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The Valkyrie: Page 440
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Bruennhilde: (more animatedly: #79’s rhythmic pick-up note and first chord in orch:; #81 hint:; #89 vari:) When Fricka had turned your own mind against you: in conforming with her thinking, you became an enemy unto yourself (:#79 frag; :#81 hint; :#89 vari). (#81)

 

Wotan: (quietly and bitterly) I believed you had understood me and punished your knowing defiance [“wissenden Trotz”]; (#81 & #96a) but craven and foolish you thought me: had I not to avenge betrayal, you’d be unworthy of my wrath! (#96a? on English horn & then on oboe)

Bruennhilde now, in one of the musico-dramatic highlights of Wagner’s entire career, has introduced what we may regard as the embryonic form (#96a) of one of the most poignant and meaningful motifs in the whole Ring, #96. Its’ definitive form is #96b. Cooke has shown that it is based on #81 and therefore indirectly on #21’s embryonic form. Bruennhilde introduces it in the context of her argument that in breaking the letter of Wotan’s law she was actually doing Wotan’s most truthful, honest bidding. Therefore, as Cooke pointed out, the #21 motif’s lineaments are softened and rounded in a baroque manner, and octave leaps upward seem to challenge the formerly remorseless downward progress of #21, to suggest the weakening of Wotan’s authoritarian stance in the face of Bruennhilde’s overwhelming conviction. It is the softening of this motif as much as Bruennhilde’s appeal for sympathy which softens Wotan’s heart during her appeal. We also hear #89, expressing Siegmund’s defiance of the fate Wotan - under Fricka’s influence - had chosen for him, as Bruennhilde’s appeal proceeds. #89 in this context, mixed with so many other poignant motifs, acquires an entirely new resonance, surging with meaning, for Siegmund’s heroic example has imparted to Bruennhilde a new ideal, a mortal paragon of altruistic impulse whose willingness to forego eternal bliss in heaven for the sake of earthly love has made all her past life seem meaningless by comparison.

We hear #81A and #81B as Bruennhilde asks her father what hidden guilt forces him now to disown his child, and are reminded that Fricka convinced Wotan that no mortal hero could be free from the gods’ will, since she found only Wotan in all that his hero Siegmund had done, would do, or could do. #81 represents, effectively, Wotan’s recognition that he can ever find only his own egoistic self, with loathing, in all that he undertakes to transcend himself, and that all of his proxies, including Bruennhilde and the Waelsungs who are oblivious to this limitation, are equally subject to this law of gravity. Wotan’s answer is that Bruennhilde will find that hidden guilt in her deed of defiance. Bruennhilde complains that though Wotan rescinded his original order to protect Siegmund, Wotan in this instance was not acting according to his true convictions, but under Fricka’s coercion, but Bruennhilde does not grasp what Wotan does, that Fricka’s coercion is nothing more than Wotan’s own recognition that he is in contradiction with his own beliefs in seeking redemption through mortal heroes who are by definition unfree, mere products of nature or nurture (which is just another indirect way of saying nature).

Wotan’s retort to Bruennhilde’s point is that he believed that Bruennhilde had understood him (i.e., how he wished to be redeemed) and punished her “knowing defiance.” That is, Bruennhilde should

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