The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music by Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche is the pioneer of deconstruction who posed question regarding the existence of God. He also has questioned the relation of language to truth. As Greek tragedy developed one impulse came to balance the other, Dionysiac ecstasy being ordered by Apollonian form but in modern life the tragic view has been suppressed in scientific optimism. Every culture that has lost the Dionsiac myth making spirit has lost by the same token its natural healthy creativity. Nietzsche secularizes the ‘truth’ in language as a lie.

He attempts to classify the two basic psychological forces in human kind. Apollonianism and Dionysianism. The former related to refinement, order, morality and intellectuality. Apollo is Greek God of learning who demands reason and order. He stands for patience, calm and meditation. Apollonian world is phenomenal world where there is individuality or self, intellect, form, dream, consciousness and so on. Dionysianism is related to rupture, disorder and passion. Dionysus is god of wine and intoxication, ecstasy and noisy celebration. He symbolizes chaos, disorder, abandonment of reason. Nietzsche points out that Dionysian world is the world of emotion, irrationality, animalism, immorality. It is like unconscious world where we find mob, formless energy and collective world. Here, self is lost and the dichotomy between center versus margin is ruptured creation carnivalzed situation, where all are equal like the romantic world of song and music.

Nietzsche points out that in Greek tragedy there was proper marriage between these two creative forces. Music, in the course of tragedy, revives myth and such myth- making faculty is important because it has the capacity to unify the culture. Myths are the expression of collective unconscious. Both Apollonian and Dionysiac forces, through they are opposite should be harmonized. But in modern time, science has attacked myth so it has become impossible to create such a great tragedy. When reason becomes dominant, the synthetic awareness of two extreme tendencies in culture comes to decline. The modern civilization has suppressed the Dionysiac myth-making spirit. Thus, the modern art has lost its natural and healthy creativity. Synthetic awareness of these two tendencies is required for the best art. Dream and intoxication equally influence great writers. Tragedy got its origination from the spirit of music, which is basically Dionysiac.

He laments for the loss of mythopoeic world when rationality and enlightenment dominated mythopoeic spirit, it was the great tragedy for the world. By mythopoeic power we mean poetic power of myth. The poetic power of myth offers liberation to the intellectually confined suffocated mind. Nietzsche assumes the tragedy as musical. It was the greatest of the art because it involves a harmonization of the greatest possible tensions. The painters, the sculptors and the epic poets are characteristically devotees of Dionysus. To participate in the experience of genuine tragedy, man must put aside the brittle rigidities of his rationality. He believes that Greek tragedy grew out of the worship of Dionysus. True tragedy could be interpreted only as a manifestation and illustration of Dionysian states. He opines that tragedy does not release strong feeling through its effect but tonic.

With the help of music and intoxication, people transcend the Apollonian world and get complete pleasure and freedom. In Dionysian world, people unknowingly commit mistake. When they return back to Apollonian world, they realize their mistakes and their realization makes them suffer a lot. This becomes the tragic feeling, which is the source of tragedy. Therefore, for the tragedy both these elements are equally important. Hence, Nietzsche views that in art Dionysiac element is equally important as Apollonian alone cannot complete art.