is doubtless the most important character; he almost gave
his name to the Tetralogy. Wotan ravished the first place
from Siegfried, this character has been minutely analysed
and described in detail.It
is all the more surprising to note that, as for Siegfried,
the image, which Wagner creates, is radically different from
the one that appears from the completed masterpiece. Nowhere
as for these two characters, is Wagner the Man and Wagner
the Theorist, so different from Wagner the Creator.
Wagner the Theorist makes it the memory of present time, the
representative of the ancient order by opposition to the ideal
of freedom and love represented by Siegfried.
is a being who in spite of his failings is endowed with real nobility;
he is a God full of imposing presence and a victim of circumstances.
the Wotan depicted by Wagner the Creator seems under a sharply less
favourable light. Certainly he has rather nice sides: when he leaves
his daughter his good-byes are moving, also he shows a patient affection
for his impertinent grandson. But an avalanche of misdeeds erases
these positive features. To speak clearly, Wotan is a noble villain.
Noble, but villain all the same. He was well judged by Fricka, Loge,
Brünnhilde and Alberich who know him very well. He is the quintessence
of political pleasure-seeker and hypocrite.
characteristic: his basic instability. Wotan is tired. He feels
a constant need of change; he is a nomad. We can strongly suspect
that without Fricka's, Froh's and Donner's instigation (stay-at-home
Gods jests Loge), Wotan would have never made the pact with the
giants. When Loge details the solidity of bulwarks, he cannot hide
his irritation and asserts to his wife that never stony walls will
chain him. It is this need to push away the borders, this appetite
of new sensations that urged him to appropriate the source and to
roam the world in search of human conquests.
characteristic: the appetite of power. As many leader-autocrats,
he feels the need to control all that surrounds him, directly,
by annexation or by manipulation.
fear results from his inability to control time, fate (Erda),
the Ring, and mainly the Lance.
President is the hostage of the constitution that gives him
power. From this point of view Wotan is honest, at least legalist.
he were a God, in the style of the antiquity, he would have
had no reason to deprive himself: everything would have been
be subjected to him.
Odin's lance kills the giant who resists him. That of Wotan, guarantor
for treaties, protects his opponent. The central drama of Wotan
lies in the contradiction locked into the Lance: it gives the power
but limits it. The fatal fracture results from what he always hoped
to escape: the pact with the Giants. By doing this, he digs a gaping
pit to fill a modest hole. The fracture only widens, which is what
happens to all those who practise treachery. Third feature: his
hypocrisy and its duplicity. He quickly adapts the sophism of Loge:
" to steal a thief is not to steal ". The God of Lies
reasons that on one side the Ring belongs to him legally, but on
the other side reminds Wotan that he should return it to the legitimate
owners. Wotan reacts brutally, as some vulgar Mafioso:" I have
it, I keep it, your promises do not bind me ".
hypocrisy results from the contrast between the corruption of the
God (which according to Wagner makes him vulnerable to the curse
of the Ring), and the claim of virtue. With Gunther and to a certain
extent Fricka and Hunding, Wotan is the most grumpy character of
the Ring, the one that claims status, respect, and nobility. The
music, which accompanies it, proves it.
Notably, the Walhalla motive is redundant with its endless
final, and the power of the Gods. Siegfried does not make a
mistake when he calls Wotan a phraseur.
The bad faith of Wotan, his contempt for those that surround
him is in particular obvious in his negotiations with the
Giants, and the leonine conditions, which he imposes on Mime.
feature: the weakness of his character. He jumps from excitement
and triumphalism to suicidal depression. The authoritarianism hides
a profound insecurity. When he is short of arguments, he falls in
sad apathy or explodes in excesses of uncontrolled and suicidal
fury. The Walkyries are afraid of him, and Waltraute describes very
well the state of pathological bewilderment, which seizes him closer
to the end. Since Siegfried hurt his vanity to death, his image
broke: he collapsed. Worse still, he becomes incapable of an articulated
thought. Death seizes an old man whose decay made him completely