Critique: 'Finding an Ending' Part 14

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

Moderators: alberich00, Justin Jeffrey

Post Reply
Site Admin
Posts: 464
Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2011 11:03 am

Critique: 'Finding an Ending' Part 14

Post by alberich00 » Thu Jul 21, 2016 10:59 am

But Siegfried the artist-hero is also complicit in this scheme (unwittingly, however), because, in his subliminal quest to preserve mankind’s transcendent value (Valhalla sublimated into secular art) in his art, he will actually inadvertently expose to view the secret of religious revelation and unconscious artistic inspiration, and thus help Alberich bring his hoard of fateful knowledge up from the silent depths to the light of day, and destroy the gods and all the values and ideals for which they stood, replacing this with the arid power of objective knowledge, which shows man to himself as a mere object in nature, of no special value, except as a knower. If Gunther represents Wagner’s audience, to whom he exposes the profoundest secret of his art in giving his muse of unconscious inspiration away to him, Gutrune represents the need of all artists to desecrate the sanctity of their private inspiration by presenting its product to a public, an audience, during our modern time of too-great-consciousness, when what formerly had been a redemptive act which temporarily healed our unhealing wound of consciousness, is becoming less and less potent in the face of the rising to consciousness of that bitter truth which it was the hidden purpose of art to conceal and sublimate. And Hagen represents the artist-hero’s rise to consciousness of his true identity and history, the very identity and history which Wotan repressed into his unconscious mind, Bruennhilde. Thus Siegfried the artist-hero, through the very means he sought to preserve man’s illusion of transcendent value, actually betrays his art’s secret to the light of day, becoming too conscious to seek redemption in loving union with his muse. For this reason his muse, having lost her sole reason for existence, must figuratively take vengeance upon the hero by collaborating with the man who exposed the hero’s secrets to the light of day, and then pass into oblivion with the hero. But this is merely a natural consequence of the hero’s unwitting self-betrayal.

P. 167: PH: Now K&S pose some legitimate questions:

K&S: “What has happened? It is clear enough that love, even at its most intense, is no match for the tricks and treachery of the world. Wotan would be right to judge that the sway of love in its erotic form is doomed to defeat. Yet it is worth reflecting on the device of the drink, strikingly similar to the love potion that figures in the first act of "Tristan." Interpreters have often claimed that a placebo would have done just as much for Tristan and Isolde: thinking they are bound to die is enough to liberate them from constraint and to express (and be prepared to consummate) their previously unacknowledged love for one another. We would raise an analogous question about Siegfried: to what extent do his loss of his memory of Bruennhilde and his sudden ardor for Gutrune correspond to something in his own character?”

PH: My interpretation solves this problem. Yes, this tragic end represents something in Siegfried’s character, which is the inevitability of the fulfillment of Alberich’s curse on his Ring, the curse of consciousness, that mankind will ultimately gain that knowledge, through experience of the world, which overthrows man’s consoling illusions by explaining them away. Man is predestined, in the long course of history, to become fully conscious of who he is. This is what kills Siegfried, whose whole value consists in maintaining his loving relationship with his muse of artistic inspiration, his unconscious mind. Becoming too conscious automatically destroys the unconscious mind, depriving it of its historical function. Man is left only with the pride of knowing the bitter truth and not trying to hide it from himself, as Wagner said. It is worth recalling, in this context, that in "Tristan" Act Three Tristan becomes too conscious of who he really is, and blames himself for having created the love/death potion, which in fact is the source of the art for which he lived. Tristan even describes this potion as having been composed of the entirety of human experience, which Tristan’s love sublimated, in a manner similar to Wagner’s notion of the “Wonder.” But K&S are right to suggest a conceptual link between these two potions. Also, we must remember that Hagen’s Potion Motif #154 embodies both the original potion of love-and-forgetting, and the later antidote to it. The ultimate purpose of both potions is to make Siegfried become conscious of who he is, and thus expose him as in some sense having betrayed man’s (Gunther’s) and woman’s (Gutrune’s) honor. Since Siegfried’s heroism and fearlessness depended on Bruennhilde being his self, and knowing for him what he does not know, his true identity, to give up the benefit of her protection by giving her to another man, i.e., to Wagner’s audience, is to become too conscious of who he is, which is the death of the artist-hero. Also note that Siegfried employs the Tarnhelm (a symbol for Wagner's concept of "The Wonder," related musically to the Love-and-forgetfulness potion) to transform himself into Gunther, his audience. This is Wagner’s metaphor for the fact that Wagner himself said that through his musical motifs (represented symbolically by the Woodbird’s song, which Siegfried can interpret conceptually, transforming feeling into thought, as Wagner did with his musical motifs), he offered his own audience an insight into his profoundest secret, the meaning of his work of art which might remain as much a mystery to its author as to his audience. In other words, Siegfried the artist-hero makes his audience, Gunther, indistinguishable from himself, letting that audience share in his own artistic clairvoyance, by transforming himself into Gunther in the very act of giving his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration away to Gunther.

