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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Student Question

Did the audience in "The Lady, or the Tiger?" by Frank Stockton attend the arena willingly?

Expert Answers

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The story suggests that the majority of the audience came of their own accord for the sheer entertainment aspect of the semi-barbaric king's arrangement.  The narrator praises the the king's arena, noting:

"The institution was a very popular one. When the people gathered together on one of the great trial days, they never knew whether they were to witness a bloody slaughter or a hilarious wedding. This element of uncertainty lent an interest to the occasion which it could not otherwise have attained."

The uncertainty of these execution-wedding events kept the masses "entertained and pleased," and Stockton includes the detail that even the thinking members of the community supported the practice of the arena, because the choice rested solely in the hands of the accused.  One can imagine that the events of these arena-style trials were the fodder for gossip and discussion for many days or weeks among the common masses in the kingdom. 

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