Hegel's Lectures on Aesthetics. Part 2

The Romantic Form of Art

Introduction – Of the Romantic in General

The form of romantic art is determined, as has been the case every time in our treatment hitherto, by the inner essence of the content which art is called upon to represent, and so we must in the first place endeavour to make clear the distinctive principle of the new content which now, as the absolute content of truth, comes into consciousness in the shape of a new vision of the world and a new artistic form.

At the stage of the beginning of art the urge of imagination consisted in striving out of nature into spirit. But this striving remained only a quest of the spirit, and therefore, not yet providing the proper content of art, the spirit could only assert itself as an external form for meanings drawn from nature or for impersonal abstract ideas drawn from the substantial inner life, and it was these which formed the real centre of this form of art.

The opposite, secondly, we found in classical art. Here although the spirit could only struggle on to independence by annulling the natural meanings, it is the basis and principle of the content, while the external form is the natural phenomenon in a corporeal and sensuous shape. Yet this form did not remain, as it did at the first stage, purely superficial, indeterminate, and not penetrated by its content; on the contrary, the perfection of art reached its peak here precisely because the spiritual was completely drawn through its external appearance; in this beautiful unification it idealized the natural and made it into an adequate embodiment of spirit’s own substantial individuality. Therefore classical art became a conceptually adequate representation of the Ideal, the consummation of the realm of beauty. Nothing can be or become more beautiful.

Yet there is something higher than the beautiful appearance of spirit in its immediate sensuous shape, even if this shape be created by spirit as adequate to itself. For this unification, which is achieved in the medium of externality and therefore makes sensuous reality into an appropriate existence [of spirit], nevertheless is once more opposed to the true essence of spirit, with the result that spirit is pushed back into itself out of its reconciliation in the corporeal into a reconciliation of itself within itself. The simple solid totality of the Ideal is dissolved and it falls apart into the double totality of (a) subjective being in itself and (b) the external appearance, in order to enable the spirit to reach through this cleavage a deeper reconciliation in its own element of inwardness. The spirit, which has as its principle its accord with itself, the unity of its essence with its reality, can find its correspondent existence only in its own native spiritual world of feeling, the heart, and the inner life in general. Thereby the spirit comes to the consciousness of having its opposite, i.e. its existence, on and in itself as spirit and therewith alone of enjoying its infinity and freedom.

1 The Principle of Inner Subjectivity

By this elevation of the spirit to itself the spirit wins in itself its objectivity, which hitherto it had to seek in the external and sensuous character of existence, and in this unification with itself it senses and knows itself. This spiritual elevation is the fundamental principle of romantic art. Bound up with it at once is the essential point that at this final stage of art the beauty of the classical ideal, and therefore beauty in its very own shape and its most adequate content, is no longer the ultimate thing. For at the stage of romantic art the spirit knows that its truth does not consist in its immersion in corporeality; on the contrary, it only becomes sure of its truth by withdrawing from the external into its own intimacy with itself and positing external reality as an existence inadequate to itself. Even if, therefore this new content too comprises in itself the task of making itself beautiful, still beauty in the sense hitherto expounded remains for it something subordinate, and beauty becomes the spiritual beauty of the absolute inner life as inherently infinite spiritual subjectivity.

But therefore to attain its infinity the spirit must all the same lift itself out of purely formal and finite personality into the Absolute; i.e. the spiritual must bring itself into representation as the subject filled with what is purely substantial and, therein, as the willing and self-knowing subject. Conversely, the substantial and the true must not be apprehended as a mere ‘beyond’ of humanity, and the anthropomorphism of the Greek outlook must not be stripped away; but the human being, as actual subjectivity, must be made the principle, and thereby alone, as we already saw earlier [on pp. 435-6, 505-6], does the anthropomorphic reach its consummation.

2. The More Detailed Features of the Content and Form of the Romantic

Out of the more detailed features implicit in this fundamental definition we have now to develop in a general way the group of topics [in romantic art] and their form. This altered form is conditioned by the new content of romantic art.

The true content of romantic art is absolute inwardness, and its corresponding form is spiritual subjectivity with its grasp of its independence and freedom. This inherently infinite and absolutely universal content is the absolute negation of everything particular, the simple unity with itself which has dissipated all external relations, all processes of nature and their periodicity of birth, passing away, and rebirth, all the restrictedness in spiritual existence, and dissolved all particular gods into a pure and infinite self-identity. In this Pantheon all the gods are dethroned, the flame of subjectivity has destroyed them, and instead of plastic polytheism art knows now only one God, one spirit, one absolute independence which, as the absolute knowing and willing of itself, remains in free unity with itself and no longer falls apart into those particular characters and functions whose one and only cohesion was due to the compulsion of a dark necessity.[1]

Yet absolute subjectivity as such would elude art and be accessible to thinking alone if, in order to be actual subjectivity in correspondence with its essence, it did not also proceed into external existence and then withdraw out of this reality into itself again. This moment of actuality is inherent in the Absolute, because the Absolute, as infinite negativity, has for the result of its activity itself, as the simple unity of knowing with itself and therefore as immediacy. On account of this immediate existence which is grounded in the Absolute itself, the Absolute does not turn out to be the one jealous God who merely cancels nature and finite human existence without shaping himself there in appearance as actual divine subjectivity; on the contrary, the true Absolute reveals itself and thereby gains an aspect in virtue of which it can be apprehended and represented by art.

But the determinate being of God is not the natural and sensuous as such but the sensuous elevated to non-sensuousness, to spiritual subjectivity which instead of losing in its external appearance the certainty of itself as the Absolute, only acquires precisely through its embodiment a present actual certainty of itself. God in his truth is therefore no bare ideal generated by imagination; on the contrary, he puts himself into the very heart of the finitude and external contingency of existence, and yet knows himself there as a divine subject who remains infinite in himself and makes this infinity explicit to himself. Since therefore the actual individual man is the appearance of God, art now wins for the first time the higher right of turning the human form, and the mode of externality in general, into an expression of the Absolute, although the new task of art can only consist in bringing before contemplation in this human form not the immersion of the inner in external corporeality but, conversely, the withdrawal of the inner into itself, the spiritual consciousness of God in the individual. The different moments which constitute the totality of this world view as the totality of truth itself now therefore find their appearance in man in such a way that content and form are not afforded either by the natural as such, as sun, sky, stars, etc., or by the beautiful group of the Greek gods, or by heroes and external deeds wrought on the ground of family obligations and political life; on the contrary, it is the actual individual person in his inner life who acquires infinite worth, since in him alone do the eternal moments of absolute truth, which is actual only as spirit, unfold into existence and collect together again.

If we compare this vocation of romantic art with the task of classical art, fulfilled in the most adequate way by Greek sculpture, the plastic shape of the gods does not express the movement and activity of the spirit which has retired into itself out of its corporeal reality and made its way to inner self-awareness. The mutability and contingency of empirical individuality is indeed expunged in those lofty figures of the gods, but what they lack is the actuality of self-aware subjectivity in the knowing and willing of itself. This defect is shown externally in the fact that the expression of the soul in its simplicity, namely the light of the eye, is absent from the sculptures.[2] The supreme works of beautiful sculpture are sightless, and their inner being does not look out of them as self-knowing inwardness in this spiritual concentration which the eye discloses. This light of the soul falls outside them and belongs to the spectator alone; when he looks at these shapes, soul cannot meet soul nor eye eye. But the God of romantic art appears seeing, self-knowing, inwardly subjective, and disclosing his inner being to man’s inner being. For infinite negativity, the withdrawal of the spirit into itself, cancels effusion into the corporeal; subjectivity is the spiritual light which shines in itself, in its hitherto obscure place, and, while natural light can only illumine an object, the spiritual light is itself the ground and object on which it shines and which it knows as itself. But this absolute inner expresses itself at the same time in its actual determinate existence as an appearance in the human mode, and the human being stands in connection with the entire world, and this implies at the same time a wide variety in both the spiritually subjective sphere and also the external to which the spirit relates itself as something its own.

The shape that absolute subjectivity may thus take in reality has the following forms of content and appearance.

(a) The original starting-point we must take from the Absolute itself which as actual spirit gives itself an existence, knows itself and is active in reality. Here the human shape is so represented that it is immediately known as having the Divine in itself. The man [Jesus] appears not as man in a purely human character with restricted passions, finite ends and achievements, or as merely conscious of God, but as the self-knowing sole and universal God himself in whose life and suffering, birth, death, and resurrection there is now revealed even to man’s finite consciousness what spirit, what the eternal and infinite, is in its truth. Romantic art presents this content in the story of Christ, his mother, his Disciples, and also of all others in whom the Holy Spirit is effective and the entire Godhead is present. For because it is God who appears in human existence, for all that he is universal in himself too, this reality is not restricted to individual immediate existence in the shape of Christ; it is unfolded into the whole of mankind in which the spirit of God makes itself present, and in this reality remains in unity with itself. The diffusion of this self-contemplation of spirit, of its inwardness and self-possession, is peace, the reconciliation of spirit with itself in its objectivity – a divine world, a Kingdom of God, in which the Divine (which from the beginning had reconciliation with its reality as its essence) is consummated in virtue of this reconciliation and thereby, has true consciousness of itself.

(b) But however far this identification is grounded in the essence of the Absolute itself, still, as spiritual freedom and infinity, it is no immediate reconciliation present from the beginning in mundane, natural, and spiritual reality; on the contrary, it is brought about only by the elevation of the spirit out of the finitude of its immediate existence into its truth. This implies that the spirit, in order to win its totality and freedom, detaches itself from itself and opposes itself, as the finitude of nature and spirit, to itself as the inherently infinite. With this self-diremption there is bound up, conversely, the necessity of rising out of this state of scission (within which the finite and the natural, the immediacy of existence, the natural heart, are determined as the negative, the evil, and the bad) and of entering the realm of truth and satisfaction only through the overcoming of this negative sphere. Therefore the spiritual reconciliation is only to be apprehended and represented as an activity, a movement of the spirit, as a process in the course of which a struggle and a battle arises, and grief, death, the mournful sense of nullity, the torment of spirit and body enter as an essential feature. For just as God at first cuts himself off from finite reality, so finite man, who begins of himself outside the Kingdom of God, acquires the task of elevating himself to God, detaching himself from the finite, abolishing its nullity, and through this killing of his immediate reality becoming what God in his appearance as man has made objective as true reality. The infinite grief[3] of this sacrifice of subjectivity’s very heart, as well as suffering and death, which were more or less excluded from the representations of classical art or rather appeared there as mere natural suffering, acquire their real necessity only in romantic art.

We cannot say that the Greeks interpreted death in its essential meaning. Neither the natural as such nor spirit’s immediate unity with the body counted with them as something inherently negative, and therefore death for them was only an abstract passing, without terrors and formidability, a ceasing without further immeasurable consequences for the dying individual. But when subjectivity in its spiritual inwardness is of infinite importance, then the negative implicit in death is a negation of this loftiness and importance itself and is therefore frightening – an expiry of the soul which by death can find itself to be the absolutely negative itself, excluded from all happiness, absolutely unhappy and consigned to eternal damnation.