P. 167-168: PH: Here, K&S betray their wholesale obliviousness to the actual allegorical dynamics at work in "Twilight of the Gods," so that they make light of things, or omit them altogether, which for Wagner had the most portentous significance, and grant importance to things which are only of secondary or no importance to Wagner:

K&S: “The Siegfried who strides up from the banks of the Rhine is already something of a regression from the figure who bade farewell to Bruennhilde. On the mountaintop, … he … seemed - under the influence of Bruennhilde’s more mature loving nature - to have gained glimmerings of sensitivity. (…) In her absence, that influence fades. As Siegfried greets the Gibichungs, we see the same brainless youth who encountered the Wanderer in Act III of "Siegfried" with such adolescent boorishness and obliviousness to his own ignorance. (…) This puerile swaggering [Siegfried’s challenge to Gunther] seems a poor way of pursuing the venture to which Bruennhilde committed him. (When we heard her commit him to his heroic calling, she and we certainly expected better of him than muscling his way up and down the Rhine, in search of pals or sparring partners. Indeed, there are plenty of later hints that the young hero has been coarsened by his brief sojourn through the world. So, for example, he has been quick to pick up mead-hall stereotypes, casually talking of men’s disdain for ‘women’s wrangling,’ making light of the quick passing of ‘women’s resentment’ … , and attributing Gunther’s gloom to Bruennhilde’s henpecking.”

PH: My interpretation also addresses this apparent degradation. Wagner himself said, repeatedly, throughout his life, that his only real paradise was his original inspiration of his art, but that the process of bringing it to the world brought about an inevitable coarsening from which, nonetheless, Wagner hoped to free his art. Bruennhilde’s and Siegfried’s loving union is an archetypal representation of the entire history of inspired secular art, culminating in Wagner’s depiction of his production for his audience of his whole "Ring," embodied in miniature in Siegfried’s performance of his sung narrative of the story of his heroic life, and how he learned the meaning of the Woodbird's song, in "Twilight of the Gods" Act Three Scene Two. But K&S are right to point out that alongside my interpretation runs also the notion that civilization corrupts, and we can feel this in various remarkable transformations which the music undergoes in "Twilight of the Gods," and particularly in the almost sickly beauty of the Rhinedaughters’ final lament for their lost gold, with which Act Three begins. One feels throughout "Twilight of the Gods" lost time, and a nostalgic looking back to a lost golden age, as in the Norns’ description of the sacred days, now long past. The motifs’ transformations have been correctly described by prior commentators as magically conferring on them a patina of age and decay.

