Wagner and Goethe: "Faust" and Beethoven's "Eroica"

An interpretation

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2011

31 Pages



Introductory note

Wagner and Goethe: Faust and Beethoven's Eroica

Note of widening



This is the English translation, and the widening, of section 1.2 of the first chapter of my Essay “La Metafisica dell'Arte attraverso l'Opera di Richard Wagner”1. The original Italian title of this section is “1.2 Wagner e Goethe: Faust e l'Eroica di Beethoven”. This section is here published separately, in a widening version, as were explicit more references and insights related to my interpretation on the relation between Wagner and Beethoven. Bond that in my interpretation is symbolized in the triadic union of Goethe, Wagner and Beethoven. An union which has its extremes in Faust and the Eroica, but its midpoint and maximum expression id the Work of Wagner2.


We have previously noted that Wagner’s work is interwoven with reflection and the thought of Romantik, through the meaningful comparison with some of its thinkers3, it is now necessary to deal with that particular bond that characterizes the relationship between Wagner and Goethe4.

This link allows us to grasp and deal the relationship between Wagner, as a composer-theorist, and the work of Beethoven. This particular interpretation is supported by the central ideal, located in the middle of this triad, represented by the essence of Faust.

First I need to consider how Faust can be taken as a representative model of the organicism, theorized by Goethe, and how this is directly connected with the idea of the wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk. Limited to Faust may seem restrictive, if only through it is possible to summarize what is the relationship Wagner-Goethe. This parallel does not sound strange if we consider, under the perspective of Spengler’s reflection, the second Faust and the Parsifal, as representative images of the human soul in the next few centuries5, because, as in Wagner seems to shine the verse of Goethe’s poem, as in Goethe seems to be already anticipated the broad theme of Wagner’s music.

The above comments may seem superfluous, or if seems wrong, if we’re not to consider the different ideas and thoughts for both of the reflections and the works of two authors, but fundamental in this consideration is the theme of Totality, inherent in the entire work of the two authors. I’ve previously mentioned Werther, in a relation with the titanic figures of Wagnerian heroes, now we must consider a mutation of form, a mutation of character, that start from early to latest Goethe, that through reflect to the figures spectrum, that in the thought of Wagner. From the Werther I can to draw the track of things, that Goethe gives us, about the poetry of nature. The lengthy descriptions of landscapes, detailed references, as lovers of nature, are not a simple reference of text, or a mere description, but rather are the starting point from which it can germinate the link with the nature of the Romantik.

In this dimension of Stürmer is evident that in Wagner returns as the difference between the original man, the events surrounding and the nature, where it shows the initial harmony in mingling with the difference, that only a Titan is able to overcome. An idyllic vision that is to apparent both at the general level of emotions, and at the level of love, emotion and tears that so erodes the existence of Werther, as the inflammation and sweetness of the bond of Brünnhilde with Siegfried, and that, likewise, Ibsen recalls in his Peer Gynt with the melody of the song of Solveig's lament6. A triad, that of man with the nature and love, which I've already marked and returned, returns, continuously in wagnerian scenes, as in the words of Goethe, sealed by the mark of that original harmony that re-call all to himself. I can still find in WertherS the training of artistic conception, that Wagner gives us on the artist, about this I can read, from the Werther, this words: «Das bestärkte mich in meinem Vorsatze, mich künftig allein an die Natur zu halten. Sie allein ist unendlich reich, und sie allein bildet den großen Künstler»7.

Here I highlight what is the role of nature, as Ancilla and Muse of artist, which in Wagner always comes back, and comes back in new guise, but always remains within the artistic training. A Wagner that in his artistic carriers and works mirrors the lightness, the fashion and the lives of Werther, as he takes over and re-creates the myth of Werther in his life. It's not the simply story of the young man that tears into an impossible love, sensitive to nature, but is the story of a man that collects his high sensitivity spirit, beyond it over his age8. This representation, poetic and sublime, is not without its links with the theoretical background above outlined, I recall, in this regard, the description of the scene where Werther and Lotte admire the storm, during the night of the dance:

Sie stand auf ihrem Ellenbogen gestützt und ihr Blick durchdrang die Gegend, sie sah gen Himmel und auf mich, ich sah ihr Auge tränenvoll, sie legte ihre Hand auf die meinige und sagte - Klopstock! Ich versank in dem Strome von Empfindungen, den sie in dieser Losung über mich ausgoß9.

