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Gordian Plot

SEVENTEENTH SITUATION, FATAL IMPRUDENCE

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(The Imprudent; the Victim or the Object Lost) To which are sometimes added "The Counsellor," a person of wisdom, who opposes the imprudence, "The Instigator," wicked, selfish or thoughtless, and the usual string of Witnesses, secondary Victims, Instruments, etc.

A (1)—Imprudence the Cause of Ones Own Misfortune:—Sophocles' "Eumele"; Euripides' "Phaeton" (here the Counsellor is blended with the Instrumental character, in which, bound by a too-hasty oath, he finds himself in Situation XXIII, A (2),—obliged to sacrifice a kinsman to keep a vow); "The Master Builder," by Ibsen. From comedy: "L'Indiscret" (See, 1903).

(2)—Imprudence the Cause of Ones Own Dishonor: —"La Banque de l'Univers" (Grenet-Danc6urt, 1886). From fiction: "L'Argent" by Zola. Historic: Ferdinand de Lesseps.

Example: A River Runs Through It

B (1)—Curiosity the Cause of Ones Own Misfortune:—Aeschylus' "Semele." Historic examples (which rise to the Twentieth Situation, "Sacrifices to the Ideal")*: the deaths of many scholars and scientists.

(2)—Loss of the Possession of a Loved One, Through Curiosity:—"Psyche" (borrowed from the account which La Fontaine drew from Apuleius, himself the debtor of Lucius of Patras, and dramatized by Corneille, Moliere and Quinault); "Esclarmonde" (Massenet, 1889). Legendary example: Orpheus bringing [ocr errors]

C (1)—Curiosity the Cause of Death or Misfortune to Others:—Goethe's "Pandora" and also Voltaire's; "The Wild Duck" by Ibsen. Legendary example: Eve.

Example: the Greek myth Cupid and Psyche

(2)—Imprudence the Cause of a Relative's Death:— "La Mere Meurtriere de son Enfant" (a fourteenthcentury Miracle of Notre-Dame); "On ne Badine pas avec l'Amour" (de Musset); "Renee Mauperin," by the Goncourts. Familiar instances: blunders in the care of sick persons. "Louise Leclerq," by Verlaine. The cause of another's misfortune: "Damaged Goods" (Brieux, 1905).

(3)—Imprudence the Cause of a Lover's Death:— "Samson" by Voltaire; "La Belle aux Cheveux d'Or" (Arnould, 1882).

(4)—Credulity the Cause of Kinsmen's Deaths:— "Pelias" by Sophocles and "The Peliades" by Euripides. From fiction (credulity the cause of misfortune to fellow-citizens): "Port-Tarascon."

Establish in each of the preceding sub-classes equivalents to those cases which are presented in single instances in one class only, and we have the following subjects:—By Imprudence (meaning imprudence pure and simple, unconnected with curiosity or credulity) to cause misfortune to others; to lose possession of a loved one (lover, wife or husband, friend, benefactor, protege, etc.); to cause the death of a relative (any degree of kinship may be chosen); to cause the death of a loved one,. By Curiosity (unmixed with imprudence or credulity) to cause the dishonor of a relative (the various kinds pf dishonor are numerous enough, touching as they do upon probity, upon courage, upon modesty, upon loyalty); to cause the dishonor of a loved one; to cause ones own dishonor. To cause these dishonors by pure Credulity (unmixed with imprudence or curiosity). An examination of the Twelfth Situation will give us a primary idea of the way in which Ruse may be used to gain this credulity. By Credulity also to cause ones own misfortune, or lose possession of a loved one, or cause misfortune to others, or cause the death of a loved one.

Let us now pass to the causes which may precipitate —as readily as curiosity, credulity, or pure imprudence-—an overhanging catastrophe. These causes are: —the infraction of a prohibition or law previously made by a divinity; the deadly effect of the act upon him who commits it (an effect due to causes perhaps mechanical, perhaps biological, perhaps judicial, perhaps martial etc.); the deadly consequences of the act for the kindred or the beloved of him who commits it; a sin previously committed, consciously or unconsciously and which is about to be revealed and punished.

Besides curiosity and credulity, other motives may determine the imprudence; in "The Trachiniae," for instance, it is jealousy. The same role might be given to any one of the passions, the emotions, the desires, the needs, the tastes, the human weaknesses;—sleep, hunger, muscular activity, gluttony, lust, coquetry, childish simplicity. As to the final disaster, it may assume many aspects, since it may fall in turn upon physical, moral or social well-being, whether by the destruction of happiness or honor, of property or power.

In the present situation, the Instigator,—who nevertheless is not essential,—may become worthy of figuring even as the protagonist; such is the case of Medea in "Pelias." This is perhaps the most favorable aspect in which the "villain" can be presented; imagine, for instance, an Iago becoming the principal character of a play (as Satan is of the world)! The difficulty will be to find a sufficient motive for him; ambition, (partly the case in Richard III) is not always a convincing one, because of its "a priori" way of proceeding; jealousy and vengeance seem a trifle sentimental for this demoniac figure; misanthropy is too philosophic and honorable; self-interest (the case of Pelias) is more appropriate. But envy,—envy, which in the presence of friendly solicitude feels but the more keenly the smart of its wounds,—envy studied in its dark and base endeavors, in the shame of defeat, in its cowardice, and ending finally in crime,—here, it seems to me, is the ideal motive.

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'Curiosity killed the cat' is a common saying and reflects the way in which, when we become interested in something, we sometimes forget the risks and hazards that we may be taking when putting our noses in harm's way.

When we see others being imprudent, whether in real life or in stories, we tut-tut and feel a bit superior to them. We also may remember that 'there before the Grace of God go I', in that it is easy for what may seem a harmless activity turn into something where we or others may get hurt or even killed.

an error in decision making

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