Page:The thirty-six dramatic situations (1921).djvu/42

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


ELEVENTH SITUATION

THE ENIGMA

(Interrogator, Seeker and Problem)

This situation possesses theatrical interest par excellence, since the spectator, his curiosity aroused by the problem, easily becomes so absorbed as to fancy it is himself who is actually solving it. A combat of the intelligence with opposing wills, the Eleventh Situation may be fitly symbolized by an interrogation point.

A - Search for a Person Who Must be Found on Pain of Death: - Sophocles' and Euripides' "Polyidus." Case without this danger, in which an object, not a person, is sought: Poe's "Purloined Letter."

B (1) — A Riddle to be Solved on Pain of Death: — "The Sphinx" of Aeschylus. Example from fiction (without the danger): "The Gold Bug" by Poe.

(2) — The Same Case, in Which the Riddle is Proposed by the Coveted Woman: — Partial example: the beginning of Shakespeare's "Pericles." Example from fiction: "The Travelling Companion," by Andersen. Epic example (but without the danger): the Queen of Sheba and Solomon. Partial example: Portia's coffers, in "The Merchant of Venice."

The sort of contest, preliminary to the possession of a desired one, which is vaguely sketched in this episode, is singularly alluring in its suggestive analogues. But how many fibres, ready to thrill, will the perplexities of the love contest find in us, when they are raised to