Short List of ideas A. Shapiro borrowed from or misunderstood

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

Moderators: alberich00, Justin Jeffrey

Post Reply
Site Admin
Posts: 519
Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2011 11:03 am

Short List of ideas A. Shapiro borrowed from or misunderstood

Post by alberich00 » Fri Oct 23, 2020 12:46 pm

Paul Heise's Short List of ideas borrowed from P. Heise without being cited, or misunderstood, by Alexander H. Shapiro in Shapiro's book "The Consolations of History: Themes of Progress and Potential in Richard Wagner's 'Goetterdaemmerung' " (Routledge; 10/2019)


AS is commentary by Alexander Shapiro
[PH is commentary by Paul Heise]
RW is Richard Wagner
Feuer is Ludwig Feuerbach
Schop is Arthur Schopenhauer
[UNB] stands for AS's "Uncredited Borrowing" from my
[PR] is a problem Shapiro can't resolve, but I did, at

Paraphrases of quotations from RW and from Feuer which Shapiro used to illustrate the same or similar arguments that I used these quotations to illustrate are in boldface print.

1. [UNB] AS is the first to interpret the 'Ring' in terms of 19th Century theories of progress.

2. [UNB] AS: You can grasp the 'Ring' in terms of Hegel and Feuer with no reference to

3. [PR] AS can solve the problem of why Siegfried, herald of the new age, is doomed.

4. [PR] AS can't grasp why the revolutionary Siegfried is unconscious.

5. [PR] AS can't grasp how the incarnation of the Hegelian idea, Siegfried, is unconscious of it.

6. [UNB] AS links RW's critique that Christianity set's man's goal outside man with Feuer's use of Rousseau's natural man to create a new religion.

7. [UNB] AS notes RW peeled away layers of civilization from old myth to discover Siegfried, the Naked Man.

8. [UNB] AS uses RW's remark that Siegfried lives only in the present to illustrate Siegfried's lack of consciousness.

9. [UNB] AS says the Tarnhelm creates miracles, and illustrates it with RW's remark that religious Wonder tore the coherence of Nature asunder.

10. [PR] AS misconstrues RW's remark that Lohengrin descended from the intellectual heights to the depths of love to explain Bruennhilde's fear of union with Siegfried.

11. [UNB] AS aligns Hegel's faith in progress through human consciousness with Bancroft's equating of progress with scientific proof.

12. [UNB] AS: Man's evolutionary goal is [RW:] to end his denial of (heresy against) Nature which taught him to see himself as an instrument which lay outside him.

13. [UNB] AS: Man can't restore lost innocence: RW: When man broke away from his animal unconsciousness to become conscious error began. AS: This automatically alienated man from Nature.

14. [UNB] AS: RW sought to restore natural unconsciousness, but it's only possible through the evolution of consciousness, scientific knowledge, which corrects religion's mistakes. RW: The path of Science is from religion's error to Nature.

15. [PR] [UNB] AS: RW contradicts himself seeking unconscious instinct through increasing consciousness. RW: Science will end in its antithesis, Nature.

16. [PR] [UNB] AS: Bruennhilde's jealousy, not the Ring Curse, dooms her and Siegfried. Her wisdom becomes obsolete. Her homicidal jealousy has received insufficient attention.

17. [PR] [UNB] AS: RW: I grew to find her so justified in the final outbreak of Elsa's jealousy that from it I first learned the purely-human nature of love. AS: Elsa's jealousy makes her ask the forbidden question. RW: Through her jealousy Elsa wakes from the thrill of worship to the reality of love.

18. [PR] [UNB] AS: In 'Lohengrin' jealousy separates the lovers; in the 'Ring' it inspires murder. RW didn't condemn Elsa's jealousy but celebrated it. Her love led RW to unearth the natural man Siegfried from myth.

19. [PR] [UNB] AS: Carlyle: The loss of Christian faith left a spiritual void which needs filling. It can't be filled by mechanism, utilitarianism, materialism, but only by Wonder and Mystery.

20. [PR] [UNB] AS: Bruennhilde allows only Siegfried to wake her; she lives for Wotan's plan for redemption Wotan had forsaken. Though leaving the gods behind, Bruennhilde's lover Siegfried is Wotan's creation and hope. The lovers inherit Wotan's World-Inheritance Motif.

21. [PR] [UNB] AS: The gods' loss of authority explains Bruennhilde's homicidal jealousy. Her hoard of ancient wisdom becomes worthless.

