The power of the feminine principle (Shakti, Prakrit-Nature): Creation, Life, Nurturing – and its cycles. Also desire, with its attending temptation. Woman, however, (embodiment of the Goddess) can also be redemptress (e.g. Mary in Christianity).
In Wagner’s opera ‘Tristan und Isolde’, desire is linked with Life, and Love with death – sacrificial death (Liebestod), which admits of multiple implications and interpretations. The Romantic hero – and Wagner was one, at least ideally – could only be redeemed by and through woman; in that opera love could not be fulfilled in earthly terms (for it was unlawful). The Romantic ideal was a combination of love, sacrifice, transcendence, union – union through the transcending of the human personality, of individuality itself. Is this not a universal theme, as well as being very German?.
Duality and opposition are the fabric of life seen from a conventional viewpoint. In that opera we can easily identify the governing principles suggested above, which are being deployed by the author-composer-librettist as actual or real opposites: love-desire; death-life; night-day; longing-desire; destiny-will; self-denial–self-affirmation; redemption-suffering; union (rebirth)-separation; reality-illusion; Goddess-woman. A rich tapestry of motives and possibilities.
If we imagine a spiral and start with ‘desire-attraction’ at the beginning center-point, we end up – through ‘life’ – to ‘separation’ on the outside end. Contrariwise, if we start with ‘love’ at the outside beginning, we end up – through ‘death’ – with ‘union’ at the inmost point.
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