Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Against Aristotle

On The Guardian Theatre Blog, Steve Waters laments the popularity of Aristotle's theory of drama:
Poetics' fatal flaw (to borrow an Aristotelian term) is that it's an outsider's view of writing. All too often Aristotle's inventory of conventions is mimicked, as if plays were no more than the sum of their parts, and the author a phrenologist detecting a criminal from the shape of their skull. Generations of playwrights and critics have rummaged through Poetics' checklist of elements hoping to find a readymade framework for their plays or analyses.


  1. Ridiculous. The inability to hammer a nail in straight is not the fault of the hammer.

  2. Anonymous4:10 pm

    I think Aristotle was just observing what worked for the audience then. He was an observer, a scientist and philosopher not a playwright. It's the modern Gurus like Robert McGee etc. that have read so much more into it such as this three act structure business - Aristotle never wrote about three acts just a beginning, middle and end and the Lysistrata by Aristophanes has eight acts - well my copy has.

    Fortunately, it is possible to read the Poetics without letting the imagination get too hide bound by formulaic writing re: Sid Field and Robert McGee.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.