But we know (from Waltraute, considerably earlier) that Wotan has been in a deep depression for quite some time. … we are told, he sits, unsmiling and silent, clutching the splinters from the spear in his hand, while gods, heroes and Valkyries are ‘consumed by dismay and infinite dread … .’ What has happened?
P. 117-118: K&S: We consider two possibilities, corresponding to the two possible solutions. One interpretation of Wotan’s gloom is to suppose that he stays with the commitment to replacing his order of laws and contracts with the rule of heroic virtue. On this view of the matter, unlike Bruennhilde, he does not make the transition from thinking of the new order on the model of heroic virtue to conceiving it in the terms of the sway of love. When he has the opportunity to size Siegfried up, he realizes that his high hopes for him -as prospective founder of a new heroic order surpassing his own efforts - are in vain. Whatever his merits, Siegfried is terminally naive, hopelessly superficial, and foolishly brash; and while this may not matter in the wilds, in the far trickier world of human-interaction with others - especially with people of a differing stripe and greater cunning - it is a fatal combination. … this hero cannot deliver the new order Wotan yearns for - but he has needed precisely these attributes to carry out the first part of the task Wotan has envisaged for him, to transcend the god’s own order. If our first possibility is on the right track, once Wotan grasps the contradiction, he despairs.”
PH: Wotan, when saying his goodbyes to Erda in "Siegfried" Act Three Scene One, when he consigned her to oblivion, he was clearly ecstatic at the prospect that Siegfried’s fearlessness and lack of envy and Bruennhilde’s love would, of themselves, redeem the world from Alberich’s curse. Wotan gladly made them his heirs, leaving the legacy to them that originally he had, in despair, left for Alberich’s son Hagen to destroy, because (in my interpretation) he supposes that the inspired art Siegfried creates will be freed from religious man’s fear of knowledge of the truth, since art stakes no claim to the power of knowledge in its objective truth (the Ring). Wotan can’t know of Siegfried’s failure to redeem the world in this sense until Siegfried falls under Hagen’s influence and is preparing to betray his love for Bruennhilde by forcing her into an unloving marriage with Gunther, and forcing Alberich’s Ring out of her protective custody, so that the Ring curse will be fulfilled with full force. This doesn’t occur until "Twilight of the Gods" Act One Scene Two, when Waltraute tells Bruennhilde of Wotan’s gloom and desire that Bruennhilde restore the ring to the Rhinedaughters and thus take away the weight of Alberichs’ curse from gods and world. Wagner confirmed this reading when he told Roeckel in his lengthy letter of 1854, in which Wagner tried at considerable length to explain the philosophy and plot of the "Ring," that Wotan doesn’t contemplate restoring the Ring to the Rhinedaughters until he can see that Siegfried has failed.
PH: Wotan knew that Siegfried was naive and brash (I resist K&S’s assumption that he is superficial) when Wotan confronted Siegfried in "Siegfried" Act Three Scene Two, in order to test whether Siegfried was really the friendly foe Wotan desired, and also to insure Siegfried couldn’t, in memory, trace his own heroism back to Wotan’s influence. Siegfried’s heroic virtue is indeed the consequence of his naivety and ignorance of himself, which is the virtue Bruennhilde gives him by virtue of knowing for him what he doesn’t know. This is what makes him fearless and able to kill Fafner and take the Ring from him, and then deposit it in Bruennhilde’s safekeeping. That Siegfried remains unconscious of the threat represented by Hagen’s machinations is a necessary consequence of Siegfried being unconsciously inspired by Wotan’s hoard of runes, Wotan’s confession to Bruennhilde, which is symbolized now by Alberich’s Ring, which Siegfried left with Bruennhilde. Siegfried isn’t forewarned of trouble to come precisely because Siegfried’s own unconscious mind, Bruennhilde, protects him, at the front (as she tells Hagen and Gunther), from foresight of the gods’ end. It isn’t because Siegfried is an immature child that he is destroyed by the cunning world. It is because he, as a mortal, secular artist-hero, has fallen heir to Wotan’s original sin of religious world-renunciation in the art which Siegfried is inspired to create, since religious man’s longing for transcendent value lives on in inspired art as feeling, or music. This is the sin against all that was, is, and will be (Erda’s knowledge of the objective world), which Alberich accused Wotan of committing, and which Alberich designed his curse on his Ring to punish. Siegfried and his love for Bruennhilde are completely implicated in Wotan’s original sin of world-renunciation, whereas Alberich and his son Hagen affirm the objective world, no matter how abhorrent its truth is to human sensibilities, for knowledge of this world is the sole path to real power. Thus Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s art and love are objectively powerless. The whole point of inspired secular art was to make us, its audience, feel as if we have regained our lost innocence. Thus Siegfried’s naivety and brashness is the natural quality of Wagner’s artist-hero who, thanks to his inspiration by music, the unconscious, lives solely in the present, with no concern for past and future, and no obviously conscious, ulterior, egoistic motives.
