The 36 dramatic situations

[Source: Gordian Plot – The 36 dramatic situations]

The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations

From Gordian Plot

The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations is a descriptive list which was created by Georges Polti to categorize every dramatic situation that might occur in a story. To do this Polti analyzed classical Greek texts, plus classical and contemporaneous French works. He also analyzed a handful of non-French authors. In his introduction, Polti claims to be continuing the work of Carlo Gozzi, who also identified 36 situations.

Because Polti drew heavily on French dramatists roughly contemporary with him, many of whom have now faded into obscurity, users are encouraged to supplement his examples with their own. User-submitted additions should be in Italic text, in order to distinguish them from the examples contained in Polti’s original work.

This is a translation from the french anyway, so please modernize the language.

also see Category:Plot lines for other plot lists
The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations


Translated by Lucile Ray




FIRST SITUATION, SUPPLICATION (To humbly petition) The Supplicant is chased, harmed or otherwise threatened by the Persecutor and begs for help from the Power in Authority.

SECOND SITUATION, DELIVERANCE The Unfortunate is threatened in some way by the Threatener and is saved by the Rescuer.

THIRD SITUATION, CRIME PURSUED BY VENGEANCE The Avenger wreaks vengeance on the Criminal for past crimes.

FOURTH SITUATION, VENGEANCE TAKEN FOR KINDRED UPON KINDRED One family member, the Guilty Kinsman, harms another (the Victim). They are punished for this serious transgression by an Avenging Kinsman.

FIFTH SITUATION, PURSUIT A Fugitive is pursued, caught and Punished for some miscreant act.

SIXTH SITUATION, DISASTER A calamitous event occurs.

SEVENTH SITUATION, FALLING PREY TO CRUELTY OR MISFORTUNE The innocent Unfortunate is harmed by accidental Misfortune or by a deliberate Master who should know better.

EITTH SITUATION, REVOLT The Conspirator leads or contributes to a revolt against an oppressive Tyrant


TENTH SITUATION, ABDUCTION The Abducted person is taken by the Abductor. The Abducted may be rescued by a Guardian.

ELEVENTH SITUATION, THE ENIGMA The Interrogator poses a Problem which the Seeker must solve.

TWELFTH SITUATION, OBTAINING A Solicitor requests something of the Adversary, who refuses to cooperate. Or, there are Opposing Parties who cannot reach agreement and so their dispute is resolved by the Arbitrator.

THIRTEENTH SITUATION, ENMITY OF KINSMEN Two relatives hate one another (and act accordingly).

FOURTEENTH SITUATION, RIVALRY OF KINSMEN Two relatives compete over an Object, often another person who shows more favor to the Preferred Kinsman and shows less favor to the Rejected Kinsman.

FIFTEENTH SITUATION, MURDEROUS ADULTERY Adultery turns to violence as an Adulterer seeks to remove the Spouse or turns on the other Adulterer.

SIXTEENTH SITUATION, MADNESS A person becomes temporarily Mad, losing control and harming the Victim.

SEVENTEENTH SITUATION, FATAL IMPRUDENCE The Imprudent person loses an Object or causes harm to the Victim through unthinking imprudence, curiosity and general carelessness.

EIGHTEENTH SITUATION, INVOLUNTARY CRIMES OF LOVE The Lover performs acts of love with the Beloved, only to find (via the Revealer) that the Beloved is a close relative

NINETEENTH SITUATION, SLAYING OF A KINSMAN UNRECOGNISED The Slayer kills (or nearly kills or harms) the Unrecognized Victim, who is actually a relative or friend of the Slayer. Thus a seemingly justified act suddenly becomes unjustified.

TWENTIETH SITUATION, SELF-SACRIFICE FOR AN IDEAL The Hero gives up something for the sake of an Ideal.

TWENTY-FIRST SITUATION, SELF-SACRIFICE FOR KINDRED The Hero gives up something in order to help a relative or friend.

TWENTY-SECOND SITUATION, ALL SACRIFICED FOR A PASSION The Lover is impassioned by the Object to the point where they give up the Person or Thing, perhaps unwisely, blinded as they are their passion.

TWENTY-THIRD SITUATION, NECESSITY OF SACRIFICING LOVED ONES The Hero is forced to sacrifice the Beloved Victim, based on the Necessity.

TWENTY-FOURTH SITUATION, RIVALRY OF SUPERIOR AND INFERIOR The Superior Rival is set against an Inferior Rival, both vying for the Object of Rivalry.


TWENTY-SIXTH SITUATION, CRIMES OF LOVE The Lover loves the Beloved, but this love is illicit in some way, breaking social codes.

TWENTY-SEVENTH SITUATION, DISCOVERY OF THE DISHONOR OF A LOVED ONE The Guilty One brings shame on their kin by a dishonorable act. They are discovered by the Dishonorer.

TWENTY-EIGHTH SITUATION, OBSTACLES TO LOVE Two Lovers want to be together, but they are prevented from doing so by some Obstacle.

TWENTY-NINTH SITUATION, AN ENEMY LOVED The Lover loves the Beloved Enemy. The Hater hates the Lover for this betrayal.

THIRTIETH SITUATION, AMBITION The Ambitious person Covets a Thing, however that ambition is guarded against by an Adversary.

THIRTY-FIRST SITUATION, CONFLICT WITH A GOD The Mortal challenges the Immortal. There are consequences.


THIRTY-THIRD SITUATION, ERRONEOUS JUDGMENT The Mistaken One makes some judgment about or is suspicious about the Victim, instead of the Guilty Person. This is due to some Cause or is caused by the Author of the mistake.

THIRTY-FOURTH SITUATION, REMORSE The Culprit has done wrong to a Victim or committed another Sin. The Interrogator gets an admission of guilt.

THIRTY-FIFTH SITUATION, RECOVERY OF A LOST ONE The Seeker looks for and finds the One Found.

THIRTY-SIXTH SITUATION The Kinsman Spectator sees the Kinsman Slain being killed by the Executioner.


POLTI situations sorted by elements necessary


Other recommended material from Gordian Plot:
* Character Thesaurus
* Plots that sell to Top Pay Magazines

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