Motif 18: Remorse

German names: Motiv der Schwermut, Mitleidsmotiv

Soundbytes Remorse (Wolfgang Windgassen; ogg format)

Musical example: Motif 18 - Remorse

In his analysis of Tristan und Isolde, Roger North has drawn attention to the similarity between a motif in Parsifal and one of the basic motives in Tristan und Isolde in its inverted form. The last four notes of the example above appear to be associated, in Parsifal, with Remorse. The example is taken from the scene between Gurnemanz and Parsifal in act I, where the old knight induces feelings of shame in the youth, who breaks his home-made bow. The same motif appears in the vocal line during the first Grail scene, in Amfortas' Ach, Erbarmen!.

Interestingly, the identical motif in Tristan und Isolde represents Tristan's Dishonour, as the inversion of the basic motif representing his Honour.

This is a development of the Spear motive, according to von Wolzogen, who called it "the elegiac figure". Kufferath (1904) acknowledged its elegiac nature and said that it is, properly speaking, the motive of Pity (compassion).

References: von Wolzogen ex.1c "elegiac figure", Lorenz p.14, Kufferath ex.20 "pity", North (Wagner's Most Subtle Art) page 697.

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