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The Birth of a Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche

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In The Birth of A Tragedy, Friedrich Nietzsche discusses the relationship between Apollonian and Dionysus, as inseparable and necessary to reach a constructive goal. Without the combination of the two forces, one will not be able to reach a constructive goal, needed to further oneself in art. The Birth of A Tragedy, can be described as a rebirth of the soul, that is derived from relations of Apollonian and Dionysus.

The evolution of art is found through the duality of Apollonian-Dionysian. For example, the production of a new offspring is what a species depends on for its existence, and survival through the years; meanwhile, the constant conflicts that eventually lead to an agreement is what the dualities of art need in order to continue to flourish. The conflict between the two dualities can be described as a path to becoming rather than being stagnant in a state. We reach new heights in our lives through overcoming challenges or conflicts, we end up being more resilient when we finally reach a conclusion. Additionally, the different forms of art are bound between these dualities. Art falls either in between the two or polarized more to one side of the spectrum. One can describe the Apollonian as analytic distinctions, meaning it is true in itself and there is no need for further observation. For an analytic distinction, the rational thought is also classified as Apollonian since rational thought can be taken as structured and consist of distinctions. All types of form or structure are Apollonian; thus, the sculpture is the most Apollonian of the arts, since it relies entirely on form for its effect. Without the form, it would not have the same structured effect that shows the rationality behind the sculpture created. Apollonian can be described as something that has copious amounts of rational thought that were taken into account to create something requiring precision. There has to be meaning behind the creation of an Apollonian.

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Individuals tend to suppress their Dionysian sides instead, only appearing to themselves and others as these rational beings that solely Apollonian. Nietzsche goes on to mock those who only seem to show their Apollonian sides, and suppress their Dionysian tendencies, “But of course such poor wretches have no idea how corpselike and ghostly their so-called “Healthy-mindedness” looks when the glowing life of the Dionysian revelers roars past them.”Though he calls upon individuals to be their true selves and let go of the structured life they have created; however, he is not asking for one to give into the drunkenness and madness that comes with Dionysian. Instead, he is asking for acknowledging that portion of themselves that has the desire to obtain those things that come with the loss of control of Dionysian and target that to a concise goal. For example, if one took their passions for all things that would lead to chaos and directed towards a goal that would further them to a future in which they would be better off. Thus, one would be able to utilize both Dionysian and Apollonian to their advantage, to obtain their goals but, this can be only done in the presence of both. 

The Dionysian can be described as the inability or unwillingness to make distinctions; directly opposed to the Apollonian. Drunkenness and madness are characteristics of Dionysian. However, these characteristics are not seen as inferior to those of Apollonian, they are instead just placed in another category, suitable to make life enjoyable. Life as we know it becomes more enjoyable when it is least predictable. All forms of enthusiasm and ecstasy can also be characterized as Dionysian, those who give into drugs experience Dionysian at its purest state, absolute loss of control. Music is the most Dionysian of the arts since it appeals directly to man’s instinctive, disorganized emotions and not to his rational mind. The emotions of a man in a Dionysian state, airse from sensation creating a illusion of what life is in that moment. This illusion is a necessity of the lives of individuals. Thus, it requires less of a rational thought process derived from the mind rather, a flow of consciousness, as if one is becoming lost and is finding oneself through music. There is no structure to music it is based on feeling more obtain than it is based on rationale. Dionysian calls upon people to lose that structure and to have this release in their life. 

Nietzsche describes Apollonian as life and motivational force, symbolized through restraint and detachment from things that would take us off our course towards our future, to be reserved. This causes one to have a strong sense of self through the process of constant evaluation and developing control over oneself. Coming to terms of the views on one’s own offerings to the world and the people around them by developing a sense of purpose. Apollo is identified as being the Greek god most known for having light and reason. On the other hand, Dionysian is the Greek god of wine and music; thus, gives into the idea that Dionysian is a loss of self through drunkness. One would describe Dionysian as slight hysteria where one is in a state of self-forgetting in which the self gives way to a primal unity where individuals accept their faith in nature and with those around them. Becoming a person who tend to take life as it comes to them. The origins of dualities comes from two different parts within our bodies, an idea comes from the mind while a feeling arises from the body. Immediately we are swayed by short term sensations which drives man. On the other hand when viewing long term, we see that ideas are the building blocks, but the constant interval struggle between immediate gratification of indulging in one’s feelings versus long term gratification if we were to follow a path that is more difficult. Both the dualities, Apollonian and the Dionysian, are necessary for the creation of art. Without the Apollonian, the Dionysian lacks the form and structure to create a cogent piece of art, and without the Dionysian, the Apollonian lacks the necessary vitality and passion need in ones life. Without having some aspects of Dionysian our lives would be almost robotic, and self restricting. Although they are diametrically opposed, they are also intimately intertwined. Nietzsche shows that the two concepts tend to play off each other in the statement, “And behold: Apollo could not live without Dionysus”(Nietzsche, 1993, pp.46). This quote is taken from the realization that Dionysus brought this underlying basis for suffering and knowledge that Apollo needed in order for him to have that part of his life that was not structured and was more fluid. 

