But what happens in Parsifal ?
ct 1 - In the first act, in the "holy ground" outside the Grail castle, Parsifal feels an intimation of pity after killing the swan. (The scene with the swan is peripheral to the outer action but crucial to the inner.)
n witnessing Amfortas' agony during the Grail ceremony in the castle, he feels a compulsive pain in his own heart, but he does not yet dare to ask the "redeeming question": his compassion is still dull and inarticulate. (The motivation seems to have become confused: would Amfortas be relieved of his agony if
Parsifal asked the cause of it at this point? Or must he wait for the return of the spear which he lost to
Klingsor when he succumbed to Kundry?
ct 2 - In the second act, Parsifal, the
pure fool, is made
ct 3 - The events of the third act, Kundry's
baptism, Amfortas's healing and the redemption of the Grail
ut although the last act is uneventful by the normal dramatic criteria it is not
just a ritual, the mere enactment and symbolic representation of a long foregone conclusion. It presents a third stage in the inner action: the compassion that is a dull sensation in the first act, and widens into recognition, cosmic perception
[Welthellsicht] in the second, is at last directed outwards in the third as a deed of redemption. Parsifal becomes the Grail King, not an anchorite, and does not turn his back on the world.
Postscript: Eternal Justice
ther commentators disagree to a lesser or greater extent with the views expressed above.
Ulrike Kienzle, in a perceptive study of Parsifal entitled Das Weltüberwindungswerk, takes another view of
the symbolism of the spear. She notes that when the spear is used as a weapon it only wounds the individual (first
Amfortas and then Klingsor) who wields it, that is, the aggressor. Therefore it is possible to
see the spear as a metaphor for what Schopenhauer called
ccording to Schopenhauer our individual existence is only
apparent (in the world as representation), not real; there is no separation of existence in the eternal world (as will). When we injure
others, we only harm ourselves; when we bite into the flesh of another being, we dig into our own flesh.
Footnote 1: Here Dahlhaus failed to see that the hero's wanderings are a necessary precondition of the outcome.
Footnote 2: Eternal justice is dealt out to us by the universe; in contrast to voluntary justice, which we may deal to each other.