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Georges Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations

 

Disciplines > Storytelling > Plots > Georges Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations

 

Georges Polti was a 19th century French writer described 36 situations that may be found in many stories, based on the list identified by Goethe who said it was originated by Italian Carlo Gozzi (1720-1806). Perhaps some of the themes and examples do betray a bias towards the stories of the day, yet they are still very useful stimuli and provide interesting examples of enduring and real human dilemmas.

Here are his 36 situation, including a discussion on each one:

  1. Supplication
  2. Deliverance
  3. Vengeance of a crime
  4. Vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred
  5. Pursuit
  6. Disaster
  7. Falling prey to cruelty or misfortune
  8. Revolt
  9. Daring enterprise
  10. Abduction
  11. Enigma
  12. Obtaining
  13. Enmity of kinsmen
  14. Rivalry of kinsmen
  15. Murderous adultery
  16. Madness
  17. Fatal imprudence
  18. Involuntary crimes of love
  19. Slaying of a kinsman unrecognized
  20. Self-sacrificing for an ideal
  21. Self-sacrifice for kindred
  22. All sacrificed for a passion
  23. Necessity of sacrificing loved ones
  24. Rivalry of superior and inferior
  25. Adultery
  26. Crimes of love
  27. Discovery of the dishonor of a loved one
  28. Obstacles to love
  29. An enemy loved
  30. Ambition
  31. Conflict with a god
  32. Mistaken jealousy
  33. Erroneous judgment
  34. Remorse
  35. Recovery of a lost one
  36. Loss of loved ones

Although this has been taken as definitive by some and Polti initially said there was 'exactly 36 dramatic situations ... and therein we have all the savour of existence', he later admitted that there could be more or less than this (it all depends on your criteria for division). He also said that these aligned with 36 basic emotions, although he did not list these (and has been criticized for this).

See also

 

Polti, Georges. (1916). The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations. Boston: The Writer, Inc.

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