Greek individuality, on the other hand, regarded as spiritual subjectivity, does not ascribe this value to itself and may therefore surround death with cheerful images. For man is afraid only for what is of great value to him. But life has this infinite value for our minds only if the person as spiritual and self-conscious is the one and only actuality, and now in a justified fear must image himself as negatived by death. Yet on the other hand death does not gain for classical art the affirmative meaning which it acquires in romantic art. The Greeks did not take seriously what we call immortality. Only for the later reflection of subjective consciousness on itself, in the case of Socrates, has immortality had a deeper sense and satisfied a more far-reaching need. Odysseus, e.g. (Odyssey, xi. 465-91), congratulates Achilles in the underworld on the ground of his happiness, greater than that of all those before or after him, because, hitherto honoured as though he were a god, he is now a ruler among the dead. Achilles, as everyone knows, puts the minimum of value on this happiness and answers: ‘Odysseus should speak me no word of consolation for death; rather would I be a serf, and, poor myself, serve a poor man for wages, than rule here below over all the shades of the dead.’

In romantic art, on the contrary, death is only a perishing of the natural soul and finite subjectivity, a perishing (related negatively only to the inherently negative) which cancels nullity and thereby is the means of liberating the spirit from its finitude and disunion as well as spiritually reconciling the individual person with the Absolute. For the Greeks what was affirmative was only the life united with natural, external, and mundane existence, and death therefore was just a negation, the dissolution of immediate reality. But in the romantic outlook death has the significance of negativity, in the sense of the negation of the negative, and therefore changes all the same into the affirmative as the resurrection of the spirit out of its mere natural embodiment and the finitude which is inadequate to it. The grief and death of the dying individual reverses into a return to self, into satisfaction, blessedness, and that reconciled affirmative existence which spirit can attain only through the killing of its negative existence in which it is barred from its proper truth and life. Therefore this fundamental principle does not merely affect the fact of death as it comes to man from the side of nature; on the contrary, death is a process through which the spirit, now independent of what negates it externally, must itself go in order truly to live.

(c) The third aspect of this absolute world of spirit is framed by man in so far as he neither brings immediately into appearance on himself the Absolute and Divine as Divine, nor presents the process of elevation to God and reconciliation with God, but remains within his own human sphere. Here, then, the subject-matter consists of the finite as such, both on the side of spiritual aims, mundane interests, passions, collisions, sorrows and joys, hopes and satisfactions, and also on the side of the external, i.e. nature and its kingdoms and most detailed phenomena. Yet for the mode of treating this matter a twofold position arises. On the one hand, namely, because spirit has won affirmation with itself, it issues on this ground as on an element justified and satisfying in itself, and of this element it presents only the purely positive character it has, out of which its own affirmative satisfaction and deep feeling are reflected; but, on the other hand, the same content is degraded to mere contingency which cannot claim any independent validity because in it the spirit does not find its true existence and therefore only comes into unity with itself by explicitly dissolving this finitude of spirit and nature as being something finite and negative.

3. Relation of the Subject-matter to the Mode of Representation

Now finally, with regard to the relation between this entire subject matter and its mode of representation, it appears in the first place, in conformity with what we have seen just now, that

(a) the subject-matter of romantic art, at least in relation to the Divine, is very circumscribed. For, first, as we have already indicated above [on pp. 507, 520], nature is emptied of gods; the sea, mountains, valleys, rivers, springs, time and night, as well as the universal processes of nature, have lost their value so far as concerns the presentation and content of the Absolute. Natural formations are no longer augmented symbolically; they have been robbed of their characteristic of having forms and activities capable of being traits of a divinity. For all the great questions about the origin of the world, about the whence, wherefore, and whither of created nature and humanity, and all the symbolic and plastic attempts to solve and represent these problems, have disappeared owing to the revelation of God in the spirit; and even in the spiritual realm the variegated coloured world with its classically shaped characters, actions, and events is gathered up into one ray of the Absolute and its eternal history of redemption. The entire content [of romantic art] is therefore concentrated on the inner life of the spirit, on feeling, ideas, and the mind which strives after union with the truth, seeks and struggles to generate and preserve the Divine in the subject’s consciousness, and now may not carry through aims and undertakings in the world for the sake of the world but rather has for its sole essential undertaking the inner battle of man in himself and his reconciliation with God; and it brings into representation only the personality and its preservation along with contrivances towards this end. The heroism which may enter here accordingly is no heroism which from its own resources gives laws, establishes organizations, creates and develops situations, but a heroism of submission. It submits to a determinate and cut and dried [system of divine truth] and no task is left to it but to regulate the temporal order by that, to apply what is higher and absolutely valid to the world confronting it, and to make it prevail in the temporal. But since this absolute content appears compressed into one point, i.e. into the subjective heart, so that all process is transported into the inner life of man, the scope of the subject matter is therefore also infinitely extended again. It opens out into a multiplicity without bounds. For although that objective history constitutes the substantial basis of the heart, the artist yet runs through it in every direction, presents single points drawn from it or presents himself in steadily added new human traits; over and above this, he can draw into himself the whole breadth of nature as the surroundings and locality of spirit and devote it to the one great end.

In this way the history of mentality becomes infinitely rich and it can adapt its shape to ever-altered circumstances and situations in the most multifarious ways. And if a man once leaves this absolute circle [of mind] and concerns himself with mundane affairs, then the range of interests, aims, and feelings becomes all the further beyond computation, the deeper the spirit has become in itself in accordance with this whole principle. The spirit therefore unfolds itself in the course of its development into an infinitely enhanced wealth of inner and outer collisions, distractions, gradations of passion, and into the most manifold degrees of satisfaction. The purely inherently universal Absolute, in so far as it is conscious of itself in man, constitutes the inner content of romantic art, and so also the whole of mankind and its entire development is that art’s inexhaustible material.

(b) But it is not at all by being art that romantic art produces this content, as was the case to a great extent in the symbolic and above all from the classical form of art and its ideal gods. As we saw earlier [on p. 505 above], romantic art as art is not the didactic revelation which produces the content of truth for contemplation simply and solely in the form of art; on the contrary, the content of romantic art is already present explicitly to mind and feeling outside the sphere of art. Religion, as the universal consciousness of the truth, constitutes here in a totally different degree the essential presupposition for art, and, even regarded in its manner of appearing externally to actual consciousness in the real perceptible world, it confronts us as a prosaic phenomenon in the present. Since, in other words, the content of the revelation to spirit is the eternal absolute nature of the spirit itself which detaches itself from the natural as such and devalues it, therefore the position acquired by spirit’s manifestation in what is immediately present is that this externality, so far as it subsists and has existence, remains only a contingent world out of which the Absolute gathers itself together into the inner world of the spirit and only so comes to truth in its own eyes. Therewith externality is regarded as an indifferent element in which spirit has no final trust or persistence. The less the spirit regards the shape of external reality as worthy of it, the less can it seek its satisfaction therein and attain reconciliation with itself through union with it.

(c) On this principle, therefore, the mode of actual configuration in romantic art, in respect of external appearance, does not essentially get beyond ordinary reality proper, and it is by no means averse from harbouring this real existence in its finite deficiency and determinacy. Thus this means the disappearance of that ideal beauty which lifts the contemplation of the external away above time and the traces of evanescence in order to give to existence the bloom of beauty instead of its otherwise stunted appearance. Romantic art no longer has as its aim [the representation of] the free vitality of existence with its infinite tranquillity and the immersion of the soul in the corporeal, or this life as such in its very own essential nature; on the contrary, it turns its back on this summit of beauty; it intertwines its inner being with the contingency of the external world and gives unfettered play to the bold lines of the ugly.

Thus in romantic art we have two worlds: a spiritual realm, complete in itself, the heart which reconciles itself within and now bends back the otherwise rectilineal repetition of birth, death, and rebirth into the true rotation (i.e. return into self) and into the genuine phoenix-life of the spirit; on the other side, the realm of the external as such which, released from its fixedly secure unification with the spirit, now becomes a purely empirical reality by the shape of which the soul is untroubled. In classical art, spirit dominated empirical appearance and permeated it completely because it was in this that it was to acquire its complete reality. But now the inner life is indifferent to the way in which the immediate world is configurated, because immediacy is unworthy of the soul’s inner bliss. External appearance cannot any longer express the inner life, and if it is still called to do so it merely has the task of proving that the external is an unsatisfying existence and must point back to the inner, to the mind and feeling as the essential element. But just for this reason romantic art leaves externality to go its own way again for its part freely and independently, and in this respect allows any and every material, down to flowers, trees, and the commonest household gear, to enter the representation without hindrance even in its contingent natural existence. Yet this subject-matter, by being purely external material, carries with it at the same time the character of being indifferent and vulgar, and only attaining worth of its own if the heart has put itself into it and if it is to express not merely something inner but the heart’s depth of feeling, which instead of fusing with the external appears only as reconciled with itself in itself. In this relation, the inner, so pushed to the extreme, is an expression without any externality at all; it is invisible and is as it were a perception of itself alone, or a musical sound as such without objectivity and shape, or a hovering over the waters,[4] or a ringing tone over a world which in and on its heterogeneous phenomena can only accept and re-mirror a reflection of this inwardness of soul.

Therefore if we sum up in one word this relation of content and form in romantic art wherever this relation is preserved in its own special character, we may say that, precisely because the ever expanded universality and the restlessly active depths of the heart are the principle here, the keynote of romantic art is musical and, if we make the content of this idea determinate, lyrical. For romantic art the lyric is as it were the elementary fundamental characteristic, a note which epic and drama strike too and which wafts even round works of visual art as a universal fragrance of soul, because here spirit and heart strive to speak, through every one of their productions, to the spirit and the heart.

4. Division of the Subject

Now lastly, for the more detailed development of our consideration of this third great sphere of art we must settle the division of the subject; and the fundamental essence of the romantic in its inner ramification breaks up into the following three phases.

The first sphere is formed by religion as such; its centre is supplied by the history of redemption, by the life of Christ, his death and Resurrection. The chief point to be made here is reversion, the fact that the spirit turns negatively against its immediacy and finitude, overcomes it, and through this liberation wins for itself its infinity and absolute independence in its own province.

Then, secondly, this independence passes out of the inherent divinity of the spirit, and out of the elevation of finite man to God, into mundane reality. Here it is primarily the subject as such who has become affirmative in his own eyes and has as the substance of his consciousness and as the interest of his existence the virtues of this affirmative subjectivity, namely honour, love, fidelity, and bravery, the aims and duties of romantic chivalry.

The content and form of the third chapter may be described in general as the formal independence of character. If, in other words, subjectivity has advanced to the point of having spiritual independence as the essential thing for it, so too the particular content, with which this subjectivity is linked as with what is its own, will share the like independence – which yet can only be of a formal kind because it is not implicit in the substantiality of the subjective life as it is in the sphere of absolute religious truth. Conversely, the shape of external circumstances, situations, and the complexity of events, also becomes explicitly free and therefore has its ups and downs in capricious adventures. Therefore we acquire as the culmination of the romantic in general the contingency of both outer and inner, and the separation of these two sides, whereby art annuls itself and brings home to our minds that we must acquire higher forms for the apprehension of truth than those which art is in a position to supply.

