Introduction and Reader's Guide to Paul Heise's Critique of Alexander H. Shapiro's book "The Consolations of History: Themes of Progress and Potential in Richard Wagner's 'Goetterdaemmerung' " (Routledge, 10/2019), which is posted online in the discussion forum at www.wagnerheim.com
[NOTE: ANYONE WHO'D LIKE ME TO EMAIL THEM THE FOLLOWING 16 PAGE READER'S GUIDE (TABLE OF CONTENTS) TO MY CRITICAL REVIEW OF SHAPIRO'S BOOK AS A PDF DOCUMENT, PLEASE EMAIL ME AT EITHER email@example.com, or at firstname.lastname@example.org]
Alexander Shapiro cited my allegorical 'Ring' study at www.wagnerheim.com in footnote #10 of Chapter One about Siegfried, a footnote to a remark he made about Mark Berry's book "Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire." But in spite of his having offered my prior 'Ring' study this token acknowledgment, and in spite of his having acknowledged in a private email he sent to me this spring that he'd read substantial portions of my online 'Ring' study at www.wagnerheim.com (posted online in 2011) prior to completing his much newer book, he presents in his book without any acknowledgment of my prior claim quite a number of insights which are central to his own argument, which I anticipated at www.wagnerheim.com. The following 21-PART critical review, 206 pages in length, is my proof of priority, and also contains solutions to problems he couldn't resolve. In order to prove the priority of my claim to these key insights I methodically compare in the following critique passages from his book with corresponding passages from my much older online book.
Each of my 21 parts of my critique contains approximately ten pages from my 206 page review, so that, for instance, PART 1 contains pages 1-10, and so on. To locate my comparisons of passages from Shapiro's book with corresponding passages from my online book in my 21-PART Critique, locate in this Guide below the numbered PART or PARTS which precede my summation of each passage of his text, and then, once you've clicked on that PART in the Critique, scroll down to the page number in which that passage can be found as indicated in this Guide. All quoted or paraphrased passages from his book are boldfaced, and my current commentary on these passages is located within brackets, preceded by PH to identify Paul Heise, and italicized.
[PART 1] [P. xi] Shapiro claims that none before him tried to make sense of the 'Ring' & 'Twilight of the Gods' as a whole in terms of Hegel's philosophy of history and 19th Century theories of Progress.
[PH: See Part 1, P. xi, for proof of my prior claim to this idea.]
[PARTS 1-2] [P. xi-xii] Shapiro states that Schopenhauer didn't influence the final message of the 'Ring,' which coheres with Wagner's philosophy of 48-54, ... man's spiritual and cultural evolution through history.
[PH: See Parts 1-2, P. xi-xii for proof of my prior claim.]
[PART 2] [P. 1 - See 3rd posting of Page 1] Shapiro asks, if Siegfried was the herald of a new age, why did Wagner doom him in 'Twilight of the Gods'? Pundits impugn his character to explain this, but Bruennhilde's final words in praise of Siegfried, and his funeral march, contradict this.
[PH: See Part 2, 3rd posting of P. 1, for my explanation.]
[PART 2] [P. 1-2] Shapiro asks how Siegfried as a political revolutionary lacks self-consciousness? "Berry attempts to shoehorn this inconvenient truth into the Shavian heroic framework by explaining it as the 'fatal weakness of the charismatic revolutionary.' (10)"
[PH: See Shapiro's token Footnote #10 below, and See Part 2, P. 1-2, for my explanation of Siegfried's unconsciousness. It's the product of Bruennhilde having heard Wotan's confession of Wotan's unspoken secret in V.2.2, and therefore knowing for Siegfried what he doesn't know.]
[PART 2] [PH: Shapiro's token Footnote #10 from Chapter 1 about Siegfried, Pages 25-26:]
"10 Berry, Treacherous Bonds, 231–2. One recent commentator on the 'Ring,' Paul Heise, attempts to reconcile Siegfried’s heroism with his lack of consciousness through an intriguing interpretation of the tetralogy as an allegory of Wagner’s aesthetics and creative process. Heise’s study reads the 'Ring' in light of Wagner’s later thesis for 'Religion and Art' of 1880 that 'where Religion becomes artificial, it is reserved for Art to save the spirit of religion.' According to the allegory, Siegfried is the artist hero who is inspired by the muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, represented by Bruennhilde. In this way, Heise turns on its head the Hegelian approach to the 'Ring,' reading the advance of consciousness in human evolution as a malign influence which degrades the unconscious existential sources of inspiration for true art. Thus Alberich and the ring represent the curse of consciousness, while Siegfried is the hero who struggles to redeem man’s religious impulses through the intuitive power of secular art. While Heise purports to ground his thesis in Feuerbach’s philosophical program, he at the same time asserts that 'there was little Wagner found in Schopenhauer that was not already implicit in the "Ring" drama.' And indeed the final message of bleak futility which Heise identifies in the 'Ring' reflects a reading that is more consistent with the Schopenhauerian agenda than with the Young Hegelian. Paul Brian Heise, 'The Wound That Will Never Heal,' wagnerheim.com."
[PART 2] [P. 2] Shapiro asserts that in view of Siegfried's unconsciousness, attempts to construe him as a world-historical revolutionary require that he has no consciousness of the Hegelian Idea. But, Shapiro notes, this is an idea which Hegel promoted.
[PH: See Part 2, P. 2, for my explanation of why Siegfried is unconscious of his world-historical role.]