P. 168: PH: Here again K&S seem to be lost, searching for meaning in a dearth of actual information from the libretto text and music:

K&S: “The drink, we suggest, should be understood as a distillation of the debasement to which desire is susceptible in the absence of true inner strength and quality. Exclusive erotic love is hard to sustain, requiring greater wisdom than Siegfried can muster. (Bruennhilde was prophetic in worrying that she had taught him too little, although, characteristically, she blamed her own gift rather than the extent to which the hero needed an education.) (…) Perhaps we should see the magic drink as simply a way of accelerating a process of love’s decline that would have happened anyway. Give Siegfried enough time and enough exposure to a base and corrupt world - a world in which love is seen, as Gunther plainly sees it, as a mere means of social climbing - and he would be all too likely to lapse from his love soon enough of his own accord.”

PH: All this is neither here nor there. K&S make the "Ring" plot sound like a third-rate tv drama. Of course this was precisely the point Nietzsche made when he suggested that all we need do is strip the mythic veneer away from the "Ring" and we’d be left with "Madame Bovary," but Nietzsche knew better. He had some other polemical intent in mind that had nothing to do with striving for any accuracy in assessing the artistic value of the "Ring."

P. 169: PH: Speaking of Waltraute’s visit to Bruennhilde to plead with her to restore the Ring to the Rhinedaughters to take the weight of the curse from gods and world, K&S say:

K&S: “The reflection that her love for Siegfried (and his for her) was made possible by Wotan’s accession to her wish, in protecting her with a ring of fire that only a hero would brave, prompts the wonderful thought that this is all somehow in accord with the god’s deepest wishes and true designs. The glorious celebration of her newfound love (in the lines beginning ‘… [So his punishment made me most blessed]’) echoes her impassioned declaration in the Prelude (‘… [O holy gods]’) in suggesting a wonderful harmony between the union of Siegfried and Bruennhilde and Wotan’s striving.”

PH: There is such a wonderful harmony, and it is incarnate in Wotan’s proclamation to Erda that he no longer fears his passing but wills it, since Wotan’s hope for redemption from Alberich’s curse on his Ring is come to fruition in the love of Siegfried and Bruennhilde, the heirs to his legacy, which is embodied by #134, the motif which subsequently embodies Siegfried’s unconscious artistic inspiration by Bruennhilde’s love, which allows him to forget the fear she taught him, thereby fulfilling the two desires Wotan had of Erda, i.e., one, to know why he must live in care and fear, and two, to end his care and fear, since he discovers that its cause can’t be overcome.

PH: At least in their following remarks K&S accurately equate Bruennhilde’s refusal of Waltraute’s request to sacrifice the symbol of her love, Alberich’s Ring, in order to save the gods from their predestined doom, with Siegmund’s refusal to relinquish living for the love of Sieglinde in exchange for immortal life in Valhalla:

K&S; “… when she [Bruennhilde] learns what the condition of avoiding the gods’ predicament is supposed to be, her choice is completely clear. Nothing else matters enough to her to override the demands and expression of her love for Siegfried: she will not return the Ring, though the heavens should fall. Just as Siegmund once (to her amazement) held the ‘poor, tired, fearful woman’ with him dearer than the prospect of bliss in Valhalla, so now she sings ‘… [More than Valhalla’s bliss, more than the glory of the immortals is the Ring to me].’ Just as Siegmund once accused her of coldness, in her failure to understand what his love for Sieglinde meant, she rebukes Waltraute with the same phrase: ‘… [unfeeling girl].’ (…) For to her the Ring betokens Siegfried’s love and so is endowed with all of the significance that she attaches to that love, by virtue of her own for him.”

PH: What Bruennhilde doesn’t grasp, until the very end, and what Siegmund did not grasp, because he remained entirely unconscious of it, is that both his heroism and compassionate love for Sieglinde, and Bruennhilde’s love for Siegfried, her unconscious inspiration of his art, are equally products of Wotans’ legacy and of his implication in that sin against all that was, is, and will be (the objective world) which was the cause of Alberich’s placing a curse on his Ring, because the purpose of that curse was to punish those who co-opted Alberich’s Ring power in order to affirm man’s transcendent value.

