The Lady or the Tiger Characters

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will examine the characters from Frank R. Stockton's 'The Lady, or the Tiger?' It is a fairytale about love, jealousy, and justice. Updated: 12/13/2019


Imagine being faced with the choice of having your love eaten by a tiger in front of your eyes or having him marry a beautiful woman and watching them live happily together for the rest of your life. This is the question that the princess faces when her father arrests her lover. Let's examine the characters from 'The Lady, or the Tiger?' by Frank R. Stockton.

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  • 0:04 Background
  • 0:26 The King
  • 1:04 The Princess
  • 1:57 The Princess' Lover
  • 2:21 The Lady
  • 2:49 Lesson Summary
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The King

The king is a semi-barbaric ruler whose civilized side made him a 'bland and genial' problem-solver while his barbaric side resulted in 'exhibitions of manly and beastly valor.' To determine justice in all situations, he has men enter an arena where all of the citizens of the kingdom watch while the accused opens one of two doors. Behind one door is a man-eating tiger; behind the other door is a woman of the proper age that the man must immediately marry regardless of his current marital status. While most people would consider this unreasonable, the people of his kingdom enjoyed the entertainment.

The Princess

The princess shares her father's semi-barbarism and is 'the apple of his eye.' The princess doesn't tell her father about her lover, as it's against protocol for anyone to love the princess. When her lover is arrested, the princess uses her position to find out which door the tiger is behind and who the lady is.

When the princess discovers which lady is behind the door, she is incredibly jealous. On the day of judgment, most women would not have been there, but because of 'the moiety of barbarism in her nature. . . her intense and fervid soul would not allow her to be absent on an occasion in which she was so terribly interested.' The princess signals to her lover which door to choose, but the story does not say if she led him to the tiger or the lady. The question remains whether the jealous and semi-barbaric princess would rather see her lover dead or with another woman.

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