Describe the princess' passion for her lover. What role does her barbarism play?

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Payal Khullar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The princess, in the short story “The Lady Or the Tiger?” by Francis Richard Stockton, falls in love with a man who is "handsome and brave to a degree unsurpassed in all this kingdom” but doesn’t match her princely status. Both of them were happily in love with each other until the day the king found out about them. The princess “was well satisfied with her lover” and loved him very passionately.

We find that when the king decides to punish her lover, the princess suffers on the thought of separating from him. But her love is a little confusing and even barbaric.

She loved him with an ardor that had enough of barbarism in it to make it exceedingly warm and strong.

The princess doesn’t want her lover to die but she also doesn’t want him to marry the maiden she hates the most. The fact that the same maiden exchanged glances with her lover earlier in the court makes her jealous and angry.

that hot-blooded, semi-barbaric princess, her soul at a white heat beneath the combined fires of despair and jealousy.

Barbarism definitely has a role to play in the princess’ love. Had she loved the man unconditionally with romantic tenderness, such a dilemma and tension wouldn't have arisen in her mind. We are also told that the princess is not very different from the “semi barbaric” king. She too had “savage blood transmitted to her through long lines of wholly barbaric ancestors”. She agonises with the thought of his lover’s marriage to the beautiful maiden. The barbaric side of her love seems so powerful that it wouldn't be so surprising if that forced her to let her lover chose the tiger. But, of course, the end of the story is not disclosed and we don’t know her decision. But from the evidences we have, we can say that her love was passionate, intense and powerful with a dash of barbarism.