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Twilight of the Gods: Page 849
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confession that having realized he could not himself gain redemption from the Ring curse, and must destroy what had been his only hope of redemption, his son Siegmund, he longed only for the end, that very end Erda had foretold Alberich’s son Hagen would bring about, the twilight of the gods. In V.3.3, when Bruennhilde - having requested that Wotan not leave her asleep prey to just any man - reminded Wotan of the Waelsung heroes, Wotan told her that the Waelsungs heroes were destined to destruction by the world’s envy, and we may regard this envy (Neid) as incarnate in Hagen and in his manipulation of his Gibichung half-siblings Gunther and Gutrune, and manipulation of Siegfried himself.

Aside from the obvious interpretation that Siegfried is preserving Bruennhilde’s chastity in order to honor his oath to Gunther, the meaning of Siegfried’s refusal to seek sexual union with his former lover Bruennhilde seems to be the following. Siegfried, to put it simply, is becoming too conscious of the inner processes of his formerly unconscious artistic inspiration, to effectively seek temporary redemption from man’s unhealing wound in the arms of his muse Bruennhilde, any longer. Metaphorically speaking, by refusing for the first time to draw unconscious artistic inspiration from his muse Bruennhilde, in other words, by refusing to penetrate her womb with his phallus Nothung, to plant a new seed of poetic intent which might bear fruit as an inspired music-drama, Siegfried will produce a work of art in which what had formerly remained hidden, its true source of unconscious inspiration, is now revealed to consciousness. Siegfried will become conscious of his formerly unconscious source of inspiration and share this with his audience, making them fellow-knowers of the profound secret of the author’s poetic intent. Thus, by honoring his oath to Gunther, to provide Gunther the world’s most glorious woman (i.e., muse of the world’s most glorious work of art, in which man’s transcendent value is most sublimely affirmed), Siegfried’s own muse Bruennhilde, Siegfried will unwittingly expose Gunther to unbearable dishonor, the revelation of the disreputable source of what Gunther had formerly called his honor, the meaning of his life. His hypocrisy will be exposed, just as Wotan’s (man’s in general) will be exposed.

In calling on Nothung to attest and act as witness to Siegfried’s original oath to protect and preserve his blood-brother Gunther’s honor (represented here by various motifs which call that oath to mind, such as #157 and #160), Siegfried swears a new oath accompanied not only by #57 (Nothung the sword, representing Wotan’s grand idea to redeem Valhalla), but significantly by #21, the motif representing Wotan’s (collective, historical man’s) social contract, the spear of divine authority and law. Now, with supreme irony, Siegfried’s sword, with which he had once cut Wotan’s spear in half, thus emancipating himself from the gods’ influence and protection (i.e., emancipating art from its former service to religious ideology), is now supporting the contracts engraved on Wotan’s spear, taking part in an oath. What this means is that egoism and the conscious acquisition of honor, the purpose of all public presentation of works of art, have taken the place of authentic unconscious inspiration as the motive behind Siegfried’s production of works of art. In this case his art can no longer redeem man from the truth, but is likely instead to expose the truth to the light of day which his art formerly served to hide.

There is one last point of interest before we leave T.1 and move on to T.2. Wagner once noted that the plot of Tristan and Isolde is virtually identical to the plot of the last part of the Ring (but the first libretto to be written), Twilight of the Gods. In both instances, he said, a hero, under the influence of a spell which deludes him, woos for another man his predestined bride, and thereby finds his doom:

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