Aristotle on Drama

Aristotle, The Poetics

Aristotle’s Poetics is a fragmentary work; originally it was a text for use by philosophy students rather than by the general public. The part which survives is mostly about Tragedy. The most notable thing about Aristotle’s view of the poetical process is that he sees it as an ‘imitation’ (mimesis) of real situations, rather than invention. But since it is a mental abstraction derived from many single instances, it is `truer’ than any individual situation, because it is more ‘universal’, more general, or (as Plato might have said) it participates in the Ideal to a greater degree.

The PROCESS OF IMITATION in Tragedy includes:
(1) language [diction]
(2) meter [rhythm]
(3) music
(4) dance [movement]
(a) IDEALIZED [heroic deeds, klea andron]
(b) REALISTIC [average human activities]
(c) CARICATURIZED [comedic exaggeration of reality]

EPIC AND TRAGEDY compared and contrasted:
idealized men & women idealized men & women
direct and indirect narrative direct narrative
dactylic hexameter various meters
open-ended length limited length [usually one day, the ‘unity of time’]

According to Aristotle the purpose of Drama is to arouse in the audience feelings of PITY and FEAR, and to purge these emotions (catharsis), thereby making people stronger emotionally.

(1) scenery and costume (spectacle)
(2) musical score (organized sound)
(3) libretto (the text, diction)
(4) characterization
(5) thought content (themes and ideas)
(6) plot (action: METABOLE)

Since a drama is dynamic, it is PLOT which governs the whole. In fact, music and spectacle can be omitted (as in the reading of a play) while the effect of the drama is still preserved. A PLOT must have: a beginning, a middle and an end; it must be of a certain length (neither too long nor too short); it must have unity of theme (connection actions, not random items); it must be graspable by the mind and memory both in its parts and as a whole.
PLOT can be
(a) simple (without `reversal’ [PERIPATEIA] or `discovery’ [anagnoresis])
(b) complex (with either Peripateia or Anagnoresis)
(1) by signs or tokens, or marks on the body ‘recognition’
(2) arbitrary, by direct discoveries invented by author
(3) awakened memory (recall of forgotten events)
(4) logical reasoning, or sophistical reasoning
(5) discovery from incidents, in a `probable’ manner.

-John Paul Adams, CSUN

Zen of Writing

Writing plays an integral role in our everyday lives. Writing is a means of communication. Writing helps identify who you are. Writing reveals your thoughts in physical form. Writing can make or break you, and you might not even know it. Writing can get you a job. Writing can cause you to lose a job. Writing records what you are thinking.

The Zen of Writing shows you how to put everything together so that you can effectively write, regardless of what you are writing, and to whom you are writing. Think in terms of who gave me the idea to write what I’m about to write. What was I doing at the time? Where was I? When did this happen? Why am I about to write about this subject matter?

Write down your answers. By writing down your answers, you are calling upon your subconscious mind, which works like a computer that takes in all of the information your five senses are giving you each breathing minute, to reveal your passion for the subject matter. Once you accomplish this, you will be able to determine how to most effectively write what you are about to write. Your passion for the subject matter is your theme for what you are about to write.

Utilize this theme by writing differents points-of-view that relate to your theme. By writing this way, you will make what you are writing multi-dimensional. By making your writing multi-dimensional, you enhance your writing and make it more effective and powerful.

Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC
The Zen of Writing/Filmmaking/Consulting


There are numerous challenges that come up
when one is writing and striving to break
through and beyond. In order to “stay with it”,
the writer must look inside of themselves for
something that will carry them through the
difficult times, keep them going, and take
them to success.

Ask yourself the questions below. By writing
them down, you can refer to the answers as you write,
and beyond. These answers will take you into
the depth of yourself where you can clearly see
your main character’s passion. This passion
becomes the main theme of your story.

Passion must be sizzling inside of you. It’s a
human emotion. Your passion for your story
has taken you to this point in time in your
life. What do you want it to be this time
next year? By understanding your and
appropriately utilizing your passion for your
story, your mind will be ratcheted up a few
levels to the point where you are unable to
get the words down fast enough.

By utilizing the main theme of your story, you
can show opposition to it. This creates conflict,
which all good stories need, even comedies.

This main theme, your passion for the story,
will guide and direct you throughout the writing
process. It will cause you to be more creative
and imaginative, which, in turn, will produce
a solid and seamless plot.

The questions are:

1. Who was I when I got the idea for my story?
2. What was I doing?
3. Where was I?
4. When was it?
5. Why did this idea come to me?
6. How did I recognize it?

Be diligent when writing the answers, very
diligent. Shortcut the process and you will
cause shortcut yourself and your opportunities.

I hope this has been of help to you.

Best Regards,

Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC
“The Zen of Writing/Filmmaking/Consulting