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Gordian Plot

THIRTY-FOURTH SITUATION, REMORSE

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(The Culprit; the Victim or the Sin; the Interrogator)

A (1)—Remorse for an Unknown Crime:—

"Manfred" and other creations of Byron; the last of the great English dramatists, he was likewise the last adversary of Cant, which, having killed art in Spain under the name of the Inquisition, in England the first time under the name of Puritanism and in Germatiy under the name of Pietism, today presents itself in France, in the guise of . . . Monsieur Berenger.

(2)—Remorse for a Parricide:—"The Eumenides" of Aeschylus; the "Orestes" of Euripides, of Voltaire and of Alfieri; "Le Cloitre" (Verhaeren).

(3)—Remorse for an Assassination:—"Crime and Punishment" (Dostoievsky, 1888); "Le Coeur Revelateur" (after Poe, by Aumann, 1889). For a Judicial Murder:—"L'Eclaboussure" (Geraldy, 1910).

(4)—Remorse for the Murder of Husband or Wife: —"Therese Raquin" by Zola; "Pierrot, Assassin de sa Femme" (Paul Margueritte, 1888).

B (1) —Remorse for a Fault of Love:—"Madeleine" (Zola, 1889).

(2)—Remorse for an Adultery:—"Count Witold" (Rzewuski, 1889); "Le Scandale" (Bataille, 1909).

With B (1) there are connected, in one respect, the plays classed in A (1) of Situation XXVII.

Need I call attention to the small number, but the terrible beauty, of the above works? Is it necessary to indicate the infinite varieties of Remorse, according to: 1st, the fault committed (for this, enumerate all crimes and misdemeanors included in the legal code, plus those which do not fall under any law; the fault, moreover, may at the writer's pleasure be real or imaginary, committed without intention, or intended but not committed—which permits a "happy ending'1 —or both intended and committed; premeditated or not, with or without complicity, outside influences, sublety, or what not); 2nd, the nature, more or less impressionable and nervous, of the culprit; 3rd, the surroundings, the circumstances, the morals which prepare the way for the appearance of Remorse—that figure plastic, firm and religious among the Greeks, the beneficially enervating phantasmagoria of our Middle Ages; the pious dread of a future life in recent centuries ; the disturbance of the equilibrium of the social instincts and consequently of the mind according to the inferences of Zola, etc.

With Remorse is connected the Fixed Idea; through its perpetual action it recalls Madness or Criminal Passion. Often it is but "remorse for a desire," remorse the more keen in that the incessantly reviving desire nourishes it, mingles with it, and, growing like a sort of moral cancer, saps the soul's vitality to the point of suicide, which is itself but the most desperate of duels. "Rene," "Werther," the maniac of the "Coeur Revelateur" and of Berenice" (I refer to that of Edgar Poe) and especially Ibsen's "Rosmersholm, offer significant portraits of it.

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When we have done something that we believe to be wrong, then we feel a sense of guilt and remorse. The remorse can come when we realize after having committed the sin that it was wrong. We may also know that it is wrong when we do it, but are not struck by remorse until we reflect upon what we have done.

Remorse is caused when we compare our actions with our values, resulting in the confusion of cognitive dissonance and subsequent regret. In watching stories about regret we rail at the wrong-doing but sympathize with the remorse. We may thus cast ourselves as judge or priest as we grant absolution for the earlier crime.

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