Critique: 'Finding an Ending' Part 11

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Critique: 'Finding an Ending' Part 11

Post by alberich00 » Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:09 am

This is one of the mysteries of consciousness: at what point did selection for the capacity for symbolic abstraction culminate in a critical mass of self-reflective consciousness? The lineage which produced reflectively conscious humans must have been, from an evolutionary viewpoint, the most unstable of all lineages, in order to have incorporated enough genetic knowledge, so to speak, to be capable of reaching that critical mass which produced self-consciousness.

PH: When Fricka impugns Siegmund’s alleged freedom of will, on which Wotan stakes everything, she says that as a creation of the gods mortal humans are merely products, not causes. But her critique could just as easily be transferred from the gods, to Mother Nature (Erda). As presumed products of nature, of natural law, in what sense can human beings be considered free agents? What in human thought, feeling, or action can’t be traced back to natural causes? This is the real question that Wagner poses in Fricka’s critique, since Wagner follows Feuerbach in conceiving of the gods as poetical fictions. What constitutes a hero? If we imagined that a hero did all he did because he was compelled to by natural law, and that his feeling and assumption of his own freedom was a self-delusion, we could no longer truly value his heroism. Suppose that a hero, no matter how heroic, could be placed under such a degree of physical or psychological coercion that he would renounce every heroic virtue for which he stood, could we still value his heroic acts for their own sake? Would not a hero’s heroic spirit have to be transcendent with respect to his own body and physical environment to insure the efficacy of his heroism? And even in this case, the assumption that an immortal soul is behind the hero’s ability to face any danger with equanimity, would not this soul be immutably fixed rather than variable, and therefore not free? Freedom in this case could only be construed as “freedom from” coercion by forces outside the self. But the self would be fixed and immutable, and not capable of transcending itself. Feuerbach himself asked, can the self transcend the self?These are the questions Wagner poses in the Ring, without necessarily dramatizing all of them.

P. 142: PH: I appreciate K&S’s sensitivity to something in "Valkyrie" Act One Scene Three which has always amused me (and amused me more that so many don’t seem to have quite noticed it), Sieglinde’s rapture as Siegmund pulls his phallic sword Nothung out of Hunding’s House-Ash:

K&S: “The sexuality of Sieglinde’s attraction to Siegmund could not be more overwhelming, or more evident. (Indeed, Wagner risks rendering the palpability of her desire almost comical in the way he has her react - ‘gripped by astonishment and rapture’ and then ‘in greatest intoxication … ‘ - as Siegmund draws out and brandishes his mighty new sword.) … .”

P. 143: PH: Speaking of Sieglinde, K&S say:

K&S: “For the sake of love she is ready, willing, and able to stand up to her dangerous husband, drug him, leave him, and forsake him for another - and for another who happens to be her brother at that. Borne along by the torrent of her love, the incest taboo means no more to her than do any of the norms she disregards where her husband is concerned. Nor does she do so out of mere susceptibility. On the contrary: she does so out of a strength and conviction born of her love, which itself endows her with the authority to make the judgments that these seeming wrongs are in this instance absolutely right. (…) Like Siegmund, we have watched the beauty of that growth, and this musical and emotional efflorescence is intended to leave no doubt about the goodness and truth (not to mention the beauty) of what they sing and do. (…)

K&S: She [Sieglinde] ventures unhesitatingly beyond good and evil, suspending ethical considerations.”

PH: I can’t argue with this. It is self-evident.

P. 144: K&S: “It is not Sieglinde’s newly burgeoning maternal love [for the as-yet-unborn Siegfried], however, that serves as such a powerful inspiration to Bruennhilde - nor is it even Sieglinde’s love for Siegmund. It is rather Siegmund’s love for Sieglinde. And it is the wonder of that love - for the sake of which Siegmund is prepared to renounce and relinquish everything else, even including the best of fates beyond death possible for a mortal - that so moves her, and ultimately so commands her. It is the key to her discovery that there is an authority even higher than that of Wotan himself.”