Chapter I
The Religious Domain of Romantic Art

In its representation of absolute subjectivity as the whole of truth, romantic art has for its substantial content the reconciliation of God with the world and therefore with himself, the unification of the spirit with its essence, the satisfaction of the heart, and therefore at this stage the Ideal seems at last to be completely at home. For it was blessedness and independence, satisfaction, tranquillity, and freedom which we named[5] as the chief characteristics of the Ideal. Of course we may not deny the Ideal to the essence and reality of romantic art, but in comparison with the classical Ideal it takes a quite different form there. Although this relation has already been indicated in general above [in the Introduction to this Section], we must here at the very beginning expound it in its more concrete meaning in order to make clear the fundamental type of the romantic way of portraying the Absolute. In the classical Ideal the Divine is on the one hand restricted to individuality; on the other hand, the soul and blessedness of the particular gods are entirely transfused through their corporeal shape; and, thirdly, since the underlying principle is the unseparated unity of the individual in himself and in his external world, there cannot appear as an essential factor the negativity of diremption within the self, of bodily and spiritual grief, of sacrifice and renunciation. In classical art the Divine collapses indeed into a group of gods but it does not divide itself within itself as (a) universal essentiality and (b) individual subjective empirical appearance in the human form and the human spirit; and neither, as a non-appearing Absolute, has it confronting it a world of evil, sins, and error, and consequently with the task of reconciling these oppositions and being truly actual and divine only as this reconciliation.

On the other hand, [i] in the Concept of absolute subjectivity there is implicit the opposition between substantial universality and personality, an opposition whose completed reconciliation fills the subject with his substance and raises the substance into a knowing and willing absolute subject. But, (ii) to the actuality of subjectivity as spirit there belongs the deeper opposition to a finite world; through that world’s cancellation as finite and its reconciliation with the Absolute, the Infinite makes its own essence explicit to itself through its own absolute activity and only so is absolute spirit. The appearance of this actuality on the soil and in the shape of the human spirit therefore acquires in respect of its beauty a totally different relation from what it has in classical art. Greek beauty displays the inner life of spiritual individuality as entirely embodied in its corporeal shape, in actions and events, as expressed entirely in the outer, and living blissfully there. Whereas for romantic beauty it is absolutely necessary for the soul, although appearing in externality, to show itself at the same time as being brought back out of this corporeality into itself and as living in itself. Therefore at this stage the body can express the inwardness of the spirit only by revealing the fact that the soul has its congruent reality not in this real existence, but in itself. For this reason beauty will now reside, no longer in the idealization of the objective shape, but in the inner shape of the soul in itself; it becomes a beauty of deep feeling, as the manner in which every content in the subject’s inner life is formed and developed, and without retaining the external shape penetrated by the spirit [as in Greece].

Now because in this way interest in clarifying real existence into this classical unity is lost and is concentrated instead on the opposite aim of breathing a new beauty into the inner shape of the spiritual itself, art now gives itself little trouble with the external; it takes it up immediately, as it finds it, letting it, as it were, shape itself at will. In romantic art, reconciliation with the Absolute is an act of the inner life, an act which does appear externally but does not have the external itself in its real shape for its essential content and aim. With this indifference to the idealizing unification of soul and body there enters essentially, for the more special individuality of the external side, portraiture which does not blot out either particular traits and forms as they actually exist,[6] or the poverty of nature and the deficiencies of temporality, in order to put something more appropriate in their place. In general, even in this matter a correspondence [between soul and body] must indeed be demanded; but the specific shape of it is indifferent and not purified from the contingencies of finite empirical existence.

The necessity for this sweeping characterization of romantic art can be equally justified from another point of view. When the classical ideal figure is at its true zenith, it is complete in itself, independent, reserved, unreceptive, a finished individual which rejects everything else. Its shape is its own; it lives entirely in it and in it alone and may not surrender any part of it to affinity with the purely empirical and contingent. Therefore, whoever approaches these ideal figures as a spectator cannot make their existence his own as something external related to his own external appearance; although the shapes of the eternal gods are human, they still do not belong to the mortal realm, for these gods have not themselves experienced the deficiency of finite existence but are directly raised above it. Community with the empirical and the relative is broken off. Whereas infinite subjectivity, the Absolute of romantic art, is not immersed in its appearance; it is in itself and just for this reason has its external expression not for [apprehension by] itself but by others as something external, set free, and surrendered to everyone. Further, this external side must enter the shape of common life, of empirical humanity, because here God himself descends into finite temporal existence in order to mediate and reconcile the absolute opposition inherent in the Concept of the Absolute. Owing to this [Incarnation] too, empirical man acquires an aspect from which a relationship and point of linkage [with God] opens up to him, so that in his immediate natural being he approaches himself with confidence because the external shape [i.e. the Incarnation] does not rebuff him with a classical rigorousness towards the particular and contingent, but offers to his sight what he himself has or what he knows and loves in others around him. It is the fact that it is so much at home in the commonplace that enables romantic art to attract us so familiarly by its external forms. But the externality which has been surrendered has the function, owing to this very surrender, of referring us back to beauty of soul, to the elevation of intimate feeling and the sanctity of the heart, and thus it encourages us at the same time to plunge into the inner life of the spirit and its absolute content and appropriate this inner life to ourselves.

Finally, in this self-surrender [of the Incarnation] there is implicit in general the universal Idea, namely that in romantic art infinite subjectivity is not lonely in itself like a Grecian god who lives in himself absolutely perfect in the blessedness of his isolation; on the contrary, it emerges from itself into a relation with something else which, however, is its own, and in which it finds itself again and remains communing and in unity with itself. This being at one with itself in its other is the really beautiful subject matter of romantic art, its Ideal which has essentially for its form and appearance the inner life and subjectivity, mind and feeling. Therefore the romantic Ideal expresses a relation to another spiritual being which is so bound up with depth of feeling that only in this other does the soul achieve this intimacy with itself. This life in self in another is, as feeling, the spiritual depth of love.

We may therefore name love as the general content of the romantic in its religious domain. Yet its truly ideal configuration love only acquires if it expresses the affirmative immediate reconciliation of the spirit. But before we can consider this stage of the most beautiful ideal satisfaction, we have first, on the one hand, to run through the process of negativity which the absolute subject enters in the course of overcoming the finitude and immediacy of his human appearance – a process which is unfolded in the life and suffering of God and his death for the world and mankind whereby mankind’s reconciliation with God was made possible. On the other hand, it is now humanity, conversely, which for its part has to go through the same process in order to make explicit in itself what was implicit in that reconciliation. Between these stages (the heart of which is the negative aspect – the sensuous and spiritual entry to death and the grave) there lies the expression of the affirmative bliss of satisfaction which in this sphere characterizes art’s most beautiful creations.

For the more detailed division of our first chapter we have therefore to traverse three different spheres:

First, the redemptive history of Christ; i.e. the moments of the absolute Spirit, represented in God himself in so far as he becomes man, has an actual existence in the world of finitude and its concrete relationships, and in this existence, individual at first, brings the Absolute itself into appearance.

Secondly, love in its positive shape as the feeling of reconciliation between man and God: the Holy Family, Mary’s maternal love, Christ’s love, and the love of the Disciples.

Thirdly, the Community [the Church] : the spirit of God as present in humanity through the conversion of the heart and the annihilation of the natural and the finite, in short through the reversion of mankind to God – a conversion in which penances and tortures in the first place mediate the union of man with God.

1. The Redemptive History of Christ

The reconciliation of the spirit with itself, the absolute history, the process of the truth, is brought to our view and conviction by the appearance of God in the world. The simple heart of this reconciliation is the coalescence of absolute essentiality with the individual human subject; an individual man is God, and God an individual man. This implies that the human spirit, in its Concept and essence, is implicitly true spirit, and every individual subject, therefore, as man, has the infinite vocation and importance of being one of God’s purposes and being in unity with God. But on this account man is all the same faced with the demand that he give actuality to this his Concept which at first is purely implicit, i.e. that he make union with God the goal of his being, and achieve it. If he has fulfilled this vocation, then in himself he is free infinite spirit. This is possible for him only because that unity is the original fact, the eternal basis of human and divine nature. [In the first place] this goal is at the same time the absolute beginning, the presupposition of the romantic religious consciousness that God himself is man, flesh, that he has become this individual person in whom therefore the reconciliation does not remain something implicit (in which case it would be known only in its Concept) but stands forth objectively existent for human senses and conscious contemplation as this individual actually existing man. It is on account of this moment of individuality that in Christ every individual has a vision of his own reconciliation with God which in its essence is no mere possibility; it is actual and therefore has to appear in this one man as really achieved. But, secondly, since this unity, as the spiritual reconciliation of opposed moments, is no mere immediate coalescence into one, it follows that in this one man the process of spirit too, through which alone consciousness is truly spirit, must attain existence as the history of this man. This history of the spirit, consummated in one individual, contains nothing except what we have already touched on above, namely that the individual man casts aside his individuality of body and spirit, i.e. that he suffers and dies, but conversely through the grief of death rises out of death, and ascends as God in his glory, as the actual spirit which now has indeed entered existence as an individual, as this subject, yet even so is essentially truly God only as Spirit in his Church.

(a) Apparent Superfluity of Art

This history provides the fundamental topic for religious romantic art, and yet for this topic art, taken purely as art, becomes to a certain extent something superfluous. For the chief thing lies here in the inner conviction, feeling, and conception of this eternal truth, in the faith which bears witness to itself of the absolute truth and thereby imparts it to the inner life of mind. A developed faith, in other words, consists in the immediate conviction that the conception of the factors in this history suffices to bring truth itself before consciousness. But if it is a matter of the consciousness of truth, then the beauty of the appearance, and the representation, is an accessory and rather indifferent, for the truth is present for consciousness independently of art.

(b) Necessary Emergence of Art

Yet, on the other hand, the religious material contains in itself at the same time a factor whereby it is not only made accessible to art but does in a certain respect actually need art. In the religious ideas of romantic art, as has been indicated more than once already, this material involves pushing anthropomorphism to an extreme, in that it is precisely this material (i) which has as its centre the coalescence of the Absolute and Divine with a human person as actually perceived and therefore as appearing externally and corporeally, and (ii) which must present the Divine in this its individuality, bound as it is to the deficiency of nature and the finite mode of appearance. In this respect, for the appearance of God art provides to the contemplative consciousness the special presence of an actual individual shape, a concrete picture too of the external features of the events in which Christ’s birth, life and sufferings, death, Resurrection, and Ascension to the right hand of God are displayed, so that, in general, the actual appearance of God, which has passed away, is repeated and perpetually renewed in art alone.

