Parsifal

Motif 20: The Ethical Question

German names: ethischen Frage


Musical example: Motif 20 - Question  Soundbytes  Question (ogg format)

Although Wagner said that he had dispensed with the Question that features in his sources, there is a Question that appears several times in Parsifal. This three note fragment is heard first in the orchestra, when Parsifal reveals that he does not know the meaning of good and evil. Wagner wrote to King Ludwig that this knowledge was the meaning of the kiss.

The Ethical Question motif is a thematic element that can be found within several other motives: Nature's Healing, Klingsor's Magic and Agony

In his Das Geheimnis der Form bei Richard Wagner, volume IV, Alfred Lorenz called this das Motiv der ethischen Frage; he identified another figure as das Urmotiv der Frage, the basic motive of the Question: g, f#, a. So if anyone needs a Question motif, there are at least two candidates.

References: ENO ex.60, Lorenz pages 62-66, 74.

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