[PART 2] [P. 6-7] Shapiro says Wagner condemned 'Christian dogma' which 'set man’s goal entirely outside his earthly being,' focusing that goal on 'an absolute and superhuman God.' (...) Under Feuerbach's influence "Rousseau’s simple savage" inspired a "new religion of man."
[PH: See Part 2, P. 6-7, for proof of my prior claim to this argument's application to an understanding of the 'Ring' allegory, which I illustrated using the same quotation from Wagner.]
[PARTS 2-3][P. 7] Shapiro notes that in 'A Communication to My Friends' (1851), Wagner explained that to create Siegfried he " 'drove step by step into the deeper regions of antiquity, where at last to my delight, and truly in the utmost reaches of old time, I was to light upon the fair young form of Man, in all the freshness of his force.' " Wagner did this to unearth Rousseau's original man. (...) " 'What here I saw, was no longer the Figure of conventional history, whose garment claims our interest more than does the actual shape inside; but the real naked man ... ' (CF 358)."
[PH: See Parts 2-3, P. 7, for proof that I analyzed the implications of Siegfried as the "naked man" at www.wagnerheim.com in 2011, tracing Wagner's thesis back to Feuerbach, and employing this Wagner quotation to illustrate my point.]
[PART 3] [P. 7-8] Shapiro says Siegfried's essence is his lack of self-consciousness. "Man in his savage state, Rousseau said, 'dwells only in the sensation of its present existence, without any idea of the future, however close that might be, and his projects, as limited as his horizons, hardly extend to the end of the day.' (40)" (...) Similarly, "Siegfried 'lives entirely in the present, he is the hero, the finest gift of the will,' as Wagner told Cosima. (41)"
[PH: See Part 3, P. 7-8, to see my prior argument that it's thanks to Bruennhilde, Wotan's "Will," Siegfried's muse of unconscious artistic inspiration (music), that Siegfried lives entirely in the present. I illustrated my point with this quotation from Wagner.]
[PART 4] [P. 14] "By allowing its wearer to defy the laws of time and space, the tarnhelm manufactures miracles. (...) Wagner wrote that 'the Judaeo-Christian Wonder tore the connexion of natural phenomena asunder, to allow the Divine Will to appear as standing over Nature' (OD 213). As a talisman whose miraculous powers are antithetical to natural law, the tarnhelm encapsulates the worst vices of modern society."
[PH: See Part 4, P. 14, for proof of my prior claim to this argument, which I illustrated with this quotation from Wagner.. I also pre-rebutted Shapiro's misreading of the Tarnhelm as symbolic of modern vices.]
[PARTS 4-5] [P. 16-17] "Wagner wrote 'I remain convinced that my Lohengrin ... symbolizes the most profoundly tragic situation of the present day, namely man’s desire to descend from the most intellectual heights to the depths of love, the longing to be understood instinctively, a longing which modern reality cannot yet satisfy.' (108) Having 'descended from the heights' Bruennhilde is initially apprehensive and anxious about giving herself to the exuberant youth."
[PH: See Parts 4-5, P. 16-17, for my argument that Lohengrin stands to Elsa as Wotan does to Bruennhilde. Wagner described Elsa as Lohengrin's unconscious mind, in whom he seeks redemption by descending to earth from the heights, and the same applies to Wotan's relationship with Bruennhilde, in whom he seeks redemption from thought in feeling through his confession. I illustrated this argument with the same quotation from Wagner. I also argued that Bruennhilde and Siegfried both initially fear sexual union because in winning Bruennhilde Siegfried falls heir to Wotan's hoard of forbidden knowledge which Wotan confessed to Bruennhilde.]
[PART 5] [P. 18-19] "Hegel’s unique insight was to ground his faith in progress in ... human nature – self-consciousness. (120)" (...) Shapiro notes George Bancroft grounded his faith in progress on ... scientific proof. Man progressively masters his stores of accumulated knowledge by generalizations which approximate nearer and nearer to absolute truth. (131)
[PH: See Part 5, P. 18-19, to see how this echoes my argument at www.wagnerheim.com that Alberich's Curse on his Ring is that man will inevitably acquire that hoard of knowledge of Nature which will undermine his transcendent values in religion, ethics, and art.]
[PARTS 5-6] [P. 21] Shapiro says Wagner " ... trusted in the purposefulness of natural evolution. (...) The ultimate goal of this 'mighty stream' of history was to free man 'from his last heresy, the denial of Nature, – that heresy which has taught him hitherto to look upon himself as a mere instrument to an end which lay outside himself' (AR 57)."
[PH: See Parts 5-6, P. 21, for proof of my prior claim to this argument that Wagner saw religious faith as a sin against Mother Nature which science and secular art would correct, which I illustrated with this quotation from Wagner.]
[PART 6] [P. 21] Shapiro states that Wagner knew man couldn't restore his lost innocence. "As he explained in 'The Artwork of the Future,' 'the moment we humans … began to develop as human beings and to break away from our unconscious, animal existence as children of nature to wake to conscious life… this was the moment we went astray, error as the first expression of consciousness' (AF 13). Man’s very make-up ensured his alienation from nature. (142)"
[PH: See Part 6, P. 21, for proof of my prior claim to this argument, which I illustrated with this quotation from Wagner.]