(c) The Details of the External Appearance are Accidental

But in so far as in this appearance the accent is laid on the fact that God is essentially an individual person, exclusive of others, and displays the unity of divine and human subjectivity not simply in general but as this man, there enter here again, in art, on account of the subject-matter itself, all the aspects of the contingency and particularity of external finite existence from which beauty at the height of the classical Ideal had been purified. What the free Concept of the beautiful had discarded as inappropriate, i.e. the non-Ideal, is here necessarily adopted and brought before our vision as a factor emerging from the subject-matter itself.

(α) While therefore the Person of Christ as such is frequently chosen as a subject, every time those artists have proceeded in the worst possible way who have attempted to make out of Christ an ideal in the sense and in the manner of the classical ideal. For although such heads and figures of Christ do display seriousness, calm, and dignity, Christ should have on the one hand subjective personality and individuality, and, on the other, inwardness and purely universal spirituality; both these characteristics are inconsistent with the imprint of bliss on the visible aspect of the human form. To combine both these extremes in expression and form is of supreme difficulty, and painters especially found themselves in perplexity every time they departed from the traditional type.

Seriousness and depth of consciousness must be expressed in these heads, but the features and forms of the face and the figure must neither be of purely ideal beauty nor deviate into the commonplace and the ugly or rise to pure sublimity as such. The best thing in relation to the external form is the mean between natural detail and ideal beauty. To hit this due mean correctly is difficult, and so in this matter what may be especially conspicuous is the skill, sense, and spirit of the artist.

In general, in the case of representations throughout this whole sphere, we are referred, independently of the subject-matter, which belongs to faith, to the matter of the artist’s subjective creation, more than is the case in the classical ideal. In classical art the artist aims at presenting the spiritual and the Divine directly in the forms of the body itself and in the organization of the human figure, and therefore the bodily forms in their modifications, when these diverge from the customary and the finite, afford a principal part of the interest. In the sphere now under consideration the shape remains the customary and familiar one; its forms are to a certain extent indifferent, something particular, which may be thus or otherwise, and may in this respect be treated with great freedom. Therefore the preponderating interest lies on the one hand in the manner in which the artist still makes the spiritual and the most inward content shine, as this spiritual element itself, through this customary and familiar material; on the other hand, in the artist’s execution, in the technical means and skills whereby he has been able to breathe spiritual vitality into his shapes and make the most spiritual things perceptible and comprehensible.

(β) As for the further subject-matter, it lies, as we have seen already, in the absolute history which springs from the Concept of spirit itself and which makes objective the conversion of bodily and spiritual individuality into its essence and universality. For the reconciliation of the individual person with God does not enter as a harmony directly, but as a harmony proceeding only from the infinite grief, from surrender, sacrifice, and the death of what is finite, sensuous, and subjective. Here finite and infinite are bound together into one, and the reconciliation in its true profundity, depth of feeling, and force of mediation is exhibited only through the magnitude and harshness of the opposition which is to be resolved. It follows that even the whole sharpness and dissonance of the suffering, torture, and agony involved in such an opposition, belong to the nature of spirit itself, whose absolute satisfaction is the subject-matter here.

This process of the spirit, taken in and by itself, is the essence and Concept of spirit in general, and therefore it entails the characteristic of being for consciousness the universal history which is to be repeated in every individual consciousness. For consciousness, as a multiplicity of individuals, is precisely the reality and existence of the universal spirit. At first, however, because the Spirit has as its essential factor reality in the individual, that universal history itself proceeds only in the shape of one individual in whom it happens as his, as the history of his birth, his suffering, his death, and his return from death, though in this individual it preserves at the same time the significance of being the history of the universal absolute Spirit.

The real turning-point in this life of God is the termination of his individual existence as this man, the story of the Passion, suffering on the cross, the Golgotha of the Spirit, the pain of death. This sphere of portrayal is separated toto caelo from the classical plastic ideal because here the subject-matter itself implies that the external bodily appearance, immediate existence as an individual, is revealed in the grief of his negativity as the negative, and that therefore it is by sacrificing subjective individuality and the sensuous sphere that the Spirit attains its truth and its Heaven. On the one hand, in other words, the earthly body and the frailty of human nature in general is raised and honoured by the fact that it is God himself who appears in human nature, but on the other hand it is precisely this human and bodily existent which is negatived and comes into appearance in its grief, while in the classical ideal it does not lose undisturbed harmony with what is spiritual and substantial. Christ scourged, with the crown of thorns, carrying his cross to the place of execution, nailed to the cross, passing away in the agony of a torturing and slow death – this cannot be portrayed in the forms of Greek beauty; but the higher aspect in these situations is their inherent sanctity, the depth of the inner life, the infinity of grief, present as an eternal moment in the Spirit as sufferance and divine peace.

The wider group around this figure is formed partly of friends, partly of enemies. The friends are likewise no ideal figures but, in accordance with the Concept,[7] particular individuals, ordinary men whom the pull of the Spirit brings to Christ. But the enemies are presented to us as inwardly evil because they place themselves in opposition to God, condemn him, mock him, torture him, crucify him, and the idea of inner evil and enmity to God brings with it on the external side, ugliness, crudity, barbarity, rage, and distortion of their outward appearance. In connection with all these there enters here as a necessary feature what is unbeautiful in comparison with the beauty of Greek art.

(γ) But the process of death is to be treated in the divine nature only as a point of transition whereby the reconciliation of the Spirit with itself is brought about, and the divine and human sides, the sheerly universal and the subjective appearance, whose mediation is in question, close together affirmatively. This affirmation is in general the basis and the original foundation [of the divine history] and must therefore also be made evident in this positive way. For this purpose the most favourable events in the history of Christ are supplied especially by the Resurrection and the Ascension, apart from the scattered moments at which Christ appears as teacher. But here there arises, especially for the visual arts, a supreme difficulty. For (a) it is the spiritual as such which is to be portrayed in its inwardness, (b) it is the absolute Spirit which in its infinity and universality must be put affirmatively in unity with subjectivity [i.e. in Christ] and yet, raised above immediate existence, must in the bodily and external shape bring before contemplation and feeling the entire expression of its infinity and inwardness.

2. Religious Love

The absolute Spirit is, as spirit, not an immediate topic for art. Its supreme actual reconciliation within itself can only be a reconciliation and satisfaction in the spiritual as such; and this in its purely ideal element is not susceptible of expression in art, since absolute truth is on a higher level than the appearance of beauty which cannot be detached from the soil of the sensuous and apparent. But if the Spirit in its affirmative reconciliation is to acquire through art a spiritual existence in which it is not merely known as pure thought, as ideal, but can be felt and contemplated, then we have left as the sole form which fulfils the double demand (that of spirituality on the one hand and comprehensiblity and portrayability by art on the other) only the deep feeling of the spirit, or the soul and feeling. This depth of feeling, which alone corresponds to the essential nature of the spirit which is free and satisfied in itself, is love.

(a) Concept of the Absolute as Love

In love, in other words, those phases are present, in its content, which we cited as the fundamental essence of the absolute Spirit: the reconciled return out of another into self. By being the other in which the spirit remains communing with itself, this other can only be spiritual over again, a spiritual personality. The true essence of love consists in giving up the consciousness of oneself, forgetting oneself in another self, yet in this surrender and oblivion having and possessing oneself alone. This reconciliation of the spirit with itself and the completion of itself to a totality is the Absolute, yet not, as may be supposed, in the sense that the Absolute as a purely singular and therefore finite subject coincides with itself in another finite subject; on the contrary, the content of the subjectivity which reconciles itself with itself in another is here the Absolute itself: the Spirit which only in another spirit is the knowing and willing of itself as the Absolute and has the satisfaction of this knowledge.

(b) The Heart [or Soul]

Now, looked at more closely, this subject-matter, by being love, has the form of feeling, concentrated into itself, which, instead of revealing its content, bringing it into consciousness in its determinacy and universality, rather draws directly together into the simple depth of the heart that content’s extent and boundlessness without unfolding for our apprehension all the ramifications which its wealth contains. Therefore the same content which in its purely spiritually stamped universality would be denied to art, in this subjective existence as feeling is again prehensible by art; this is because on the one hand in view of its still undisclosed depth, characteristic of the heart, it is not compelled to explain itself to the length of complete clarity, while on the other hand it acquires from this form at the same time an element suitable to art. For however inward the soul, emotion, and feeling remain, they still always have a connection with the sensuous and corporeal, so that they can now disclose the inmost life and existence of spirit outwardly through the body itself, through a look, facial expressions, or, more spiritually, through words and musical notes. But the external can enter here only as being called upon to express this inmost inner life itself in its inwardness of soul.

(c) Love as the Romantic Ideal

Since we defined the Concept of the Ideal as the reconciliation of the inner life with its reality, we may now describe love as the ideal of romantic art in its religious sphere. It is spiritual beauty as such. The classical Ideal too displayed the mediation and reconciliation of the spirit with its opposite. But there the opposite of spirit was the external permeated by spirit, spirit’s bodily organism. In love, on the contrary, the spirit’s opposite is not nature but itself a spiritual consciousness, another person, and the spirit is therefore realized for itself in what it itself owns, in its very own element. So in this affirmative satisfaction and blissful reality at rest in itself, love is the ideal but purely spiritual beauty which on account of its inwardness can also be expressed only in and as the deep feeling of the heart. For the spirit which is present to itself and immediately sure of itself in [another] spirit, and therefore has the spiritual itself as the material and ground of its existence, is in itself, is depth of feeling, and, more precisely, is the spiritual depth of love.

(α) God is love and therefore his deepest essence too is to be apprehended and represented in this form adequate to art in Christ. But Christ is divine love; as its object, what is manifest is on the one hand God himself in his invisible essence, and, on the other, mankind which is to be redeemed; and thus what then comes into appearance in Christ is less the absorption of one person in another limited person than the Idea of love in its universality, the Absolute, the spirit of truth in the element and form of feeling. With this universality of love’s object, love’s expression is also universalized, with the result that the subjective concentration of heart and soul does not become the chief thing in that expression – just as, even in the case of the Greeks, what is emphasized, although in a totally different context, in Venus Urania[8] and the old Titanic deity, Eros, is the universal Idea and not the subjective element, i.e. individual shape and feeling. Only when Christ is conceived in the portrayals of romantic art as more than an individual subject, immersed in himself, does the expression of love become conspicuous in the form of subjective deep feeling, always elevated and borne, however, by the universality of its content.

