and Necessity of events in a tragedy. The poet brings out the probable and necessary link-up of various events both in the development of plot and also in the internal working of character. The probability which the poet follows is not mere slavish adherence to reality, it is not mere verisimilitude, but something much higher. Butcher rightly emphasizes that, “the rule of ‘probability as also that of ‘necessity’, refers rather to the internal structure of a poem, it is the inner law which secures the cohesion of the parts.” The men and women whom we meet in poetry, the characters of the drama, are not average men and women, but much better and finer, and their thoughts and deeds are not those of meaner mortals. The probable laws of their conduct cannot be measured from the conduct of average humanity. The higher creations of poetry are not governed by the rules of ordinary experience. What they do and say cannot be judged with reference to their counterparts in actual life. Poetry imitates real men and women but shows them much finer and better. It reveals the ideal possibilities embedded in human nature; tragic heroes, like Othello, Hamlet, Prometheus, or Achilles, possess a grandeur, a magnificence of thought, will, and action, which at once raises them much above the level of average humanity, and makes contact with them such an enlarging and exhilarating experience. In their actions, they are true to their natures; their actions are the probable and necessary or logical outcome of their respective characters, and of the environment in which they are placed. Besides, what they say and do is the necessary and probable outcome of what they have said and done earlier. The various events which the poet represents cohere not only with each other but also with the character of the various dramatis personae.

Also read; What is the concept of Mimesis by Aristotle

Also read; Characteristics of Tragic Plot according to Aristotle