P. 169-170: PH: K&S pose the following interesting theoretical question:

K&S: “The audience already knows (as Bruennhilde will soon learn) that Siegfried has been corrupted and his love for her subverted. But suppose she had been informed now - perhaps by Waltraute, who had learned of it en route - that Siegfried has forgotten her, that he is besotted with Gutrune, and that he is scheming to win her for Gunther. Would that have made it possible for her to accede to Waltraute’s urgings? We think not. For the intensity and exclusivity of her love would undoubtedly impel her to continue to hold fast to it even in the teeth of whatever the news with respect to Siegfried’s faithlessness, as long as there were any way at all to question the report. She would desperately search for an explanation that would enable her to save her love, or at least to find some way of reshaping and rededicating it. We should believe her when she sings, to music we associate with the fashioning of the Ring through the renunciation of love [PH: #18] (originally sung by Woglinde in Scene 1 of "Rheingold"), that she will ‘never relinquish love’; and we should approach her later judgments and actions with this commitment in mind.”

PH: Though Wagner did not dramatize this in "Twilight of the Gods," he did tell Roeckel that Wotan never considers restoring the Ring to the Rhinedaughters, to end Alberich’s curse, until after Siegfried fails as a hero. What I mean is that at no point in the libretto text do we learn that Wotan has become aware that Siegfried is failing to be the free hero he desired, and that he is about to betray his love for Bruennhilde. But Wotan does whisper in Waltraute’s hearing that he wishes now that Bruennhilde would take the weight of the curse from gods and world by giving the Ring back to the Rhinedaughters, when Siegfried’s capture of Bruennhilde for Gunther (and forcing Alberich’s Ring off of her protective finger) is imminent. Wotan had not previously considered doing this. In other words, when Wotan gladly made Siegfried his heir, saying Siegfried’s innocence and lack of fear had made him invulnerable to Alberich’s curse on his Ring, and told Erda that Bruennhilde, waking, would redeem the world, Wotan was referring to their loving union, which in my interpretation is the unconscious inspiration of redemptive art, according to Wagner the true heir to dying religious faith. To restore the Ring of consciousness to the Rhinedaughters is an entirely different kind of redemption, a redemption which is, effectively, suicide. Wotan would rather lose his life and have his whole world go down the tubes than live in the kind of world which Alberich would make, but before Bruennhilde herself becomes aware that Siegfried is going to betray their love, she has no reason to restore the Ring to the Rhinedaughters, because her love for Siegfried, as Wotan had hoped, was an artificial substitute for restoring the Ring to the Rhinedaughters and taking the weight of its curse off of gods and world. Siegfried’s betrayal of Bruennhilde, his unconscious mind, is automatically the finish of all of Wotan’s hopes that through their love this couple could redeem gods and world from Alberich’s curse on his Ring and the twilight of the gods.

P. 170: PH: Describing the terrible scene ("Twilight of the Gods" Act One Scene Two) in which Siegfried, disguised (thanks to the Tarnhelm) as Gunther, forces Alberich’s Ring off of Bruennhilde’s finger and compels Bruennhilde to submit to the person whose form is that of Gunther (though she knows instinctively that only Siegfried could have passed through Loge’s ring of fire), K&S astutely say:

K&S: “This scene is almost unbearably painful. Primarily, of course, that is because of what happens to Bruennhilde - because her resistance is overcome by superior force, because her defeat brings home to her the meaning of her punishment, because she is led to wonder (quite understandably) whether what is occurring is the working out of Wotan’s punitive will, and because the reality and the symbol of her love cannot prevail against desecration and loss.”

