word #23: “peripeteia” (n)

noun. (literal Greek translation: “sudden change”)

  1. Peripeteia – or peripety – is a reversal of fortune; a fall. In drama, usually the sudden change of fortune from prosperity to ruin; but it can be the other way about. A much debated term, it was first used by Aristotle in Poetics (Chap. VI). The relevant passage, in Bywater’s translation, is:

[Peripety] is the change from one state of things within the play to its opposite of the kind described, and that too in the way we are saying, in the probable or necessary sequence of events; as it is for instance in Oedipus: here the opposite of things is produced by the Messenger, who, coming to gladden Oedipus and to remove his fears as to his mother, reveals the secret of his birth.