(β) But in this sphere the most accessible topic for art is Mary’s love, maternal love, the most successful object of the religious imagination of romantic art. For the most part real and human, it is yet entirely spiritual, without the interest and exigency of desire, not sensuous and yet present: absolutely satisfied and blissful spiritual depth. It is a love without craving, but it is not friendship; for be friendship never so rich in emotion, it yet demands a content, something essential, as a mutual end and aim. Whereas, without any reciprocity of aim and interests, maternal love has an immediate support in the natural bond of connection. But in this instance the mother’s love is not at all restricted to the natural side. In the child which she conceived and then bore in travail, Mary has the complete knowledge and feeling of herself; and the same child, blood of her blood, stands all the same high above her, and nevertheless this higher being belongs to her and is the object in which she forgets and maintains herself. The natural depth of feeling in the mother’s love is altogether spiritualized; it has the Divine as its proper content, but this spirituality remains lowly and unaware, marvellously penetrated by natural oneness and human feeling. It is the blissful maternal love, the love of the one mother alone who was the first recipient of this joy. Of course this love too is not without grief, but the grief is only the sorrow of loss, lamentation for her suffering, dying, and dead son, and does not, as we shall see at a later stage,[9] result from injustice and torment from without, or from the infinite battle against sins, or from the agony and pain brought about by the self. Such deep feeling is here spiritual beauty, the Ideal, human identification of man with God, with the spirit and with truth: a pure forgetfulness and complete self-surrender which still in this forgetfulness is from the beginning one with that into which it is merged and now with blissful satisfaction has a sense of this oneness.

In such a beautiful way maternal love, the picture as it were of the Spirit, enters romantic art in place of the Spirit itself because only in the form of feeling is the Spirit made prehensible by art, and the feeling of the unity between the individual and God is present in the most original, real, and living way only in the Madonna’s maternal love. This love must enter art necessarily if, in the portrayal of this sphere, the Ideal, the affirmative satisfied reconciliation is not to be lacking. There was therefore a time when the maternal love of the blessed Virgin belonged in general to the highest and holiest [part of religion] and was worshipped and represented as this supreme fact. But when the Spirit brings itself into consciousness of itself in its own element, separated from the whole natural grounding which feeling supplies, then too it is only the spiritual mediation, free from such a grounding, that can be regarded as the free route to the truth; and so, after all, in Protestantism, in contrast to mariolatry in art and in faith, the Holy Spirit and the inner mediation of the Spirit has become the higher truth.

(γ) Thirdly and lastly, the affirmative reconciliation of the spirit is displayed as feeling in Christ’s Disciples and in the women and friends who follow him. These for the most part are characters who have experienced the austerity of the Idea of Christianity at the hand of their divine friend through the friendship, teaching, and preaching of Christ without going through the external and internal agony of conversion; they have perfected this Idea, mastered it and themselves, and they remain pensive and powerful in the same. True, they lack that immediate unity and deep feeling of the mother’s love, but as their bond of union there is still left to them the presence of Christ, the habit of communal life, and the direct pull of the Spirit.

3. The Spirit of the Community

As for the transition into the last sphere of this topic, we may link it with what was already touched upon above in relation to the story of Christ. The immediate existence of Christ, as this one individual man who is God, is posited as superseded, i.e. what comes to light in the very appearance of God as man is the fact that the true reality of God is not immediate existence but spirit. The reality of the Absolute as infinite subjectivity is just the spirit itself; God exists only in knowing, in the element of the inner life. This absolute existence of God as pure universality, alike ideal and subjective, is therefore not restricted to this individual [Jesus] who in his history has made visible the reconciliation of human and divine personality, but is broadened into the human consciousness which is reconciled with God, in short into mankind which exists as a plurality of individuals. Yet taken by himself as an individual personality, the man [Jesus] is not divine immediately at all; on the contrary, he is the finite and human being who only attains reconciliation with God in so far as he actually posits himself as the negative which he is implicitly and so cancels his finitude. Only through this deliverance from the imperfection of finitude does humanity proclaim itself as the existence of the absolute Spirit, as the community’s spirit in which the unification of the human spirit with the divine within human reality itself is completed as the mediation in reality of what implicitly, in the essential nature of spirit, is originally in unity.

The chief forms which are of importance in relation to this new content of romantic art may be specified as follows:

The individual person, separated from God, living in sin, in the battle of immediacy and in the poverty of finitude, has the infinite vocation of coming into reconciliation with himself and God. But since in the redemptive history of Christ the negativity of immediate individuality has appeared as the essential feature of the spirit, the individual person is able to rise to freedom and to peace in God as a result solely of the conversion of the natural element and finite personality.

This transcendence of finitude enters here in a threefold way: First, as the external repetition of the Passion story; this becomes actual physical suffering – martyrdom. Secondly, the conversion is transferred into the inner life of the mind as an inner mediation through repentance, penance, and the return of the soul to God.

Thirdly and lastly, the appearance of the Divine in mundane reality is so interpreted that the ordinary course of nature and the natural form of other happenings is superseded in order to make possible a revelation of the power and presence of the Divine: whereby miracle becomes the form in which this revelation is presented.

(a) Martyrs

The first phenomenon in which the spirit of the community is revealed as effective in the human person consists in man’s mirroring in himself the reflection of the divine process and making himself a new determinate embodiment of the eternal history of God. Here the expression of that immediately affirmative reconciliation disappears again, because man has to secure it only through the cancellation of his finitude. What therefore was the centre at the first stage [i.e. the negative], returns here again in a thoroughly enhanced degree because the inadequacy and unworthiness of man is the presupposition, and to extinguish this counts as the supreme and sole task of man.

(α) The proper subject-matter of this sphere, therefore, is endurance of cruelties, and a man’s own freely willed renunciation, sacrifice, and privation. These he imposes on himself for the sake of privation and for the sake of occasioning his suffering, torments, agonies of every kind by means of which the spirit may be transfigured within and feel itself at one, satisfied, and blissful in its Heaven. In martyrdom this negative – grief – is an end in itself, and the magnitude of the transfiguration is measured by the awfulness of what the man has suffered and the frightfulness to which he has submitted. Now given his still unfulfilled inner life, the first thing that can be negatived in the martyr, with a view to his sanctification and his release from the world, is his natural being, his life, and the satisfaction of the most elementary needs necessary for his existence. Thus the chief topic in this sphere is provided by physical tortures inflicted on the believer; they are partly perpetrated out of hatred and vindictiveness by enemies and persecutors of the faith, partly undergone, with complete renunciation and at his own instigation, as an expiation of sins. Both of these he accepts in a fanaticism of resignation, not as an injustice, but as a blessing through which alone the hardness of the heart, the flesh, and the mind conscious of original sin are to be broken and reconciliation with God achieved.

But since in such situations the conversion of the inner life can only be portrayed in dreadfulness and in the brutality of the tortures, the sense of beauty is easily damaged and the topics in this sphere constitute a very hazardous material for art. For on the one hand, in a much higher degree than what we required in the history of Christ’s Passion, the individuals must be shown as actual single individuals stamped with the mark of temporal existence and caught in the deficiency of finitude and natural life; on the other hand, the agonies, the unheard-of frightfulnesses, the distortions and dislocations of limbs, the physical torments, the scaffolds, the beheadings, roastings, burning at the stake, boiling in oil, fastening to the wheel, etc. – all these are inherently hateful, repugnant, disgusting externals; their distance from beauty is too great to allow any healthy art to select them as its subject-matter. The artist’s way of treating [these subjects] may indeed be excellent in its execution, but in that case the interest in this excellence always relates only to the artist’s subjective activity which, even if it may seem to be in accord with art, yet labours in vain to create a perfect harmony between itself and this material.

(β) Therefore the portrayal of this negative process requires still another feature which overrides this agony of body and soul and leans towards the affirmative reconciliation. This is the reconciliation of the spirit in itself which is won as the aim and result of all the horror that has been suffered. From this point of view the martyrs are the preservers of the Divine against the crudity of external power and the barbarity of unbelief; for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven they endure grief and death, and this courage, strength, endurance, and blessedness must therefore appear in them equally. Yet this deep feeling of faith and love in its spiritual beauty is not the spiritual health which permeates the body healthily; on the contrary, it is an inwardness which grief has wrought upon, or which is portrayed in suffering and even still contains in transfiguration the element of grief as the strictly essential thing. Painting especially has often made such piety its subject matter. Having done so, it has as its chief task the expression of the bliss of torment, contrasted with the abominable lacerations of the flesh, simply in the lines of the face, the look, etc., as resignation, the overcoming of grief, and satisfaction in achieving the living presence of the divine spirit in the inner life of the martyr. If, on the other hand, sculpture proposes to bring the same material before our eyes, it is less capable of portraying concentrated deep feeling in this spiritualized way and therefore will have to emphasize what is grievous and distorted because this is manifested in a more developed form in the bodily organism.

(γ) But, thirdly, the aspect of self-denial and endurance is at this stage not concerned merely with natural existence and immediate finitude; on the contrary, it exaggerates the heart’s bent towards heavenly things to such an extreme that the human and the mundane sphere, even if in itself it is of an ethical and rational kind, is thrust into the background and disdained. The spirit here, that is to say, vitalizes in itself the idea of its conversion; but the less the spirit is developed to begin with, all the more barbarically and abstractly does it turn with its concentrated force of piety against everything that, as the finite, stands contrasted with this inherently simple infinity of religious feeling: against all specific human feeling, against the many-sided moral inclinations, relations, circumstances, and duties of the heart. For ethical life in the family, the bonds of friendship, blood, love, the state, calling – all these belong to the mundane sphere; and in so far as here the mundane is not yet penetrated by the absolute ideas of faith, and developed into unity and reconciliation therewith, it is not adopted into the sphere of inner feeling and obligation, but instead appears to the abstract deep feeling of the believing heart as null in itself and therefore hostile and detrimental to piety. The ethical organization of the human world is therefore not yet respected, because its parts and duties are not yet recognized as necessary and justified links in the chain of an inherently rational actuality; in such an actual organization nothing one-sided may rise to an isolated independence, yet must all the same be retained as a valid factor and not sacrificed. In this respect the religious reconciliation itself remains here in an abstract form, and it is displayed in the inherently simple heart as an intensity of faith without extension, as the piety of a heart lonely with itself which has not yet framed itself into a universal and developed confidence and into a discerning comprehensive certainty of itself. Now if the force of such a heart clings to itself in itself against the actuality which it has treated purely negatively, and if it violently detaches itself from all human ties, even were they those originally most firm, then this is a crudity of spirit and a barbaric power of abstraction which must revolt us. Therefore, from the standpoint of our modern consciousness, we may be able to respect and value highly that germ of religious feeling in representations of such an attitude, but if piety goes so far that we see it exaggerated into violence against what is inherently rational and moral, not only can we not sympathize with such fanaticism of sanctity, but this sort of renunciation must appear to us as immoral and contrary to religious feeling because it rejects, demolishes, and tramples underfoot what is absolutely justified and sacrosanct.