22. [UNB] AS: RW's belief in Nature's creative evolution is expressed in his remark: RW: man's aptitude for conscious suffering is the last step in Nature's ascending series.

23. [UNB] AS: For 19th Century thinkers man could only achieve his destiny through accumulated wisdom. Feuer: God is the totality of man's qualities dispersed among individual men and realized through history.

24. [UNB] AS: For Young Hegelians species-life is the new humanism. Feuer: What one man can't do or know all men collectively can. AS: This idea is worthy of worship.

25. [UNB] AS: The Young Hegelians substitute secular man's futurity for Christians' immortality of the soul. Fear of death inspired illusory belief in immortality: Feuer taught the ever-renewing species is man's substitute. RW: We suffer & go mad without faith in a hereafter: But we need not seek another world. My faith is in the hereafter that lies beyond my life but not all I can think or feel: humanity.

26. [PR] AS: Carlyle's call for annihilation isn't renunciation but loss of egoism. RW: The only answer is a frank admission of the truth from pride of knowing it and the will to bequeath it to man for his redemption.

27. [UNB] [PR] AS: Bruennhilde's self-annihilation teaches Feuer's world-historical lesson: Feuer: History's necessary turning-point is the confession that God's consciousness is man's collective consciousness: that man can & should raise himself above his individuality but not the laws and conditions of the species.

28. [PR] AS: RW sought to reconcile Schop's renunciation with sensualism, Schop's Will with Species-consciousness. RW told M Wesendonck he'd solved this puzzle which would fill the gap in Schop's philosophy.

29. [PR] AS: RW: (from 'The Valkyrie' prose scenario marginal note) Wotan: O could I compress Godhead into a seed from which a free man would sprout! In this way I could annihilate Godhead.

30. [PR] [UNB] AS: From the Feuer ending to the 'Ring': RW: Bruennhilde: I now bequeath to the world my most sacred wisdom's hoard. AS: The golden Nibelung Hoard has now been sublated in Hegelian fashion into a hoard of sacred wisdom. Thanks to his intellectual inheritance, 19th Century man wielded great power.

31. [PR] AS: From 48-52 RW linked the search for knowledge and truth with the species' advancement. But world-renunciation and the futility of human endeavor had no place in RW's worldview during this period when he completed the 'Ring' poem.

32. [PR] [UNB] AS: Due to her unrealistic idealism Bruennhilde ignores Wotan's constraints and tries to fulfill his plan. Wotan upbraids her arrogance. She sends Siegfried off on adventures which force her to learn Wotan's bitter lesson that ideals can't be reconciled with brutal reality. Her jealous rage having killed Siegfried, she acknowledges her self-deceit. Her acknowledgment of the imperfection of historical solutions models a new morality of compassionate forgiveness which embraces even man's base passions.

33. [PR] AS: When Wotan must support the law and allow his son to die, RW has him echo Othello in despair: Farewell imperious pomp! Godly show's resplendent shame! Let all I raised fall in ruins!

34. [UNB] [PR] AS: In spite of RW's post-hoc attempt to discover an unconscious intuition [PH: of Schop] in his 'Ring,' it follows Hegel's/Feuer's agenda that influenced RW while writing it in 48-52. Bruennhilde doesn't renounce the world: she's neither will-less nor indifferent. Her final deeds don't deny but use the Will-to-Power creatively to serve man.

35. [PR] A more compelling refutation of Schop is Wotan making Siegfried his heir. RW: Wotan: I now perform freely and joyously [PH: #134 World Inheritance Motif] what I once resolved in despair. I once bequeathed the world in furious loathing to the Nibelung's spite but now I leave my heritage to the lordliest Waelsung [PH: Siegfried]. AS: RW emphasizes Wotan's optimism for the world's future, not life's emptiness, in the World-Inheritance Motif.

36. [PR] AS: RW never bought into Schop's renunciation but adhered to Young German sensualism. Denying Schop's asceticism, RW wrote to M. Wesendonck that sexual love quelled the Will instead of kindling it.

37. [UNB] AS: Many say that Schop's identification of the Will with music led RW to undermine his original balance between music and word/drama. But RW continued to employ his music to enhance the drama as he completed the 'Ring' score (Twilight).