[PART 6] [P. 22 - First posting of P. 22 in Part 6] Shapiro says Wagner sought to restore to man the " 'insight of nature,' [PH: which was the] 'acknowledgement of the unconscious, the instinctive and ... the necessary, the true, the sensual' (AF 14)." This could be won through a "Hegelian process of emergent self-consciousness." Echoing Feuerbach, Wagner said: " 'out of error knowledge is born and the history of the birth of knowledge out of error is the history of the human species from primitive myth to the present day' (AF 13)." Man would be freed only " 'when we become joyfully aware of our relationship with nature.' " This would be the product of "scientific inquiry and knowledge. 'The path of science is one from error to insight, from hypothesis to reality, from religion to nature' (AF 14)."
[PH: See Part 6, P. 22 (the first post of P. 22), for proof of the priority of my claim to the argument that the 'Ring' allegory can be read as an account of man's historical advancement in knowledge, which inspired man's counter-quest to restore lost innocence by a restoration of preconscious natural feeling in religious faith and art. Wherever Shapiro writes "Nature," simply substitute unconsciously inspired secular art to grasp the underlying identity of my older argument with his. Wagner identified his secular art with a restoration of Nature's alleged innocence. I illustrated this argument with the same quotations from Wagner.]
[PARTS 6-7] [P. 22 - Second posting of P. 22 in Part 6] Shapiro says Wagner's celebration of unconscious instinct as the goal of increasing historical self-consciousness seems contradictory. "In Wagner’s pronouncement that science would ultimately be negated and end 'in its pure antithesis' through man’s renewed engagement with the natural world, Wagner seems to want to have it both ways."
[PH: See Parts 6-7, P. 22 (second post of P. 22 in Part 6) for my explanation that this isn't a contradiction. I illustrated this argument with the same quotation from Wagner.]
[PART 7] [P. 37 - See material in the first and second posts of P. 38, & in Pages 38-39 below] "... it is not the curse of the ring, but Bruennhilde’s ... jealousy, that dooms Siegfried as well as her.
(...) In her emotional turmoil, her ancient wisdom is rendered obsolete: 'Where now is my wisdom against this bewilderment? Where are my runes against this riddle?' (RN 326). (...)"
[PART 7] [P. 38 - First Post of P. 38] "... Bruennhilde’s emotional turmoil and ... homicidal disclosure have received insufficient attention ... . (5) Bruennhilde’s outburst of jealousy warrants further investigation."
[PH: See Part 7, P. 37, Page 38 (both posts), P. 39, P. 38-39, and Part 8, P. 40, for my pre-rebuttal of Shapiro's argument that it's Bruennhilde's jealousy and not the Ring Curse which dooms her and Siegfried, for my proof of Shapiro's failure to note Bruennhilde's complaint that she gave her hoard of wisdom to Siegfried, and for my pre-rebuttal of Shapiro's claim that Bruennhilde's vengeful jealousy has received insufficient attention.]
[PART 7] [P. 38 - Second Post of P. 38] "In 'Lohengrin,' Elsa is driven to ask Lohengrin’s name – a forbidden condition of their marriage vows – and thus drives him away forever. In 'A Communication,' Wagner described his ... insight in developing the character of Elsa: 'I grew to find her so justified in the final outburst of her jealousy, that from this very outburst I learnt first to thoroughly understand the purely-human element of love.' Wagner attributed Elsa’s forbidden question to jealousy ... . 'This woman … who, by the very outburst of her jealousy, wakes first from out the thrill of worship into the full reality of Love, and by her wreck reveals its essence to him who had not fathomed it as yet' (CF 347). (...) Jealousy ... for Wagner ... was not an ... adventitious calamity but a fundamental aspect of human attachment. (8)"
[PH: See Part 7, P. 38, and 38-39, and P. 40, for evidence from my prior research that Shapiro misread the significance of Elsa's and Bruennhilde's jealousy. Elsa's longing that Lohengrin share with her the secret knowledge of his identity and origin, so she can protect him from the "Noth" (anguish) he'd suffer if his secret was betrayed, is the basis for Bruennhilde's asking Wotan to share with her the cause of his "Divine Noth" which he dare not speak aloud in words. That Lohengrin refused, whereas Wotan acquiesced, is behind the distinction between Wagner's romantic operas and his revolutionary music-dramas. I illustrated my argument with the same quotations from Wagner in my essay 'How Elsa Showed Wagner the Way to Siegfried,' published by Stewart Spencer in the May, 1995 issue of WAGNER, the scholarly journal of The Wagner Society, London.]
[PART 7] [P. 38-39] Shapiro states that while jealousy merely separated the lovers in 'Lohengrin,' in 'Twilight of the Gods' it leads to murder.
[PART 8] [P. 40] "But in confronting Elsa’s jealousy, Wagner did not condemn it ... ; ... he embraced it as an expression of her core humanity. (...) As Wagner admitted ... in 'A Communication,' it was Elsa and her brush with the authentic essence of love that led him to unearth the natural man Siegfried from ancient myth (CF 375)."
[PH: See Part 8, P. 40, for proof of the priority of my claim to having explained how Elsa's request that Lohengrin share with her the secret knowledge of his identity and origin is the basis of Bruennhilde's request that Wotan share with her his "Divine Noth": Wotan's confession to his wish-womb Bruennhilde was the figurative "seed" which gave birth to his heir and reincarnate self Siegfried, who doesn't know who he is because Bruennhilde knows this for him.]
[PART 8] [P. 42] Shapiro says Carlyle feared the loss of Christian faith, now defunct, would leave a "spiritual vacuum" that needed to be filled. He rejected what replaced it, a "mechanistic, utilitarian vision of man" and "Materialism." Without the divine, "Man needed a receptivity to wonder and mystery in order to flourish."
