Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde incorporates and expands upon aspects of Arthur Schopenhauer’s philosophy. Schopenhauer philosophized that an undifferentiated force, known as the ‘will,’ drives us to fulfill desires that are insatiable. Both Wagner and Schopenhauer shared the belief that, after death, the individual is dissolved back into a realm in which the ‘will’ no longer needs to be satisfied. However, Wagner believed that sexual love could also pacify the ‘will,’ while Schopenhauer thought sexual love was perplexing and capable of breaking the strongest bonds. The story of Tristan und Isolde is a representation of Wagner’s belief that through sexual love, two lovers could be united after death in the noumenal realm. He resolves Schopenhauer’s pessimistic view by introducing the idea that we can satisfy the ‘will’ through sexual love and become united with another in death.
Victoria Levasseur, ’11
Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Sponsor: James Martin