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Slaying of a kinsman unrecognized


Disciplines > Storytelling > Plots > Polti's Situations > Slaying of a kinsman unrecognized

Description | Discussion | See also


Previous: Involuntary crimes of love

Next: Self-sacrificing for an ideal




  • The Slayer
  • The Unrecognized Victim


The Slayer kills (or nearly kills or harms) the Unrecognized Victim, who is actually a relative or friend of the Slayer. Thus a seemingly justified act suddenly becomes unjustified.



  1. Being upon the point of slaying a daughter unknowingly by command of a divinity or an oracle
  2. Being upon the point of slaying a daughter unknowingly through political necessity
  3. Being upon the point of slaying a daughter unknowingly through a rivalry in love
  4. Being upon the point of slaying a daughter unknowingly through hatred of the lover of the unrecognized daughter


  1. Being upon the point of slaying a son unknowingly
  2. Being upon the point of slaying a son unknowingly, strengthened by Machiavellian instigations
  3. Being upon the point of slaying a son unknowingly, strengthened by Machiavellian instigations, intermixed with hatred of kinsmen


  1. Being upon the point of slaying a brother, unknowingly, in anger
  2. A sister, upon the point of slaying a brother, unknowingly, through professional duty


  1. Slaying of a mother unrecognized


  1. Slaying of a father unknowingly, through Machiavellian advice
  2. Slaying of a father unknowingly
  3. Insulting of a father unknowingly
  4. Being on the point of slaying of a father unknowingly


  1. A grandfather slain unknowingly, in vengeance and through instigation
  2. A grandfather slain involuntarily
  3. A father-in-law killed involuntarily


  1. Involuntary killing of a loved woman
  2. Being on the point of killing a lover, unrecognized
  3. Failure to rescue an unrecognized son


It is easy to justify the punishment of someone who appears to have done something wrong, but what is often missed is perhaps incorrect evidence or extenuating circumstances. This is one of the dilemmas of capital punishment - that the person killed may later be found to be innocent, when there is no route for redress or reversal of the punishment.

When a hero in a story goes to kill a person, the story may well have built up a good justification for that act and as readers we tacitly support the hero's action. When, however, we realize that the victim is a kinsman, then social rules take over and we cry out for the hero to stop! This inner conflict is the stuff of great stories and we get carried along by the excitement.

Further tension may be added to the story when the Victim knows about the relationship and may be desperately trying to communicate this to the Slayer.

A similar pattern occurs with accidental killing or harm of a loved one, whether by sword or car, and we may feel great sympathy for the anguish of the unintending killer.

'Slaying of a kinsman unrecognized' is the 19th of Georges Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations.

See also

Enmity of kinsmen


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