How do we know the princess really loves the man in "The Lady or the Tiger"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From the narrative of "The Lady, or the Tiger?" the reader really cannot be certain that the princess loves the man, at least in more modern terms. In the sense of having passionate feelings about the young man, there is evidence; however, in the sense of a love that is spiritual and unselfish on the part of the semi-barbaric princess, there is some doubt that is raised in the reader.

In the description of the semi-barbaric princess, there is mention that she has a character much like that of the king; such comparison truly raises questions about the tenderness of heart that the princess possesses. Also, in reference to the young man, whose "fineness of blood" and "lowness of station" lends him comparison to heroes of romance, the narrator remarks,

This royal maiden was well satisfied with her lover, for he was handsome and brave...and she loved him with an ardor that had enough of barbarism in it to make it exceedingly warm and strong.

The mention of "well satisfied" and "ardor" suggest a certain selfish feeling and emotional and physical passion rather than true love. While she makes sure that she learns the secret of who is behind each door that her lover faces, the princess also has seen the "lady" who will be behind one. She knows that this damsel has "dared to raise her eyes" to her lover and sometimes "she thought these glances were...even returned." Consequently, the princess "hated the woman who blushed and trembled behind that silent door." Added to this fact, the princess knows that she will never regain her lover for herself. Therefore, it would be difficult for her to sacrifice her own feelings of hatred, passion, and pride and lovingly allow the young man to wed this damsel and live on with her in his life. 

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The Lady or the Tiger?

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