PH: Bruennhilde, as K&S say, reinterprets what she had described to Waltraute as the blissful love which was the ultimate reward of her punishment by Wotan, once this love has been betrayed (she thinks at first by an anonymous, brutal man who appears to her in Gunther’s form), as the ultimate incarnation of Wotan’s original intent to punish her for living for love. This, as Wotan said, was the punishment she created for herself by rebelling against him and preferring the life of mortal love over divinity. The motival embodiment of Bruenhilde’s revised understanding of what she had formerly interpreted as bliss, as the ultimate form of his threatened punishment, is #164, which is a baroque variation on Motif #137, the motif which had expressed the fear Siegfried felt before waking Bruennhilde. Both #164 and #137 can be traced back to #81, the motif which represented Wotan’s acknowledgment that Siegmund was not a free hero, and that all of Wotan’s efforts to create such a free hero would falter on the basis that Wotan would always find only his loathsome self in all that he tried to undertake, to redeem gods and world from Alberich’s curse on his Ring. All three of these motifs originate in the Motif of Wotan’s Spear, #21, which of course, itself, was founded on not only deceit, but self-deceit.

P. 170-171: K&S are also, rightly, pained by an unforeseen capacity for cruelty and brutality in Siegfried, as he behaves under the influence of Hagen and his potion:

K&S: “Even if we imagine him [Siegfried] as unaware of the vows he has sworn to this woman (owing to the drink), even if we suppose him to be fired by desire for Gutrune in a manner made possible by his forgetfulness, and even if we think of him as a boorish adolescent whose heroic capabilities greatly outstrip his intelligence and self-control, there still is a shock in what he shows himself to be capable of doing: he is, as he announces, quite prepared to ‘tame’ a vehemently resisting woman by brute (and brutal) force. A capacity for rape - not to mention a readiness to use it as a tactic - is no part of the package of a true hero, even if one is naive, foolish, arrogant, and confused. What Siegfried does here should make us mindful of the differences we have already encountered - and in particular of the contrast between his father, whose (impetuous) gallantry and tender treatment of Sieglinde were so moving, and the likes of Hunding, for whom women are goods to be owned, traded, and abused. Siegfried’s conduct as he sends (‘drives’) Bruennhilde to the rock-chamber (with a ‘domineering gesture’) should remind us of nothing so much as Hunding’s peremptory command that Sieglinde prepare the night drink -only it is yet more appalling, even if Siegfried is just putting on an act. For it is an act intended to break her spirit. The corruption has gone very deep.”

PH: Yes, I concur that Siegfried exhibits a brutality and lack of sensitivity in his confrontation with Bruennhilde which we haven’t seen in him up until now. But he is replicating Alberich’s original rape of the Rhinegold, as he has become an unwitting instrument of Alberich’s curse and his prophecy that he would someday turn Wotan’s heroes against him, and force himself on the gods’ women. Under the influence of Alberich’s proxy and son Hagen, Siegfried actually brings this prophecy to fulfillment, and reactivates the Ring curse, finally bringing about not only the twilight of the gods, but also the twilight of the love Bruennhilde and he shared. The gods don’t go down the tubes themselves until their own final proxies Siegfried and Bruennhilde have betrayed Wotan’s last hope for redemption. Needless to say the restoration of the Rhinegold (in the form of Alberich’s Ring) to the Rhinedaughters doesn’t spare either the lovers or the gods. K&S are right to see that Wagner has drawn a parallel between Siegfried’s behavior towards Bruennhilde, and what the Neidings did in killing Siegmund’s mother, and taking Sieglinde hostage and selling her to Hunding, not to mention its parallel to Hunding’s own behavior towards Sieglinde.