PH: Yes, Bruennhilde’s confrontation with Siegmund and his mortal love for Sieglinde, which renounces the sorrowless youth eternal of Valhalla for its sake, is what introduces the Feuerbachian notion that we humans must emancipate ourselves from our dependence on the illusion of godhead to grant our lives meaning. We must have the pride to renounce illusory consolations. But what if love in its highest sense is another illusory consolation? If it is, we might freely grant, what else would make life worth living? In any case, this inspires Bruennhilde, Wotan’s own unconscious mind (which we may surmise sees things in the offing before the conscious mind can handle them), to sacrifice her own godhead for the sake of standing up for mortal love. This is what Wotan means when he tells her in "Valkyrie" Act Three Scene Three that she is now banned from Valhalla, and must be what she has now become, content to live for mortal love and suffer the very punishment which is its natural consequence.

P. 145: K&S’s following passage describing Bruennhilde’s annunciation of death to Siegmund, in "Valkyrie" Act Two Scene Four, is perhaps the first in “Finding an Ending” which has really resonated deeply with me:

K&S: “Wagner took an enormous risk in his setting of the scene in which Bruennhilde announces to Siegmund his imminent death … . The tone set by the opening orchestral music is solemn - almost religious; it would be easy for the orchestra to sound as if it were accompanying a hymn and for the simple melodic lines of the singers to ooze sentimentality. Yet the portents of a world beyond are clearly intended to expose the magnitude of the sacrifice that Siegmund is prepared to make. In his first refusal … he rejects not only the obvious delights, the company of heroes and the daughters of Wotan, but even the god himself and his beloved lost father as well (not realizing them to be one and the same). The quasi-religious solemnity of his expressions of greeting make even more striking the change of musical tone with the bitter rejection ‘… [to them I follow you - not!].’ "

PH: Again, Wagner, following Feuerbach, described the only hereafter worth having as the immortal memory of heroic actions (Siegmund’s altruistic heroism) and the figurative immortality of great works of art (Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s loving union, their unconscious artistic inspiration), which live on so long as there are people to admire them, surviving even the death of religions and the paradigm changes in science.

P. 145-146: K&S: “As he [Siegmund] learns the terrible news that the power of the sword has been withdrawn, his immediate reaction is to protect the sleeping Sieglinde: this dreadful betrayal must not frighten her. Undaunted, he resolves to fight on - and if death is to be his fate, then so be it, though he will resist it. He will not be induced to resign himself to his fate and to accept the summons to Valhalla with its honors and delights. … he proclaims his defiance and preference for Hell: ‘ … [If I must fall, I’ll not go to Valhalla - Hella shall hold me fast!’.’ “

PH: The irony in Siegmund’s rejection of man’s entire legacy of religious belief in favor of earthly love for his sister-bride Sieglinde is that he says if he must renounce his particular love for an individual of his choosing, Sieglinde, for the sake of a heavenly reward, then he prefers hell, arises from the fact that the only Hell in the "Ring" is Alberich’s Nibelheim, and in Nibelheim, man can only be known to himself as an object of knowledge and of subjection to natural law and egoistic animal impulse, not as a transcendent subject, or “I”, which is presumably the object of love. Wagner follows up this irony later in having Siegfried not only give Bruennhilde Alberich’s Ring as their wedding ring, but in his unwitting betrayal of his love for Bruennhilde, act in Hagen’s behalf to fulfill Alberich’s threat that he would some day make Wotan’s own heroes betray Wotan, and force himself upon Wotan’s women. Siegfried in this betrayal actually becomes a member of Alberich’s host of night, with which Alberich threatened to storm Valhalla (Bruennhilde, the muse for art, is the New Valhalla who replaces the old as our source of value). Siegfried also, in forcing Alberich’s Ring off of Bruennhilde’s finger and out of her protective hands, brings Alberich’s Ring curse to final fruition. For Alberich had predicted that some day his hoard (now incarnate in the Ring alone) would rise from the silent night to the light of day and overthrow the gods. I might add that on several occasions in the early days when Wagner was first thinking through his plot for the "Ring," he stated that Siegfried became a Nibelung by virtue of winning Alberich’s Nibelung Hoard. The problem Wagner is getting at here is that once man starts emancipating himself from those religious impulses which offered cover for man’s expression of belief in his transcendent value in ethics (the good) and art (the beautiful), one is on the fast track to having no other source left for value than the objective truth, which may in fact (if Alberich and Hagen are correct) have no room for the good and the beautiful.

