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Nietzsche: Apollo & Dionysus

            The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche argues that the ancient Greek deities Apollo and Dionysus are complements of each other in the conception of tragic art as well as the human experience. To the classical Greeks Apollo had numerous connotations - he was the sun god, or the god of light, as well as the god of all image-making energies and of prophecy. He was also associated with mental and moral illumination, or the functions that distinguish and clarify. Apollo sponsors similar artistic fields such as epic poetry and statuaries. Dionysus was the god of wine and vegetation and he taught humans how to cultivate grapevines and produce wine. As a result he is also connected with vitality and cycles and sponsors music and lyric poetry. In Friedrich Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy the terms Apollinian and Dionysian are used to designate the two central principles in Greek culture whose figurative marriage resulted in the metaphorical birth of tragedy. The presence of these deities were called into being as a result of the early Greek's becoming cognizant of the suffering that characterizes human life.
             In early Greece they "knew and felt the terrors and horrors of existence; in order to live at all they had to place in front of these things the resplendent, dream-born figures of the Olympians"(Nietzsche 23). Because their function is, of course, .
             Apollinian, they did not fully satisfy the individual. The Greeks still knew their destiny was controlled by preternatural forces and mere appearances will not diminish the soul's suffering. The Dionysian complement offers real solace in the loss of the self via the creating of a group identity and will "cause subjectivity to vanish to the point of complete self-forgetting" (Nietzsche 17). This Dionysian complement was the spirit of music. .
             Music is the universal form of art for Nietzsche, "above all else we regard folk music as a musical mirror of the world" (Nietzsche 33).

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