P. 171-172: PH: K&S discuss Bruennhilde’s confusion in trying to sort out not only why Siegfried seems not to remember her, and to be wedding another woman, but also, most importantly, why Siegfried is wearing the ring on his finger which he had given to her, since it was, she thought, Gunther who had ripped the Ring off her finger and taken her hostage. But Gunther seems not to know what she’s talking about when she says that Gunther had taken the Ring from her which Siegfried is now wearing. However, they also ask the following:

P. 172-173: K&S: “But why does Siegfried still possess the Ring? After the successful abduction, he and Gunther have quickly exchanged clothes, and, courtesy of the Tarnhelm (the magic helmet not only enables its wearer to assume any form but also to engage in teleportation), returned to the banks of the Rhine. Why was the Ring left out of the exchange? The Siegfried we have previously met has not been particularly interested in it. He originally takes it on the Woodbird’s advice; and it seems to have been a mere minor memento (not even worth mentioning in his exchange with the Wanderer) until he gives it as a love token to Bruennhilde. (Then, of course, it acquires a new significance for them both, but Siegfried must forget that under the influence of the magic draught.). Later, in Act I, Scene 2, he tells Hagen of the items he took from the dragon’s lair - and Hagen has to inform him about what the Tarnhelm will do. If we assume that Siegfried is similarly innocent about the power of the Ring, he ought to secure the plot by passing it on to Gunther, or failing that, to Gutrune.

K&S: Of course, it is entirely appropriate that the man whom Bruennhilde sees as thoroughly profaning their mutual love should be wearing the Ring that was forged through (Alberich’s) renunciation of love. But there is more here than a merely symbolic connection. Siegfried’s keenness to retain the Ring and to protest that it is his is another indication of the corruption of his character that we have been concerned to emphasize. Heroic exploits are no longer sufficient; perhaps infected by Gunther’s concerns for status, Siegfried now also wants a symbol of those exploits so that he can advertise his heroism. In response to Bruennhilde’s charge of theft, he changes the subject. He did not receive the Ring from a woman, he tells the onlookers, but from the dragon whom he killed at Neidhoehle. Of course, this is literally true, since he did win the Ring from the dragon in the first place; but it is deceptive in the present context, to say the least - as Siegfried must be aware, drug or no drug, and as naive as he is. He knows that the Ring has indeed been taken from Bruennhilde, and, presumably to avoid shaming his blood brother, he is prepared to dissemble. Bruennhilde is quite right to make her accusation of deceit. So far has the hero fallen.”

PH: K&S are correct that there is something more going on here. First, let me say that if Siegfried had recognized his own Ring that he won by killing Fafner, as identitical to the one he found Bruennhilde wearing when Siegfried ripped it off her finger, he would have to ask himself how this stranger came to be in possession of it. The whole point of Hagen’s original employment of a potion in order to make Siegfried forget Bruennhilde and woo Gutrune instead, was so that Siegfried would unwittingly serve Alberich’s intent that his hoard rise from the silent depths of night to the light of day, and overthrow the gods, by retrieving the Ring from Bruennhilde so that Hagen could access it. This intent is further effected by Hagen’s subsequent use of an antidote to that potion so that, at the right moment, Siegfried will remember what he’d forgotten and reveal his true, former relations with Bruennhilde, so that Hagen can use this as a pretext to kill Siegfried for perjury and for having betrayed his oath of blood-brotherhood to Gunther. But Hagen doesn’t care about the perjury or oath (except in the general sense that he, as the skeptical man of objective knowledge, is trying to discredit those who depend upon illusion for their happiness, and thus to discredit Siegfried in the eyes of his audience); his purpose is simply to regain the Ring, which in my interpretation means discrediting all those beliefs and ideals which have stood in the way of the ultimate victory of the scientific, skeptical mind, such as belief in the divine, in an ethics inspired by our former belief in the divine, and secular art. Hagen wants, in other words, to supplant the good and the beautiful with the objective truth, which is the sole true source of power in the real world.