P. 118: PH: K&S offer their second explanation for why Wotan sits in gloom in "Twilight of the Gods" in the following:
K&S: “… on this alternative explanation, it dawns on him [Wotan] that the right way to achieve the admirable order at which he has been aiming is through the sway of love. But he is surely wise enough to see something of which Bruennhilde only harbors vague premonitions - that the love of Siegfried and Bruennhilde is vulnerable to the same kinds of corruption that threatened his order of laws and contracts, and that love is no match for the greed, envy, and wickedness of the world. The most salient threat is posed by those who truly reject or are incapable of love. Once again, Alberich emerges as the focus of Wotan’s concern, as he begins to see that the possibility of a relapse to the demonic order the Nibelung envisages is intensified by the continued existence of the Ring. Wotan’s anxiety stems from his appreciation that the sway of love is unstable, and he comes to the desperate hope that the problems may be mitigated if the Ring is returned. By the beginning of "Goetterdaemmerung," he has become convinced of the idea that the sway of love will be unstable unless the Ring is returned to the Rhinemaidens.”
PH: If Wotan has given up on all the alleged alternatives to the rule of the gods, which include Siegmund’s and Sieglinde’s love and heroism, Siegfried’s heroism and Bruennhilde’s love, then Wotan, in desiring the restoration of the Ring to the Rhinedaughters, can only be said to wish for a return to nature, to the preconscious state before the Fall caused by the evolution of human consciousness. This nihilistic end he apparently regards as preferable to a world predicated on acceptance of mankind’s status as a mere object in nature, which Alberich’s threat to bring the hoard of objective knowledge up from the silent depths of man’s unconscious to the light of conscious day would bring about. For reasons I’ve already explained in depth I don’t believe that K&S are correct in seeing Siegfried as the embodiment specifically of a heroic, noble humanity (since Siegmund has already embodied this ideal), or in seeing a distinction between Siegfried as embodiment of heroism and Bruennhilde as the embodiment of love, as if Siegfried and Bruennhilde represent alternatives which are distinct from each other. Alberich’s threat still remains, in Hagen, but Siegfried himself will fulfill Alberich’s curse on his Ring by aiding Hagen in bringing Alberich’s hoard (now embodied by Alberich’s Ring) from the silent depths of Siegfried’s own unconscious mind Bruennhilde, to the light of day, thereby overthrowing not only the gods (religion) but their proxies (the morality of altruism and compassion, represented by Siegmund and Sieglinde, and inspired art, represented by Siegfried and Bruennhilde).
P. 119: K&S: “… he [Wotan] has cut her [Bruennhilde] loose and set her adrift on the uncertain seas of mortality, condemned to cast her lot with whatever mortal happens along and passes the Fire Test.”
PH: There can be no doubt whatsoever from the libretto and music of "Valkyrie" Act Three Scene Three that Wotan knows perfectly well that in adhering to Bruennhilde’s wish to surround her sleeping self with Loge’s ring of fire, that only the freest, fearless Waelsung hero Siegfried, one freer than Wotan, the god, will penetrate this ring of fire and wake, woo, and win Bruennhilde. K&S describe this prospect very much like the same matter of chance which Bruennhilde so feared that she insisted that Wotan insure only the right hero win her. But it is no chance: it is historically inevitable. Bruennhilde was reconciled to being put to sleep by Wotan only because of her certainty Siegfried alone will wake and win her.
K&S: “If his [Wotan’s] sources are any good, he must know that Siegfried has done so, and he must further know of Siegfried’s gift of the Ring as the emblem of his love for her. If his sources were also good enough to give him some inkling of how she feels about it all, he must know that she would consider giving up the emblem of that love to be giving up love itself, which for her would be quite impossible. If love really is now to replace heroic as well as civic virtue as the supreme value - as it has in her case - and so is to be given precedence over all else, then Wotan must accept the consequence that Bruennhilde should not return the Ring.
