Page:The thirty-six dramatic situations (1921).djvu/13

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INTRODUCTION

of confining ourselves to the thirty-two classic tragedies we shall make use of those works of Hellenism which, unfortunately for the indolent public of today, still lie buried in Latin; works from whose great lines might be reconstructed hundreds of masterpieces, and all offering us, from the shades to which we have relegated them, the freshness of unfamiliar beauty. Leaving aside, for the present, any detailed consideration of the Persian and mediaeval Mysteries, which depend almost without exception upon two or three situations, and which await a special study, we shall glance over,—after the Jeux and Miracles of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries,—the Spanish authors, the French classics, the Italians, the Germans of the Romantic revival, and our modern dramatic literature. And it seems to me we shall have finally proved this theory of the Thirty-six Situations, when we shall thus have brought it into contact with the dramatic production of the last thirty years.

Two hundred of the examples cited have been taken from other literary genres akin to the dramatic: romance, epic, history,—and from reality. For this investigation can and should be pursued in human nature, by which I mean in politics, in courts of justice, in daily life. Amid these explorations the present study will soon seem but an introduction to a marvelous, an inexhaustible stream,—the Stream of Existence, where meet momentarily, in their primordial unity, history, mystic poetry, moralist (and amoralist) writings, humor, psychology, law, epic, romance, fable, myth, proverb and prophecy.

It may here be allowable to ask, with our theory in mind, a number of questions which to us are of primary importance.

Which are the dramatic situations neglected by our own epoch, so faithful in repeating the few most familiar? Which, on the other hand, are most in use today? Which are the most neglected, and which the most used, in each epoch, genre, school, author? What are the reasons for these preferences? The same questions may be asked before the classes and sub-classes of the situations.