Aristotle’s Guide to Pleasure

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Chapter 2 Aristotle’s Guide to Pleasure 21

Figure 2.1 Aristotle used Oedipus the King to illustrate his idea of an excellent plot in The Poet-ics. The story of Oedipus was a common subject of plays, art, and poetry in ancient Greece, and this vase from the fifth century BCE shows the moment in the story when Oedipus ponders the sphinx’s question.
— EXPOSITION —Many people use the words “theatre” and “drama” interchangeably. Techni-cally, drama (from the Greek word dran, meaning “to take action” or “to do”) refers to the content of a written play. On the other hand, the word theatre (from the Greek theatron, meaning a “seeing place”) refers to a live performance. Some books describe Aristotle’s six ele-ments of drama, but we’ve chosen to use the word “theatre” because this book is about theatre. You can use whichever one you want.
The Three Unities of Theatre Aristotle provided us with a methodology for learning about a play by analyzing its form, its organization. His study led him to believe that plays give an audience the greatest pleasure when their form observes three organizing traits that we have come to call the three unities: the unity of action, the unity of time, and the unity of place.
PREVIEW
The Three Unities 1. The unity of action 2. The unity of time 3. The unity of place
The Unity of Action A play should have only one simple plot, Aristotle argued, so that the audience can understand its clear example and not be confused by second-, any plots. That’s why he praised Oedipus the King, which has a single direct story to tell. Aristotle discerned that the plot of a play has “a beginning, a middle, and an end,” and he argued that the most pleasing plays have plots