The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations

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The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations is a descriptive list which was created by Georges Polti in 1868 to categorize every dramatic situation which might occur in a story or performance. He later said that the number 36 was not special, that other longer or shorter lists could also be made. The list was created as an aid for writers, but has become popular with dramatists, storytellers and many others. Other similar lists have since been made and popularized, but this one remains in active circulation.

Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations was also a book by Polti with extended explanations, examples, and variations on the list of such situations that he created. The book was written in the 19th century; the original English translation was published in 1921 (Reprinted in 2003, w/ ISBN 0766133206).

The 36 Situations

  1. Supplication
    • a Persecutor; a Supplicant; a Power in authority, whose decision is doubtful.
  2. Deliverance
    • an Unfortunate; a Threatener; a Rescuer
  3. Crime pursued by vengeance
    • an Avenger; a Criminal
  4. Vengeance taken for kin upon kin
    • an Avenging Kinsman; Guilty Kinsman; remembrance of the Victim; a Relative of both
  5. Pursuit
    • Punishment; a Fugitive
  6. Disaster
    • a Vanquished Power; a Victorious Enemy or a Messenger
  7. Falling prey to cruelty/misfortune
    • an Unfortunate; a Master or a Misfortune
  8. Revolt
    • a Tyrant; a Conspirator
  9. Daring enterprise
    • a Bold Leader; an Object; an Adversary
  10. Abduction
    • an Abductor; the Abducted; a Guardian
  11. The enigma
    • an Interrogator; a Seeker; a Problem
  12. Obtaining
    • (a Solicitor & an Adversary who is refusing) or (an Arbitrator & Opposing Parties)
  13. Enmity of kin
    • a Malevolent Kinsman; a Hatred or a reciprocally-hating Kinsman
  14. Rivalry of kin
    • the Preferred Kinsman; the Rejected Kinsman; the Object of Rivalry
  15. Murderous adultery
    • two Adulterers; a Betrayed Spouse
  16. Madness
    • a Madman; a Victim
  17. Fatal imprudence
    • the Imprudent; a Victim or an Object Lost
  18. Involuntary crimes of love
    • a Lover; a Beloved; a Revealer
  19. Slaying of kin unrecognized
    • the Slayer; an Unrecognized Victim
  20. Self-sacrifice for an ideal
    • a Hero; an Ideal; a Creditor or a Person/Thing sacrificed
  21. Self-sacrifice for kin
    • a Hero; a Kinsman; a Creditor or a Person/Thing sacrificed
  22. All sacrificed for passion
    • a Lover; an Object of fatal Passion; the Person/Thing sacrificed
  23. Necessity of sacrificing loved ones
    • a Hero; a Beloved Victim; the Necessity for the Sacrifice
  24. Rivalry of superior v. inferior
    • a Superior Rival; an Inferior Rival; the Object of Rivalry
  25. Adultery
    • two Adulterers; a Deceived Spouse
  26. Crimes of love
    • a Lover; the Beloved
  27. Discovery of the dishonour of a loved one
    • a Discoverer; the Guilty One
  28. Obstacles to love
    • two Lovers; an Obstacle
  29. An enemy loved
    • a Lover; the Beloved Enemy; the Hater
  30. Ambition
    • an Ambitious Person; a Thing Coveted; an Adversary
  31. Conflict with a god
    • a Mortal; an Immortal
  32. Mistaken jealousy
    • a Jealous One; an Object of whose Possession He is Jealous; a Supposed Accomplice; a Cause or an Author of the Mistake
  33. Erroneous judgement
    • a Mistaken One; a Victim of the Mistake; a Cause or Author of the Mistake; the Guilty One
  34. Remorse
    • a Culprit; a Victim or the Sin; an Interrogator
  35. Recovery of a lost one
    • a Seeker; the One Found
  36. Loss of loved ones
    • a Kinsman Slain; a Kinsman Spectator; an Executioner
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