K&S: So what hope is there for Wotan’s dream of not only achieving but also stabilizing an admirable order? Apparently none. (…) Wotan can think of no way out. No wonder he sits with the kindling piled around, in a state of thorough dejection. On this interpretation, he has come back to his earlier pessimistic assumption, the belief that there is no real alternative to law and contracts as the foundation of a stable order, and that otherwise the world will be bleak and cheerless and life stunted. The possibility of that alternative has now passed, with the triumph of the hero and the shattering of his spear.”
PH: My interpretation makes sense of Wotan’s ultimate paralysis and gloom. Wotan is in the position which Nietzsche described as that of the self-destructive nihilist of religious faith who can no longer sustain belief in divinity (Wotan is described by Waltraute as no longer partaking of Freia’s golden apples of sorrowless youth eternal), nor accept the only alternative view of the world available to him, the objective view of secularism and science which regards mankind as merely an object in nature, entirely bound by natural law and under the authority of the animal instinct of egoism, i.e., self-preservation (fear) and sexual reproduction. That is, the giants have figuratively come back to stake their claim to Freia. The only way out is to cease to be altogether. But for Nietzsche, we had to learn to embrace the only world left to us with the shattering of our illusions about it. Wotan couldn’t do this, but Parsifal will. This is one primary reason why Schopenhauer’s philosophy of pessimism seemed to Wagner to describe Wotan. Wotan has concluded, like Schopenhauer, that the world ought not to be, and since Wotan can’t destroy the world, the next best alternative is to cease to be, himself, which comes to the same thing. Thus Wotan wishes for the Ring of consciousness to be returned to the state of preconscious nature, for he has come to regard human consciousness itself as the Fall, the original sin.
P. 98-99: K&S: “So, it seems, Wotan must abandon his hope of fulfilling his basic normative judgment that life, to be worth living, must be made meaningful. The difficulty he ignored in "Rheingold" - the problem Loge saw, that the commitment to the rule of laws and contracts required the return of the gold - has come back to haunt the transformed world, and Wotan sees nothing better than for the Ring to be returned (and so denied to the Dark Forces). This is to wipe the slate clean and to become resigned to the conclusion that law, heroism, and love are all unable to provide a viable solution to the problem of achieving and securing the kind of order apparently required to banish the alternative specters of emptiness and degradation, and so to save life and the world from themselves. Since Wotan continues to think that a durable admirable order is a precondition for meaningful life, he must conclude that the failure infects his aspirations at the most fundamental level; and that all of his striving has been in vain.”
P. 99: PH: Wotan must abandon his hope that life, to be worth living, must affirm mankind’s hope that he has transcendent value. Loge’s suggestion that Wotan return the Ring to the Rhinedaughters has nothing to do with Wotan’s rule of law, nothing to do with justice, which depended on a fall from grace with nature (breaking the most sacred branch of the World-Ash Tree, to make his Spear of Law blighted and ultimately killed it: this is one of Wagner’s metaphors for Feuerbach’s notion that positing transcendent being, or god, figuratively kills Mother Nature), a Fall clearly equivalent to Alberich’s renunciation of love to win the earthly power of the Ring. Restoring Alberich's Ring to the Rhinedaughters symbolizes the restoration of lost innocence, the Pre-Fall; law exists only because man has fallen, as Wagner said over and over again. Wotan’s failure did indeed infect his aspirations at the most fundamental level: all that he undertook was to preserve Valhalla and its gods, or to salvage their essence, yet Valhalla is a product of Alberich’s Ring. There was never any escape from Alberich’s curse on the Ring, since it was the nature of man. All of Wotan’s efforts to redeem himself from it, fulfilled it. The essence of Alberich’s curse on his Ring is that the nature of man is such that he can’t accept the world as it is, and the only answer to this problem is either to objectively transform it, as Alberich does, through science, technology, and power-politics, or to transform it subjectively in imagination, through religion, a morality of self-sacrifice, and art (and philosophy, to the extent that it presents man to himself as having transcendent value).