[PH: See Part 8, P. 42, for proof of the priority of my claim to the argument that the 'Ring' is an allegory of the passing of the torch from dying religious faith (Christianity) to secular art (Wotan's heirs Siegfried the artist-hero, and Bruennhilde, Mother Nature's daughter, Siegfried's muse of unconscious artistic inspiration), which restored lost "Wonder" in the age of science.]
[PART 8] [P. 42-43 - See material posted under P. 43 below] Shapiro notes that by insisting only Siegfried should wake her, Bruennhilde adheres to Wotan's original hope for redemption which he couldn't sustain. Though transferring her loyalty from gods to Siegfried, "the Siegfried she reveres is Wotan’s creation ... instrument of his great plan."
[PART 8] [P. 43] "In the third act of 'Siegfried,' Wotan’s sweeping World Inheritance motif [PH: #134], which captures Wotan's joyous recognition of Siegfried as his heir, is ... appropriated by the lovers."
[PH: See Part 8, P. 42-43, and P. 43, for my explanation of the World-Inheritance Motif #134 as the symbol for the passing of the torch from dying religious faith to inspired secular art, the redemptive Wagnerian music-drama.]
[PART 9] [P. 46] Shapiro notes the loss of the gods' authority "... is crucial to understanding Bruennhilde’s outburst of jealousy and homicidal rage. (...) Her ancient wisdom becomes worthless ... : 'where now is my wisdom against this bewilderment? Where are my runes against this riddle?' (RN 326)."
[PH: See Part 9, P. 46, for my explanation that Bruennhilde is mainly enraged that Siegfried, having fallen heir to Wotan's hoard of knowledge (his unspoken secret) through her love, has betrayed this secret and her love, whose essential purpose was to keep it.]
[PART 10] [P. 61] "Testament to his continuing faith in the Kantian principle of a creative advance inherent in nature, he [PH: Wagner] asserted that the human species’ 'aptitude for Conscious Suffering' was the “last step reached by Nature in the ascending series of her fashionings” (RA 280)."
[PH: See Part 10, P. 61, for proof of my prior claim to the argument that man (Alberich/Wotan), a product of natural evolution, is the saddest of all creatures due to his gift of consciousness, which is also the basis for his ability to acquire power through knowledge, which I illustrated using the same quotation from Wagner. This insight was influenced by Robert Donington.]
[PART 11] [P. 63 - See material which follows the first post of P. 64 below] "Nineteenth-century thinkers recognized ... the human race could realize its destiny ... only through the accumulated wisdom of successive generations of man. (1) (...)
(...) 'God as the totality of all realities and perfections,' Feuerbach taught, 'is nothing other than the totality of the qualities of the species compendiously put together in him for the benefit of the limited individual, but actually dispersed among men and realising themselves in the course of world history.' (3)"
[PART 11] [P. 64 - First Post of P. 64] "The Young Hegelians turned the concept of the species life into the principal article of faith of their new humanism. (...) Whatever the frailties, errors, and misdeeds of the individual, these could be overcome, superseded, and perfected in the life of the species. 'What one man cannot accomplish and does not know,' Feuerbach wrote, 'can be accomplished and known by all men collectively.' (8) (...) This was a concept that was worthy of worship."
[PH: See Part 11, P. 64 (first post of P. 64) for proof of my prior claim to this argument as an explanation of Wagner's 'Ring,' which I illustrated with the same quotations from Feuerbach.]
[PART 11] [P. 64 - Second Post of P. 64 - Also see material in the first and second post of P. 65 below] "... the Young Hegelians rejected ... Christian ... immortality of the soul ... and in its place enshrined human futurity as the determinant of meaning in a secular world."
[PART 11] [P. 65 - First Post of P. 65] "The fear of death had generated the need for the Christian myth of immortality ... . But this 'old fable' was false. (...) ... Feuerbach taught that the spiritual palliative ... was not the immortality of the individual soul, but the beautiful prospect of continued human species life, an ever-renewing human futurity ... ."
[PART 11] [P. 65 - Second Post of P. 65] "In a letter to Liszt in April 1853, Wagner adapted from Feuerbach his own secular vision of a 'hereafter' vouchsafed by the promise of successive generations of man: 'Now we suffer, now we must lose heart and go mad without any faith in the hereafter: I too believe in a hereafter: – I have just shown you this hereafter [i.e. ‘the future of the human race’ ‘where no one need yearn for the other world’]: though it lies beyond my life, it does not lie beyond the limits of all that I can feel, think, grasp and comprehend, for I believe in humanity and – have need of naught else! (16)”
[PH: See Part 11, Second Post of P. 64, and the first and second posts of P. 65, for proof of my prior claim to this argument as an explanation of the 'Ring' allegory, which I illustrated with the same quotation from Wagner. Where Shapiro emphasizes the generic concept of the figurative immortality of collective, historical man, I instead emphasized Wagner's thesis that the new religion of secular man would be inspired art, specifically Wagner's music-dramas.]
