Nearly 2400 years have passed since Aristotle perfectly summed up good and bad writing in The Poetics, and yet still we get narrative disasters like (for example) Prometheus. Aristotle obviously didn’t know Hollywood existed and yet he describes it perfectly in the first paragraph quoted below. He even tells us how to do “villain crushed by a huge object” correctly…
“Of simple plots and actions those that are episodic are the worst. By an episodic plot I mean one in which the sequence of the episodes is neither probable nor necessary. Plays of this kind are written by bad poets because they cannot help it, and by good poets because of the actors; writing for the dramatic competitions, they often strain a plot beyond the bounds of possibility, and are thus obliged to dislocate the continuity of events.
However, tragedy is the representation not only of a complete action, but also of incidents that waken fear and pity, and effects of this kind are more heightened when things happen unexpectedly as well as logically, for then they will be more remarkable than if they seem merely mechanical or accidental. Indeed, even chance occurrences seem most remarkable when they have the appearance of having been brought about by design– when, for example, the statue of Mitys at Argos killed the man who had caused Mitys’s death, by falling down on him at a public entertainment. Things like this do not even seem mere chance occurrences. Thus plots of this type are necessarily better than others.”
I wasn’t able to find out who Mitys was or why he had a statue big enough to kill somebody; it seems he’s only remembered to history via this reference by Aristotle, as the chap whose statue killed the man who killed him.
Reblogged this on Alistair Gentry.
so I take it you’re not a fan of Prometheus then? I’m not either, it’s easy to find fault with it for nearly everything it does.
In any case, that’s a wonderful quote by Aristotle. I wish more people read such things. There is certainly a place for mindless entertainment. I don’t want “Titus Andronicus” every time I sit down to relax in front of the telly. But more thought provoking drama would be much appreciated.
I agree, but I don’t think entertainment has to be synonymous with mindlessness. Often the most entertaining (or silly, or joyous) things are the product of absolute pros who really know what they’re doing and respect their audiences a lot. Distracting people is easy, entertaining people is hard.