Page:The thirty-six dramatic situations (1921).djvu/61

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Let us now pass to the causes which may precipitate — as readily as curiosity, credulity, or pure imprudence — an overhanging catastrophe. These causes are: — the infraction of a prohibition or law previously made by a divinity; the deadly effect of the act upon him who commits it (an effect due to causes perhaps mechanical, perhaps biological, perhaps judicial, perhaps martial, etc.); the deadly consequences of the act for the kindred or the beloved of him who commits it; a sin previously committed, consciously or unconsciously, and which is about to be revealed and punished.

Besides curiosity and credulity, other motives may determine the imprudence; in "The Trachiniae," for instance, it is jealousy. The same role might be given to any one of the passions, the emotions, the desires, the needs, the tastes, the human weaknesses; — sleep, hunger, muscular activity, gluttony, lust, coquetry, childish simplicity. As to the final disaster, it may assume many aspects, since it may fall in turn upon physical, moral or social well-being, whether by the destruction of happiness or honor, of property or power.

In the present situation, the Instigator, — who nevertheless is not essential, — may become worthy of figuring even as the protagonist ; such is the case of Medea in "Pelias." This is perhaps the most favorable aspect in which the "villain" can be presented; imagine, for instance, an Iago becoming the principal character of a play (as Satan is of the world)! The difficulty will be to find a sufficient motive for him; ambition, (partly the case in Richard III; is not always a convincing one, because of its "a priori" way of proceeding; jealousy and vengeance seem a i rifle sentimental tor this demoniac figure; misanthropy is too philosophic and honorable; self-interest (the case of Pelias) is more appropriate. But envy, - envy, which in the presence of friendly solicitude feels but the more keenly the smart of its wounds, — envy studied in its dark and base endeavors, in the shame of defeat, in its cowardice, and end finally in crime, — here, it seems to me, is the ideal motive.