(The Slayer; the Unrecognized Victim) Whereas the Eighteenth Situation attains its highest degree of emotion after the accomplishment of the act, (doubtless because all the persons concerned in it survive, and the horror of it lies chiefly in the consequences), the Nineteenth, on the contrary, in which a victim is to perish and in which the interest increases by reason of the blind premeditation, becomes more pathetic in the preparations for the crime than in the results. This permits a happy ending, without the necessity of recourse, as in the Eighteenth, to a comedyprocess of error. A simple recognition of one character by another will suffice,—of which our Situation XIX is, in effect, but a development.

A (1)—Being Upon the Point of Slaying a Daughter Unknowingly, by Command of a Divinity or an Oracle:—Metastasio's "Demophon." The ignorance of the kinship springs from a substitution of infants; the interpretation of the oracle's words is erroneous; the "jeune premiere," at one point in the action, be lieves herself the sister of her fiance. This linking of three or four mistakes (unknown kinship, in the special light of the situation we are now studying, a supposed danger of incest, as in B 2 of the preceding, and finally a misleading ambiguity of words, as in the majority of comedies) suffices to constitute what is called "stirring" action, characteristic of the intrigues brought back into vogue by the Second Empire, and over whose intricate entanglements our chroniclers waxed so naively enthusiastic.

(2)—Through Political Necessity:—"Les Guebres and"Les Lois de Minos" by Voltaire.

(3)—Through a Rivalry in Love:—"La Petite Mionne" (Richebourg, 1890).

(4)_Through Hatred of the Lover of the Un. recognized Daughter:—"Le Roi s'amuse" (in which the discovery takes place after the slaying).

B (1)—Being Upon the Point of Killing a Son Unknowingly:—The "Telephus" of Aeschylus and of Sophocles (with incest as the alternative of this crime); Euripides' "Cresphontes"; the "Meropes" of Maffei, of Voltaire and of Alfieri; Sophocles' "Creusa"; Euripides' "Ion." In Metastasio's "Olympiad" this subject is complicated by a "Rivalry of Friends". A Son Slain Without Being Recognized:—Partial example: the third act of "Lucrece Borgia"; "The 24th of February," by Werner.

(2)—The Same Case as B (1), Strengthened by Machiavellian Instigations:—Sophocles' "Euryale"; Euripides' "JEgeus."

(3)—The Same Case as B (2), Intermixed With Hatred of Kinsmen (that of grandfather for grandson) :—Metastasio's "Cyrus."

C—Being Upon the Point of Slaying a Brother Unknowingly: (1)—Brothers Slaying in Anger:—The "Alexanders" of Sophocles and of Euripides. (2)— A Sister Slaying Through Professional Duty:—"The Priestesses" of Aeschylus; "Iphigenia in Tauris," by Euripides and by Goethe, and that projected by Racine.

D—Slaying of a Mother Unrecognized:—Voltaire's "Semiramis"; a partial example: the denouement of "Lucrece Borgia."

E—A Father Slain Unknowingly, Through Machiavellian Advice: (see XVII):—Sophocles' "Pelias" and Euripides' "Peliades"; Voltaire's "Mahomet" (in which the hero is also upon the point of marrying his sister unknowingly). The Simple Slaying of a Father Unrecognized:—Legendary example: Laius. From romance: "The Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitaller." The Same Case Reduced From Murder to Simple Insult: —"Le Pain d'Autrui" (after Turgenieff, by Ephraim and Schutz, 1890). Being Upon the Point of Slaying a Father Unknowingly:—"Israel" (Bernstein, 1908).

F (1)—A Grandfather Slain Unknowingly, in Vengeance .and Through Instigation:—"Les Burgraves" (Hugo).

(2)—Slain Involuntarily:—Aeschylus' "Polydectes."

(3)—A Father-In-Law Killed Involuntarily:— Sophocles' "Amphitryon."

G (1)—Involuntary Killing of a Loved Woman:— Sophocles' "Procris." Epic example: Tancred and Clorinda, in "Jerusalem Delivered." Legendary example (with change of the sex of the person loved): Hyacinthus.

(2)—Being Upon the Point of Killing a Lover Unrecognized:—"The Blue Monster" by Gozzi.

(3)—Failure to Rescue an Unrecognized Son:— "Saint Alexis" (a XIV Century Miracle of NotreDame) ; "La Voix du Sang" (Rachilde).

Remarkable is the liking of Hugo (and consequently of his imitators) for this somewhat rare situation. Each of the ten dramas of the old Romanticist containw it; in two of them, "Hernani" and "Torquemada," it is, in a manner accessory to the Seventeenth (Imprudence), fatal to the hero also; in four ("Marion Delorme," "Angelo," "La Esmeralda," "Ruy Bias") this case of involuntary injury to a loved one supplies all the action and furnishes the best episodes; in four others ("Le Roi s'amuse," "Marie Tudor," "Lucrece Borgia" "Les Burgraves") it serves furthermore as denouement. It would seem, indeed, that drama, for Hugo, consists in this: the causing, directly or indirectly, of the death of a loved one; and, in the work wherein he has accumulated the greatest number of theatrical effects—in "Lucrece Borgia"—we see the same situation returning no less than five times. Near the first part of Act I, Gennaro permits his unrecognized mother to be insulted; in the second part, he himself insults her, not knowing her for his mother; in Act II she demands, and is granted, the death of her unrecognized son, then finds she has no recourse but to kill him herself, then is again insulted by him; finally, in Act III, she poisons him, and, still unknown, is insulted, threatened and slain by him.

Be it noted that Shakespeare has not in a single instance employed this Nineteenth Situation, an altogether accidental one, having no bearing upon his powerful studies of the will.


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.

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.