38. [UNB] [PR] AS: Wonder originally meant Christian miracle (an illusion associated with the Tarnhelm), but RW used it to describe how the dramatist could convey vital force to his audience by raising an action above the ordinary through the poetic Wonder. Nature's Wonder restored some of the spiritual void lost with the gods' death. Bruennhilde's telling Sieglinde she's pregnant with Siegfried is a wondrous vision of Nature's sublime force.

39. [UNB] AS: Confronting Siegmund, Bruennhilde represented religion which favors immortality in Valhalla over life. She asks: Are you so heedless of eternal bliss? Bruennhilde's annunciation of Siegfried's life to Sieglinde supersedes Valhalla's life after death. RW rejected Christianity which expresses dread and loathing of life, longing for death.

40. [UNB] [PR] AS: The Annunciation of Death [PH: #88] and Annunciation of Life [PH: #93] motifs (both derived from Fate [PH: #87]) map the shift from Christianity's obsession with death and immortality to the new religion of the human species, from a theological world bound by providential determinism (Fate), or utilitarianism which sees man as a machine, to developing Nature marked by potential and progress.

41. [PR] [UNB] AS: For RW Beethoven's Ode to Joy restored Nature's generative power and sublime Wonder which were missing in utilitarian (mechanical) and rational theories. This is what Sieglinde's theme [PH: #93] represents.

42. [UNB] [PR] AS: RW praised the Ode to Joy as a vision of sublime transcendence which speaks to someone waking with a shout of anguish from a terrible dream near madness and despair with the consoling words: Yet man is good! Its childlike innocence expressed the inexpressible joy of paradise regained. AS: Music could reach for the stars yet acknowledge the abyss.

43. [UNB] [PR] AS: At the premier of 'Siegfried' in 76 RW told the players that the World- Inheritance Motif #134 must sound like the herald of a new religion. AS: This proves that by 76 RW didn't interpret the 'Ring' in terms of Schop's futility.

44. [PR] AS: Darcy: These people who witness the finale of 'Twilight' are no longer the Gibichungs, who've been swept away, but a projection of the audience which has been sucked into the vortex of the drama to witness the concluding scene of cosmic destruction. AS: This is interesting but not a convincing textual interpretation.

45. [PR] AS: The disjunction between Siegfried in 'Siegfried' and in 'Twilight' can't be explained as a character flaw or the revolution's failure. The Dragon Fafner's blood gave Siegfried the ability to grasp the hidden meaning behind Mime's double-speak. He can pierce the veil of civilization's hypocrisy and rejects Mime's potion. But his mythical strength is powerless among the Gibichungs, so he naively accepts Gutrune's poisoned draught.

46. [PR] [UNB] AS: RW offers little basis to align the two Siegfrieds. Hagen's potion's influence is immediate. There's no gradual mental decline as with Wotan. Long before RW learned of Schop Siegfried's role in 'Twilight' as a natural naif and history's victim was set.

47. [PR] [UNB] AS: Siegfried's fairytale heroism is mythic, not historical. The critique of Siegfried as epic hero was integral to RW's original conception of the 'Ring' and not a later gloss colored by Schop's pessimism and political capitulation.

48. [PR] AS: In the end, Siegfried has no understanding of what happened in 'Twilight.' If the Awakening Motif's [PH: #138 or #139?] return reflects the emergence of a deeper insight, it's not Siegfried's but Bruennhilde's second awakening. Siegfried's final words address a newly enlightened Bruennhilde: Ah! Those eyes, now opened forever!

49. [PR] AS: In the end the curse is broken, ending the perpetual cycles of mythic time and ushering in a new era of history. The Norns' mythic time (fate) ends when their rope of fate is broken by human agency.

50. [UNB] [PR] AS: In the 'Ring' finale all that remains of its passion-driven moments are these timeless talismanic motifs of memory. The 'Ring' reflects on itself, becoming self- conscious. RW's leitmotif system reaches its apotheosis as the perfect vehicle to express Hegel's search for Absolute Knowing. The history full of suffering is transformed by RW'S array of motifs into a beautiful panorama. Experiencing all of history in a sweep of sound, we take comfort in the 'exuberant fertility of the universal Will.' 'Art approaches as a saving sorceress, expert at healing' [PH: Nietzsche's 'The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music'], [AS:] allowing us to confront the terrors of existence with renewed faith in life.

51. [UNB] [PR] AS: Unlike Hamlet, Siegfried's 'native hue of resolution' had not been 'sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought.'
Post Reply