[PARTS 11-12] [P. 65-66] "This call to 'self-annihilation' ... was for Carlyle not an embrace of spiritual ... renunciation but ... rejection of egoism in favor of universalism. (17) (...) ... The only answer to life, Wagner told Roeckel in 1854, was 'a frank admission of the truth, even if there be no other personal gain to be had from this than the pride of knowing the truth, and, ultimately, the will and the endeavor to pass on that knowledge to the rest of mankind and thus set them on the path that will lead to their redemption.' (18)
[PH: See Parts 11-12, P. 65-66, for my prior explanation of Wotan's confession to Bruennhilde as his "going-under," or self-annihilation, through which he repressed his hoard of self-knowledge into his unconscious mind and was reborn as Siegfried, the hero who doesn't know who he is because Bruennhilde knows this for him. I used this same Wagner quotation to illustrate my argument.]
[PART 12] [P. 66-67] "Bruennhilde’s self-annihilation ... becomes a beacon for humanity, teaching a world-historical lesson ... straight out of Feuerbach’s playbook: 'the necessary turning-point in history is ... the open confession, that the consciousness of God is nothing else than the consciousness of the species; that man can and should raise himself only above the limits of his individuality, and not above the laws, the positive essential conditions of his species' (EC 272)."
[PH: See Part 12, P. 66-67, for my explanation that this acknowledgment that god is just collective humanity occurs in 'Siegfried' Act Three Scene Three when Wotan passes the baton of dying religious faith to the secular artist-hero Siegfried and his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Bruennhilde. I illustrated this point with the same quotation from Feuerbach.]
[PART 12] [P. 67-68] Shapiro says Wagner sought to reconcile Schopenhauer's renunciation with sensualism and the Will with Species-consciousness. "... Wagner thought he had solved the ... puzzle and boasted to Mathilde Wesendonck ... that 'the result … will ... fill in the gaps in Schopenhauer’s system in a thorough and satisfactory fashion.' (24)"
[PH: See Part 12, P. 67-68, for my explanation that Wagner's replacement of Schopenhauer's redemption through stilling of the Will with Wagner's excitation of the Will in sexual love was Wagner's metaphor of the artist-hero's loving union with his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration.]
[PART 13] [P. 69] Shapiro says that in the margin of the prose draft of 'Die Walkuere' Wagner explored the possibility that Wotan would exclaim: " 'O could I compress all godhead into a seed out of which a free man would sprout! In this way I could annihilate godhead.' "
[PH: See Part 13, P. 69, for my explanation that Wotan's confession to Bruennhilde of his inability to redeem the gods through a free hero of his own making was the figurative seed which gave birth to Wotan's reincarnation as Siegfried.]
[PARTS 13-14] [P. 73 - Second Post of Page 73 - See material from the First Post of P. 74 below] Shapiro quotes from the Feuerbach ending: [PH: I've underlined key passages below which prove, when compared with my older arguments, the priority of my claim.]
'You, blossoming life’s ... enduring race: (...)
though I leave behind me a world without rulers,
I now bequeath to that world my most sacred wisdom’s hoard….'
(...) Bruennhilde, her life’s purpose now at an end, 'bequeaths' her wisdom to succeeding generations. (...) (53) The golden hoard of the Nibelung has now become abstracted or sublated in true Hegelian fashion into a hoard of sacred wisdom."
[PART 14] [P. 74 - First Post of P. 74] "As a result of his intellectual inheritance, nineteenth-century man wielded vast powers."
[PH: See Parts 13-14, P. 73 (second Post) and P. 74 (first post), for proof of my prior claim to this argument: the Nibelung Hoard produced through the power of Alberich's Ring in the bowels of the earth (Erda) is Wagner's metaphor for collective man's historical acquisition of that knowledge which grants him world-power. Wotan as Wanderer (Light-Alberich) also accumulates this hoard of knowledge in his wanderings into and over the earth (Erda). He imparts this hoard to Bruennhilde in his confession. She imparts it to Siegfried subliminally through their loving union, so he remains unconscious of it. Siegfried unwittingly betrays this hoard of knowledge (Wotan's unspoken secret) to the world. Finally, Bruennhilde gives voice to it (Erda's wisdom) in her final words before immolating herself in Siegfried's funeral pyre.]
[PART 14] [P. 74 - Second Post of P. 74] Shapiro notes that in documentary evidence from 1848-1852 we see "... Wagner ... making the ... link between the search for knowledge and truth and the advancement of the species. (...) But renunciation of the will and the futility of human endeavor had no place in Wagner’s worldview of the early 1850s when he completed the poem of the 'Ring.' "
[PH: See Part 14, P. 74 (second post), for my pre-rebuttal of Shapiro's argument: for it's precisely Wagner's fear that scientific knowledge would annihilate man's transcendent value expressed in religion, ethics, and inspired secular art, that Wagner dramatized in Wotan's despairing confession to Bruennhilde, and in Siegfried's destruction, prior to Wagner's earliest acquaintance with Schopenhauer.]
[PART 15] [P. 88 - Also see material from P. 93 below] Shapiro says that due to Bruennhilde's unrealistic idealism she doesn't grasp Wotan's constraints and strives to fulfill his plan by saving Siegmund. Wotan upbraids her arrogance. "Inviolate" on her rock of faith, she sends Siegfried off to adventures but is forced "... to learn Wotan’s ... bitter lesson, that ideals cannot readily be reconciled to the brutality of real facts." (...) Having caused Siegfried's murder through jealous rage, she finally acknowledges her self-deceit.
[PART 15] [P. 93] "Through Bruennhilde’s ... acknowledgement of the imperfection of historical solutions, ... Wagner modeled a new moral attitude ... . (...) The embrace of the whole man – base passions and all – necessitated a new form of judging his actions. (...) ... her new consciousness implicates a new creed of compassionate forgiveness."
