What happens after a person is accused of a crime in the kingdom described in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the kingdom of the semi-barbaric king, if a person is accused of a crime that interests the king in its importance, then public notice is given that the accused will be sentenced in the king's arena.

On the appointed day of the trial, the accused is placed in a secret vault and when the king gives a signal, the accused is released through a door into the amphitheater. Across from the accused are two identical doors that are right next to each other.  It is "the duty and the privilege" of this accused person to choose one of the doors and open it. If he opens a certain one, a beautiful maiden will emerge and he will be married to her in a immediate ceremony replete with bells, dancing maidens, and children strewing flowers as the people cheer. But, if he opens the other, a fierce tiger will rage forth, tearing the guilty subject apart, killing him "as punishment for his guilt." With the case decided for the subject, "doleful iron bells clang," hired mourners are posted on the outer part of the arena, and the audience makes their way home with bowed heads in grief for the fate of the accused.  

edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Because the king liked his kingdom to run without a "hitch," he was quick to act when something in his "domestic or political systems" got out of line.

He had an amphitheater built in which virtue would be rewarded and crime would be punished. If the crime was something that the king found interesting, he set the date for a public resolution in the amphitheater. He would sit on his high throne, attended by his court, and summon the accused for a public appearance. 

The king preferred for the reward or punishment to come from the choice the accused made himself.  As a result, when the accused was brought into the arena, he had a choice of two identical doors.  Behind one lurked a tiger that would tear the accused to pieces.  Behind the other was a woman the king deemed an appropriate match for the accused. The king believed that "impartial and incorruptible chance" would determine what happened next.  If the lady emerged, an immediate wedding would take place in the amphitheater, regardless of whether the accused was already married or in love with someone else.

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The Lady or the Tiger?

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