The world will is made up of individual wills that build to a combined will. To have a world will, just exemplifies that fact that our will fits in with the world, and with the willing of anything, it poses indirect or direct causation to that in which surrounds us. Thus, this is what makes it whole in itself, being that it is extensive, blanketing everything that falls below it as having an individual will. In order for one to act rationally one must act within the will set forth by the world, giving everyone the freedom to choose within the will of the world or state they chose to occupy. To will, is to have structure one would assume that someone who appeals to Apollonian, would will something of greater rationale such as, a more critical constructive thought process that was taken into account before the will had been made. On the other hand, Dionysian tend to will the madness and the drunkness, even when they have it within their grasp more is always needed to fill the void. 

Nietzsche’s understanding of Apollonian and Dionysian are formulated through his discussion of art, with a detailed focus on Greek tragedies. When viewing the play Oedipus, a key aspect of the play is on the Greek chorus, this is described as an assortment of performers who narrate or make a remark on the action in accordance. This chorus is what Nietzsche would conceive as centrally focused on the Dionysian instead of Apollonian. This unified performance is able to embody his interpretation of a loss of self correlated with the Dionysian. However, this connection can go even further to say that the characters of the chorus remain continuously the same regardless of what happens in the story, this is even seen in music. Where we have a continuation of a chorus that sets the underlying repetition of the whole song, it moves on within the progression of the story. It is of Nietzsche’s belief that such a repetitive natural state, will cause the audience to feel numb and create a similar feeling of having everything and anything that makes a person an individual begin to strip away. In accordance with Nietzsche, provide a metaphysical comfort for the audience through the times of conflict in the play. 

By defining the chorus one is able to give, “a living wall against the assaults of reality because it represents existence more truthfully and completely than the man of culture does, who ordinarily considers himself as the only real” .The belief one would assume that Nietzsche is presenting is that by the chorus, and Greek tragedy coming together; therefore, assisting with shining light matters such as death and the morality through an art form: music and dance. The metaphysical comfort springs from being able to consider these issues in an Apollonian way, the beauty of the dialogue and the poetry presented throughout the play is thoughtful and structured. Thus, it can be interpreted as Apollonian. It is this combination of both Dionysian and Apollonian, that will ease one into unpleasant thoughts by presenting them in an aesthetically satisfying manner.

Nietzsche considers the tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles, both achieved their noble interests by taming Dionysian passions by means of the Apollonian. Greek tragedies steam from religious rituals consisting of a chorus of both singers and dancers. The play itself would achieve its purpose when we see the divide of actors consisting of two or more begin to carry out the chorus. They become tragic actors within the play, since it represents the splitting of the two dualities. The chorus of a Greek tragedy is not deemed as the ideal witness to the play; instead, it serves as a portrayal of the accepting nature or accepting life as it comes, achieved through the Dionysian. By observing the fall of a tragic hero, we can be exposed to the conflict that leads one to fall back into the state of the Dionysian where one must accept his faith. This can also be known as the fall back into primal unity, it is the exposure to suffering and truth led by a conflict, which is caused by the reawakening of the individual. Because the Apollonian tendencies of the Greek tragedians gives form to the Dionysian rituals of music and dance, the death of a hero is not a necessarily a negative occurrence. It is a self destructive act but it can be seen as rather a positive or beneficial for the play, and the bringing of creative declaration of a life through art.

The Athenians participating in Sophocles’ tragedies stopped caring about worldly affairs. Thus they stopped willing in the world, they instead remained silent in world affairs; thus, loss of ambition and lake of motivation to reach the highest possible position in life. The lack of willing can destroy an individual, because without will we are unable to accomplish anything, instead we remain stagnant in space and time, in the state of nihilism. In order to live one must continuously will something, whatever that may be. In order to return to willing, one must find Dionysian. Finding Dionysian would ignite more of passion within oneself, if it is target in a way that is towards a structure, with the aid of Apollonian. The will to power functions as away to self-create, making oneself better for years to come instead of remaining stagnant is what ultimately ends up motivating others to will. 

The chorus, plays the part of letting the audience know what is going on in the play and resonates the underlying message of the play. In particular it highlights the parts that are the most gloomy, and eases the audience into the tragedy of the play or music. It represents a voice greater than that of the society in Oedipus, it guides the audience on how to react to the different parts of the play. Whether it be making scenes more dramatic, or mediating what is occurring in the play, they essentially have the most control on the emotions one would receive from viewing the play.                

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