P. 146: K&S: “Bruennhilde sees that the love between Siegmund and Sieglinde may be heroically true unto death and beyond, but that it is love’s values rather than those of valiant heroism that rule this ill-fated pair. The truth and ultimacy of their love, vouchsafed by the unconditionality of their commitment to it, is precisely what becomes so profoundly authoritative in Bruennhilde’s eyes. The sequence of judgments Siegmund delivers with respect to her summons to Valhalla and her clear recognition that he really means what he says, move her powerfully, in a way and direction making possible both her own immanent rebellion and her eventual utter commitment to Siegfried.”

PH: I find no evidence in the "Ring" for the distinction K&S keep making between valiant heroism and love. All of Siegmund’s acts of valiant heroism are for the sake either of compassionate love (the more generalized love, or agape, he felt for the anonymous woman who was being married against her will to a member of Hunding’s clan) or romantic love (his love for his own sister Sieglinde), and even Siegfried’s acts of heroism in re-forging his father’s sword Nothung, and killing Fafner, which are not self-evidently done in the name of love, are steps leading inevitably to Siegfried’s waking and winning Bruennhilde, since only with Nothung could Siegfried kill Fafner, and only by virtue of killing Fafner did Siegfried obtain his intuition of Bruennhilde from the Woodbird, since the taste of Fafner’s blood gave Siegfried the entre into the Woodbird’s (music’s) hidden meaning, and thus the entre into Siegfried’s unconscious mind and muse of artistic inspiration, Bruennhilde. Nothung’s symbolic status as a phallus will be recapitulated during the striking moment when Siegfried cuts away Bruennhilde’s protective armor to expose her womanhood to him, in "Siegfried" Act Three Scene Three.


P. 147: K&S: “Bruennhilde does not formulate issues as Wotan does. She is her mother’s daughter. In response to Wotan’s tortured explanations in the pivotal second scene of Act II of "Walkuere," her reactions are intuitive, sympathetic, in tune with the emotions he expresses rather than with the detailed content of his account."

PH: K&S never seem to tap into Wagner’s own expressed understanding of Bruennhilde on this point, but not only did Wagner in several of his prose works of the early 1850’s describe the hero of his artwork of the future, his revolutionary music-drama, as a metaphor for the dramatist, the word, but Wagner also equated the heroine with music, and Cosima later confirmed in her diaries that this was his intention. Also, Wagner has left us extensive documentary evidence not only that he construed Elsa as Lohengrin’s unconscious mind, in whom Lohengrin sought redemption from his conscious ego (as Wotan does by confessing his unbearable hoard of knowledge to Bruennhilde, and his longing for a hero who would be freed from all that Wotan loathes in himself), but that he saw Wotan’s relationship with Bruennhilde in the same light. The only difference was that, where Lohengrin refused to share with Elsa the secret of his true identity and origin, until he was forced to, Wotan acquiesces in Bruennhilde’s desire that he will confide in her (his will, his other half, himself, as he says in his confession) what ails him, his god’s Noth, his unspoken secret. This, as I have explained elsewhere, is Wagner’s conceptual, dramatic equivalent to the distinction between his older pre-"Ring" romantic operas (in which music and drama still only had a mostly mechanical relationship, according to Wagner), and his revolutionary music-dramas, in which, he said, word and tone would be organically interrelated, become one. This is my explanation for the distinction between Wotan’s objective thought and Bruennhilde’s subjective feeling, described above by K&S. Wotan, by dipping his historical narrative of his fate into the womb of his wishes, Bruennhilde - i.e., music, is redeeming this history from the fear inherent in it, all that was, is, and will be, and transmuting this history into musical motifs which, according to Wagner, are freed from the limits of time and space, and therefore from fear. This is what gives birth to Siegfried, the hero who lives in the present because Bruennhilde (music, the unconscious mind) holds for him the bitter knowledge which paralyzed Wotan into inaction. As Wagner said, Siegfried lives in the present: he is the finest gift of the will (i.e. Bruennhilde, Wotan’s will).

