According to Aristotle, a tragedy is “an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions”(Nahm 7). Aristotle categorizes the six basic parts of any tragedy as plot, characters, thought, diction, spectacle and melody. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet follow this definition of a tragedy and adhere to Aristotle’s six elements of a tragedy: plot, character, diction, thought, spectacle, and song.
The Plot, the first principle, refers to the combination of incidents in the story. Aristotle thinks this to be the most important feature of the tragedy. William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet contain a plot that complies with the first line of Aristotle’s definition of a tragedy, which states “the imitation of an action is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself”(Nahm 7). This refers to the first element of a tragedy, the plot, implying that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet deal with one issue that is very serious in magnitude such as the conflict between the two families which lead to innocent deaths. Shakespeare also follows Aristotle’s idea of the tragedy being of a certain magnitude. This is because the characters are realistic therefore the audience is capable of relating to them easily. Romeo and Juliet are upset, while grieving over their impending separation and angered about the circumstances surrounding their families. They are also unsure of themselves how they should handle the situation. The audience can relate to this uncertain feeling and they are able to empathize with Romeo and Juliet.
Aristotle believed the plot should depict the fall of a man who is basically good, but who suffers from some error or frailty. In the play...
Nahm, Milton C. and Butcher S. H. Aristotle On the Art of Poetry. The Liberal Arts Press, NY: New York, 1948