Page:The thirty-six dramatic situations (1921).djvu/11

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
9
INTRODUCTION

heroines; and, lastly, some works here and there by Valin, upon composition. And that is all, absolutely all.

Finally, in brief, I rediscovered the thirty-six situations, as Gozzi doubtless possessed them, and as the reader will find them in the following pages; for there were indeed, as he had indicated, thirty-six categories which I had to formulate in order to distribute fitly among them the innumerable dramas awaiting classification. There is, I hasten to say, nothing mystic or cabalistic about this particular number; it might perhaps be possible to choose one a trifle higher or lower, but this one I consider the most accurate.

Now, to this declared fact that there are no more than thirty-six dramatic[1] situations, is attached a singular corollary, the discovery that there are in life but thirty-six emotions. A maximum of thirty-six emotions,—and therein we have all the savor of existence; there we have the unceasing ebb and flow which fills human history like tides of the sea; which is, indeed, the very substance of history, since it is the substance of humanity itself, in the shades of African forests as Unter den Linden or beneath the electric lights of the Boulevards; as it was in the ages of man's hand-to-hand struggle with the wild beasts of wood and mountain, and as it will be, indubitably, in the most infinitely distant future, since it is with these thirty-six emotions—no more—that we color, nay, we comprehend, cosmic mechanism, and since it is from them that our theogonies and our metaphysics are, and ever will be, constructed; all our dear and fanciful "beyonds;"—thirty-six situations, thirty-six emotions, and no more.

It is, then, comprehensible that in viewing upon the stage the ceaseless mingling of these thirty-six emotions, a race or nation arrives at the beginning of its definite self-consciousness; the Greeks, indeed, began their towns by laying the foundations of a theater. It is equally natural that only the greatest and most com-

  1. I have replaced the word "tragic," used in the quotation, with "dramatic." Those familiar with Goethe know that for him—one of the "classic" Germans—the two terms were synonymous in this passage.