Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on March 17, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 111

Catharsis - any emotional discharge which brings about a moral or spiritual renewal or welcome relief from tension and anxiety. The usual intent is for an audience to leave feeling this relief from tension or anxiety after having viewed a play.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Guide to Literary Terms Study Guide

Subscribe Now

The word comes from the Greek katharis, meaning “cleansing, or purification.” This evolved from kathairo, which means I cleanse, and katharos, which means “pure or clean.”

Catharsis was referred to by Aristotle (384 – 322 B.C.) in his Poetics:

Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; . . . through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions.
Book 6 : 2

Explore all literary terms.

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-hour free trial




Explore Study Guides