Page:The thirty-six dramatic situations (1921).djvu/9

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INTRODUCTION

"Gozzi maintained that there can be but thirty-six tragic situations. Schiller took great pains to find more, but he was unable to find even so many as Gozzi."

Thirty-six situations only! There is, to me, something tantalizing about the assertion, unaccompanied as it is by any explanation either from Gozzi, or from Goethe or Schiller, and presenting a problem which it does not solve. For I remembered that he who declared by this limited number so strongly synthetic a law, had himself the most fantastic of imaginations. He was the author, this Gozzi, of "Turandot," and of the "Roi Cerf," two works almost without analogue, the one upon the situation of the "Enigma," the other upon phases of metempsychosis; he was the creator of a dramatic system, and the Arabesque spirit, through him transfused, has given us the work of Hoffmann, Jean-Paul Richter and Poe.

The Venetian's exuberance would have made me doubtful of him, since, having once launched at us this number 36, he kept silence. But Schiller, rigid and ardent Kantian, prince of modern aestheticians, master of true historic drama,—had he not in turn, before accepting this rule, "taken great pains" to verify it (and the pains of a Schiller!) thereby giving it the additional authority of his powerful criticism and his rich memory? And Goethe, his opposite in all things save a strong taste for the abstract,—Goethe, who throughout his life seems to have considered the subject, adds his testimony years after the death of Schiller, years after their