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

Fear, catastrophe, the unforeseen; a great reversal of roles; the powerful are overthrown, the weak exalted. Here is the oft-recurring refrain of the Biblical books, here the immortal echoes of the fall of Troy, at which we still pale as though with a presentiment.


Defeat SufferedEdit

"The Myrmidons" and "The Persians" of Aeschylus; "The Shepherds" of Sophocles. Example from fiction; "La Debacle," by Zola. History is made up of repetitions of this story.

A Fatherland DestroyedEdit

"The Xoanephores" of Sophocles; Byron's "Sardanapalus" (this corresponds also to Class B, and toward the denouement recalls the Fifth Situation). Examples from history: Poland; the great Invasions. From romance: "The War of the Worlds" (Wells).

The Fall of HumanityEdit

the Mystery of "Adam" (twelfth century).

A Natural CatastropeEdit

"Terre d'Epouvante" (de Lorde and Morel, 1907).

Example: The Birds.

B—A Monarch OverthrownEdit

(the converse of the Eighth):—Shakespeare's "Henry VI" and "Richard II." Historic instances: Charles I, Louis XVI, Napoleon, etc.; and, substituting other authorities than kings, Colomb, de Lesseps, and all disgraced ministers. Examples from fiction: the end of "Tartarin," "L'Argent," "Cesar Birotteau."


Ingratitude SufferedEdit

(of all the blows of misfortune, this is perhaps the most poignant):— Euripides' "Archelaus" (excepting the denouement, in which the action is reversed); Shakespeare's "Timon of Athens" and "King Lear," and the beginning of his "Coriolanus"; Byron's "Marino Faliero"; a part of "The Count of Carmagnola," by Manzoni. Bismarck's dismissal by the young Emperor William. The martyrs, the many instances of devotion and sacrifice unappreciated by those who have benefited by it, the most glorious of deaths shine against this dark background; Socrates and the Passion are but the most celebrated examples. "Le Reformateur" (Rod, 1906).

The Suffering of Unjust Punishment or EnmityEdit

(this corresponds in some degree to the "Judicial Errors"):—Sophocles' "Teucer"; Aeschylus' "Salaminiae."

An Outrage SufferedEdit

the first act of "The Cid"; the first act of "Lucrece Borgia." The "point of honor" offers better material than these simple episodes. We may imagine some more sensitive Voltaire, reduced by his persecutions to helplessness and to the point of dying in despair.

==D== ( ===Abandonment by lover or spouse==="Faust"; Corneille's "Ariane"; the beginning of the "Medeas"; "Maternite" (Brieux, 1903).

Example: An Unmarried Woman.

Children Lost by Their ParentsEdit

"Le Petit Poucet."

If classes B, C and D, which are concerned with the fate of individuals, have been so much less developed than they might easily have been, what shall be said of the case of social disasters, such as Class A? Shakespeare did not tread far enough upon that majestic way. Only among the Greeks has a work of this kind presented at one stroke that conception of human events, sublime, fatalistic and poetic, of which Herodotus was one day to create history.


Disaster can take many forms, whether caused by malignant others, accident, fate or the environment. The bottom line is that harm is caused. No matter the cause, it provides a classic base for human stories where the protagonist recovers and fights back, perhaps for survival, perhaps to save others and perhaps for vengeance. In such circumstances are heroes born.

In watching disasters and their aftermath, we feel grateful that such calamity has not happened to use. We may also gain an increase in general tension that disaster could also happen to us. As we identify with the protagonist and watch their response, we feel hopeful that we also could survive a disaster and perhaps learn some of the things to avoid.

Vanquished power, victorious enemy or messenger. In this situation the powerful can be overthrown and the weak exalted. Example: Faust.

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