P. 121-134: CHAPTER THIRTEEN - WOTAN’S DILEMMAS
P. 122: K&S: “In his initial pronouncement of Bruennhilde’s fate, Wotan confronts her as the hard voice and arm of the law he feels compelled to be. But when the eight Valkyries offer their shallow protest, his state of mind intensifies into rage, and even wrathful cruelty, driven by the pain he feels at Bruennhilde’s betrayal. We shudder with her at his madly vindictive provision of detail as he announces to his long-beloved daughter that she will ‘sit by the hearth and spin, the butt and plaything of all who despise her … .’ These chilling lines conjure the image of Sieglinde’s plight and recall her description of her wedding feast in Hunding’s hut. And we may well suppose that it is precisely this cruel fate, of which she is well aware, that Wotan in his fury means to condemn her. It is a fury that clearly is being fueled by a good deal more than Bruennhilde’s action alone, reflecting the depths of his anguish at the impossibility of his own situation and the devastation of his hopes and dreams.”
PH: K&S are right to point out the dramatic analogy between the punishment Wotan means to mete out to Bruennhilde, and Sieglinde’s victimization by a loveless, coercive marriage to Hunding. And of course Wagner also drew an analogy between Sieglinde’s situation and that of the anonymous woman who was being forced into a loveless marriage by Hunding’s relatives, and for whose sake Siegmund futilely attempted to intervene. These three situations reflect Wagner’s own meditations on the evil of marriages contracted for financial and political reasons, rather than for love, an ethical concern which Wagner shared with Feuerbach. They are also correct in saying that Wotan’s anger at Bruennhilde is fueled by more than her disobedience. It is fueled, as Wagner said himself, by Wotan’s anger at himself for having sought a futile solution to his problem of trying to make a free hero who could, and would, do what the gods need to do in order to redeem themselves from Alberich’s curse on his ring, but can’t do.
P. 122-123: K&S: “Yet even here, as in Fricka’s earlier myopic perspective on the course of events, there is danger that we shall take too limited a view, resenting Wotan’s harshness without appreciating the disastrous character of his only apparent alternatives. (…) Despite his love for Bruennhilde … , he feels that he simply must honor his commitment to what he takes to be the higher, larger good - and has to work himself up into a rage to do so.”
PH: According to K&S, Wotan is facing one of the big questions in ethics. Is it right to be unjust to, or otherwise harm, or allow to be harmed, one person, for the sake of a greater good? Wagner himself spoke of the anguish of kings upon whom falls the necessity to protect the greater good of an entire society by stifling the freedom of those very individuals from whom, as Wagner said, comes all renewal to society. Of course, in a sense, Wotan truly is punishing himself in his intent to punish Bruennhilde, because she called herself his will, and he said of her that in speaking to her he was only speaking to himself. Since Bruennhilde reflects Wotan’s longing to salvage the transcendent value which his conscious mind seems to be telling him he must forsake, a feeling which he must perhaps repress into his unconscious mind because his conscious thought contradicts it, I believe we can assume that when Wotan, in spite of his anger, ultimately acquiesces in Bruennhilde’s plea that he not give her love so easily away to anyone who wakes her, but only to a fearless hero (Siegfried), that this was inevitable. Also, in his confession to Bruennhilde, which I take to be Wotan’s repression into his unconscious mind of thoughts which are too intolerable for him to handle (such as the inevitability of Alberich’s victory over the gods, through his son Hagen, to whom Wotan in despair offers what remains of Wotan’s legacy), Wotan was ready to throw in the towel and give up, yet in Wotan’s waking consciousness he insisted that Bruennhilde obey Fricka and later, in punishment for Bruennhilde’s disobedience to Wotan’s Fricka-derived intent to destroy the Waelsungs, decides to take away Bruennhilde’s divinity and leave her as spoil to any man to win her hand without love. In other words, Wotan unconsciously has admitted the end is coming, but consciously is not fully aware of this, as otherwise he wouldn’t care whether Fricka’s demands were obeyed or not, since the gods are going to ground no matter what Wotan does.
P. 123: K&S: “Moreover, knowing himself to have been swayed culpably by his affections (he has protected Siegmund as a subverter of law), he must punish himself in condemning Bruennhilde. His dedication to the law comes at the cost of excising part of himself: out of love for the world, he must suppress his own personal love for her - as he had been earlier persuaded by Fricka that he must do in the case of Siegmund. From his entry, through most of the two scenes that follow, he succeeds in adopting the role of the guardian of justice, unmoved by love or mercy. We only understand the difficulties of the achievement, however, and its terrible costs, when at the very end of "Walkuere," he transcends the role he has assigned himself.”
