Tiger at the Gates

by Jean Giraudoux

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Places Discussed

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Off stage

Off stage. Characters refer to actions that they can see, but that the audience can only imagine, chiefly for comic effects. In the opening scene, however, these descriptions contrast the personalities of Andromache—who describes a beautiful, sunny day—with soldiers stopping to caress stray cats—and Cassandra—who cynically sees suffering and cats as emblems of tigers and of danger. The ambiguity of the play revolves around the question of whether war will break out and hangs on the conflict between these two visions that the audience can not verify.

Similar offstage observations invoke sexual suggestions for comic purposes. As Helen approaches, for example, her entry teasingly delayed, Cassandra jealously describes how she displays her beauty to the men of Troy.


Battlefield. The serious aspect of war appears with Hector who describes the battle from which he has just come to explain to Andromache why he now opposes war. The vision that begins in beauty with images of nature turns to a portrayal of inflicting death as akin to suicide. By portraying the scene through Hector’s narration, Giraudoux can totally transform it.

Paris’s ship

Paris’s ship. Suggestive sexuality returns when the sailors describe the voyage on which Paris takes Helen to Troy as a prisoner. The sailors graphically describe the positions of the bodies they observed on deck to prove that Trojan men are lovers of beautiful women.


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Clurman, Harold. Introduction to Judith, Tiger at the Gates, Duel of Angels. Vol 1 in Jean Giraudoux: Plays, translated by Christopher Fry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1963. Provides clear overview of French theatrical history, placing Giraudoux as a transitional figure between classic and modern French drama. Includes discussion of Fry’s translation.

Cohen, Robert. Giraudoux: Three Faces of Destiny. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968. Examines Giraudoux’s background and the intellectual system underlying his writing. Uses charts and diagrams to analyze the dialogue between war and peace, emphasizing language, imagery, and use of symbol.

Lemaitre, George. Jean Giraudoux: The Writer and His Work. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1971. Clear general introduction to Giraudoux. Discusses the play’s portrayal of the dualism of human nature. Discusses the play’s relation to Greek tragedy.

Mankin, Paul A. Precious Irony: The Theatre of Jean Giraudoux. The Hague: Mouton, 1971. Provides clear, precise literary explanation of the different types of irony, including examples from Tiger at the Gates. Presents Cassandra, Helen, and Ulysses as outsiders who function as the chorus, helping to emphasize the importance of fate.

Reilly, John R. Jean Giraudoux. Boston: Twayne, 1978. Divides Giraudoux’s work into three periods, with Tiger at the Gates signaling the entrance into the final period, in which fate appears as a hostile presence and the themes of war, love, and politics predominate. Biographical details and annotated bibliography.

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Critical Essays