Of this sort there are many legends, stories, and poems. For example, the story of the man full of love for his wife and family and loved by them in return who leaves his home and goes away on a pilgrimage, and when at last he comes back in the guise of a beggar, he does not reveal himself; alms are given him, and out of sympathy a little place is reserved for him to stay in under the stairs; in this way he lives in his house for twenty years long, looks on at his family’s sorrow for him, and only on his deathbed does he make himself known. This is a horrible selfishness of fanaticism which we are supposed to reverence as sanctity. This persistence in renunciation may remind us of the profound penances which the Indians likewise impose on themselves of their own free will for religious ends. Yet the sufferings of the Indians have a quite different character, because in their case the penitent transposes himself into dullness and unconsciousness; whereas here grief and the deliberate consciousness and feeling of grief is the real end which is supposed to be attained all the more purely the more the suffering is bound up with a consciousness of the value of the relationships that have been surrendered and love for them, and also with a continuous contemplation of renunciation. The richer the heart that loads itself with such trials, the more it possesses a noble treasure while yet believing itself forced to condemn this possession as null and to stamp it as sin, all the harsher is the lack of reconciliation, a lack that can generate the most frightful hysteria and the most raving disunion. Indeed such a heart which is at home only in the intelligible and not in the mundane world as such, which therefore also feels itself just lost in the absolutely valid spheres and aims of this specific reality, and which, although held and bound in it with its whole soul, treats this moral order as negative in contrast to its own absolute vocation – yes, indeed, such a heart must appear to us according to our outlook as mad in its self-created suffering and in its renunciation, so that we cannot feel pity for it or draw any edification from it. Such actions lack a valid and solid end, for what they achieve is only purely subjective, is an end of the individual man himself alone, for the salvation of his soul and for his bliss. But it matters very little whether a man just like this is blissful or not.

(b) Repentance and Conversion

In the same sphere, the opposite mode of representation disregards the external torture of the body, on the one hand, and, on the other, the negative bent against what is absolutely justified in mundane reality, and thereby, both in content and form, wins ground more adequate to ideal art. This ground is the conversion of the inner life which expresses itself solely in its spiritual grief, in its change of heart. Therefore here, for one thing, the ever-repeated horrors and dreadfulnesses of bodily torture have no place; for another thing, the barbaric religiosity of the heart is no longer kept so rigidly in opposition to the ethical life of humanity that, in the abstraction of its purely intellectual satisfaction, it can trample violently under foot every other kind of enjoyment, satisfied as it is in the grief of an absolute renunciation; now, on the contrary, it turns only against what is in fact sinful, criminal, and evil in human nature. It is a lofty conviction that faith, this inner bent of the spirit towards God, is capable of making into something alien to the agent the deed that has been committed, even if it be sin and crime, of making it undone and washing it away. This retreat from evil, from the absolute negative, is actual in the person after his subjective will and spirit has scorned and extinguished the evil self that it has been. This return to the positive, which is now established as what is really actual in contrast with earlier existence in sin, is the truly infinite power of religious love, the presence and actuality of the absolute Spirit in the person himself. The sense of the strength and endurance of one’s own spirit which, through God to whom it turns, conquers evil, and by harmonizing itself with him knows itself one with him, thus affords the satisfaction and bliss of seeing God as absolutely other than the sins of temporality, yet of knowing this infinite Being as at the same time identical with me as this person, and of carrying in me, with the same assurance as I have of my own being, this self-consciousness of God as my self, as my self-consciousness. It is true that such a revolution proceeds entirely in the inner life and therefore belongs rather to religion than to art; yet since it is the deep feeling of the heart which is principally the master of this act of conversion and which can also shine through the external, it follows that visual art itself, i.e. [here] painting, acquires the right of bringing before our eyes the history of such conversions. Yet if it portrays the entire course of such histories completely, then here again much that is not beautiful may creep in, because in this case after all the criminal and repugnant must be presented as, e.g., in the story of the prodigal son. Therefore things go most favourably for painting when it concentrates the conversion into one picture alone, without further detailing the crime. An example of this is Mary Magdalene, who is to be reckoned one of the most beautiful subjects in this sphere and is treated excellently, and consistently with art, especially by Italian painters. Here she appears both in soul and in presence as the beautiful sinner in whom the sin is as attractive as the conversion. Yet in this case neither the sin nor the sanctity is taken very seriously; much was forgiven her because she had loved much [Luke 7: 47]; because of her love and beauty she is forgiven, and the touching thing consists in the fact that she yet makes a conscience for herself out of her love, and in her beauty of soul and richness of feeling pours forth tears of grief. It is not that she loved so much that is her error; on the contrary, what is as it were her beautiful touching error is that she believes herself to be a sinner, for her deep feeling and her beauty give rise only to the impression that in her love she has been noble and moved profoundly.

(c) Miracles and Legends

The final aspect, which is associated with the two previous ones and which may be prevalent in both, concerns the miracles which in general play a leading role in this whole sphere. In this connection we may describe miracles as the history of the conversion of immediate natural existence. Reality confronts us as a common contingent fact; this finite existent is touched by the Divine which, by entering directly upon what is purely external and particular, breaks it up, inverts it, makes it into something sheerly different, and interrupts what we commonly call the natural course of things. Now it is a chief theme of many legends to represent the heart as having its ideas of the finite upset because it has been captivated by such unnatural phenomena in which it believes that it recognizes the presence of the Divine. In fact, however, the Divine can touch and rule nature only as reason, i.e. as the unchangeable laws of nature itself which God has implanted in it; and the Divine is not to be shown precisely as the Divine in individual circumstances and effects which are breaches of natural laws; for it is only the eternal laws and categories of reason that actually make their way into nature. This is why the legends often pass over without difficulty into what is abstruse, tasteless, senseless, and laughable, because spirit and heart are supposed to be moved towards faith in the presence and activity of God precisely by what is absolutely irrational, false, and non-divine. In these legends, emotion, piety, conversion may still be of interest, but these are only one aspect, the inner and subjective one; if these enter into relation with their opposite, i.e. with something external, and if this external thing is to bring about the conversion of the heart, then this external thing must not be in itself something senseless and irrational.

These we may take to be the chief elements in the substantial subject-matter which in this sphere amounts to God’s explicit nature and the process through and in which he is Spirit. This is the absolute theme which art does not create and reveal from its own resources, but which it has received from religion and which it approaches, with the consciousness that it is the absolute truth, in order to express and display it. This is the content of the believing and yearning heart which in and for itself is the infinite totality, so that now the external sphere remains more or less external and contingent without coming into complete harmony with the inner sphere and therefore it often becomes a repellent material not thoroughly conquerable by art.

Chapter II

As we saw in Section III, I, the principle of inherently infinite subjectivity has primarily as the content of faith and art the Absolute itself, the Spirit of God as it is mediated and reconciled with human consciousness, and thereby is truly explicit to itself. Since this romantic mysticism is restricted to the achievement of bliss in the Absolute, it remains an abstract depth of feeling because, instead of permeating the mundane and accepting it affirmatively, this feeling contrasts itself with it and spurns it. In this abstraction faith is separated from life, and removed from the concrete reality of human existence, from a positive relation of men to one another who only in faith and on account of faith know their identity with one another and love one another in a third thing, i.e. the spirit of the community. This third thing is alone the clear spring in which their picture is mirrored; at this stage men do not look one another in the face, enter into a direct relation with each other, and sense as something concrete and alive the unity of their love, trust, confidence, aims, and actions. What constitutes the hope and longing of the inner life, man finds in his abstract religious depth of feeling only in the form of life in the Kingdom of God, in community with the Church; he has not yet dismissed this identity in a third thing from his consciousness in order to have immediately before himself, in the knowing and willing of others too, what he is in his concrete self. The entire religious subject-matter therefore does assume the form of reality, but it still remains in the inwardness of ideas which consumes existence in its living expansion, and is far from satisfying in life itself the higher demand of its own life, even if that life be filled with the mundane and unfolded into reality.[10]

The heart which is only now perfected in its simple bliss has therefore to leave the heavenly kingdom of its substantive sphere, to look into itself, and attain a mundane content appropriate to the individual subject as such. Therefore the earlier religious inwardness now becomes one of a worldly kind. Christ did say: ‘Ye must leave father and mother and follow me’, and likewise ‘Brother will hate brother; men will crucify you and persecute you’,[11] etc. But when the Kingdom of God has won a place in the world and is active in penetrating worldly aims and interests and therefore in transfiguring them, when father, mother, brother, meet in the community, then the worldly realm too for its part begins to claim and assert its right to validity. If this right be upheld, the emotion which at first is exclusively religious loses its negative attitude to human affairs as such; the spirit is spread abroad, is on the lookout for itself in its present world, and widens its actual mundane heart. The fundamental principle itself is not altered; inherently infinite subjectivity only turns to another sphere of the subject-matter. We may indicate this transition by saying that subjective individuality now becomes explicitly free as individuality independently of reconciliation with God. For precisely in that reconciliation, in which individuality rid itself of its purely finite restriction and natural character, it has traversed the road of negativity, and now, after it has become affirmative in and for itself, it emerges freely as subject with the demand that, as subject in its infinity (even if here still primarily formal infinity), it shall secure complete reverence for itself and others. In this its subjectivity, therefore, it places the entire inwardness of the infinite heart which hitherto God alone had filled.

Yet if we ask what then at this new stage is the human breast in its inwardness full of, [we reply that] the content is concerned only with subjective infinite self-relation; the subject is only full of himself by being inherently infinite individuality; he does not need the importance or further concrete development of an inherently objective substantial content of interests, aims, and actions. But, in more detail, there are especially three feelings which in the person rise to this infinity: subjective honour, love, and fidelity. These are not strictly ethical qualities and virtues, but only forms of the romantic self-filled inwardness of the subject. For honour’s fight for personal independence is not bravery defending the common weal and the call of justice in the same or of rectitude in the sphere of private life; on the contrary, honour’s struggle is only for the recognition and the abstract inviolability of the individual person. So too love, the centre of this sphere, is only the accidental passion of one person for another and, even if it be widened by imagination and deepened by spiritual profundity, is still not the ethical relation of marriage and the family. Fidelity indeed has more the look of an ethical character since it does not merely will something on its own behalf; on the contrary, it keeps in view something higher, something in common with others; it surrenders itself to another’s will, to the wish or command of a master and therefore renounces the selfishness and independence of the agent’s own particular will; but the feeling of fidelity does not touch the objective interest of the common weal explicitly developed in its freedom into the life of the state; it is linked, on the contrary, only with the person of the master who acts for himself in an individual way or keeps together more general relationships and is active on their behalf.

These three aspects taken together and interpenetrated by one another constitute – apart from the religious associations which may play their part here too – the chief content of chivalry and provide the necessary transition from the principle of religious inwardness to its entry into mundane spiritual life. In the sphere of these aspects romantic art now gains a position from which it can create independently from its own resources[12] and become as it were a freer beauty. For it stands here freely midway between the absolute content of explicitly fixed religious ideas and the varied particularity and restrictedness of finitude and the world. Amongst the particular arts it is especially poetry which has been able to master this material in the most appropriate way, because it is the one most competent to express both the inwardness which is concerned solely with itself, and also its aims and adventures.

