25-26 It is also apparent from what has been said that this too is not the task of the poet, i.e., to speak of what has come to be, but rather to speak of what sort of things would come to be, i.e., of what is possible according to the likely or the necessary. For the historian and the poet do not differ by speaking either in meters or without meters (since it would [end of page 26] be possible for the writings f Herodotus be put in meters, and they would no less be a history with meter than without meters). But they differ in this: the one speaks of what has come to be while the other speaks of what sort would come to be. Therefore poiêsis is more philosophic and of more stature than history. For poetry speaks rather of the general things while history speaks of the particular things. The general, that it falls to a certain sort of man to say or do certain sort of things according to the likely or the necessary, is what poetry aims at in attaching names….It is clear then from these things, that the poet [poeiêtês] must be a maker [poiêtês] of [end of page 26] stories rather than of meters, insofar as he is a poet by virtue of imitation, and he inmates action.
26-27 Of simple stories and actions the episodic are worst. I mean [legô] by an episodic story one in which the episodes following one another are neither likely nor necessary.
28 Of stories, some are simple while others are of a complex weave, for the actions, also, of which the stories are imitations, are from the start just of these sorts. And I mean by simple an action that comes to be as continuous and one, as we defined them, and of which the change comes to be without reversal or recognition, and by a tragedy of a complex
weave, an action in which the change is with a recognition or a reversal or both. And these ought to come to be from the very putting together of the story so that it happens that, on the basis of what occurred previously, these things come to be either from necessity or according to the likely. It makes a great deal of difference whether what we have before us comes to be because of what we have before us or after what we have before us.
29 Recognition [anagnôrisis], on the other hand, just as the name too signifies, is a change from ignorance [agnoia] to knowledge [gnôsis], whether towards fellowship or enmity, of those whose relation to good or ill fortune has already been defined. A recognition is most beautiful when it comes to be at the same time as a reversal, for example as it is in the Oedipus.
30 Since, then, the putting together of the most beautiful tragedy should be not simple but of a complex weave, and what is more it should be imitative of fearful and pitiable things (for this is peculiar to this sort of imitation), first, just as it is clear that the sound82 men ought not to be [end of page 32] shown changing from good to bad fortune (for this is neither fearful nor pitiable but loathsome), so the wicked ought not to be shown changing from misfortune to good fortune (for this is the least tragic of all, since it has nothing of what it ought to have as it is neither productive of a feeling of kinship with the human83 nor pitiable nor fearful) and more than the very evil man ought to appear to fall from good fortune to ill fortune (for, though a putting together of this sort would have the feeling of kinship with the human, still it would not have either pity or fear; for with respect to one who has ill fortune, the pity concerns his not deserving it, and the fear concerns his being similar to us, so that what occurs will be neither pitiable nor fearful). The one between these, then, is left. He who is neither distinguished by virtue and justice nor changing to bad fortune on account of vice and wickedness if of this sort, but one who changes on account of
some mistake and is one of those in great repute and of good fortune such as Oedipus, Thyestes, notable men of families of this sort. 82. “Sound” translates epiekês. In Book 5 of the Nichomachean Ethics (1137a31- 1138a3) it is the virtue that belongs to the one who is more just than justice, for he sees where the general rules of justice embodied in the law fall short in every particular case. The epiekês is thus the man of equity. As one who in principle never errs, he ought never to suffer from making mistakes. 83. The greek is philanthrôpon. Aristotle discusses it once in the Nicomachean Ethics (1155a20) in the context of a discussion of friendship or philia.