The Poetics, written in the fourth century B.C., remains an essential study of the art of drama, indeed the most fundamental one we have. It has been used by both playwrights and theorists of many periods, and interpreted, in the course of its two thousand years of life, in various ways. The literature which has accumulated around it is, as Mr. Fergusson points out, "full of disputes so erudite that the nonspecialist can only look on in respectful silence." But the Poetics itself is still with us, in all its suggestiveness, for the modern reader to make use of in his turn and for his own purposes.
Francis Fergusson's lucid, informative, and entertaining Introduction will prove invaluable to anyone who wishes to understand and appreciate the Poetics. Using Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, as Aristotle did, to illustrate his analysis, Mr. Fergusson points out that Aristotle did not lay down strict rules, as is often thought: "The Poetics," he says, "is much more like a cookbook than it is like a textbook of elementary engineering." Read in this way, it is an essential guide not only to Sophoclean tragedy, but to the work of so modern a playwright as Bertolt Brecht, who considered his own "epic drama" the first non-Aristotelian form.
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Other works by the renowned classical scholar, translator, and literary critic Francis Fergusson include The Idea of a Theater: A Study of Ten Plays, Sallies of the Mind: Essays, Trope and Allegory: Themes Common to Dante and Shakespeare, and Dante's Drama of the Mind: A Modern Reading of the Purgatorio.
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Translator and scholar S. H. Butcher served as editor for the Dover Thift Edition of the Poetics, as well as for the Orationes, Volume 1 by Demosthenes. Butcher is also the author of Aristotle's Theory of Poetry and Fine Art.