The Lady or the Tiger? Questions and Answers
by Francis Richard Stockton

The Lady or the Tiger? book cover
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What does the king's arena in Frank Stockton's "The Lady or the Tiger?" look like?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The king's arena functions as a court of law in which those accused of crimes are deemed guilty or innocent. Stockton describes it as a vast amphitheater circled by galleries, with hidden passages and unseen vaults. The people watch from the galleries as justice is meted out. The king, surrounded by his court, sits on a throne high up on one side of the arena. 

The accused emerges from a door below the king's throne. After emerging, the accused—visualized as a male—faces two identical doors. His task is to choose which one to open. Behind one is a beautiful maiden. If he chooses that door, he is considered innocent and immediately marries the maiden. Behind the other door is a hungry tiger. If he opens that door, the tiger will devour him and he will be considered guilty. If the tiger eats the man, "doleful" iron bells ring in mourning. If the maiden appears, joyful horns and bells sound out in celebration. 

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kathik eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The king's arena in "The Lady or the Tiger?" by Frank Stockton is a huge amphitheater with "mysterious vaults," large galleries, and hidden passages. The king sits on his throne above the arena from where he can see two doors that look identical to one another and stand next to each other. Behind the doors waits a lady or a tiger, but nobody in the galleries knows which is which, nor do the accused, whose duty it is to choose one of the two. Depending on which door is chosen, another door will open with either revelers to celebrate an upcoming wedding or mourners to wail for the now eaten victim. The king thinks of his arena as an "agent of poetic justice" (Stockton 2). This is a place where justice is meted out even though the system operates on pure luck--or not. 

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