P. 149: K&S: “… she [Bruennhilde] undoubtedly senses that her love and sympathy for Siegmund derive in part both from her love for Wotan and from her knowledge of his love for Siegmund, denied in his explicit instructions to her.”

PH: I had suggested in prior commentary in this critique, and also in greater detail in my online "Ring" book at, that Bruennhilde is Wotan’s unconscious mind, and that, according to Feuerbach, in mankind’s collective dreaming, or waking dream of mythmaking, through which mankind gave birth to the various religions (but involuntarily and unwittingly, as in dreaming), the unconscious mind automatically seeks out solutions which the conscious mind takes to be impossible. Thus in my interpretation Alberich’s forging of his Ring (the evolution of human consciousness) in Nibelheim is Wagner’s metaphor for the forgotten dream which actually gave birth to Valhalla, or religious belief, but Wotan, upon waking, does not recall the very process which truly gave birth to Valhalla, reconstructing its prehistory rather in mythological terms which are meaningful to him. Thus Wotan’s Valhalla is in a sense the allegory behind which its true subject, Alberich’s forging of his Ring, hides. But the musical origin of Valhalla in Alberich’s Ring tells us subliminally of this hidden, but true, origin.

P. 149-150: PH: K&S distinguish three kinds of love to try and grasp the subtle dynamics of Bruennhilde’s rebellion against Wotan in behalf of compassion for the Waelsungs whom he has dismissed. K&S state that Wotan is possessed by “benevolent love,” which is directed to humanity’s general welfare, but not to individuals. This they say is more a matter of convictions and principles than feeling. The second type of love they distinguish is “empathic or compassionate love,” which is more a matter of feelings directed towards specific individuals (family member, friend, lover, etc.). People who feel this kind of love, they say:

K&S: “… are drawn by the feelings thereby aroused to protect and support things that they take to be truly worthy wherever and whenever they encounter them, even at significant cost to themselves.

K&S: Love of this sort springs from the heart rather than from the mind and will; it has nothing forced or strained about it, for it is not dependent on commitment to abstract ideals or principles … . (…) At this stage of her development, Bruennhilde loves after this fashion. Her heart goes out to a number of other characters, for reasons relating both to their admirable qualities and to their distresses.”

PH: So far so good; we’ve gotten about as far as what should be self-evident to anyone who experiences the "Ring."

P. 151: K&S: “There is also a third and very different type of love; and if it too is associated with the heart, metaphorically speaking, its seat is a very different chamber of that heart. It may be styled erotic love, to acknowledge its fundamental link to human sexuality; but it is to be understood in the broad sense of that term and is by no means a matter of sex pure and simple.”

PH: In my interpretation of Fasolt as that giant who particularly represents mankind’s instinct of sexual reproduction, I have noted that Fasolt expresses a range of emotions from general desire for someone of the opposite sex, to the more gentle feelings we associate with family life. Therefore, though sexual desire is itself egoistic, in leading to family life it expands to care for family members and, thanks to mankind’s gift of generalization and symbolic abstraction, can ultimately be extended beyond the family to wider bonds of human association, culminating in a theoretical love for all humans, or even love of all life, or the cosmos. But Fasolt’s brother Fafner represents the self-preservation instinct, or fear of death, which is intrinsically lonely and isolating, and it is Fafner who dominates Fasolt, since Fafner ultimately persuades him to relinquish his claim to Freia for the sake of the Rhinegold.