Since we now have before us a material which man takes from his own heart, from the world of the purely human, it might seem that here romantic art stands on the same ground with the classical, and thus this is the best place to compare and contrast the two with one another. We have already earlier [in Part II, ch. II] described classical art as the ideal of objectively and inherently true humanity. Its imagination requires as its centre a subject-matter of a substantial kind with an ethical ‘pathos’. In the Homeric poems and the tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles the treatment is concerned with the interests of something really solid, with a strict check on the passions involved, and with a profound diction and execution adequate to the thought lying in the topic; and above the group of heroes and figures, who are individually independent only when animated by such a ‘pathos’, there stands a group of gods with still more greatly enhanced objectivity. Even where art becomes more subjective in the endless plays of sculpture, in bas-reliefs e.g., and in the later elegies, epigrams, and other elegances of lyric poetry, the manner of presenting the subject-matter is more or less given by that matter itself because it already has its objective form; imaginative pictures come on the scene, like Venus, Bacchus, the Muses, fixed and determinate in their character, and similarly the later epigrams contain descriptions of what is there, or familiar flowers are tied together, as by Meleager,[13] into a garland and, through feeling, the bond which they acquire becomes an exquisite sentiment. All this is a cheerful activity in a house richly furnished, filled with a store of resources, products, and utensils ready for any purpose; the poet and artist is only the magician who evokes them, collects and groups them.

In romantic poetry it is quite different. In so far as it is mundane and not directly rooted in sacred history, the virtues and aims of its heroic characters are not those of the Greek heroes whose moral actions early Christianity regarded as only splendid vices.[14] For Greek ethical life presupposes a fully formed present condition of human life; there the will is supposed to pursue its activity absolutely in accordance with its essential nature, and there it has attained a specific area for its exercise in which the actualized relationships are free and absolutely valid. These are the relations between parents and children, husband awl wife, citizens and their city, and within the state in its realized freedom. Since this objective content of action has been produced by the development of the human spirit on the positively recognized and assured basis of nature, it is now at variance with that concentrated inwardness of religion which strives to extinguish the natural side of man and must give way to the opposed virtue of humility, the sacrifice both of human freedom and the fixed resting of the self on itself. The virtues of Christian piety in their abstract attitude[15] kill the mundane and make the subject free only if he absolutely repudiates himself in his humanity. The subjective freedom of this present sphere [of chivalry] is indeed no longer conditioned by mere sufferance and sacrifice but is affirmative in itself and in the world, yet, as we saw, the infinity of the person has still once again as its content only inwardness as such, the subjective heart as inherently self-moving, as having its mundane ground in itself. In this respect poetry is not confronted here by any presupposed objectivity, any mythology, any imagery, any configurations lying there already cut and dried for it to express them. It rises entirely free, with no [given] material, purely creative and productive; it is like the bird which sings its song freely from its heart.

But even if here too the subject has a noble will and deep soul, still what enters into his actions and their relations and existence is only capriciousness and contingency, because freedom and its aims themselves originate from internal self-reflection which, so far as an ethical content goes, is still without substance. And so we find in these individuals not a particular ‘pathos’ in the Greek sense and, bound up therewith in the closest connection, a living independence of individuality, but rather only degrees of heroism in respect of love, honour, bravery, and fidelity, degrees the difference of which depends especially on iniquity or nobility of soul. Yet what the champions in the Middle Ages have in common with the heroes of antiquity is bravery, though even this acquires a quite different position here. It is less the natural courage which rests on healthy excellence and the force of the body and will which has not been weakened by civilization and serves to support the execution of objective interests; rather does it proceed from the inwardness of the spirit, from honour and chivalrousness, and is on the whole fantastic since it resigns itself to adventures of inner caprice and the contingencies of external entanglements, or to impulses of mystical piety, but in general to the subjective relation of the subject to himself.

Now this form of romantic art is at home in two hemispheres; in the West, in this decline of the spirit into its own subjective inner life, and, in the East, in this first expansion of consciousness unfolding itself into liberation from the finite. In the West, poetry rests on the heart that has withdrawn back into itself and has explicitly become the centre of its life, set midway between the two aspects of that life, the mundane world and the higher world of faith. In the East, it is especially the Arab who, as a single point which at first has nothing before itself but its dry deserts and its sky, emerges vigorously to the splendour and first extension of his world[16] and thereby still preserves his inner freedom at the same time. In the Orient it is in general the Mohammedan religion which has as it were cleared the ground by expelling all the idolatry of a finite and imaginative outlook, but has given to the heart the subjective freedom which entirely fills it. The result is that worldly things do not constitute a merely different province, but blossom into a realm of universal freedom where heart and spirit, without framing for themselves an objective embodiment of their god, live cheerfully at peace with themselves; they are like beggars, happy in eating and loving, satisfied and blissful in contemplating and glorifying their objects.

1. Honour

The motif of honour was unknown to ancient classical art. True, in the Iliad the wrath of Achilles constitutes its burden and moving principle, so that the whole further course of events is dependent on it; but what we understand by honour, in the modern sense, is not in view here at all. At bottom Achilles feels himself injured only because the actual share of the booty which belongs to him and is his reward of honour, his, geras has been taken from him by Agamemnon. The injury occurs here in respect of something real, a gift which of course implied a privilege, a recognition of fame and bravery, and Achilles is angry because Agamemnon treats him disgracefully and publicly deprives him of respect among the Greeks; but the injury does not pierce right to the very heart of personality as such, so that Achilles is now satisfied by the return of the share of which he had been deprived and by the addition of more gifts and goods, and Agamemnon finally does not deny him this reparation, although according to our ideas both have insulted one another in the grossest possible way. Yet through the invective they have only made themselves angry, while the particular factual injury is cancelled in a way just as particular and factual.

(a) The Concept of Honour

Romantic honour, however, is of a different kind. In it the injury affects not the positive real value infringed, i.e. property, position, duty, etc., but the personality as such and its idea of itself, the value which the individual ascribes to himself on his own account. This value at this stage is just as infinite as the individual is infinite in his own eyes. In honour, therefore, the man has the first affirmative consciousness of his infinite subjectivity, no matter what the circumstances. Now in what the individual possesses, in what is only some particular aspect of himself and despite the loss of which he could subsist just as well as before, honour has placed the absolute validity of his whole subjective personality and in that possession has given him and others an idea of that personality. The measure of honour thus does not depend on what the man actually is but on what this idea of himself is. But this idea makes everything particular into the universal, so that my whole subjective personality lies in this particular possession of mine. Honour is only a show [Schein], it is often said. Of course this is the case; but, according to the view now under consideration, it is to be regarded, looked at more closely, as the shining [Scheinen] and reflection of subjectivity into itself, which, as the shining of something infinite, is infinite itself. Precisely owing to this infinity the show of honour becomes the real existence of the subject, his supreme actuality, and every particular quality which honour shines into, and which it makes its own, is through this shining itself already exalted to infinite worth. This kind of honour is a fundamental category in the romantic world and involves the presupposition that man has stepped out of purely religious ideas and the inner life and into living reality; and in the material of reality he now brings into existence only himself in his purely personal independence and absolute validity.

Now honour may have the most varied content. For everything that I am, that I do, that is done to me by others, belongs to my honour. Therefore I can make a point of honour of what is itself purely substantive, fidelity to princes, to country, to calling, fulfilment of paternal duties, fidelity in marriage, honesty in buying and selling, conscientiousness in scientific research, and so on. But from the point of view of honour all these relationships, valid and true in themselves, are not already sanctioned and recognized on their own account, but only because I put my personality into them and thereby make them a matter of honour. Therefore in every case the man of honour always thinks first of himself; and the question is not whether something is absolutely right or not, but whether it suits him, whether it befits his honour to concern himself with it or to stay aloof from it. And thus he may well do the worst of things and still be a man of honour. Accordingly he fabricates capricious aims for himself, presents himself in a certain [assumed] character, and therefore binds himself in his own eyes and those of others to something which has neither obligatoriness nor necessity in itself. In that event it is not the thing itself but his subjective idea which puts difficulties and complications in his way because it becomes a point of honour to uphold the character he has assumed. So, for example, Donna Diana regards it as contrary to her honour to bestow on anyone the love that she feels, because she has once set a great value on not giving ear to love.[17]

In general, therefore, because the content of honour depends for its worth only on the man and does not arise from his own immanent essence, it remains a victim of contingency. Therefore, in the romantic plays, we see on the one hand what is absolutely justified expressed as a law of honour, since the individual links with his consciousness of the right the infinite self-consciousness of his personality at the same time. In that case, the fact that honour demands or forbids something expresses the insertion of the agent’s entire personality into the content of this demand or this prohibition, with the result that a transgression cannot be overlooked, indemnified, or compensated through some sort of transaction, and the man cannot now heed anything else. But, on the other hand honour may also become something entirely formal and without worth, when it contains nothing but the arid self which is infinite in its own eyes or even adopts an entirely bad action as obligatory. In this case, especially in dramatic works, honour remains a thoroughly cold and dead topic, because its aims express not an essential content but only an abstract subjectivity. But only an inherently substantial content has necessity and it alone can be developed, throughout its varied connections, in this necessity and brought into consciousness as necessary. This lack of a deeper content is especially in evidence when the subtlety of reflection also introduces into the scope of honour inherently contingent and meaningless matter which touches the man personally. For this purpose there is never any lack of material, for subtlety carries analysis on with the great ingenuity of its gift for making distinctions, and therefore many aspects are discovered and made points of honour though taken in themselves they are matters of complete indifference. The Spaniards especially have developed this casuistry of reflection on points of honour in their dramatic poetry and, as ratiocination, have put it into the mouths of their honour-conscious heroes. So, e.g., the fidelity of a married woman is investigated down to the most trivial possible details, and the mere suspicion of others, indeed the mere possibility of such suspicion – even when the husband knows that the suspicion is false – can become a matter of honour. If this leads to collisions, then their development involves no satisfaction for us because we have nothing substantial before us, and therefore instead of drawing from them the appeasement of a necessary antagonism, we have only a painfully straitened feeling. Even in French dramas it is often an arid honour, wholly abstract in itself, which is supposed to count as the essential interest. But still more in Friedrich von Schlegel’s Alarcos [1802] we have this ice-cold and dead material: the hero murders his noble, loving wife – why? – to obtain honour, and this honour consists in his being able to marry the King’s daughter, for whom he cherishes no passion at all, and thereby become the son-in-law of the King. This is a contemptible ‘pathos’ and a bad idea which prides itself on being something lofty and infinite.

(b) Vulnerability of Honour

Now since honour is not only a shining in myself, but must also, be envisaged and recognized by others who again on their side may demand equal recognition for their honour, honour is something purely vulnerable. For how far I will extend my demand, and in relation to what, is something dependent entirely on my caprice. The tiniest offence may in this respect be of importance for me; and because a man stands within concrete reality in the most varied relations with a thousand things and may expand ad infinitum the range of what he reckons as his own and on which he stakes his honour, there is no end to strife and quarrelling owing to the independence of individuals and their inflexible singularity which likewise is implicit in the principle of honour. Even in the case of the injury, as of honour in general, the thing in which I must feel myself injured does not matter; for what is negated affects the personality which has made such a thing its own and now considers that what is attacked is itself, this ideal infinite point.

