Literature Study GuidesPoeticsChapters 25 26 Summary

Poetics | Study Guide


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Poetics | Chapters 25–26 | Summary



Chapter 25

Aristotle presents the issue of critical objection in poetry. As discussed earlier in the text, Aristotle returns to the idea that the poet's job is to imitate either things as they are said to be, things as they should be, or things as they were or are.

As such, he argues, poetry can express two main faults: faults in the very essence of poetry and accidental faults. If the problem is in the fact that the poet imitated something that lacked substance, then the error lies in the poetry itself. If the poet makes the wrong decision, this is the time for criticism and feedback. However, even if the poet makes a mistake or describes the impossible, Aristotle seems to argue that the quality of art is more important than correctness of the subject matter.

This topic takes Aristotle back to the concepts of language and the poet's use of metaphor to describe things in one of the three above-mentioned types of imitation. Pertinent usage of language, Aristotle seems to say, can help the writer avoid rudimentary errors in the poem.

Chapter 26

Aristotle opens this chapter with the question of whether the epic poem or tragedy is considered the higher art form. He compares the two forms in terms of level of refinement and the audience's ability to discern. He posits that, if refinement makes one art form higher than the other, tragedy's reliance on extra embellishment through acting makes it the less advanced of the two forms. Epic poetry, by contrast, uses more subtle techniques to engage an audience with a refined palate.

However, Aristotle reminds the reader that tragedy should also have a strong enough plot to be conveyed through reading alone. Thus, the flaw that makes it a lower art form than epic poetry is not actually inherent in the tragic form at all.

At this point in the chapter, Aristotle reverses stances on which art form is the higher. He argues that tragedy does everything that epic poetry is capable of, but within a narrow and more focused scope. In addition, because of its much wider scope, epic poetry cannot have the same unity of plot as the tragedy is capable of.

Aristotle concludes Poetics with the assertion that the tragic form is, in fact, superior to the epic poem and recaps a list of some of the main topics of the treatise.


Aristotle seems to find the idea of probable impossibility versus improbable possibility one of great import to the epic poem. It is a concept he brings up in multiple chapters as a vital element of the epic poem, but not necessarily of tragic works. This sort of attribution gives the reader an inkling of Aristotle's preference for the tragic form, despite his high opinions of Homer's epic poems of many centuries earlier.

Aristotle seems to take a negative view of critics on the whole, proposing that they often pass groundless adverse judgement on works. There are times, however, when criticism can be helpful to the poet, as when the poet has fallen victim to his or her own errors.

He employs a version of the reversal of situation in his own final chapter, luring the reader into thinking his opinion lies on one side of the matter but then reversing sides. This creates an interesting effect in conclusion of his treatise, as he proves his point that the audience is more likely to engage when surprised by a reversal in the plot. It's an interesting technique Aristotle attempts—he tries to prove his point about plot reversal to the reader by actually executing a sort of reversal of his own, thus illustrating his opinion in a more tangible way.

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