The Trip to Greece

Credit: Sky

What’s the story?

This week the fourth and final series of The Trip starring Steven Coogan and Rob Brydon – a gentle and extremely funny fusion of travelogue, celebrity impressions and melancholy reflections on life, death and ageing – arrived on Sky.

In their final outing the comedians, who play mild caricatures of themselves, are travelling through Greece retracing the steps of Odysseus, the legendary hero of the ancient world, in the most comfortable and middle-class way possible: stopping at Michelin-star restaurants and driving a Range Rover down winding country roads with nothing but blue skies, sunshine and an expensive Sky drone above them.

What’s the book?

In the opening scene of the first episode, the pair commence their customary and (mostly) good-natured jousting over dinner when Brydon holds up a book:

Brydon: What's this?

Coogan: If I'm not mistaken it's a Penguin Classic

Brydon: And it's by 'Arry Stotle 

Coogan: I know 'Arry, yeah. I know all the Stotles. 

Brydon: Poetics. Listen to this. 'Epic poetry and the composition of tragedy, as well as comedy and the arts of poetry and music, are all imitations. Imitation comes naturally to human beings and so does the universal pleasure in imitation.' Not my words, the words of 'Arry Stotle. 

Before you get distracted by Michael Caine impressions, it’s worth taking a closer look at Poetics which is a handbook for how to write great tragedies that dramatists have been cribbing from, since around 330 BCE. It covers the basics from plot, character and spectacle to more sophisticated dramatic techniques like mimesis (‘imitation’), hamartia (‘error’) and catharsis. No wonder Winterboom included it in his script, given The Trip is the best tragedy to appear on British TV for decades.

Footnote:

As a teacher, Aristotle used to make his pupils follow behind him as he walked around imparting his worldly knowledge. That’s why to this day students of his work are known as Peripatetics – literally ‘people who travel about’, in English.

 

  • Poetics

  • One of the most powerful, perceptive and influential works of criticism in Western literary history

    In his near-contemporary account of classical Greek tragedy, Aristotle examines the dramatic elements of plot, character, language and spectacle that combine to produce pity and fear in the audience, and asks why we derive pleasure from this apparently painful process. Taking examples from the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, the Poetics introduced into literary criticism such central concepts as mimesis ('imitation'), hamartia ('error') and katharsis ('purification'). Aristotle explains how the most effective tragedies rely on complication and resolution, recognition and reversals. The Poetics has informed thinking about drama ever since.

    Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Malcolm Heath

  • Buy the book

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