PH: K&S are right on the mark when they say that Wotan must punish himself in condemning Bruennhilde. They also note that Wotan’s adherence to his own law excises a part of himself, and here they are on solid ground not only with the "Ring" libretto but also with the other documentary evidence of Wagner’s views on this matter. It is no accident, for instance, that Wotan had to lose one eye in payment for obtaining knowledge from the well of wisdom upwelling from the roots of the World-Ash, presumably also to pay for breaking off its most sacred branch in order to make his Spear of Divine Authority and Law, and tells Siegfried that Siegfried (in "Siegfried" Act Three Scene Two) is looking at Wotan with the very eye Wotan is missing. Siegfried and Bruennhilde are, in a sense, Wotan’s self that he had to excise in order to rule the world by law, and to this extent they represent the love which he said waned before he set out to rule the world. As readers of my interpretation at http://www.wagnerheim.com know, I interpret love in this sense as the preconscious innocence of animal instinct, the life of feeling, which Wagner equates with love and with art, particularly the art of music. Wotan’s missing eye, Siegfried, by the way, Wotan calls his “second-self.” Robert Donington had suggested that Wotan’s missing eye is an eye which looks inward, and this may well be accurate, for not only does Siegfried, in his loving union with Wotan’s unconscious mind Bruennhilde, look inward where Wotan looks outward (to the objective world), but Wagner also equated music with this inwardness, this subjective rather than objective view of the world.
PH: Bruennhilde’s plea for mercy and not mere justice, from godhead, is also reminiscent of Elsa’s request of Lohengrin that he not banish her from his presence for her disobedience in having asked him the forbidden question about his identity and origin (keep in mind here that Wotan has repressed into his unconscious mind Bruennhilde the unspoken secret of his true identity and origin, and Bruennhilde’s sin is that she has acted openly on this knowledge). Lohengrin will not be moved, but Wotan, as we see, eventually is moved by Bruennhilde’s plea for mercy. Another example of the heroine asking for Christ’s mercy, the law of love, rather than for divine justice, is Elizabeth’s plea to the Landgrave, knights and ladies of Wartburg not to condemn the unconsciously inspired artist-hero Tannhaeuser to perdition for revealing his true source of unconscious artistic inspiration (Tannhaeuser’s formerly secret source, his muse of artistic inspiration Venus, in the Venusberg), but to grant him the mercy of seeking absolution from the Pope in Rome.
PH: We find here Wagner presenting another important theme of his canonical operas and music-dramas, the analogy he draws between the artist-hero as secular redeemer, and Jesus. Since Wagner followed Feuerbach in understanding religious faith as motivated by egoism and fear, and identified love with art (especially music), Wagner equated the distinction between what he regarded as the Jewish Old Testament involving God-the-Father’s rule by justice (and religious faith in the hereafter in general - also motivated by fear of death, the self-preservation instinct), and the Christian New Testament involving the law of love, with his own distinction between dying religious faith per se, and its heir, inspired secular art. We find this same distinction between the Old and New Testament, the law vs. love, in the distinction between the Masterinsingers' unyielding Tabulator (resembling Moses' Old Testament Law) and the unconsciously inspired artist-hero Walther’s spontaneity in his instinctive war with the the Mastersingers' learned rules of mastersinging which Walther’s inspired mastersong will both subsume and transcend.
P. 124: K&S describe here how Bruennhilde gradually softens Wotan’s anger, but only initially draws the confession from him that if he is punishing her it is only because she created that punishment for herself, in living for love when Wotan’s own reasoning had proven to him the futility of his original quest to redeem the gods through a loving, free hero:
K&S: [paraphrasing Wotan:] “She has chosen to follow love; and a life of love - but of mortal human love, with all of its liabilities and vulnerabilities - is to be her sentence.”
PH: This corresponds with Roger Scruton’s ruminations on the special value that sacrificial love can have only among mortals.
P. 124-125: K&S: “Her [Bruennhilde’s] emphatic repudiation of dishonor culminates in the impassioned plea that Wotan surround the rock with fire, making it impossible for anyone other than a true hero to take possession of her. And the gods accedes. He does so, we think, because he becomes aware that she has not completely denied her nature after all, and that what he took originally to be a repudiation of both him and herself was a response to elements in his and her own character that are far from blameworthy - and more specifically to a capacity for love this is not merely (as he had previously charged) a hankering for sweet solace, but rather a deep response to what is noble and honorable.”