[PH: See Part 15, P. 88, and P. 93, for proof of my prior claim to the argument that Bruennhilde ultimately recognized that Wotan's grand plan for redemption through the love she'd shared with Siegfried (which Siegfried and she betrayed) was predicated on Wotan's self-deception, which she and Siegfried had unwittingly perpetuated. Where I differ with Shapiro is that he construes her final words as celebrating and imparting the sobering knowledge she's gained, whereas I construe her choice to immolate herself in the flames of Siegfried's and the gods' funeral pyre as demonstrating her preference for suicide over life in a world shorn of Wonder by Alberich's and Wotan's knowledge, now become conscious in her.]
[PARTS 15-16] [P. 94-95] "... when Wotan realizes that he must stand by the law and let his beloved son be killed, Wagner puts into Wotan’s mouth words that echo those of Othello at the height of his despair: 'Farewell, then, imperious pomp! Godly show’s resplendent shame! Let all I raised now fall in ruins!' (41)"
[PH: See Parts 15-16, P. 94-95, for my original comparison of Wotan with Othello, and Alberich with Iago, based on Wagner's confession to Cosima.]
[PART 16] [P. 102] "In spite of Wagner’s post-hoc attempt to discover an 'unconscious' intuition at work in his poem, the entire plot design and language of the 'Ring' ... expressly follow the logic of the original Feuerbachian and Hegelian agenda that consciously informed and shaped the project in the late 1840s and early 1850s. (10) (...)
[PH: Bruennhilde] ... does not exhibit the 'willessness' or the 'greatest indifference to all things' which are the hallmarks of renunciation. (11) (...) ... she engages in deeds ... that do not deny or relinquish the will to power but utilize it in creative new directions and in the service of a higher species consciousness."
[PH: See Part 16, P. 102, for proof of the priority of my claim to the argument that Wagner's 'Ring' can be entirely construed within a Feuerbachian frame of reference. This includes Wagner's rebuttal to Feuerbach's materialism which Wagner dramatized in Wotan's, Bruennhilde's, and the Waelsungs' struggles, prior to Wagner's first acquaintance with Schopenhauer.]
[PART 16] [P. 104] "An even more compelling ... refutation of the Schopenhauerian reading is that Wotan’s resolution to step aside is ... predicated on the expectation of a succession plan: 'I now perform freely in gladness and joy [PH: #134 - so-called World-Inheritance Motif]: though once, in furious loathing, I bequeathed the world to the Nibelung’s spite, to the lordliest Waelsung I leave my heritage now' (RN 258)." (...) Shapiro adds that Wagner emphasizes Wotan's "emerging optimism about the future prospects for his world, not a deepening conviction of life's emptiness" in the World-Inheritance Motif which expresses his decision.
[PH: See Part 16, P. 104, for my pre-rebuttal to Shapiro's thesis that Wotan's hope for redemption through his heirs Siegfried and Bruennhilde refutes a pessimistic or tragic reading of the 'Ring': Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's love shares Wotan's tragic fate because they've unwittingly perpetuated his religious sin of pessimistic world-denial in inspired secular art.]
[PARTS 16-17] [P. 105] "Wagner ... was ... ambivalent about Schopenhauer’s message of renunciation and never ... gave up his ... faith in ... Young German sensualism. (...) Instead of embracing this ascetic demand, Wagner ... – expressed ... in his famous letter from Venice to Mathilde Wesendonk in December 1858 – ... how “sexual love” really achieved the prescribed quelling of the will rather than the proscribed kindling of it. (32)"
[PH: See Parts 16-17, P. 105, for my argument that sexual love was Wagner's metaphor for redemption of dying religious faith (religion's pessimistic world-renunciation) through inspired secular art, in which the Will is excited rather than stilled and natural feeling restored.]
[PART 17] [P. 109-110] Shapiro notes many have argued that Schopenhauer's privileging of music as an entre to the Will influenced Wagner when completing the 'Ring' score to upset his original concept of the total work of art in which music and words are in balance. But Wagner adhered to his original conception of musical motifs as an enhancement of the drama even as he finished the score of 'Goetterdaemmerung.'
[PH: See Part 17, P. 109-110, for proof of the priority of my claim to the argument that Wagner's composition of the 'Ring' score, even in 'Siegfried' Act Three, and the entirety of 'Goetterdaemmerung,' continued to employ musical motifs as extensions of the drama, and not for purely musical purposes.]
[PARTS 17-18] [P. 112] "The word 'Wunder' had great significance for Wagner. A word that had traditionally been understood to mean 'miracle' in the Christian sense – a false view of the world associated with the unnatural tarnhelm – was recast by Wagner in 'Opera and Drama' to signify the dramatist’s ability to forcefully communicate 'life-energy' to the spectator ... . ... 'this strengthening of a moment of action could only be achieved by lifting it above the ordinary human measure, through the poetic figment of the Wonder ... .' (82) (...) The wonder that nature evoked in man also recaptured a measure of the spiritual void that had been lost with the death of the gods. (...) Bruennhilde’s revelation to Sieglinde [PH: that Sieglinde will give birth to Siegfried] is ... a key moment of 'Wonder' in the Ring, whereby ... Wagner delivers a ... vision of the sublime force of nature ... ."
