AD's English Literature : May 2017

Plot is the Soul of Tragedy: One of the Aristotelian Constituent Parts of Tragedy from "Poetics"

  Aristotle has enumerated six constituent parts of tragedy-Plot, Character, Thought, Diction, Song and Spectacle. The most important of these, is the Plot. The structure of the incidents, the arrangements of things done-that exactly, is what he means by Plot. Aristotle has subordinated character to plot, because he conceives of tragedy as an imitation, not of men, but of an action and of life, as life, consists in action. According to Aristotle, the plot is the underlying principle of a tragedy, as it were; the very soul of it, Plot gives meaning, vigour and vitality to the play.

Hamlet: Shakespeare’s Tragic Reading of Life, the Psychological Book of the Mental and Moral Nature of Man: Comparative and Correlated Analysis

An interrogation of the critical utterances that have accumulated during a century of eager Shakespearian study would doubtlessly place Hamlet upon a pinnacle as the extreme and most characteristic expression of the poet’s tragic mood. One need not be concerned to challenge the judgment, although it probably owes something to the consonance of the subject-matter o the play with the intellectual history of the century itself ; its spiritual upheaval, the paralysis of will that for a time inevitably proceeded from its blurred and uncertain vision of the ultimate tendency of things. It is not without consequence that the modern world has read Shakespeare through the spectacles of Coleridge. But, while criticism has lost its interest in the allocation of superlatives, it cannot allow Hamlet to be summed up as ‘characteristic’ of Shakespearian tragedy without a distinction.

“A novel is in its broadest definition a persona, a direct impression of life.” -Henry James’s concept of “The Art of Fiction”


Henry James who dedicated his life to the writings of novels and short stories was formidable literary critic as well. He wrote much on the art of fiction and what he has written in his essays and prefaces is most illuminating to a student of novels. Among the critical essays that set forth the views of Henry James must be mentioned criticism and The Art of Fiction a controversy with H.G. Wells whom, in spite of their close friendship, Henry James differed of views on literature and art.

Shaping of a Critic, T. S. Eliot: the Weight of both the Western and Eastern Mysticism and Literature


“This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.”
T. S. Eliot (1888 - 1965)
U.S.-born British poet and playwright.
"The Hollow Men"

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), American-born writer, who is regarded as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, carries the weight of both the Western and Eastern mysticism and Literature. A propounder of the depersonalization theory Eliot may be taken as the most autobiographical poet of the twentieth century in any language.

His early family life has great significance in the making of the poet. The primary channel of transmission of culture is the family no man wholly escapes from the kind, or wholly surpasses the degree, of culture which he acquired from his early environment. At any rate some of the pessimism which flourished in Eliot’s early poetry may have derived from his closer contact with New England’s Life in his youth. The child Eliot was also irked by the austerity of Unitarianism which lacked the picturesque elements of most Christian creeds.

Delight and Utility in Literature

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.
T. S. Eliot (1888 - 1965)
U.S.-born British poet and playwright.
The Sacred Wood, "Philip Massinger"
Literature is valued in various ways. Some think of ‘pure’ literature or pure poetry. Horace analyses the function of poetry by the terms dulce et utile. (Delight and Utility). Longinus like Plato emphasizes the sublimity in poetry as conducing to the production of feelings of greatness and grandeur. Plato indicates the moral function of poetry. But no critic wants poetry to be homiletic or didactic. Aristotle wants purification of feelings through the structure of a poem or tragedy. Sidney following Scaliger indicates the function of poetry as delightful instruction. The philosopher teaches by precept, the historian by example, but the poet teaches through delight, through exciting the feelings and thrilling the senses. Poetry, according to Sidney conduces to virtue. Wordsworth says: “didacticism is my abhorrence”. But for him, the pleasure of poetry is of an exalted kind. He regards poetry as the most philosophical of all writings. “It is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge, the impassioned expression that is in the countenance of all science”. Poetry divorced from morality is valueless. Poetry is highest music wedded to highest thoughts. Literature transmits feelings and ideas that exalt the mind, quicken the sensibility and widen the vision. Arnold characterizes poetry as criticism of life in terms of truth and beauty. Eliot who is the exponent of the theory of impersonality in poetry posits the moral function of poetry. “Poetry is not a substitute for philosophy or theology or religion, it has its own function. But as this function is not intellectual but emotional, it cannot be defined adequately in intellectual terms. We can say that it provided ‘consolation’, strange consolation, which is provided equally by writers so different as Dante and Shakespeare.” The Waste Land which is the most objective and impersonal of all writings suggests a message through the diagnosis of the decay and deadness of civilization.

Death of Cordelia in the Light of Poetic Justice in William Shakespeare’s "King Lear"

 Poetic justice is a sort of ideal justice, which the poets and critics are expected to impart in apportioning rewards and Punishments to the characters they create. It is an ideal world of justice where crime and punishment exist, bound more of less by a nexus of transcendental mathematics. As an idea, however, it is too bookish and fails to explain the wicked world in which men and women live and die. It thinks more of the world as it should be than the world as it is. The world of daily existence is a world where the wicked prosper and evil thrive while the good is wasted and ignored. Such a world provides stuff for tragedies of Shakespeare who accepts the world as it is and King Lear is no exception to it.

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