P. 151-152: PH: Here K&S note the egoism, and also, ironically, the potential for self-sacrifice, behind sexual love:

K&S: “For related reasons, perhaps, erotic love is intensive rather than extensive, and indeed tends toward exclusiveness - and toward the expectation of exclusiveness in return, in marked contrast to both benevolent and empathic love. (…) The extreme form of sexual love consists in an absolute and exclusive attachment to a single person - a feeling that nobody (and nothing) really matters except that other person, and a readiness to place that other person and one’s relationship to that person ahead of everything else, one’s own other interests included. General considerations of justice, the general good, and the attainment of richer possibilities for humanity pale in the face of that commitment; it sweeps all before it, including any other impulses of compassion and empathy that may happen to conflict. Siegmund’s love for Sieglinde, expressed in his all-or-nothing rejection of Valhalla in favor of Hella, and of existence apart on any terms for either of them in favor of death together, is of this exclusive type … .”

PH: One can’t help recalling here the various animal species (I’m thinking particularly of some insects, and salmon, etc.) which must die (or at least one of the two sexes must die) in order to give birth to a new generation. In other words, often violent competition for success in mating is the background for this alleged self-sacrifice. Note here that the Waelsung twins insist that their pure Waelsung blood will flourish (in Siegfried, of course).

P. 152: K&S: “The exclusivity of the passion does not trouble us … because its power and essential innocence enable us to overlook both its heedlessness to social taboo and its reckless disregard for others - particularly since the person whose interests will be slighted is the brutish Hunding, Sieglinde’s husband by force rather than by choice. The problems of celebrating erotic love are much greater when, as so often happens, that love causes pain to people who merit respect and sympathy (although Wagner rose to that challenge in "Tristan," when he replaced Hunding by King Marke)."

PH: Actually, the parallel to King Marke as a sympathetic cuckold in the "Ring" is Gunther. As Wagner noted himself, the plots of "Tristan" and "Twilight of the Gods" are virtually identical. In each case, the hero (Siegfried, or Tristan), as if under some alien spell, gives his own true love away (Bruennhilde, or Isolde) to another man (Gunther, or King Marke), with tragic consequences. In my interpretation this means that the artist-hero unwittingly and involuntarily divulges the secrets of his own formerly unconsciously inspired art, his muse, in the artwork in which previously this had remained an unspoken secret.

P. 153-154: K&S: “Wotan chides Bruennhilde for what he takes to be her feckless acquiescence in an inferior, self-indulgent type of love when he has endured the pain of opting (as he believes a god must) for love of a higher, principled, and therefore more impersonal sort. Indeed, he goes so far as to construe her preferred type of love as basely sensual, appearing to suppose - at least at one stage of his progressive judgment of her - that that is what all non benevolent forms of love must fundamentally be: ‘ … [you found sweet satisfaction in blissful lust; you drank gleefully of delightful emotion and voluptuous intoxication from love’s cup.’ “

PH: It will be worthwhile to reproduce here the libretto text in question, from "Valkyrie" Act Three Scene Three, at greater length, together with key motifs which sound as Wotan is condemning Bruennhilde’s living for love as shallow and oblivious in the face of the severe responsibilities under which Wotan strains:

