What is "unity of time" as defined in Aristotle's Poetics?

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In Aristotle's Poetics, the "unity of time" is one of the three unities defined, alongside unity of action and unity of place. This principle mandates that the timeline of the narrative should ideally span a single day, or "a single revolution of the sun". This is distinct from the epic narrative style, which can span a vast timeframe, as demonstrated by the contrast between the epic Beowulf and the tragedy Macbeth.

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Aristotle's explanation of "unity of time" appears in part five of Poetics. Here, Aristotle is explaining the difference between the tragedy and the epic. Within this discussion, Aristotle defines three unities: unity of action, unity of time, and unity of place. Unity of action refers to the tragedy possessing a beginning, a middle, and an end. The play's action must rely solely upon itself (no unexpected characters, abilities, or actions can be introduced to change the action of the play). Unity of place refers to the idea that everything takes place in a singular setting. Unlike the epic, where the setting is vast, the setting of the tragedy is relatively small.

The unity of time refers to the concept that the action of the tragedy tends to take in a single day, or, according to Aristotle, the action of the play should try to "as far as possible, confine itself to a single revolution of the sun."

An example of this concept can be seen in a comparison between the epic Beowulf and the tragedy Macbeth. The action in Beowulf takes place in a span of well over fifty years. When Beowulf is first introduced, he is in the Danelands to help Hrothgar rid Heorot of Grendel. After successfully defeating Grendel (and his mother), Beowulf rules the Geatlands for over fifty years.

Macbeth, on the other hand, does not give a specific time-line. Readers know that some time passes, though through inference alone. Readers can correctly assume that it takes time for Malcolm and Donalbain to travel England and Ireland. This said, given that the play does not name any time, it could be seen as one continuous action.

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Define "Unity of Action", as defined in Aristotle's Poetics. Please explain and give example.

In Aristotle's Poetics, the text explains his theory of tragedy. (As a side note, Aristotle's defining of tragedy and the tragic hero is still used today.)

According to the text, plot is the most important aspect of the tragedy. Within this, Aristotle defines plot as "the arrangement of the incidents." This refers to Aristotle's idea that the utmost importance lies in how the scenes are played out for the audience.

The plot, therefore, must be complete (including everything it needs to insure both arrangement and unity). This is where "unity of action" comes into play. Any tragic play must rely upon its own movement, each scene relying upon the previous and setting up the next. The play, essentially, must be self reliant. The play cannot rely upon any outside forces to insure its unity of action. These outside forces are called deus ex machina (where some sudden change (new character or ability) solves the problems of the play).

An example of this is seen in William Shakespeare's tragic play Macbeth. The unity of action relies upon the intertwining of all of the actions by the characters; Macbeth is the central figure which insures unity. Essentially, the witches' prophecy leads to Macbeth's rising ambition. This rising ambition (his hamartia, or tragic flaw) leads to Macbeth's murder of Duncan. Duncan's murder leads to his son's fleeing the country. When Duncan's sons flee, they plan revenge upon Macbeth. This plan forces Macbeth to insure his crown is kept (through more murder). 

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