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Glossary of Literary Theory
Action, place, and time, the latter two added to Aristotle's unity of
action by Italian and French critics of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Aristotle described tragedy as "an imitation of an action that is
serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude" and argued that drama
must therefore exhibit "unity of action": an identifiable beginning,
middle, and end; a harmonious correlation of whole and parts; a series
of events which follow one another inevitably and are related in a causal
sequence. Italian and French critics added unity of place -- the dramatic
action must be confined to a small geographical area -- and unity of time-it
must take place within the confines of a single day.
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