PH: Yes, Bruennhilde’s expression of longing to salvage Wotan’s Great Idea (the meaning of #57, the Waelsungs’ sword Nothung which Wotan originally provided for Siegmund - though Siegmund had to win it by drawing it from the House-Ash in Hunding’s hut - and which Siegfried will re-forge), when Wotan has already given it up as hopeless (as least unconsciously in his confession to Bruennhilde), represents Wotan’s hope for ultimate redemption from Alberich’s curse on his Ring, the curse of consciousness. But, in order to obtain that redemption, Wotan has to be willing to sacrifice religious belief, religion as an idea, to Alberich’s inevitable victory, in order to salvage religion as feeling, in a secular art of redemption to which Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s loving union will give birth.
P. 125-126: K&S: "Bruennhilde’s last explanation makes possible the extraordinary valediction and the mitigation of her sentence. In the course of convincing Wotan that her love is not light but noble, a response to the honorable goals that he has struggled so hard to attain, she makes a crucial pronouncement, reporting on Sieglinde’s survival and her pregnancy. The god’s initial response is to misconceive the point of her news: dedicated to his role as the instrument of justice, he angrily dismisses any idea that he should give aid to Sieglinde (or to her unborn child) and warns Bruennhilde against further meddling. Once again, we sense the deep and bitter residues of Fricka’s denial that he can manage by proxy what he is forbidden to do himself. Yet the information about Sieglinde begins to give Wotan ideas, even though he cannot yet give them conscious expression. He gains new hope, envisioning that the hero who will awake Bruennhilde will be one freer than himself, but he recognizes that the realization of that hope requires his clear commitment not to interfere. The hero must act truly independently of Wotan’s designs. His new focus leads him to pursue (with increasing clarity of intent) an aim that has been dimly present since the end of "Rheingold" and that will become fully explicit in Act III, Scene I, of "Siegfried." The free being is no longer a mere means to securing the order of laws and contracts, and is instead emerging as the key to its transcendence.”
PH: Siegmund was already prepped by Wotan to be capable of transcending Wotan’s laws in particular because Wotan intended that Siegmund, of his own volition somehow, would regain the Ring from Fafner in order to keep it out of Alberich’s hands (but not so that he could give it back to Wotan, since Erda’s warning to Wotan of the price of Alberich’s curse is a virtual product of possessing Alberich’s Ring of consciousness. To possess the Ring openly is to invoke its power, the power of consciousness, and therefore to become conscious of Erda’s knowledge in its most universal application). No, Wotan’s allegedly free hero is to pay the price of keeping the Ring out of Alberich’s hands. Mankind’s religious taboo on freedom of thought (Fafner’s, fear’s, guarding of Alberich’s hoard of treasure, Tarnhelm, and Ring) would eventually end, and Alberich would someday be able to regain his Ring and compel all other men to consciously acknowledge that man is nothing but an object in nature, unless some other hero, presumably spiritually akin to Wotan and the gods, would of his own free nature take aesthetic possession of Alberich’s Hoard of knowledge, Tarnhelm of imagination, and Ring of consciousness, in order to sublimate these sources of Alberich’s power into sublime, tragic art, and thus redeem the terrible world (which otherwise belongs to Alberich) in man’s eyes. As both Feuerbach and Wagner said, religious feeling lives on in secular art, particularly the art of music, when religion as a belief in godhead must leave us, as Wotan leaves Bruennhilde, and as Lohengrin leaves Elsa.
PH: Wotan will interfere though, every bit as much as he did for Siegmund. Wotan interferes by insuring that Bruennhilde, the womb of his wishes and repository for the unspoken secret of his confession, his Hoard of Runes, will only be won by the fearless hero Siegfried who, after all, is the very hero Wotan proclaimed in his confession to Bruennhilde he was looking for. Bruennhilde confesses even to this in her love-duet with Siegfried in "Siegfried" Act Three Scene Three:
“Bruennhilde [to Siegfried]: … to me alone was Wotan’s thought revealed. The thought which I could never name, (#83 End Fragment: i.e., the God’s Need Motif - Wotan’s need for a free hero) the thought I did not think but only felt; the thought for which I fought (#96 Variation), did battle and have striven; for which I flouted him who thought it; (#94) for which I atoned, incurring chastisement, because, not thinking, (#96b), I only felt it! Because that thought (#134) - could you only guess it! - was but my love for you.”
