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The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations

as named by Georges Polti

All situations in any story or drama are supposed to fall into one of these categories. There may be more than one situation in the plot of a story if it's long enough. The list was developed to help writers, but perhaps storytellers will also find it interesting. See Polti's book of the same name for explanations, examples, and variations. Various other longer categorisations have been made of such situations, and very comprehensive, extensive lists may be found in the various Motif Indices.

1. Supplication

The dynamic elements technically necessary are: a Persecutor; a Supplicant; and a Power in authority, whose decision is doubtful.

2. Deliverance

Elements: an Unfortunate, a Threatener, a Rescuer.

3. Crime Pursued by Vengeance

Elements: an Avenger and a Criminal

4. Vengeance Taken for Kindred Upon Kindred

Elements: Avenging Kinsman; Guilty Kinsman; Remembrance of the Victim, a Relative of Both

5. Pursuit

Elements: Punishment and Fugitive

6 Disaster

Elements: a Vanquished Power; a Victorious Enemy or a Messenger

7. Falling Prey to Cruelty or Misfortune

Elements: an Unfortunate; a Master or a Misfortune

8. Revolt

Elements: Tyrant and Conspirator

9. Daring Enterprise

Elements: a Bold Leader; an Object; an Adversary

10. Abduction

Elements: the Abductor; the Abducted; the Guardian

11. The Enigma

Elements: Interrogator, Seeker and Problem

12. Obtaining

Elements: a Solicitor and an Adversary Who is Refusing, or an Arbitrator and Opposing Parties

13. Enmity of Kinsmen

Elements: a Malevolent Kinsman; a Hatred or Reciprocally Hating Kinsman

14. Rivalry of Kinsmen

Elements: the Preferred Kinsman; the Rejected Kinsman; the Object

15. Murderous Adultery

Elements: Two Adulterers; a Betrayed Husband or Wife

16. Madness

Elements: Madman and Victim

17. Fatal Imprudence

Elements: The Imprudent; the Victim or the Object Lost

18. Involuntary Crimes of Love

Elements: the Lover, the Beloved; the Revealer

19. Slaying of a Kinsman Unrecognised

Elements: the Slayer, the Unrecognized Victim

20. Self-Sacrifice for an Ideal

Elements: the Hero; the Ideal; the 'Creditor' or the Person or Thing Sacrificed

21. Self-Sacrifice for Kindred

Elements: the Hero; the Kinsman; the 'Creditor' or the Person or Thing Sacrificed

22. All Sacrificed for Passion

Elements: the Lover, the Object of the Fatal Passion; the Person or Thing Sacrificed

23. Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones

Elements: the Hero; the Beloved Victim; the Necessity for the Sacrifice

24. Rivalry of Superior and Inferior

Elements: the Superior Rival; the Inferior Rival; the Object

25. Adultery

Elements: a Deceived Husband or Wife; Two Adulterers

26. Crimes of Love

Elements: The Lover, the Beloved

27. Discovery of the Dishonour of a Loved One

Elements: the Discoverer; the Guilty One

28. Obstacles to Love

Elements: Two Lovers, an Obstacle

29. An Enemy Loved

Elements: The Beloved Enemy; the Lover; the Hater

30. Ambition

Elements: an Ambitious Person; a Thing Coveted; an Adversary

31. Conflict With a God

Elements: a Mortal, an Immortal

32. Mistaken Jealousy

Elements: the Jealous One; the Object of Whose Possession He is Jealous; the Supposed Accomplice; the Cause or the Author of the Mistake

33. Erroneous Judgement

Elements: The Mistaken One; the Victim of the Mistake; the Cause or Author of the Mistake; the Guilty Person

34. Remorse

Elements: the Culprit; the Victim or the Sin; the Interrogator

35. Recovery of a Lost One

The Seeker; the One Found

36. Loss of Loved Ones

A Kinsman Slain; a Kinsman Spectator; an Executioner

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