What is the setting of "The Lady, or the Tiger"?
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The setting for this story is a large arena or amphitheater. It is so important that the narrator refers to it as an "agent of poetic justice:"
This vast amphitheater, with its encircling galleries, its mysterious vaults, and its unseen passages, was an agent of poetic justice, in which crime was punished, or virtue rewarded, by the decrees of an impartial and incorruptible chance.
Stockton offers a good deal of description of the arena, which is built in a fairytale-like "semi-barbaric" kingdom of long ago. The king, we learn, sits high up on one side of the arena, surrounded by his royal court. Directly opposite him are two identical doors. A person (assumed to be a male) accused of a crime must pick one of the doors to open. If he chooses the "wrong" door, indicating guilt, a hungry tiger will devour him; if he chooses the "right" door, indicating innocence, a beautiful maiden will emerge and marry him. Stockton provides sound effects as part of his description of the setting: if the man is devoured, mourners wail and "doleful iron bells" clang. If the man is saved, joyous golden horns blow and "gay brass bells" ring.
We learn too that the trials are very popular and "throngs" of people attend. Those who can't get in stand outside the walls of the arena.
Stockton uses these details of the setting to build a sense of excitement and anticipation in the reader.
The setting of The Lady, or the Tiger? is a make believe kingdom designed through the imagination of Frank Stockton. Stockton does allude to the kingdom's "distant Latin neighbors" which is a reference to the Roman Empire. Rome began as "a small settlement in Italy in 753 B.C. where it progressed into a powerful Empire that took control of all the lands bordering tne Mediterranean Sea by A.D. 100." Some of the setting also takes place in the arena the king created. This was his center of government and control for his kingdom.
Reference: The Literature and Language Book by McDougal Littell
For the accused, the setting is at the heart of the arena mentioned below, facing two doors and a choice that decides the outcome of their life. For the audience, the setting is a seat perched in some row of the arena to watch a man either married or torn apart by a tiger. For the lady and tiger behind the doors, the setting are rooms lined in heavy furs so that no sounds escape, waiting expectantly for the man suited to her to open the door and be married or to open the door and become a feast.
The setting is imaginary in both place and time- a fairly gruesome kingdom. It does bear a resemblance to the Coliseum in Rome, with the numerous tiers of seating and massive arena.
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