Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
In “the very olden time,” a half-barbaric king, who was also half-civilized, because of the influence of his distant Latin neighbors, conceived a way of exercising justice on offenders against his rule. He placed his suspect in a Roman-like arena and had him choose to open one of either of two doors that would open into the arena. Behind one of the identical doors lurked a ferocious tiger that would leap out and devour the accused; behind the other door awaited a lovely maid who would, if her door was the one opened, come forth and be married at once to the opener. (It mattered not that the man may be married or otherwise committed, for the whimsical king would have his justice.) The fate was to be decided by chance alone, and no one who knew of the placement behind the doors was allowed to inform him which to elect.
All of this was popular among the audience, and even their thinking members could not deny that it was a fair test. The public experienced pleasing suspense and an immediate resolution. Best of all, everyone knew that the accused person chose his own ending.
Now it happened that a handsome young courtier dared to love the king’s daughter, who was lovely and very dear to her father. The man, however, though of the court, was of low station; his temerity was therefore an offense against decorum and the king. Such a thing had never happened in the kingdom before. The young lover had to be put into the arena to choose a door, a lady or a tiger. However, the...
(The entire section is 613 words.)
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