two doorways with an elegant woman standing in one and a large tiger head in the other

The Lady, or the Tiger?

by Francis Richard Stockton

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Why has the king thrown the suitor of the princess into prison in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

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The king has the suitor of the princess thrown into prison because he feels it is his duty to do so. The courtier is from a "lowness of station," and he has dared to love the daughter of the king.

The narrator of Stockton's allegory of human emotions describes the daughter of the semi-barbaric king as of "as fervent and imperious" nature as his own. She loves this young man with great ardor, and she is very happy with him. But, for a young man of his station to have dared to love the princess is offensive to the king, and he puts an end to the relationship by immediately throwing the courtier into prison.

Since the king is semi-barbaric, he does not concern himself with the feelings of his daughter when committing this action of having the young man put into prison. That the young man loves the princess is a fact that the king simply will not entertain.

...the king would not think of allowing any fact of this kind to interfere with the workings of the court of judgment.

Instead, he employs his own inimitable form of justice. The young man will have his trial in the king's arena where Chance is the judge. Behind one door is a ravenous tiger who will devour him; the other door houses a maiden of beauty that the young man can marry if he chooses the door that holds her.

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