Wednesday, July 20, 2011

36 Dramatic Situations

Newbie DM has a post up today that references Georges Polti's, The Thirty Six Dramatic Situations. Back in the 19th century, Polti attempted to categorize every foreseeable source of drama by analyzing numerous classic works of literature. His work first came to my attention during my undergraduate days studying theater. However, in the intervening decade (really!?) I forgot the title of the work, and so was overjoyed to have my memory jogged today.


The categories Polti came up with are as follows:

  1. Supplication
  2. Deliverance 
  3. Crime Pursued by Vengeance 
  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. The 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-Sacrifice for an Ideal 
  21. Self-Sacrifice for Kindred 
  22. All Sacrificed for 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
In list form, a lot of these beg for clarification. Is "murderous adultery" (#15) necessary as a separate category from the run-of-the-mill variety (#25)? What is the difference between "enmity" and "rivalry" of a kinsman (#13 & 14)? Does he mean kinsman in the Protestant Jesus way so that it includes, guys you hang out with? Shouldn't "mistaken jealousy"(#32) be a subcategory of "erroneous judgment"(#33)? Fortunately, the actual work provides further explanations for and examples of these situations as taken from classic literature -often Greek.* 

Anyway, I look forward to adding Polti's categorization to my Kindle, and to my DM toolkit as I feel it has a lot of potential as a source of inspiration. I have also added it to the Plot Garden page on this here blog. My only question is, where does man vs. food fit in, ambition or daring enterprise?

* because they knew how to make things horrible for their characters!

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