PH: And Siegfried, as Alberich predicted back in "Rhinegold" Scene Two (when he said that Wotan’s heroes would eventually serve him, and that he would force himself upon their women), has served Alberich (unwittingly), and (unwittingly) forced himself on the gods’ ultimate woman, and given her away to a man unworthy to possess her directly, Wagner’s audience, represented by Gunther. Wagner’s audience, in other words, was only supposed to possess the gift which the artist-hero gave it, the sublimation of man’s repressed knowledge of the truth, in a great work of art. But in Siegfried’s final work of art, the narrative he sings (at Hagen’s behest again) of the story of his heroic life, and how he came to understand the song of birds (music’s mystery), Siegfried will impart to mankind, not the product of Siegfried’s unconscious artistic inspiration, but its source, i.e., both the Ring curse (the curse that this terrible truth will rise to consciousness and overthrow all of man’s consoling illusions) and the former means whereby the heroes of religion and art had redeemed man from knowledge of the fatal truth. Thus, in revealing his true relationship with Bruennhilde, his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, Siegfried also reveals what it was her purpose to conceal (the knowledge of himself which Bruennhilde held for Siegfried, knowing for him what he did not know), Wotan’s hoard of runes, which he had repressed because it was unthinkable. But this is all implicit in the strange and wonderful union of mysterious libretto text and music, not graphically spelled out.

PH: For all these reasons Siegfried takes possession of the Ring from Bruennhilde (the muse of unconscious artistic inspiration which is heir to dying religious faith) which he originally won by killing Fafner (the religious faith which is predicated on fear of the truth, and which guards the truth so mankind won’t seek it). It is for these reasons that Bruennhilde inherited Fafner’s Dragon (Fear) Motif #48, because inspired secular art has in modern times replaced religion as the sacred mystery, the repository of man’s secret self, formerly made inaccessible by religious faith's censorship. It is also for these reasons that Siegfried recalls nothing of his second sojourn with Bruennhilde that could have tipped him off consciously to what he was doing in betraying Bruennhilde and taking Alberich’s Ring from her protective hands, so that its curse can begin to operate again. Obviously, if Siegfried’s mind were in a normal state, he would have asked himself why this woman, this stranger Bruennhilde, whom he doesn’t even know, happens to be wearing the Ring he had originally won from Fafner. Before Siegfried forgot Bruennhilde under the influence of Hagen’s potion, he had told Hagen, when asked, that a woman was keeping Siegfried’s Ring safe, and Hagen had said to himself that this is Bruennhilde. So Siegfried must regain possession of the Ring unwittingly, and indeed, when asked about it, he looks at it on his finger as if he’d never been aware he hadn’t worn it for a time, and says, awkwardly, that he recognizes it as the Ring he won by killing Fafner.

PH: The problem with the type of interpretation K&S have undertaken is that they try to apply a common-sense rationale which is inappropriate for a work of art which so obviously has an allegorical and mythological component, in which characters represent not only themselves but archetypal and historical situations. We are not dealing solely with psychology and the dynamics of regular human relationships, but with man’s deepest questions and dilemmas and mysteries. The "Ring" asks, first and foremost, where did we come from, who are we, and what therefore is our destiny. K&S have not gone deeply enough to tap into this level of understanding, the level at which the "Ring" was written and composed. Therefore at almost every point their interpretation, though thoughtful, can seem facile and superficial. Had they understood this, they could never have so completely misunderstood the "Ring" as to conclude, as they do, that Siegfried is consciously lying when he responds to Bruennhilde’s accusation that he took the Ring from her, by saying that he recognizes it as the Ring he took from Fafner. Siegfried is not in a normal state of mind during his second visit to Bruennhilde (nor, for that matter, during his first visit): he must remain entirely unwitting in his betrayal of his formerly unconscious mind Bruennhilde, and the hoard of knowledge she formerly kept secret, to the light of conscious day. However, what had formerly been unconscious for him is soon going to become conscious, too conscious.

