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Aristotle: Poetics—Chapter III

The Butcher translation retains the traditional chapter numbering. Some modern translations break the chapters somewhat differently. Text source: Project Gutenberg


There is still a third difference—the manner in which each of these objects may be imitated. For the medium being the same, and the objects the same, the poet may imitate by narration—in which case he can either take another personality as Homer does, or speak in his own person, unchanged—or he may present all his characters as living and moving before us.

These, then, as we said at the beginning, are the three differences which distinguish artistic imitation,—the medium, the objects, and the manner. So that from one point of view, Sophocles is an imitator of the same kind as Homer—for both imitate higher types of character; from another point of view, of the same kind as Aristophanes—for both imitate persons acting and doing. Hence, some say, the name of 'drama' is given to such poems, as representing action. For the same reason the Dorians claim the invention both of Tragedy and Comedy. The claim to Comedy is put forward by the Megarians,—not only by those of Greece proper, who allege that it originated under their democracy, but also by the Megarians of Sicily, for the poet Epicharmus, who is much earlier than Chionides and Magnes, belonged to that country. Tragedy too is claimed by certain Dorians of the Peloponnese. In each case they appeal to the evidence of language. The outlying villages, they say, are by them called kômai, by the Athenians dêmai: and they assume that Comedians were so named not from kôm'azein, 'to revel,' but because they wandered from village to village kata komas (κατα κωμασ), being excluded contemptuously from the city. They add also that the Dorian word for 'doing' is drân (δραν), and the Athenian, prattein (πραττειν).

This may suffice as to the number and nature of the various modes of imitation.

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