[PH: See Parts 17-18, P. 112, for proof of the priority of my claim to the argument that the Tarnhelm represents "Wonder," the miraculous, in both religious faith and in secular art. Loge uses Alberich's Tarnhelm to dispossess Alberich of his Ring and its power to redeem the gods (religious faith) from his threat. The Woodbird tells Siegfried the secular artist-hero to take not only Alberich's Ring but also his Tarnhelm from the Nibelung Hoard because the Ring and Tarnhelm are the sources not only of the Wonder of religious faith (The Ring Motif gives birth to the Valhalla Motif), but of the Wonder of Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's redemptive art.]
[PART 18] [P. 112-113] "When confronting Siegmund, Bruennhilde ... acted as agent of Wotan and the enforcer of a religion that ultimately favored the hero’s magical immorality [PH: immortality] in Valhalla over life itself; she asked him in disbelief: 'You’re so little heedful of bliss everlasting?' (...) This new Annunciation [PH: to Sieglinde of new life in Siegfried's prospective birth] supersedes the prior ritual that celebrated life after death in Valhalla. In 'Opera and Drama,' Wagner heartily rejected the Christian mythos 'that utters itself as dread and loathing of actual life, as flight before it, – as longing for death' (OD 159)."
[PH: See Part 18, P. 112-113, for proof of my prior claim to the argument that what religious faith held out as God's promise of supernatural immortality became in inspired secular art the Wonder of the feeling of transcendence within the real, natural world.]
[PART 18] [P. 114 - First Post of Page 14] "Taken together, then, these two themes [PH: #88, Bruennhilde's Annunciation of Death to Siegmund, and #93, Bruennhilde's Annunciation of Life to Sieglinde], each derived from the Fate motif [PH: #87], map the ... paradigm shift ... Wagner was dramatizing – from the cramped Christian mindset obsessed with death and the myth of immortality of the soul to the new religion of man focused on the species life; from a theological world governed by ... providential determinism (fate) – or ... by an Enlightenment utilitarianism that reduced man to a mere machine – to an ever fluid and developing world of nature charged with potential and the promise of progress."
[PH: See Part 18, P. 114 (first post), to see how Shapiro's argument corresponds with my prior thesis that the 'Ring' dramatizes the destruction of religious faith by man's gradual acquisition of objective knowledge, and that Wagner sought to restore lost "Wonder" to the world through his art, which he regarded as "Nature" understood by us sympathetically rather than scientifically.]
[PART 18] [P. 116-117 - See P. 120 below] "Beethoven’s final theme [PH: The Ode to Joy from the 9th Symphony] ... symbolized for Wagner ... recapturing ... nature’s regenerative power and restoring the sublime wonder ... that had been lost in the ... rational and utilitarian (“mechanical”) theories of the last century – ... precisely the message that Sieglinde’s theme represents. (100)"
[PART 19] [P. 120] "In his 'Beethoven' essay, Wagner praised the composer for accomplishing a similar vision of sublime transcendence in his Ninth Symphony, the final theme of which speaks to 'someone waking with a shout of anguish from a terrible dream and near to madness after every quieting of his repeated despair,' with the consoling words 'yet man is good!' (117) The Ode to Joy’s 'childlike innocence' evoked the 'inexpressible joy of Paradise regained.' (118) Music drama thus could reach for the stars while at the same time acknowledging the abyss."
[PH: See Part 18 (and Part 19 below), P. 116-117, and P. 120, for further evidence that this pillar of Shapiro's book is predicated on my prior example: the 'Ring' allegory concerns the substitution of the Wonder of Wagner's own secular art (which he associated with a restoration of natural innocence) for dying religious faith in the age of science, which forced man to acknowledge the abyss of meaninglessness. Wotan's confession of his hoard of unbearable knowledge of that abyss is the secret of Siegfried's unconscious artistic inspiration, a secret Siegfried betrays. I illustrated my argument with these Wagner quotations.]
[PART 19] [P. 122] "24 ... when rehearsing the orchestra for the premiere of 'Siegfried' in 1876 he [PH: Wagner] told the players that the World Inheritance theme [PH: introduced as Wotan tells Erda he no longer fears her prophecy of the gods' doom because his heirs Siegfried and Bruennhilde will redeem the world from Alberich's Ring Curse] 'must sound like the proclamation of a new religion ... .' (...) ... this statement ... makes clear that by the time he came to perform his 'Ring' cycle, Wagner was not interpreting his work in terms of Schopenhauerian futility."
[PH: See Part 19, P. 122, for my discussion of this Wagner quotation from Porges' notes, in which I previously identified that "new religion" both with Feuerbach's thesis and with Wagner's notion that his secular art, specifically music (the "Wonder" of his musical motifs), is collective, secular man's new religion, his substitute for dying religious faith.]
[PART 19] [P. 122-123] "25 Darcy tries to explain away this ... as an illusion: 'these human figures no longer represent the Gibichung men and women, who have been swept away ... ; ... they are now a projection of the audience, which has been ... sucked into the vortex of the drama to preside over the concluding scene of cosmic destruction.' (...) This would make an interesting directorial choice, but is not convincing as textual interpretation."
[PH: See Part 19, P. 122-123, where I argued that Wagner portrayed the Gibichungs as the audience for Siegfried's narrative-song describing how he learned the meaning of birdsong in 'Twilight of the Gods' Act Three, Scene Two. This is Wagner's metaphor for the performance of his own 'Ring.']
