What was the arena built for in "The Lady or the Tiger?" by Frank Stockton?

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The king's arena in Frank Stockton's short story "The Lady or the Tiger?" was a "vast amphitheater" built in order to deliver the king's justice. It was large enough to house the king's subjects, "encircling galleries," "mysterious vaults," and "unseen passages." The king believed his arena was the agent of an "incorruptible" justice. When someone was accused of a crime, they were taken to the arena, where their judgment was in their own hands. They were given the choice of two doors. One of the doors would reveal a tiger, which promptly killed the accused and rendered him guilty. Behind the other door was a lady who "immediately" married the accused because, by choosing so judiciously, he had proven his innocence. The narrator refers to it as "poetic justice" because the accused could never know from which door might spring the tiger or the lady. Unfortunately, like all things supposedly incorruptible, the justice of the arena becomes corrupted when the king's daughter discovers the secret of the doors.

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The Lady or the Tiger?

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