Fredrich Nietzsche – Grappling with his dichotomy

October 28, 2007 at 6:47 pm (Uncategorized)


German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche  had a passion for the music of Wagner. He also loved the age of Louis XIV and the French dramatic acting of the classical period. (Gerould, 337). He advocated for a return to the classical period in terms of the production and performance of art. He wanted to “ressurect the German theatre of his day by going back to ancient roots,” (Gerould, 337). In Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, Nietzsche praises the Greek gods of the arts: Dionysus (theatre) and Apollo (Music). Nietzsche plays on the dichotomy of the Apollonian and Dionysian perspective of art (theatre). He juxtaposes Apollo’s dream world with that of Dionysus’s Drunken-like state as two worlds in which the audience of theatre can be categorized. He claims that in the Apollonian sphere, the audience is transported to a dream world with certain boundaries. We are fully aware of where we are, how we got here and how to get out. What we are witnessing is not pure reality, we can distinguish the difference between the real world and this dream. On the other hand, Nietzsche proposes a Dionysian “drunken ecstasy,” in which the audience is completely lost and caught up in the dream. All members of the audience are willingly or unwillingly together in this process- the body of the audience is unified in their mutual journey into Nietzsche’s “inner world of fantasy,” (Gerould, 339). In this experience, we forget are bearings- where we are, how we got there, and how we are supposed to- if at all, get out.

                Like Zola, Nietzsche believed in naturalism in theatre- however there is a sense that he perhaps feared that we were going too far with it. He still wanted us to be suspended in belief and to experience theatre as a sort of entertainment (Diderot). Thus, his explanation of getting caught up in what transpires before you, as an audience member. Nietzsche’s idea of a chorus further suggests how it works to illustrate the process of Dionysian tragedy. The chorus helps to lull the audience into a state of unification, of becoming one with the action on stage.

                Nietzsche is extremely complex and dense. I am interested to explore his ideas in relation to mimesis and to explore further how his ideas correspond to music as one of the elements which gave birth to tragedy. TOUGH STUFF!


1 Comment

  1. theprof said,

    yes indeed he is tough, but your first paragraph is pretty darn accurate!

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