I can note here two aspects, though appear to be confined only to the style of text, that closing in their content, much more than just descriptive mode. First, the evocative capacity that Goethe puts in words of scene. What words could otherwise be used for this? In the descriptive possibilities perhaps no composition would be easier as Superb, but Wagner will succeed in this act, through a very original process of mimesis. The scene to which I refer is the second scene of the Act III of Siegfried, after the awakening of Brünnhilde10. At first the awakening of She, followed by her solemn salute and then the meeting of their looks, looks that are not yet troubled by love, but are still wrapped in the idyllic passion of the first glances11, because it is a passion that still has not been dragged to its nihilist evolution12. I can step back here the wagnerian passage, and expose this parallel:

Er küßt sie lange und inbrünstig - Erschreckt fahrt er dann in die höhe: - Brünnhilde hat die Augen aufgeschlagen. - Staunend blickt er sie an. Beide verwellen eine Zeit lang in ihren gegenseitigen Unblick versunken. [...] (Siegfried) von ihrem Blicke und ihrer Stimme feierlich ergriffen13.

I note how with his creative act, Wagner re-calls what is highlighted through the descriptions of Werther. What both seek and want to seal in their own words is the authentic moment, the representation of absolute moment, a generation of new back to the original harmony. This Faustian tendency, towards the reconstituted original Totality, found in the wagnerian its new representation. Through the parallel with the Werther I further go back to new genetic body of wagnerian poetic and aesthetic. So far I've already highlighted the issues related to other authors of the Romantik, in particular the natural issue and that its and special relation with the sentimental, in particular the reference to the theme of love. I can now highlight a further aspect, more akin to theoretical reflection, that of the sphere of Tragic.

I previously mentioned, that I cannot define the character of Werther as a titan, rather he's a representative of the highest sphere of the sublime tragedy. This reflection is justifiable when I consider how he, in the unfolding of his story, takes the peculiarity of tragic character, and also how it's identified in the perspective of Schiller14. Asjust stated, about the character of Werther, in his singular vicissitude, does not produce any alteration to the particular process of mimesis where is to regain its observer.

Indeed, he inflames and enhances the spirits who turn to him their looks, because, for the character that Goethe impress to in him, he is able to generate and nurture the sentiment and the exaltation15. I must point out that this sympathy, deliberately recall the conception of the characters of the representation Attic, is nothing else that the representation at the level of established characters, the concept of the tragedy that was already conceived by Schiller. In this building covers not only the theoretical apparatus of the tragic-idyllic, but also the pathetic and the conception of the hero. Now if Schiller is the harbinger of this line, and Wagner represents the final exaltation, I may well see in Goethe the midpoint between the top two. Despite the Goethe's reflection enjoying an authentic and autonomous legitimacy, original as seconded by Schiller, I can easily see how their concordance, come to tally up to] absorb this second in the first. Suggesting perhaps an illegitimate succession, I can justify this, through the purely ideal form and the concept of this idealistic conception of the tragic form. Tragic form that otherwise would not have come so strongly to influence the genesis and constitution of the individual works of Wagner, through which it is not possible to recognize this theoretical genesis16. For this his character, and background of his own reflection, allows him to give in the observer, that particular germ of to spring, that makes it enhance the vicissitudes. allows the observer to give that particular germ emerged that makes it enhance the story. One germ that, in the same time, he cannot to see how this, is not only in his aspect of character, or psychological character, but even presents in his speech gesture, in his act, and it is in this empathy of sensitive, as the ideal that allows him to put in exaltation and pure involvement his observer17. The character of Werther is in fact to come and be regarded as tragic, because, if I considerate how even it's his final act, it's to re-propose as a elater, in a comparison with the human spirit. This is because it proves capable of that agenda that just like in the Titan, over-passing the barrier of the bastions of the time. It gives so eternal in the human spirit, showing its own unique originality', it is to characterize how the authentic tragic act, that in its to come a representation, it will involve the same observer, through the heroic action. Observer finds himself immersed in the accomplished action, it's directly involved both in the spirit and in the ideal; as in the Classical Attic tradition allowed the direct involvement of its observers, as united by a common cultural Koivf so the tragic action of Werther, as that of Siegfried, is to fully engage its observers. This total commonality and membership of spirits18 is to be justified by the representation of the work of art, both in its theatrical form, that in its only written form, because it involves both its senses in the ideal observer. If I observer through the wagnerian perspective, as delineated in Das Kunstwer der Zukunft and in Oper und Drama, I can already identify in Werther the first real, and authentic, movement back to the universal and original intent of art's work19. If again I take the considerations so far conducted, I can define, at the incipit of Goethe' work, these following


