Notes on Act 2
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- Wagner's Footnote
- The Magic Mirror
- The Significance of the Kiss
agner added the following, probably a few days later, to the last paragraph of
the draft of Act 2:
it is the spear with which
Longinus had once wounded the Redeemer in the side, and of which, as a very
valuable means to magic, Klingsor had possessed
Tennyson's Lady of Shalott, Klingsor experiences the
world not face to face, but as reflections in a mirror. In his magic mirror, Klingsor sees Parsifal
approach his castle of maidens. The mirror is a device or instrument for seeing at a
inspiration for this element of Klingsor's domain
seems to have been the marvellous pillar of the castle of marvels in Wolfram's
Parzival, which had been brought from the Orient by the magician Clinschor.
Like Klingsor's mirror, in Clinschor's pillar one
could see for miles around the castle.
It seemed [to Gawain] as though each
land was revealed to him in the great pillar, that they were whirling round
and the huge mountains clashing with one another. He saw people in the
pillar, riding and walking, this man running, that one standing... He asked
his mistress to tell him the nature of the pillar there. "Sir", said she,
"ever since I first came to know it, this stone has shone out all day and
night over the countryside to a distance of six miles on all sides. All that
takes place within that range can be seen in this pillar, whether it be on
land or on water. It is the true telltale of bird and beast, strangers and
foresters, foreigners and familiars - all these have been reflected in it!
Its lustre extends over six miles and it is so solid and whole that no smith,
however adroit, could flaw it with his hammer. It was taken from Queen
Secundille in Thabronit, without her leave, I fancy".
[Parzival, book XI]
wonderful pillar is one of many oriental elements in Wolfram's story. It has been
suggested that the original pillar was, at the time when Wolfram wrote his story, a
wonder of the Hindu city of Ajmer, which was then ruled by the young queen Samyogita
(possibly Wolfram's Secundille). This
polished iron column, dated to the fourth century of the Christian era, can now be
seen outside a mosque in Delhi, the Qutb-Minar.
Left: Flower Maiden costume by Paul von
, Bayreuth 1882. © Richard- Wagner- Gedenkstätte.
he kiss may be regarded as the dramatic climax of Wagner's
Parsifal. It is the point at which the boy becomes a hero, and
therefore at which the voice changes to a heldentenor.
n Wieland Wagner's analysis of his grandfather's last major work, two
intersecting dimensions were identified: in one of them, Parsifal travels and time goes by, so that he ages and
matures. In the other dimension, Kundry, trapped
in her cycle of eternal rebirth, moves in space
between the domains of the Grail and of Klingsor. At the centre of this cross, these
dimensions meet in the kiss. Kundry is the
catalyst of Parsifal's awakening; his
rejection of her, frees Kundry from her curse.
Richard Wagner wrote about the kiss as follows:
What is the significance of
Kundry's kiss?' - That, my
belovèd, is a terrible secret! You know, of course, the serpent of Paradise
and its tempting promise: 'eritis sicut Deus, scientes bonum et malum'
[Genesis 3:5, 'Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil']. Adam and
Eve became 'knowing'. They became 'conscious of
sin'. The human race had to atone for that consciousness by suffering shame
and misery until redeemed by Christ, who took upon himself the sin of
My dearest friend, how can I speak of such profound
matters except in a simile, by means of a comparison? But only the clairvoyant can
say what its inner meaning may be. Adam - Eve - Christ. -
How would it be if we were to add to them: - 'Anfortas - Kundry: Parzival" ? But with considerable caution!
The kiss which causes Anfortas to fall into sin, awakens in Parzival a full awareness of that sin, not as his own sin
but as that of the grievously afflicted Anfortas
whose lamentations he had heard only dully, but the cause of which now dawns upon
him in all its brightness, through his sharing the feeling of sin: with the speed
of lightning he said to himself, as it were: 'ah! that is the poison that causes
him to sicken, whose grief I did not understand until now!' - Thus he knows more
that all the others, more, especially than all the assembled Knights of the Grail
who continued to think that Anfortas was
complaining merely of the spear-wound! Parzival
now sees deeper ..."
[Richard Wagner to his patron, King Ludwig II of
Bavaria, 7 September 1865]
Love sends you now a mother's blessing, greets a son with Love's first
kiss!, Kundry kisses Parsifal, who reacts with revulsion. Up to this point, his
thoughts have been concerned with his mother, of whom Kundry has awakened memories; now those thoughts are swept
aside by a revelatory insight, Welthellsicht, and suddenly his overriding
concern is for Amfortas and his wound. Deep within,
he remembers the strange and terrible cries he heard in the hall of the Grail, and he sees the wound bleeding. Then he realises that the pain
he experiences is not that of Amfortas but his own.
He sees that the burden of guilt is upon him alone; he cries out to the Redeemer,
Erlöser! Heiland! Parsifal must now suffer
and perform deeds of compassion and courage before he can bring healing to the
the third act, Kundry's kiss is returned. Wagner may
have found the inspiration for this scene in Wolfram's
poem. Although what happens there is quite different: after years of wandering,
Parzival has arrived at the court of King Arthur. Once before, Condrie had appeared at the
same court and cursed Parzival for his silence
at the Grail Castle. Now she appears again, this time
begging forgiveness. Condrie kneels before Parzival and through her tears asks him to forgive her
without a kiss of reconciliation. When he has forgiven her, she stands up, casts
aside her veil and declares that Parzival is to heal
Anfortas and then take his place as king of the
Grail. In Wagner's version, the recognition that Parsifal is to bring healing and then become king is
transferred to Gurnemanz and Kundry is mute. As in Wolfram,
Kundry weeps, but
first she receives a kiss of forgiveness.