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The Ring of the Nibelung
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interpretation behind as unusable within my scheme. Cooke, in a chapter covering the various allegorical subjects embraced by Wagner in his Ring, quotes Wagner at length [Cooke: P. 250-254] on the subject of the evolution of human consciousness, and the development of religio-artistic thought, and scientific thought, which is where my interpretation begins and ends. Cooke has within his grasp in these few passages, and his intelligent commentary upon them, the opportunity to construe the entire plot of the Ring allegory, but misses the opportunity completely. A brief extract from his book will suffice to illustrate:

“At first [i.e., after evolution had produced the human species], humanity followed its natural instincts, which were as follows: (a) a need to wrest from nature the means of existence; (b) a need for communication, which led to the evolution of language; (c) a need for mutual love and fellowship, which led to the establishing of the family and eventually, of society; and (d) a need to explain to itself its relationship to nature, which led to the creation of myths, and thus to religion and art. It is the third of these four instincts which mainly concerns us here – the Need for mutual love and fellowship that led to the establishment of society.” [Cooke: P. 253]

By skipping over instinct (d), the creation of myths, of religion and art, and never invoking it again for the remainder of his study, Cooke misses one of the main allegorical strands of meaning in the Ring. He then proceeds to discuss the influence of the atheist philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach upon Wagner, whose critique of religion and celebration of science and secular art is an influence which I find in virtually every passage in the Ring, but which Cooke quickly passes over without bringing it up again. And an equally fateful omission occurs two pages later, in which he discusses an extract from Wagner in which Wagner paraphrases Feuerbach’s critique of religion:

“This ‘error’ on the part of primitive peoples – the creation of gods and of religion was, Wagner maintained, a magnificent one, since it arose from that natural instinctive need of humanity to explain to itself its relationship to nature, and it led to the creation of the great myths, which were marvelous projections of humanity’s own highest ideals and aspirations. And the factual error itself was eventually corrected by science, which discovered the causes of nature’s effects inside nature.” [Cooke: P. 254]

Within a few pages Cooke leaves this profound subject behind, never to bring it up again for the remainder of his study. But it is the whole affair! The entire plot of the Ring is contained in brief in these few remarks. But Cooke was the first to draw attention to them, and ultimately inspired me to undertake a comprehensive survey of the entire body of Wagner’s writings and recorded remarks, and compare them with the libretto texts of his operas and music-dramas. Had he lived to complete his entire study of the Ring, would Cooke eventually have incorporated these insights? Perhaps, but if one peruses the final chapters he completed in his study of The Valkyrie one finds considerable strain in his efforts to construe the complexities of the plot according to his assumptions.

The last author I’ll consider is Jean-Jacques Nattiez, whose Wagner Androgyne (1990) is one of the most insightful studies of the Ring in the literature, but which only influenced my own work after-the-fact, as it were, since I had already developed the essentials of my interpretation, and particularly those in which our work overlaps, before I first became familiar with Nattiez’s work in 1983. One of Nattiez’s primary insights (and this is where our work overlaps) is that in Wagner’s

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