Aristotle's Definition of Tragedy

  imitation button action serious complete magnitude language embellished parts of the ply persons performing pity ad fear purification tragic acts  


δι᾽ ἐλέου καὶ φόβου / pity and fear

While it is apparent that the emotions (fear and pity) associated with the events in a tragedy are felt by the audience, it is probable that Aristotle understood pity and fear to be qualities of the action or events themselves. As the drama completes itself, it is the action that is purged of these emotional qualities. Fear anticipates the performance of horrible acts by someone who does not fully understand what he or she is doing, or is compelled to do those acts against his or her volition. Pity depends on the audience's empathy with the doer of those acts; the understanding that, under similar circumstances, the spectator might have acted in the same manner.