1 Comp. L. Magni, La Metafisica dell'Arte attraverso l'Opera di Richard Wagner, GRIN Verlag, München, 2011. I would also like to clarify how this short monograph {Wagner and Goethe: Faust and Beethoven's Eroica) has already been presented, such as lighter and less depth version, such as "Sample Work" at the Trinity College ofDublin.

2 In reviewing of this section of chapter, published here as a short monograph in its own right, I show how this interpretation is not arbitrary, but rather, from the theoretical point of view, of the connection between ideas and thoughts, has its solid foundation.

3 These authors of reference, discussed in the first chapter of my book La Metafisica dell'Arte attraverso l'Opera di Richard Wagner, are: Novalis, Hölderlin and Schiller.

4 Other references to the authors of Romantik are discernible in the works of Tieck and Von Kleist, as well as other German-Language authors and other authors who don’t write in German, such as Baudelaire. I will make direct reference to these authors, only in specific parts where their influence will be directly referenced by mt present discussion.

5 Comp. O. Spengler, Der Untergang des Abendlandes, Verlag C. H. Beck, München, 1998, pag. 149.

6 Reference to H. J. Ibsen, Peer Gynt, Bonniers, Stockholm, 1951; E. Grieg, Peer Gynt Suiten Nr.l und 2 (op.46 und 55), Studienpartitur, Eulenburg, Mainz, 2007, pages 88-92.

7 Cit. J. W. von Goethe, Die Leiden des jungen Werther, in Johann Wolfgang Goethe Münchner Ausgabe inXXXIUBänden, Bd. 1.2, btb Verlag, München, 2006, pag. 205.

8 A Werther that takes upon itself the time pressure, an antagonistic force that to be resisted, requires the action of the Titan, the force and the thrust towards the Absolute, as if, in his final act, to assume in itself the characteristic germ of Faust, overcoming the temporal continuity of life and death, to enter in the Eternity, the eternal symbol of that never dies and never fell in the Sedimented Sands ofTime.

9 Cit./vi,pag.215.

10 The figure of Brünnhilde, seems to be a hapax in the constellation of Wagner's characters. In fact, it seems to be the only female figure to rise to the level of the authentic hero, like her masculine counterparts. Elsewhere, in this regard, I had stated: «Instead, what I now want to emphasize, is the underground link that characterizes the two protagonist figures, not just the feeling, which will then develop and will be betrayed by deception and ambition of man, but also the commonality of the two heroic spirits. Brünnhilde is in fact, the only Wagner's female figure that may have the title of heroine, like Siegfried her actions and her deeds over the wall of static death of the temporal becoming. However, it also fully embodies this figure, not so much in its role as the virgin warrior, and rebellious to the law of the father, but rather, first, as one who falls into the meshes of authentic love, the one who knows how to bind firmly in the spirit with the hero, hers equal» (Cit. and transl. from L. Magni, La Metafisica dell'Arte attraverso l'Opera di Richard Wagner, pag. 139).

11 This will be important in the reading of the Tetratology, because the internal dynamics here that has present the feeling of love, fills the entire metaphysical space of opera. It extending right up from the refusal of Alberich to the events and plots, that weaves the race of Siegfried, until his death. Death in which one has the final closing of the dialectical circle of this sentimental aspect.

12 Comp. with the introduction written by Guido Manacorda, in the Italian translation, with comments, of Wagner's Siegfried, Italian translation pages. III-IV.