“Wotan: [to Bruennhilde]: (#96b Variation - this is the motif which is a variant of Wotan’s spear motif which Deryck Cooke described as countering the downward motion of Wotan’s spear and softening it, as Bruennhilde tries to soften Wotan’s anger against her) And so you did what I longed so dearly to do - but which I was doubly forced not to do by need [‘Noth’]. So lightly you thought that heartfelt delight might be won, (#81/#89: [This musical figure is composed of the motif, #81, which represented Wotan’s realization that Siegmund was not a free hero because Wotan had continually intervened in Siegmund’s behalf, even bringing him up to defy the gods’ laws, and #89, the motif which represents Siegmund’s rebellion against the fate which Bruennhilde has announced to him at Wotan’s behest] when burning pain broke into my heart and hideous need [‘Noth’] aroused my wrath, so that, out of my love for the world, I was forced to staunch the well-spring of love in this harrowed heart of mine? (#81/#89) When I turned on myself in consuming torment, starting up, chafing, in impotent pain, furious longing’s fervent desire inspired the terrible wish (#85) [a motif representing Wotan’s anger against Bruennhilde’s rebellion, which Wagner described as Wotan’s anger against himself for futilely hoping he could create a free hero who would redeem the gods from Alberich’s curse on his Ring] to end my eternal grief in the ruins of my own world: (#51 - Alberich’s Curse Motif) then blissful abandon solaced you sweetly, rapt emotion’s heady delights you drank from (#87) [The Fate Motif, first heard when Bruennhilde announced his fated death to Siegmund] love’s cup with lips parted in laughter - while my drink was mixed with the griping gall of godly distress [‘goettlicher Noth’]? Be guided now by your own light thoughts: from me you have cast yourself free.”

PH: K&S’s reading of this passage, their assumption that Wotan misconstrues Bruennhilde’s rebellion against his law as a shallow, emotional whim inspired by feeling not backed up by a responsible survey of the facts, is on the face of it astute. K&S had pointed out what Wotan says here, that for the sake of his love for the world he had to staunch the wellspring of love in his heart (i.e., presumably personal love as opposed to the reasoned, principled regard which he owes all those he rules, whom he expects to subscribe to his rule by law for the sake of collective interests). There is truth in this reading, and yet there is more. First, we hear in the orchestra the motif combination #81/#89, which conveys at once Wotan’s realization that Siegmund is not a free hero, and Siegmund’s rebellion against the fate Wotan assigned to him as a consequence of Wotan’s realization, and also the Fate Motif #87, as seemingly a sort of ironic commentary on Wotans’ remarks, since these motifs remind us of the dire, solemn circumstances of Bruennhilde’s annunciation of fated death to Siegmund, which seem to put the lie to Wotan’s assumption that Bruennhilde’s rebellion against him for the sake of the Waelsungs was lightly undertaken in any respect. We must also take into account Wagner’s own remark that for the sake of social quiet those in authority (of whom Wotan can be construed as a metaphor, in one reading) often have to stifle the very source of all social renewal, individuality.

PH: But there is a deeper meaning to this passage and to the sounding of these motifs during it. Wotan has unconsciously concluded (we know this because he confessed thoughts he couldn’t bear to speak aloud even to himself, to Bruennhilde, in whom these thoughts, as Wotan told her, will remain forever unspoken, which is to say, unconscious) that the gods are headed for destruction, but consciously Wotan has to still maintain the rule of the gods, which is why he acquiesces in Fricka’s plan to preserve the gods’ rule by first destroying the Waelsungs and then later, when Bruennhilde has defied him for their sake, punishing her with banishment from Valhalla and loss of her divinity. Wotan has to punish Bruennhilde according to his consciously held laws, by depriving her of godhead and banishing her from the realm of the gods, but in so doing frees her to live for that very love, that very hope for redemption, which Wotan’s consciousness of contradiction, the source of his godly “Noth”, his awareness that Alberich is predestined to win in the end, had given up for lost.

PH: The point is that Wotan can no longer sustain the rule of gods as a concept, so the only way Wotan’s ideals can live on is as feeling, Bruennhilde’s feeling. Therefore, Bruennhilde will later, once she embraces Siegfried in love, describe what she originally construed as Wotan’s punishment, as the source of Bruennhilde’s highest bliss. But #81’s presence in this passage, and Wotan’s invocation of his godly “Noth”, and also the presence of #87, the Fate Motif, tells us that it is easy for Bruennhilde to live for the compassionate, self-sacrificial love of Siegmund and Sieglinde (which Wotan, faced with the truth, must forsake) because she dwells only in feeling and not in fact, the fact, the gods’ inevitable fate, which has brought Wotan to despair. However, as events later in the "Ring" prove, Bruennhilde’s living for love while ignoring the bitter truth will eventually catch up with her in Siegfried’s betrayal of their love. Once Bruennhilde realizes this she will reinterpret Wotan’s amended punishment of leaving her asleep on her rock, but only to be woken by the fearless hero Siegfried, not as bliss, but as the ultimate refinement of Wotan’s punishment. In other words, because Bruennhilde so passionately fights for Wotan’s own original great idea, that his Waelsung heroes can win redemption for gods and world, when Wotan had already foreseen this hope was predestined to destruction, Bruennhilde will understand that Wotan allowed her to set herself up for failure. So Wotan isn’t just condemning Bruennhilde for living lightheartedly for love, but for living for love in its highest form, since even that seems shallow to Wotan given his bitter self-knowledge.

