The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations by Georges Polti

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« on: June 02, 2013, 01:07:55 am »
Quote from: Madness
Is anyone else familiar with this work? A writer's classic, alongside Hero With A Thousand Faces.


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« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2014, 10:57:48 pm »
I've decided to write this series of posts because I need the practice, more importantly, it might just help me internalize all of the types and subtypes. There aren't that many in terms of someone memorizing a number of "things."

And, also, it might generate some interesting discussion between us ;).

I was turned on to this book early in my university journey and, obviously, it's been difficult to find time to really digest it. Georges Polti was at pains to find more than the thirty-six dramatic situations that Gozzi had previously identified that play out in human drama. Citing over a thousand theatrical plays and more than two hundred other literary sources, Polti settled on a varying number of subtypes per situation.

Like Joseph Campbell after him with The Hero's Journey, Polti maintained that it was near impossible to tell many human stories, if any, beyond those of his catalog.

While some examples are clearly anachronistic, it is enlightening none the less.


The First Situation: Supplication:

Necessary Players: A Persecutor, a Supplicant, and an Authority; these players can be single member casts or can be played by a group.

Description: The narrative fulcrum of this situation awaits entirely upon the decision of an Authority over the Supplicant's case. Polti describes three subtype groups as follows:

- The first (A) is the standard cast, persecutor and supplicant both hoping that the authority will yield judgement in their respective favour.

- The second (B) collapses the number of categories to two, the supplicant alone entreating and awaiting the authority's decision.

- In the third (C) category bloats the supplicant into two, adding a fourth player, the Intercessor, who works on the supplicant's behalf.

Polti divides the first category into three different subtypes.

- Category A: 1) fugitives imploring the authority for help (against the supplicant's enemy), 2) the supplicant asking the permission to perform/performance of a pious duty which has been forbidden, and 3) the supplicant appeals for a refuge in which to die.

- Category B: 1) the supplicant seek hospitality after shipwreck (though, this could certainly be extended to any refuge after disaster), 2) the supplicant is a disgraced exile seeking a new home, 3) the supplicant seeks expiation; pardon, healing, or deliverance for crimes previously committed, and 4) the supplicant appeals the surrender of a corpse, relic, symbol, artifact, etc.

- Category C: 1) an intercessor appeals the authority on the behalf of a dear supplicant, 2) an intercessor, who is a relative of the supplicant, appeals the authority, 3) the intercessor appeals to the authority, his mother's lover (whether father and another).

As I read through again, I realize that Polti's list could be amended, probably, in the past hundred years. But food for thought :).
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