13 Cit. Siegfried, pag. 166.

14 As just said, I noticed that this is in agreement with what is conceived by Wagner in this theoretical direction. Although I did not directly refer to the production of Wagner, I want to point out how this issue is to coincide with the realm of myth, and the crucial cornerstone of Wagner's poetry. As Thomas Mann had already identified in his studies, this question, as in Goethe, is to blur the horizon of the direction, that leads to the evocation and the creation from myth, it is not a coincidence that engages along this branch of question, the theme of the myth of Greater Germany, is epic manners, represented by these two spirits, the spirit; spirit of fantastic inwardness, and spirit of civilizations and morals: one the one hand the Germany as the highest expression of a fantastic inner, one the other hand the Germany as the spirit and the civic manner. Comp. T. Mann, Richard Wagner und der Ring des Nibelungen, in Thomas Mann, Leiden und Größe der Meister, S. Fischer Verlag GmbH, Frankfurt am Main, 1982.

15 An inflammation of the souls, typical of the enhancer spirit, which is typical of the character of the hero. A Werther, who then, if not in its deeds, is at least, spiritually, aligned in the same constellation ofheroes.

16 In this regard, one must understand how this idea of the Tragic, in the sense of the idea, is the idea that come from the Romantic-Idealist reflection, in particular my reference is directed to the ideal of Schiller's Tragedy, which in its general form strongly influences the Wagner's idea of Work of Art. Comp. L. Magni, Il Tragico nella teoria estetica di Schiller, GRIN Verlag, München, 2010; L. Magni, La Metafisica dell'Arte attraverso l'Opera di Richard Wagner.

17 This expression of empathy, that the same Wagner acknowledged in the character of Goethe. Werther character that Wagner then tried to propose, through a cathedral architecture, in setting up the characters and the stories of its heroes, especially so in the constitution of the characters and stories of Siegfried and Parsifal.

18 In reference to these considerations, it should refer to the theoretical production of Wagner, particularly to the writings: Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft, Kunst und Klima and Oper und Drama. In particular, note how in the first and in the last of these three writings, Wagner enunciated his concept of Gesamtkunstwerk. Concept in which the idea of Totality, both of involvement, but also a Totality as the theoretical ideals, has its theoretical roots in the ideal represented by the Attic Tragedy. From this I can deduce, how the pure principles of this view, also have their direct derivation from speculation and reflection of Ancient Philosophy. Reflections related to the conception of art, and to which the same Wagner, especially in Oper und Drama, he's interested again. I want to note that these considerations are not only the direct interest, of these Wagner's writings, whose major argument instead focuses mainly on underground relations between politics and art. Considering different aspects of this relationship, the same Wagner notes how this latter, from its original unity both in the present fragmented and dis-organic, conditioned by influences of this modernity. An art which is then split into its different parts, which can be found at the present time to no longer be able to reap the representation of universality, of the Gesamtkunstwerk or Total Art, while in its classical past, was its highest expression and its expressed capacity. Total Art and Universality, as previously described, were on their own belonging and identity of spirit in the classical man. A man, therefore, that classical greek man that is a man of universality. Similarly well as his art, the Attic Tragedy, the highest form of artistic representations it rises to the role of Muse, the highest universal and artistic manifestation. So this reflection, I can credit the power to have found in the art the representative counterpart of the crisis of human, which has invested not only the same knowledges, but also the same identity of the humanity.

19 This assumes its validity if I consider, through this reflection, the wagnerian reasoning about the crisis of art's work. Work of art, and same art, that in modern humanity find themselves immersed in both fragmented existence. Both have lost their reference to the Universality, to the Totality, falling to detail and inability to return to the primordial unity and harmony.

Excerpt out of 31 pages


Wagner and Goethe: "Faust" and Beethoven's "Eroica"
An interpretation
Trinity College Dublin  (Department of Philosophy)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
541 KB
This is the English translation, and the widening, of section 1.2 of the first chapter of my Essay “La Metafisica dell'Arte attraverso l'Opera di Richard Wagner”. This section is here published separately, in a widening version, as were explicit more references and insights related to my interpretation on the relation between Wagner and Beethoven. Bond that in my interpretation is symbolized in the triadic union of Goethe, Wagner and Beethoven. An union which has its extremes in Faust and the Eroica, but its midpoint and maximum expression id the Work of Wagner.
Wagner, Goethe, Philosophy, Beethoven
Quote paper
Dr. Mag. Luca Magni (Author), 2011, Wagner and Goethe: "Faust" and Beethoven's "Eroica", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/167430


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Wagner and Goethe: "Faust" and Beethoven's "Eroica"

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free