The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations

"The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations" is a descriptive list which was created by Georges Polti to categorize every dramatic situation that might occur in a story or performance. To do this Polti analyzed classical Greek texts, plus classical and contemporaneous French works. He also analyzed a handful of non-French authors. In his introduction, Polti claims to be continuing the work of Carlo Gozzi, who also identified 36 situations.

Publication history

This list was published in a book of the same name, which contains extended explanations and examples. The original French-language book was written in the 19th century. An English translation was published in 1916 and continues to be reprinted to this day.

The list is popularized as an aid for writers, but it is also used by dramatists, storytellers and many others. Other similar lists have since been made, some more attuned to modern sensibilities, but Polti's guide remains one of the most popular and enduring.

The 36 Situations

# Supplication
#* a Persecutor; a Supplicant; a Power in authority, whose decision is doubtful.
# Deliverance
#* an Unfortunate; a Threatener; a Rescuer
# Crime pursued by vengeance
#* a Criminal; an Avenger
# Vengeance taken for kin upon kin
#* Guilty Kinsman; an Avenging Kinsman; remembrance of the Victim, a relative of both
# Pursuit
#* Punishment; a Fugitive
# Disaster
#* a Vanquished Power; a Victorious Enemy "or" a Messenger
# Falling prey to cruelty/misfortune
#* an Unfortunate; a Master "or" a Misfortune
# Revolt
#* a Tyrant; a Conspirator
# Daring enterprise
#* a Bold Leader; an Object; an Adversary
# Abduction
#* an Abductor; the Abducted; a Guardian
# The enigma
#* a Problem; an Interrogator; a Seeker
# Obtaining
#* (a Solicitor & an Adversary who is refusing) "or" (an Arbitrator & Opposing Parties)
# Enmity of kin
#* a Malevolent Kinsman; a Hatred "or" a reciprocally-hating Kinsman
# Rivalry of kin
#* the Preferred Kinsman; the Rejected Kinsman; the Object of Rivalry
# Murderous adultery
#* two Adulterers; a Betrayed Spouse
# Madness
#* a Madman; a Victim
# imprudence
#* the Imprudent; a Victim "or" an Object Lost
# Involuntary crimes of love
#* a Lover; a Beloved; a Revealer
# Slaying of kin unrecognized
#* the Slayer; an Unrecognized Victim
# Self-sacrifice for an ideal
#* a Hero; an Ideal; a Creditor "or" a Person/Thing sacrificed
# Self-sacrifice for kin
#* a Hero; a Kinsman; a Creditor "or" a Person/Thing sacrificed
# All sacrificed for passion
#* a Lover; an Object of fatal Passion; the Person/Thing sacrificed
# Necessity of sacrificing loved ones
#* a Hero; a Beloved Victim; the Necessity for the Sacrifice
# Rivalry of superior vs. inferior
#* a Superior Rival; an Inferior Rival; the Object of Rivalry
# Adultery
#* two Adulterers; a Deceived Spouse
# Crimes of love
#* a Lover; the Beloved
# Discovery of the dishonour of a loved one
#* a Discoverer; the Guilty One
# Obstacles to love
#* two Lovers; an Obstacle
# An enemy loved
#* a Lover; the Beloved Enemy; the Hater
# Ambition
#* an Ambitious Person; a Thing Coveted; an Adversary
# Conflict with a god
#* a Mortal; an Immortal
# Mistaken jealousy
#* a Jealous One; an Object of whose Possession He is Jealous; a Supposed Accomplice; a Cause "or" an Author of the Mistake
# Erroneous judgement
#* a Mistaken One; a Victim of the Mistake; a Cause "or" Author of the Mistake; the Guilty One
# Remorse
#* a Culprit; a Victim "or" the Sin; an Interrogator
# Recovery of a lost one
#* a Seeker; the One Found
# Loss of loved ones
#* a Kinsman Slain; a Kinsman Spectator; an Executioner

External links

* [http://www.straightdope.com/columns/001124.html What are the seven basic literary plots?] - The Straight Dope
* [http://www.tennscreen.com/plots.htm 20 Basic Plots] from the Tennessee Screenwriting Association


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