[PARTS 19-20] [P. 129] "... there is a ... disjunction between ... Siegfried in the eponymous opera and in 'Goetterdaemmerung' that cannot be explained ... as a revelation of a fault of character or failure of the revolution. (...) ... touched by the blood of the dragon Fafner, Siegfried ... has the capacity to understand the underlying meaning ... of Mime’s lying double-speak. Siegfried ... gains the consciousness to pierce the veil of civilization’s hypocrisy and safely rejects the potion proffered by the dwarf. (...) But ... once he enters the world of the Gibichungs his mythical strengths are ... rendered powerless, and he accepts without a second thought the poisoned draught offered by Gutrune."
[PH: See Parts 19-20, P. 129, and Part 20, P. 129-130 below, to find my argument that Siegfried's progression from an unconsciously inspired artist-hero into the betrayer of the secret of his inspiration to consciousness is due to Alberich's Ring Curse, i.e., collective man's inevitable acquisition of that knowledge which will overthrow man's consoling illusions in religion, ethics, and art. Hagen's two potions (The Potion Motif based on the Tarnhelm motif) represent the Wonder of Wagner's art, that his musical motifs (symbolized by the Woodbirdsong Siegfried interprets for the Gibichungs) hold the key to the profoundest secret of his artistic inspiration.]
[PART 20] [P. 129-130] "... Wagner provides little basis to align the two Siegfrieds ... . (...) Siegfried accepts Hagen’s potion, and the poison acts immediately and conclusively. There is no gradual mental decline as we witness in Othello ... or in Wotan ... ."
[PART 20] [P. 130 - First Post of P. 130 - See also Second Post of P. 130] " ... well before Wagner’s encounter with Schopenhauer and his composition of the score, Siegfried’s role in 'Goetterdaemmerung' as natural naif and victim of history had been fixed."
[PH: See Part 20, P. 130 (First and Second Posts), for proof that this thesis was central to my own, prior interpretation at www.wagnerheim.com.]
[PART 20] [P. 132] "Siegfried’s fairytale heroism conforms to the mythic framework, not the historical. (...) This critical stance towards Siegfried as epic hero is integral to the original formulation of the tetralogy, and not a later gloss colored by Schopenhauerian pessimism and political capitulation."
[PH: See Part 20, P. 132, for proof that I previously argued that as heirs to dying religious faith (Wotan), Siegfried as artist-hero and his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Bruennhilde were doomed to destruction, like Wotan, for perpetuating Wotan's religious sin of world-denial, in art, a plot that owed nothing to Schopenhauer.]
[PART 20] [P. 133-134] "... in the end, Siegfried ... still has no understanding of what has taken place in ... 'Goetterdaemmerung' ... . (35) (...) To the extent that the return of the Awakening theme [PH: #138 or #139?] can be interpreted ... as ... reflecting the emergence of some deeper insight, it is not Siegfried’s, but ... Bruennhilde’s second awakening ... . ... Siegfried’s final words are directed to a newly enlightened Bruennhilde: 'Ah! Those eyes – now open for ever!' "
[PH: See Part 20, P. 133-134, for my argument at www.wagnerheim.com that since Bruennhilde is allegorically Wotan's and Siegfried's unconscious mind, her awakening and final words are also figuratively theirs, i.e., man's.]
[PART 21] [P. 134-135] "... the curse is broken at the end of the opera, ending these perpetual cycles of mythological time and ushering in a new era of history." Shapiro says the Norns' mythological time (fate) ends when their rope of fate is broken by human agency.
[PH: See Part 21, P. 134-135, for my argument at www.wagnerheim.com that as metaphors for past, present, and future, the Norns and their rope of fate actually represent the real, natural world in time and space which is the object of science, including the inevitability of man's progress in knowledge (the product of Alberich's Ring Curse of consciousness, woven into their Rope), and that Siegfried's alleged cutting of their rope of fate is figurative, a metaphor for our experience of the "Wonder" of art in which we feel as if we've transcended time and space.]
[PART 21] [P. 137-139] Shapiro says that in the 'Ring' finale, "... all that remains of these ... dramatic passion-driven moments of the tetralogy are the timeless talismanic leitmotifs that carry the memory of these events ... (...) ... the music drama reflects on itself, becomes self-conscious. Wagner’s leitmotivic system reaches its apotheosis as the most perfect vehicle to communicate Hegel’s ... search for Absolute Knowing."
(...) The historical process so full of pain and suffering is transformed by Wagner’s musical sequence into a beautiful Apollonian panorama. (...) ... experiencing the whole course of history in one ... sweep of sound, we can take ... comfort in the 'exuberant fertility of the universal will.' 'Art approaches as a saving sorceress, expert at healing,' (60) [PH: Quotation from Nietzsche's 'The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music'] allowing us to confront the terrors of existence with renewed faith in life."
[PH: See Part 21, P. 137-139, for my argument at www.wagnerheim.com that Wotan's confession to Bruennhilde of the guilt inhering in the history of the world he imparts is sublimated into the redemptive musical motifs of the 'Ring,' and that Siegfried's interpretation of the Woodbird Song for his Nibelung audience is Wagner's metaphor for the performance of his own 'Ring,' which becomes conscious of itself.]
[PART 21] [P. 141] "12 Siegfried emphatically broke the Hamlet mold ... . Unlike Hamlet, Siegfried’s 'native hue of resolution' had not been 'sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.' ”
[PH: See Part 21, P. 141, for proof that I anticipated Shapiro's implicit argument that if Wotan is akin to Hamlet in being paralyzed into inaction by too great consciousness of the unbearable truth about the world, Bruennhilde, by knowing this for Siegfried, protects him from suffering Wotan's fearful, paralyzing foresight of the gods' inevitable doom. This makes him fearless.]
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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