Thursday, February 08, 2024

Apolline vs. Dionysian

The Birth of Tragedy / The Case of Wagner
The Birth of Tragedy 
and The Case of Wagner 

“Without myth, however, every culture loses its healthy creative natural power: it is only a horizon encompassed with myth that rounds off to unity a social movement.”   ― Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

In The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche not only narrates the origin of tragedy, but he also offers a postmortem that identifies its killers. According to Nietzsche, with Euripides' help and encouragement, Socrates destroyed this pinnacle of Greek culture. However, Nietzsche goes on to predict that Wagnerian opera will bring about its revival, at least in Germany. The ideas of Schopenhauer and Kant indicate that the rationalism that was introduced by Socrates and ultimately led to the abolition of tragedy has run its course and reached its limits, which means that the time is right for tragedy to reappear. Pace logic apart, the thing itself demonstrates that it is fundamentally unknown.

Nietzsche's analysis identifies the Apolline and the Dionysian artistic tendencies that are united in Greek tragedy. In contrast to the Dionysian, who offers chaos, intoxication, obscurity, excess, and fusion, the Apolline symbolizes clarity, beauty, order, shape, and individuation. Greek tragedy—at least the works by Aeschylus and Sophocles—exposes its audience to existential horrors like fate's hand, the impotence of even the most admirable people, and the certainty of suffering. It rises above the pit of sorrow and pessimism, however, to affirm life in the end, or at the very least, to affirm aesthetic force and its capacity to redeem pain and suffering, by crafting these brutal facts into a great work of art.

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