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The Rhinegold: Page 123
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… we gaze on this entrancing measure of the truest and most high-born Muses of artistic man … . [P. 96] Such is the love and life, the wooing and the winning of Art; its separate units, ever themselves and ever for each other, severing in richest contrast and re-uniting in most blissful harmony.” [433W-{9-12/49} The Artwork of the Future: PW Vol. I, p. 95-96]

Thus Wagner links what for him were the three key arts of the theater, with spontaneous animal instinct, or feeling as such. But there is more. The Rhinedaughters are engaged in play, a seemingly childish game, and art for Wagner is a profound form of play, which, like love, seems antithetical to the conscious quest for power, and like art, evidently is enjoyed for its own sake:

“ … it is permissible for art to use these [the church’s] symbols, but in a free spirit and not in the rigid forms imposed by the church; since art is a profound form of play, it frees these symbols of all the accretions the human craving for power has attached to them.” [1012W-{4/27/80} CD Vol. II, p. 470]

[R.1: K]

Alberich, clear-sighted about the true nature of the world now that he’s realized he’ll never find love in it (and that therefore there may actually be no love in it), makes this distinction himself, disdaining the Rhinegold if it only serves for the Rhinedaughters’ games, since in that case it is little use to him:

Alberich: Is the gold only good for your diving games? Then it would serve me little!


Woglinde: ([#? a transformation of joyous Rhinedaughter music into the “world inheritance motif” #17, which remains essentially Rhinedaughter music but is also an embryo for the “ring motif”:]) The golden jewel he’d not despise if only he knew all its wonders


Wellgunde: [[ #17: ]] The world’s wealth would be won by him who forged from the Rhinegold the ring that would grant him limitless power (:#17). (…)

Alberich has here made one of the Ring’s crucial distinctions between human thought under the sway of feeling and play, which produces religious mythology and art, and objective human thought, through which we obtain the knowledge to draw profit and power from the things of this world. This latter is the basis of the practical utility which Alberich values, now that he knows the real world holds no subjective consolations of feeling for him, no love.

But Woglinde retorts that Alberich wouldn’t despise the Rhinegold if he knew the power latent within it, the world’s wealth itself, and limitless power, which Wellgunde points out can be obtained if one forges the Rhinegold into a Ring. In other words, what gives them aesthetic pleasure, can in others’ hands produce worldly power. In this transformation of the Rhinegold,

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