Notes on Wagner's Parsifal Act 3
Right: Wagner sketched by Paul Joukowsky while reading on 12 February 1883. He was reading Fouqué's Undine. Below: "Nur eine Waffe taugt", Arnaldo Dell'Ira (1903-1943).
n Wagner's Gobineau-influenced essay, Herodom and Christendom, he considers how the degeneration of the human species might be attributed to two causes: the eating of animals (as suggested by Gleizès) and the mixing of races (as suggested by Gobineau). Wagner's remedy for this degeneration was the blood of Christ, which had for him a mystical significance:
[Heldenthum und Christenthum, September 1881]
agner's mention of
nsofar as "pure blood" is a subtext in Parsifal, it must be understood in the context of this essay,
i.e. in relation to Mitleid. In the same work, we can also follow two elements from Herodom and Christendom: firstly,
the Buddhist-like reverence of the Grail community for birds and animals (hence their
abstention from meat even when the divine food provided by the Grail is denied to them) and secondly, the
ritual cleansing of Kundry in baptism (allowing her release from the eternal
cycle of rebirth) which Barry Millington (in his biography of Richard Wagner) sees as an expression of a Schopenhauerian pacification of the will (
here is more to Parsifal than meets the eye; in his letters and in confidences to Cosima, Wagner hinted
that there were hidden secrets in the work. Those secrets are not necessarily, however, as dark as some would have us believe. Some commentators (including
Millington) take the view that the drama is infused with the ideas of Wagner's last decade: a heady mix of Schopenhauerian pessimism,
antivivisection and vegetarianism, and strange theories about race and blood. Also, not least, Wagner's theories of art and
religion, and his hopes for the future of mankind, as expressed in the somewhat incoherent essays of his last years.