PH: So Wotan’s thought, the gods’ need expressed in his confession, for a free hero, would ultimately come to fruition in Bruennhilde’s love for Siegfried, which is to say, in Siegfried’s unconscious artistic inspiration by Wotan’s hoard of runes which he confessed to Bruennhilde.
P. 126: K&S: “But in the matter at hand, Wotan is paying a high price, and he realizes it. We take his self-description seriously: ‘… [out of my love for the world, I was forced to stifle the well-spring of love in this tormented heart of mine].’ He has indeed suppressed personal love in himself, and we witness his anguished mortification of it - accompanied by a version of the motif with which Alberich originally renounced love.”
PH: By “well-spring of love” Wagner means the human individual, particularly the individual of genius who introduces the new into society (the new that, according to Wotan, Fricka feared), the new understood as the individual's self-expression of originality in the sciences and arts and social life which we now openly and consciously value, particularly in the West, but which religious faith and governments often have suppressed. Wagner said that this individuality was society’s well-spring of renewal, but that society would often martyr those heroes of individual self-expression, considering them a threat to social order, yet they are the very redeemers of society from stagnation and fear.
PH: By way of explaining how Wotan, in severing himself from Bruennhilde forever (yet acquiescing in her most fervent desire to be wed only to the greatest of heroes, Siegfried), is renouncing his personal love for Bruennhilde (though, as they say, in doing so he expresses that love as never before, or ever will again), K&S say:
K&S: “Something fundamental in him dies with it [the personal love for Bruennhilde he must renounce in taking away her divinity and banishing her from the realm of the gods], even if his care for Bruennhilde remains intense; and his very capacity for personal love survives only in transmuted form, as a profound yearning for a world in which such love might flourish, unthreatened either by the need for its sacrifice or by the results of not making the sacrifice.”
PH: This tallies with the thinking of Roger Scruton respecting love as a sacrificial act, and a sacrament, among mortals. My only difference with K&S’s well-stated argument is that I am reminded always that when Wagner speaks of love, particularly in the mature music-dramas, he is also speaking of unconscious artistic inspiration.
P. 126-127: K&S: “(If we look forward to his [Wotan’s] subsequent state of mind reported in Waltraute’s narration in "Goetterdaemmerung" and see him as moving beyond the hope for the triumph of heroism to the successor idea that love must be the new world-ordering value, its vulnerabilities notwithstanding, we may expect the sadness to be further deepened; for he knows all too well by then that he has sacrificed the loves he cherished most, and also knows that he is powerless to do anything to improve the chances of the rule of love being realized in any enduring way in the kind of world this is.)”
PH: I have, I believe, provided sufficient evidence in my prior commentary on “Finding an Ending” to demonstrate that K&S’s distinction between Wotan’s hope for the triumph of a noble heroism, and Wotan’s hope for the triumph of, and redemption through, love, is not valid, since they are one and the same in the "Ring." The essential meaning of Bruennhilde’s love for Siegfried in the "Ring" is that through her love she unconsciously inspires his redemptive deeds of art, described as Siegfried’s “new adventures” in Twilight of the Gods. For those who ask where in the "Ring" Siegfried creates a work of art, the entirety of "Siegfried" Act Three Scene Three, in which we experience Bruennhilde’s loving union with Siegfried, and its continuation in their love-duet in the Prelude to "Twilight of the Gods," is Wagner’s metaphor for Siegfried’s unconscious artistic inspiration which ultimately gives birth to a work of art. For those who ask where in the "Ring" does Siegfried perform a work of art inspired by Bruennhilde, Wagner’s metaphor for his "Ring," and for his performance of it in the presence of an audience, is to be found in Siegfried’s sung narration of the story of his heroic life in the presence of Gunther, Hagen, and the Gibichungs, particularly how he came to understand the meaning of the Woodbird's song, which is to say, how Wagner the artist came to grasp the meaning and inward, esoteric history of modern orchestral music as secular man’s substitute for dying religious faith. Wagner also suggests here that the secret of his "Ring" can be found in its musical motifs, since Siegfried, in interpreting the Woodbird's song conceptually, virtually exposes the secret formerly kept safe by his unconscious mind Bruennhilde, his muse of artistic inspiration, to the light of day. In this way Siegfried unwittingly brings Alberich’s hoard of fatal knowledge up from the silent depths to the light of day, thereby bringing to fruition the twilight of the gods.
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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