P. 173-174: PH: K&S now proceed to their description of how Bruennhilde comes to accuse Siegfried of rape and perjury:

K&S: “Confronted with the desecration of her love and disillusioned with the very idea of the kind of love she had thought she and Siegfried shared, Bruennhilde reverts to the idea that her predicament is Wotans’ punishment, and she calls on the old order of justice to avenge her. In response to Siegfried’s dishonesty, she will declare the truth: it is he, not Gunther, to whom she is married. But she elaborates her account in ways that are potentially misleading: he ‘forced delight and love … ‘ upon her, and Nothung rested in its scabbard as he did so. Of course, both claims are true enough with respect to what transpired upon his original arrival at the rock; (and are obviously pertinent to her central assertion that she is married to Siegfried). But are they true as well with respect to his return to it? She certainly conveys the idea to the audience (to Siegfried’s detriment) that this is so - and emphasizes the point that it was not Gunther but Siegfried who in this manner made her his wife.

K&S: What exactly transpired in the cave on that second occasion is far from clear. It is also a matter of some awkwardness for Siegfried. So we find him claiming (with greater logical and rhetorical agility than one would have thought him capable of) both that the marriage really was in some sense consummated for Gunther, in ‘a complete nuptial night … ,’ and that he nonetheless actually did not dishonor his new blood brother and his own bride-to-be - thanks to the presence of his sword Nothung between Bruennhilde and himself. Bruennhilde makes it clear, in her dramatic confrontation scene with Siegfried before the assembled Gibichungs, that she knows what ravishment is - and here of course she draws on her sexual initiation on the rock. If his claim of honorable innocence is indeed the truth, therefore, one has to wonder just how Siegfried-in-disguise managed to be as convincing as he quite obviously was to her that night, in view of her submissive comportment at the beginning of the scene.”

PH: From Bruennhilde’s point of view both of Siegfried’s visits to her on her mountain peak, i.e., both the first, loving visit, and the second semi-rape visit (semi because he ravished her figuratively by forcibly taking Alberich’s Ring from her, the source of her strength), may as well be construed as one visit, since Siegfried seems now to have visited her in the first place simply to prepare for betrayal of her by abducting her to give her to Gunther. But trying to parse this within conventional logic won’t work, since what actually happened was that Siegfried the archetypal artist-hero was becoming too conscious of who he really is, and of the true source of his formerly unconscious artistic inspiration, to seek redemption from the curse of consciousness in loving union with his muse of artistic inspiration anymore. Thus, on his second, and final visit to her, he can’t consummate the loving union which would otherwise have secured her status as his unconscious muse again. Because he can’t consummate this union any longer, he remains chaste in her presence, and (again figuratively) rather than using his sword-phallus to impregnate the womb of Wotan’s wishes with Wotan’s great idea of redemption again (for this is what Nothung represents, whose motif #57 is based on the original arpeggiated figure, the Primal Nature Motif #1, which incarnates the innocence before the Fall), instead, he employs his sword as a barrier to the consummation of his unconscious artistic inspiration. This lack of ability to consummate unconscious artistic inspiration inevitably places the muse of inspiration in the audience’s, i.e., Gunther’s, hands, since formerly only the artist-hero had the inherent ability, or courage, to penetrate the veil of Maya, or self-deception (Loge’s ring of fire), through which man had previously obscured the bitter truth from his vision in religion and art, but now that Siegfried has revealed the secret of his art in his work of art, he now shares not only his redemptive work of art with his audience, but also, and unwittingly, the contents of his unconscious mind, the original source of its inspiration, with that audience. This is the solution to the problem of what happened during Siegfried’s second stay with Bruennhilde, and explains also the sense in which Siegfried stood in for Gunther. From the viewpoint of Siegfried’s muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, Bruennhilde, both visits represent Siegfried’s betrayal of their love.

PH: Another important point is that Siegfried has sword an oath of blood-brotherhood with Gunther which is actually accompanied at several moments by the Motif of Wotan’s Spear (#21), which of course is the guarantor of oaths. But this also has another meaning.
Post Reply