Sunday, 19 April 2015

Aristotle's Concept of Three Unities

Aristotle's Concept of  Three Unities: 

The three unites are unity of time, unity of place and unity of action. The action in a tragedy, according to Aristotle, must be a “complete a whole” and it must have “organic unity”.  Aristotle’s conception of the unity of action is not a formal and mechanical one. According to Butcher, it is “an organic unity, an inward principle which reveals itself in the form of an outward whole”. Though tragic action centres on one man’s life, tragic unity is not easily achieved because infinitely various are the incidents in one man’s life which cannot be reduced to unity. Therefore all such events which do not directly contribute to the process of protagonist’s passing from happiness to misery should be rigorously eliminated. Aristotle also rejects the plurality of action. There should be one plot. He is against the introduction of a sub-plot or double ending because it may weaken the tragic effect. The doctrine of the unity of time rests on only one passage in Poetics. Here Aristotle differentiates tragedy and epic poetry saying that tragedy endeavours to “confine itself to a single revolution of time or but slightly to exceed the limit whereas epic action has no such limit of time”. Neo-classical dramatist believed that there should be an exact correspondence between the time of the dramatic action and the time of the events being imitated. Aristotle never mentioned the unity of place anywhere in Poetics. While comparing epic and tragedy, he merely says that the epic may narrate several actions taking place simultaneously at several places, but this not possible for tragedy which does not narrate, but represent through action. This chance remark led Renaissance and Neo-classical critics to formulate a rigid rule of unity of action. It was said that in drama there should be no change of place. Even if change takes place, it should be confined to the limits of a single city. Each of these unity has been violated by many Elizabethan and modern dramatists. Even in some Greek dramas these unities were not scrupulously observed. Yet we cannot deny the importance of Aristotle’s theory. We must remember what Bywater said: “What Aristotle says is not a percept, but only an incidental recognition of a fact in practice of theatre of his age.”

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