Philosophy Paper on “plot is the soul of tragedy
Aristotle explains that everything that takes place in a story follow a plot. A plot refers to an abstract concept of arranged incidents within a play. The arranged incidents make it possible for a tragedy to occur even in the absence of characters (Belfiore). When he states plot is the soul of tragedy, he meant that plot is the foundation that makes tragedy possible. The incidents must be organized in a lucid manner to make a plot.
The original arrangement and order of the incidents must not be altered because any change would lead to a completely different plot. He describes tragedy as an absolute and serious replication of action with prominence about it. The characters imitate actions and do not depend on a verbal narration but from their memories of what are in the plot, Tragedy is achieved through fear and pity (Belfiore). Tragedy imitates real life situations acted by people on stage. Real life situations are tragic but not strategy, unless they are acted on stage.
All the processes, both outward and inwards, that make up actions of a play are all part of a plot. The emotions, thoughts and self expressions by men are all part of a plot. This explanation makes it easier to accept the significance of a plot because the feelings and emotions of a person also make up the character of such a person. Anything a person does also contributes and makes his character (Bernays). Actions make it possible for the drama to come out during play on the stage.
The plot makes it possible for the play writer and director to create the feeling of fear or pity in the audience as they watch a play on stage. The ceremonial burial in his work Antigone gets quick sympathy from the modern audience. The obedience to the law and the private scruples of the modern people are quickly provoked leading to the feeling of compassion.
The issues of morality are more receptive in the minds of today’s generation even when the seriousness given to the issues of religion has greatly reduced (Belfiore). Antigone touches hearts of this generation because they have grown to regard martyrs with adoration and respect. Antigone comes out as martyr in the hearts of many as she goes about her activities without fear of the possible consequences. She is aware of the good things she has chosen to forego but regards her death as a victory.
In her own right, she has chosen the right path and nothing could make her change her mind, not even the dire consequences associated with the path she choose. Martyrdom evokes feelings of compassion and protest from audience. The mood transitions such us sadness to cheerfulness are all made possible through plot. Plot can be equated to actions in the real world. History has confirmed Aristotle is right. There are some dramas performed without characters and done successfully. Dramas without good plot have not succeeded in impressing their audience.
A hero’s fate can be determined with other things rather than his actions. Aristotle should never be mistaken to mean a person when he talks of character, he refers to the tendency or what the person reveals when he does or says something. Moral and intellectual elements make up a character; these elements are Ethos and Dionia respectively (Belfiore). Plot is, for that reason, the central factor, the soul of a tragedy. Character then follows at the second place.
In the Antigone, the life events of the main characters lead to her death. She is likable to many and her death is considered catastrophic. The death of Antigone at the end of the play can be described as a double-tragedy as it is not only the character Antigone who dies, but also the gender issues that led to her death go with her. The strong-willed characters in the play are Creon and Antigone, a factor that makes them likable personalities, but the willful nature has no direct connection to the her death. The willful nature only influenced their decisions and their decisions led to her death, hence the tragedy.
A double –tragedy is also achieved when the death of Antigone leads to the death of Haemon. The death of two people with likable qualities due to dealings of others and their own actions. Here again, it could be seen that the actions of the characters lead to their death. Action or plot is once again proven to be the soul of tragedy.
The dramatic incidents in a play, when well-knitted produces the needed tragic effect, something that would be totally impossible when one tries to knit expressive speeches by characters. When a plot is constructed artistically it produces the desired effect and produce emotions in a tragedy. The plot enables audience to distinguish various scenes that generate various emotions in them. The acts by characters are given in the background of what is contained in the plot. Character comes out as an outcome of plot. The actions at the background of the plot are what make it possible to conceive the type and existence of a drama.
Aristotle does not imply that by giving importance to plot he has ignored character altogether. He does not also mean that one can a achieve tragedy without characters because characters makes the actions possible. This proves that character and the plot are essential in creation of a play (Gilbert 363). Aristotle is remembered as saying that the modern tragedies have failed in rendering right characters. When he said that tragedy could be achieved without character, he probably meant that when the morals of a character are depicted in a way that does not auger well with his action then tragedy could still be achieved.
He goes further to state that poets do no create actions to imitate characters, but characters are made to include the actions as required by the poet (Lucas). Character does not affect every action in a play unlike actions that determine where a person would fail or succeed. This means that action or plot is paramount in creation of a play. The thoughts of the characters, songs and diction all depend on the plot to effectively replicate the actions of life. The elements of plot as described by Aristotle show that it leads to the creation of a tragedy.
The first element is known as completeness and states that tragedy has origin, middle stage and an end (Gilbert 368). The next element is the length of the play. Aristotle argued that a long tragedy is more pleasurable to the audience as long as they maintain the elements of origin, middle and end. These three stages make the tragedy to transition form good to bad fortune or from bad to good fortunes. The thoughts of Antigone, Creon and Haemon are revealed through their dealings. Their actions and judgments make their characters. The thoughts and events are laid down in the plot before characters are found.
In Antigone, there are a series of events that lead to the death of the main character. In the first scene, she argues with her sister over the funeral of her brother. The main character’s belief that her brother deserves a befitting burial is what leads to her demise in the end. When she chooses to give him a suitable burial, it angers Creon who later put her to situation that leads to her death (Gilbert 370). The beginning, middle and the end are distinct as and are defined by the opening argument between sisters, then the numerous arguments between Antigone and Creon marks the middle of the plot and the death Haemon and Antigone marks the end.
It appears again that tragedy comes as a result of coherent proceedings that follow each other in the pre-arranged order. Any change to these incidents would destroy the play and perhaps, the tragedy at the last part of the play. It is agreed that change to a plot would affect tragedy, meaning that plot is central in achieving tragedy in a play.
The third factor is the unity. Unity is realized when all the procedures in a plot are direct towards the common theme. Another aspect is referred to as the determinate arrangement. It indicates that the plot follows the imitative, sequel causal events. Removing one part of a plot might change everything leading to failure to portray the intended theme. This means every part is important and necessary for a good plot.
The element of universality refers to the need for a character to perform in a way that many people would act when they face a similar situation. This is the law of probability that must be obeyed if the play is going to appear real (Gilbert 373). Audience would love to relate the events with their everyday life; they should be given the connection of the real life and the acting if they are to enjoy the play.
The theme of tragedy comes out straight from the plot. It does not depend on what the characters say of act on stage. The chorus that comes out in the center of the play seems to announce the arrival of a tragedy. It is like it has been waiting for the right moment to come out. In summary, Aristotle’s claim is true and is has been proven over time (Lucas). Modern critics have concentrated a great deal on the subject of character. Aristotle does not oppose the importance of characters in a play. They make the actions of the plot observable to the audience.
The characters help in driving the theme home but they come second after the plot. Plot dictates everything in a play from the beginning to the end, characters just follow the laid down proceedings in the plot to achieve the tragedy needed. It can be said that the characters play a part in bringing out the strategy, but it originates from the plot. Any change to a plot could lose the tragedy; it could lead to a different strategy not in line with the theme of the play. Hence, it is logical to agree with Aristotle that plot is the soul of a tragedy.
Belfiore, Elizabeth S. Tragic pleasures: Aristotle on plot and emotion. Princeton university press, 2014.
Bernays, Jacob. “Aristotle on the Effect of Tragedy.” (2006).
Gilbert, Allan H. “Aristotle’s Four Species of Tragedy (Poetics 18) and Their Importance for Dramatic Criticism.” The American Journal of Philology 68.4 (1947): 363-381.
Lucas, Frank Laurence. “Tragedy Serious Drama in Relation to Aristotle’s Poetics.” (1957).