PH: K&S’s own attempt to grasp this difficult and somewhat ambiguous and even contradictory passage is the following:

P. 154: K&S: “At this point in her development, she [Bruennhilde] experiences and expresses a number of instances of empathic love, responding in an impulsive and unreflective emotional way to the needs, suffering, nobility, and worth of others. Her predicament exhibits the liabilities of compassionate love; and as Wotan recognizes, she demonstrates all too clearly that it is ill-suited to his purpose of achieving a stable order. In any world in which the distribution of distress and virtue can give rise to conflicting empathetic responses, those swayed by the vicissitudes of such loving will have no compass for directing their actions and will be incapable of maintaining a steady course. (…)

P. 155: K&S: Those who defy duty in the name of (nonbenevolent) love, he [Wotan] tells her [Bruennhilde], should live by (nonbenevolent) love in whatever form it comes - which obviously is most likely to be the sort of grim sexual and personal domination that had been Sieglinde’s lot before Siegmund came along. To his decree that she should follow the man whom she is forced to ‘love’ in the lowest sense of the term … , she counters with an emphasis on the character of her sort of love. As one given to empathic loving, she has responded only to what is worthy and noble. It is therefore wrong, she insists, for him to condemn her to the nightmare life of an exclusive bond and submission that is a travesty of love, having nothing whatsoever to do with her own manner of loving (which had had nothing erotic or exclusive about it). Even if what she did was a crime, the punishment does not fit it.

K&S: Bruennhilde can only convey this to Wotan by way of the violence of her abhorrence of the possible fate that awaits her, but she stands before him with the blazing eyes of the misunderstood empathic lover - and he is touched.”

PH: This is reasonable so far as it goes and doesn’t materially contradict the rather more comprehensive allegorical reading I have applied to this wonderful passage. Here, however, in their remarks below, I think K&S have lost their bearings again:

K&S: “Bruennhilde can be protected [i.e., Wotan can warrant following through on her despairing plea that he protect her sleep with a terrifying ring of fire so that only a fearless hero, no less than the greatest Waelsung hero Siegfried, can wake her and win her love], because this protection is consistent with the law and also because Wotan recognizes that there is a part of her nature that she has expressed - not denied - in what she has done. This makes it legitimate and even fitting for him to set particular conditions on her fate, and more specifically that she come under the sway only of a man who might have the qualities to arouse in her the kind of empathically loving response of which she is presently capable. (…)

PH: K&S seem to forget here that Wotan will make it a condition of Bruennhilde’s punishment that only a man freer than Wotan, the god, who doesn’t fear Wotan’s spear of divine authority and law, wake, woo, and win her. In other words, a complete overthrow of Wotan’s law, religious man’s social contract/faith, is a precondition for Siegfried the secular artist-hero to win his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, Bruennhilde, and thereby gain access to Wotan’s unspoken secret, the hoard of Runes which Wotan imparted to Bruennhilde in his confession to her.


