Some Manifestations of Wagner's Political Philosophy in Certain Characters of "Der Ring Des Nibelungen"

Publication Year



Music, politics, Richard Wagner, operas, composition, symbolism


Composition | European History | Music | Music Education | Music Pedagogy | Political Science


I first considered the subject of Richard Wagner and his political opinions as a sophmore while taking Music History. Since I could not devote the time required by the topic's detail and length, I set it aside until such time arose. [...] Kurt Hildebrandt wrote a thesis in 1924 titled Wagner und Nietzsche, ihr Kampf gegen das neunzehnte Jahrundert, in which one of his hypotheses was that Der Ring des Nibelungen mirrired Wagner's politcal attitudes. The Ring, according to him, was begun in a revolutionary context and was written in this vein until December, 1851, when Wagner received news of Louis Napoleon's coup d'etat. [...]

I feel the political aspects of Der Ring des Nibelungen should be strongly emphasized since they are an integral part of the original writing. To me, there is positive evidence that the Ring cycle was first considered as an allegory of the revolution. There is also equally conclusive information available that the Ring was overhauled and a new philosophy applied to it when Wagner began to be disillusioned with the future of any "new civilization." This paper attempts to show firstly, the Wagner did begin Der Ring des Nibelungen with political implications in mind, secondly, how it became apparent in the Ring cycle that his optimism had faded, and thirdly, what political symbols of 1848 can still be seen in the final version of the operas.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status


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