Ibsen suggests that when civilizations reach their peak, an overwhelming flow of Dionysian spirit causes the downfall of the said civilizations. Hedda and Tesman, Ibsen’s initial two characters, are in a ironically problematic relationship. As hard as Tesman tries to maintain some sort of Apollonian order and control over their relationship, he always ends up backing out to Hedda’s wishes as “[he] was only thinking” of something unimportant with respect to Hedda’s desires (232). This lack of order very clearly shows the lack of Apollonian consciousness in the household with Hedda leaning more towards a Dionysian existence. Such an imbalance can only result in a “more hazardous and even impossible” conclusion (39). Hedda, in this dangerous state of mind, moves herself and others to doom. In her search for the beautiful and illusionary Dionysian soul, she incites Lovborg to commit suicide “beautifully” “with vine leaves in [his] hair” (288). The breakdown of her irrational mind shows her lack of connection with the harsh reality about her. She moves toward this dreamworld where she no longer feels connected to the obvious punishments and consequences of her actions. Her self-inflicted doom is in...
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...he culture the lily represents has not changed throughout time (22). Separate from time, civilization is doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over from before. The fall that ensues serves to build a foundation for the next civilization and so forth. The lily-flower floats on the water, “trembling hardly at all” no matter what goes on around it (25).
Ibsen and Hughes both understand the important coexistence of Apollonian and Dionysian spirits which without would cause an end to civilization due to the overpowering of the Dionysian. Ibsen believes that through martyrdom, one can escape the shackles of ruin that come with culture to obtain freedom whereas Hughes believes that culture remains the same, generation after generation.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy and The Case of Wagner. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage, 1967.
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