P. 157: K&S: “When Bruennhilde awakens in the closing scene of Siegfried, she repeatedly expresses her dedication to love. Her earlier feelings, expressed in defiance of Wotan, are now articulated (with the admission that she could not previously name the thought) as her having ‘always loved’ Siegfried. But who or what is Siegfried to her? The judgment ought to strike us as unconvincing, as a falsification of what she was feeling and doing in "Walkuere." There her love was directed toward Wotan, and through him to Siegmund, and then, when the die is cast in the final scene, to her conception at that point of the highest and noblest form of life that humanity has to offer: ‘… [a fearless, freest hero].’ But she went to sleep an empathic lover, and it should not occasion surprise that she re-awakens as one. She was in love, at the end of "Walkuere," not with Siegfried himself before the fact, but with The Hero as an ideal human type, for which Siegmund’s free-spirited, fearless resolution served as her exemplar. Give her such a hero, and her love will have a proper object. Siegfried is to be the former, and therefore the latter.”

PH: This does not present a problem in my interpretation. As Bruennhilde tells Siegfried in "Siegfried" Act Three Scene Three, Wotan’s thought (Bruennhilde refers here to his confession of his need for a hero freed from the gods’ protection and laws and influence who will do what the gods need for their salvation from Alberich’s curse on his Ring, take possession of it - presumably by first killing its current owner, Fafner - and then keep Alberich from regaining possession of it.) is her feeling, and this thought is only her love for Siegfried (#134). Note that K&S omitted this link between Wotan’s thought and Bruennhilde’s feeling in their paraphrase above. Wotan figuratively gave birth to Siegfried by planting the seed of his thought (God’s word, become life, the savior, so to speak) in the womb of his wishes, his daughter Bruennhilde. So she, since she figuratively gave birth to Siegfried, has loved Siegfried as her future artist-hero lover, who will, like Wotan, plant seeds in her like the original existential dilemma Wotan planted in her, in order that Siegfried and Bruennhilde can give birth to redemptive works of secular art in which Wotan’s hope to salvage what is of highest worth in divine life (religion) can live on as feeling, rather than as conceptual thought, in art. As Feuerbach said, the distinction between art and religion, which insures art can live on in a scientific, post-religious world, is that, unlike religious faith, art doesn’t ask its creator or audience to stake a claim to truth and its power which might be contradicted by the actual truth. Art in this sense is free, and also free from religious man’s fear of the truth. Motif #134, the sole motif in the "Ring" which Wagner ever called a redemption motif, is introduced in "Siegfried" Act Three Scene One, when Wotan tells Erda that he no longer fears his end (the end of religious faith) because his heirs Siegfried and Bruennhilde (Wagner’s metaphor for his own secular art) will redeem the world from Alberich’s curse (of consciousness). In "Siegfried" Act Three Scene Three, #134 will become the musical embodiment of Wotan’s thought, Bruennhilde’s feeling, and the love Siegfried and Bruennhilde share, i.e., unconscious artistic inspiration of Siegfried by Wotan’s thought, which influences Siegfried (thanks to Bruennhilde) subliminally. In other words, Bruennhilde must teach Siegfried Wotan’s fear in order to inspire Siegfried to produce that work of redemptive art in which he, and his audience, can forget that fear.

PH: Needless to say, in my view K&S’s remark above about Bruennhilde holding in mind an abstract vision of an ideal human type which Siegfried embodies has nothing to do with the case (since Wotan longs for a hero who can accomplish something quite specific, winning the Ring and keeping it out of Alberich's possession so that Alberich's curse can't destroy the gods), nor does K&S’s following observation:

P. 157-158: K&S: “The love Bruennhilde ‘always’ had was already revealed in her actions prior to and independent of the plan to protect Sieglinde and her unborn son. It was an empathic love rooted in part in her strong emotional responsiveness to high worth, which she certainly recognizes in her father and which she had also sensed in Siegmund. In Siegmund’s case, her responsiveness was raised to a level of particular intensity because it was combined with another of the roots of her capacity for empathic love: her protectively caring nature. One can even see her as having long had such feelings for the many heroes she had previously gone out to call to Valhalla, even if on a lesser level of intensity - perhaps owing to the absence in their cases of anything like Siegmund’s distinguishing kinship with Wotan.”
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