Thursday, September 10, 2009

Aristotle on Single and Double Action Plots

To continue with Aristotle on storytelling, a discussion begun earlier...

Plots can have a single or double action, Aristotle says in "Poetics." In a 'single', one character is changed, whereas in 'double,' two are changed, generally in opoposite directions. He uses the Odyssey as an example of a double action plot. Odysseus comes to a good end, while the suitors come to a bad one. A good biblical example is in First Samuel, where Saul descends into self-pity and despair, while David ascends to power and the throne.

As much as Aristotle admires the Odyssey, he prefers the single action plot where a good and noble man comes to ruin through an error or personal flaw he doesn't recognize, as in Oedipus Rex, his favorite play. When an audience experiences such a downfall, there is a strong emotional reaction that Aristotle calls 'Catharsis,' the subject of the next posting.

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