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Twilight of the Gods: Page 1000
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ultimately ambiguous finale we’ve just experienced, because he said that the music would tell us everything we needed to know, all that was inexpressible in words.

Is there redemption in the end, or not? If the world is redeemed from Alberich’s curse in the end, who redeemed it, and by what action? And just what is redeemed? What after all was Alberich’s curse? Do Siegfried and Bruennhilde live on after death in blissful immortality, or was Bruennhilde merely speaking figuratively, overcome by emotion? I have endeavored to address each of these questions as they have arisen in the course of the drama, and to do so within a coherent, unified, global framework, which follows a single narrative thread. There are psychological, social, historical, scientific, artistic, and metaphysical dimensions to this grandiose twilight of the gods, which compel us to ask ourselves the ultimate question, what does it all mean? or better, what is the meaning of our existence? It is so all-embracing that it can easily accommodate several layers of interpretation without contradiction. I will speculatively enumerate some of the primary levels of meaning below.

Given the astonishing richness of the content of the Ring libretto (which must never be interpreted without considering the music as an integral part of its expression), its remarkable compression of the mass of all human experience into one narrative thread of drama (which, even at between fifteen and sixteen hours in performance, is nonetheless succinct if one considers all that is embraced within it), one thing the Ring clearly is not is a mere allegory of the dangers of becoming obsessed by greed for money, property, or even power (social and political), as even Wagner himself was wont to say on occasion:

“Recently R. expressed his pleasure at having provided in ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ a complete picture of the curse of greed for money, and the disaster it brings about.” [1074W-{2/15/81} CD Vol. II, p. 624]

The Ring may have begun there, as Wagner first imagined it, but in the process of completing its libretto and score Wagner left that plot concept far behind, incorporating elements of it within a more universal framework. Wagner’s pet thesis, that the Ring concerns the disasters brought about by man’s greed for money, is just one of many interpretations he applied to the work in his lifetime, but ultimately Wagner concluded that the final version of the Ring which he was prepared to present on the stage remained as much a mystery to him as to his audience.

Is George Bernard Shaw’s interpretation of the Ring as an allegory of a socialist revolution against the old order of inherited political power, wealth, tradition, and religion, and the historical succession of capitalist plutocrats (Alberich) to the power formerly held by blood-aristocrats (the gods), adequate to capture the full meaning of the Ring? At best, Shaw’s allegorical reading works for portions of a few scenes in the 36 scene work. Clearly, though, social revolution played a role in Wagner’s original (but ever widening) conception, as we see in his commentary on a passage from Carlyle below, which provides us one possible interpretation of the meaning of the final holocaust in which Valhalla and its gods burn up, leaving man free and independent:

“Thomas Carlyle, in his ‘History of Frederick the Great,’ characterises the outbreak of the French Revolution as the First Act of the ‘Spontaneous Combustion’ of a nation ‘sunk into torpor, abeyance, and dry-rot,’ and admonishes his readers in the following words: --

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