Wagner's Ring and German Drama: Comparative Studies in Mythology and History in Drama

Wagner's Ring and German Drama: Comparative Studies in Mythology and History in Drama

Wagner's Ring and German Drama: Comparative Studies in Mythology and History in Drama

Wagner's Ring and German Drama: Comparative Studies in Mythology and History in Drama

Synopsis

Wagner's Ring, an important phenomenon of the German drama tradition, is situated and examined alongside other major works of the canon. Wagner defines tragedy as a mythological drama. The theoretical foundation of the Ring is a complex dialectic of history and myth. By contrasting the Ring with the dramas of Schiller, Hebbel, Hofmannsthal, and Brecht different facets of Wagner's work are uniquely highlighted beyond theoretical generalizations or broad overviews. This series of comparisons offers fresh insight into the interrelationships of the Ring with the previous German drama tradition, and also investigates its influence on twentieth-century drama and opera.

Excerpt

Wagner and Hebbel were contemporaries. In fact, they were even born the same year (1813). However, the nineteenth century was rich with conflicting currents of ideas, and a comparison of Wagner's and Hebbel's views certainly proves this statement. In the nineteenth century, Idealism lived alongside Realism, which evolved out of it; the materialism of Feuerbach and Marx contrasted with the metaphysics of late Romanticism; Schopenhauerian pessimism revised Romantic utopian notions; one practiced either revolution or resignation; one strove outward, or one turned inward. External reality is manifold, as are one's options in dealing with it.

The usual procedure is to divide the nineteenth century into two parts, distinguishing between the revolutionary trends of the first half and the pessimistic resignation that was evident in the second. In literary-historical terms, one would speak of the movements Young Germany and Realism. The century vacillated between these two extremes, in more general and universal terms, the objective and the subjective, the outer and the inner, politics and aesthetics, activity and inwardness, and, philosophically speaking, the currents of Realism and Idealism. When one looks at nineteenth-century drama theory, these tendencies were represented by the drama theory of Marx and Engels, on one hand, who outlined a theory of revolutionary drama, and that of Gustav Freytag, who felt that art should deal with eternal human problems.

One is strongly inclined to simply say that Wagner and Hebbel, when considered against this background, represent two entirely opposed trends of the century. Wagner seems to belong more to the trends of Romanticism . . .

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