The princess, in Frank Stockton's short story "The Lady or the Tiger," faces a dilemma as her lover is tried in her father's arena of justice. The young man has been accused of loving the princess. According to the princess's father, a "semi-barbaric" king, the arena is the perfect form of justice. The accused chooses between one of two doors. Behind one door is a tiger which kills him, proving his guilt. From behind the other door comes a lady who promptly marries him, thus guaranteeing his innocence.
The princess is so much in love with the young man that she uses her "power, influence, and force of character" to determine which door holds the tiger and which the lady. She also knows who the lady is and is quite jealous, and, because of her "savage blood," intensely dislikes the woman. The end of the story hinges on whether the reader believes the princess would let the man she loves choose the tiger and be torn to bits, or the lady, and have to witness a wedding.
The reader has to decide the princess's true nature. Would she show pity for her beloved or simply let the man die a brutal death to keep him from marrying someone else?