(c) Reconstitution of Honour

Therefore every injury to honour is regarded as something infinite in itself and can thus be indemnified only in an infinite way. True, once again there are many degrees of offence and just as many degrees of satisfaction; but what in general I regard in this sphere as an injury, how far I will feel myself offended and demand some satisfaction, this entirely depends here too once more on the subjective caprice which has the right to proceed to the utmost scrupulosity of reflection and the most irritable sensitivity. Thus in the case of such a demanded satisfaction both the man who has injured me and I myself must be recognized as men of honour. For I require him on his side to recognize my honour; but if he is to have honour in my eyes and through his action, he must count to me as a man of honour, i.e. he must count in my eyes as an infinite being in his personality, despite the injury he has done me and my subjective enmity towards him.

So then in the principle of honour in general it is a fundamental characteristic that no man in his actions may grant to any other a right over himself, and therefore whatever he may have done and perpetrated, he regards himself both before and afterwards as an unaltered infinite being, and in this capacity intends to be accepted and treated.

Now because in its quarrels and their satisfaction honour rests in this regard on personal independence which cannot be restricted by anything but which acts out of its own resources, we see here returning once again above all what was a fundamental characteristic of the Greek heroic-ideal figures, namely the independence of individuality. But in honour we have not only an adherence to self and an action from personal resources; on the contrary, independence is bound up here with the idea of itself; and this idea does precisely constitute the proper content of honour, so that in what is external and present honour perceives its own, and in its own it envisages itself in its entire subjectivity. Honour is thus that independence reflected into itself which has as its essence this reflection alone, and it leaves to pure contingency whether what is at stake is what is inherently ethical and necessary or contingent and meaningless.

2. Love

The second feeling which plays a preponderating role in the productions of romantic art is love.

(a) Concept of Love

While in honour the fundamental characteristic is personal subjectivity envisaged in its absolute independence, in love the supreme thing is rather the surrender of the person to an individual of the opposite sex, the sacrifice of one’s independent consciousness and one’s separate self-awareness; the sacrifice is made because one feels compelled to have one’s knowledge of oneself solely in the consciousness of the other. In this respect love and honour are opposed to one another. But conversely we may regard love as also the realization of what was already implicit in honour, because honour needs to see itself recognized, and the infinity of the person accepted, in another person. This recognition is only genuine and total when my personality is not respected by others merely in abstracto or in a concrete separate and therefore restricted instance, but when with my whole subjective personality – with all that it is and contains – I penetrate the consciousness of another as this individual as I was, am, and will be, and constitute the other’s real willing and knowing, striving and possessing. In that event this other lives only in me, just as I am present to myself only in her; in this accomplished unity both are self-aware for the first time and they place their whole soul and world in this identity. In this respect it is the same inner infinity of the person which gives love its importance for romantic art, an importance further enhanced by the higher wealth which the concept of love entails.

The next point is that love does not rest, as may so often be the case with honour, on intellectual reflections and casuistry; instead, it has its origin in feeling, and at the same time it has a foundation in spiritualized nature, because difference of sex plays its part in it. Yet essentially this foundation is present here only because the person is absorbed in this sex-relation in accordance with his inner life, his infinity in himself. What constitutes the infinity of love is this losing, in the other, one’s consciousness of self, this splendour of disinterestedness and selflessness through which alone the person finds himself again and becomes a self, this self-forgetfulness in which the lover does not exist, live, and care for himself, but finds the roots of his being in another, and yet in this other does entirely enjoy precisely himself; and beauty is chiefly to be sought in the fact that this emotion does not remain mere impulse and emotion but that imagination builds its whole world up into this relation; everything else which by way of interests, circumstances, and aims belongs otherwise to actual being and life, it elevates into an adornment of this emotion; it tugs everything into this sphere and assigns a value to it only in its relation thereto. It is especially in female characters that love is supremely beautiful, since for them this surrender, this sacrifice, is the acme of their life, because they draw and expand the whole of their actual and spiritual life into this feeling, find a support for their existence in it alone, and, if they are touched by a misfortune in connection with it, dwindle away like a candle put out by the first unkind breeze.

As this subjective spiritual depth of feeling, love does not occur in classical art, and when love does make its appearance there it is generally only a subordinate feature in the representation or only connected with sensuous enjoyment. In Homer either no great weight is laid on love or else it appears in its most dignified form: as marriage in the sphere of domesticity, e.g. in Penelope, or as the solicitude of wife and mother, e.g. in Andromache, or in other ethical relationships. On the other hand, the bond between Paris and Helen is recognized as unethical and the cause of the horrors and distress of the Trojan war; and the love of Achilles for Briseis has little depth and inwardness of feeling, for Briseis is a slave entirely at the hero’s disposal. In the Odes of Sappho the language of love is indeed heightened to lyrical enthusiasm, yet it is the insidious and devouring flame of the blood which is expressed rather than the deep feeling of the subjective heart and mind. In the slight and graceful songs of Anacreon, love has a different aspect; it is a more cheerful and general enjoyment which, without endless sufferings, without this domination of the whole of existence or the pious devotion of an oppressed, silent, languishing heart, lets itself go cheerfully in immediate enjoyment as in something innocent with this or that character; and the endless importance of possessing this girl and no other remains just as unnoticed as the monk’s notion of renouncing the sex-relationship altogether.

The high tragedy of the Greeks likewise knows nothing of the passion of love in the romantic sense. Especially in Aeschylus and Sophocles it lays claim to no essential interest in itself. For although Antigone is the intended bride of Haemon and he intercedes for her before his father, and even goes so far as to kill himself for her sake because he is in no position to save her, still before Creon [his father] he emphasizes objective ties only and not the subjective power of his passion, which also he does not feel in the sense that a modern heartfelt lover does. As a more essential ‘pathos’ love is treated by Euripides in the Phaedra, for example; yet even here it appears as a criminal aberration of the blood, a sensual passion, provoked by Venus who wants to destroy Hippolytus because he will not sacrifice to her. Similarly we have in the Medici Venus what is indeed a plastic picture of love, and nothing can be said against its elegance and the beautiful elaboration of its lines; but the expression of inwardness, as romantic art demands it, is altogether lacking. The same is the case in Roman poetry where, after the Republic and the strictness of ethical life had been destroyed, love appears as more or less a sensual enjoyment.

Whereas, even if Petrarch himself regarded his Sonnets as jeux d'esprit, and if it was on his Latin poems and works that he based his fame, what has made him immortal is just this imaginative love which, under the Italian sky and in the artistically developed ardour of the heart, formed a close union with religion. Dante’s elation too emanated from his love for Beatrice which then was transfigured in him into religious love, while his courage and boldness were raised into an energy of religious and artistic vision in virtue of which he did what no one else would venture, for he made himself the judge of mankind and assigned men to Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. As a contrast to this elation, Boccaccio displays love, sometimes in its vehemence of passion, sometimes quite lightheartedly regardless of morality, when he brings before us in his colourful tales the customs of his time and his country. In the German medieval love-poetry love is full of feeling, tender, without abundance of fancy, playful, melancholy, and monotonous. The Spanish love-poems are richly fanciful in expression, chevaleresque, subtle sometimes in searching out and defending love’s rights and duties as a personal matter of honour, and ecstatic here too in expressing love’s supreme splendour. Among the French, however, love becomes in later times more a matter of gallantry verging on emptiness, a feeling manufactured into poetry often with the aid of the maximum of esprit and also of ingenious sophistry, now a sensuous pleasure without passion, now a passion without pleasure, a sublimated feeling and sensitivity, full of reflection. – But I must break off these observations which this is not the place to pursue in detail.

(b) Love’s Collisions

Next, mundane interests are divided into two spheres. On the one hand stands the objective world as such, family life, political ties, citizenship, laws, droit, ethics, etc., and [on the other hand], contrasted with this explicitly firm sphere, [subjective] love burgeons in noble and fiery hearts; this secular religion of the heart now unites itself with religion in every way, now subordinates it to itself and forgets it. Since it makes itself alone into the essential and even the sole or supreme business of life, not merely can it decide to sacrifice everything else and fly with the beloved into a desert, but in its extreme, where indeed it is unbeautiful, it proceeds to the unfree, slavish, and shameless sacrifice of the dignity of man, as, e.g., in Kätchen von Heilbronn.[18] Now owing to this diremption [of spheres] the aims of love cannot be achieved in concrete reality without collisions, because the other relations of life assert their demands and rights apart from love and may therefore impair the sole dominion of the passion of love.

(α) The first and commonest collision that we have to mention in this context is the conflict between love and honour. Honour, i.e., has on its side the same infinity as love, and some point of honour may stand in love’s way as an absolute hindrance. The duty of honour may demand the sacrifice of love. From a certain point of view, for example, it would be contrary to the honour of a man in a higher class to love a girl of a lower class. The difference of classes is necessary and given in the nature of civil life. Now if mundane life has not yet been regenerated by the infinite concept of true freedom wherein class, calling, etc. are adopted by the person himself and his free choice, it is more or less always nature, i.e. birth, which assigns to man his fixed position, and the differences proceeding from birth, besides those proceeding from honour when it makes its own class a point of honour, become fixed as absolute and infinite.

(β) But apart from honour, secondly, the eternal substantial powers themselves, the interests of the state, patriotism, family duties, etc., may come into conflict with love and inhibit its realization. Especially in modern plays, in which the objective relations of life have been brought out in their validity, this is a very popular collision. In such a case, love as itself a vital right of subjective emotion is either so opposed to other rights and duties that the heart disembarrasses itself of these duties as being subordinate to itself, or else it recognizes them and engages in a fight with itself and the power of its own passion. [Schiller’s] Maid of Orleans, e.g., rests on this latter collision.

(γ) Yet, thirdly, there may in general be external circumstances and hindrances which stem the flood of love: e.g. the usual course of events, the prose of life, misfortunes, passion, prejudices, restrictions, stubbornness of others, and incidents of the most varied kind. With these there is then often mixed much that is hateful, frightful, and base, because it is the wickedness, barbarity, and savagery of some other passion which opposes love’s tender beauty of soul. Especially in recent times we have often seen, in dramas, tales, and novels, external collisions like these which are then supposed to interest us especially by our participation in the sufferings, hopes, and frustrated prospects of the unhappy lovers, and to touch and satisfy us according as the denouement is bad or good, or in general merely to entertain us. But this manner of conflicts rests on pure accident and therefore is of a subordinate kind.

(c) Love’s Contingency

In all these aspects love has of course a high quality in it in so far as it does not remain in general a sexual attraction but is a sentiment in itself rich, beautiful, and noble which abandons itself and, for the sake of unity with another, is living, active, bold, and sacrificing, etc. But at the same time romantic love also has its limitation. What its content lacks, that is to say, is absolute universality. It is only the personal feeling of the individual subject, and it is obviously not filled with the eternal interests and objective content of human existence, with family, political ends, country, duties arising from one’s calling or class, with freedom and religious feeling, but only with its own self, the self that wishes to receive again the feeling that is reflected back from another self. This content of deep feeling, once more itself still formal, does not truly correspond with the totality which an inherently concrete individual must be. In the family, marriage, duty, and the state, it is not subjective feeling as such and the consequential unification with just this individual and no other, which should be the chief thing at issue. But in romantic love everything turns on the fact that this man loves precisely this woman, and she him. The sole reason why it is just this man or this individual woman alone is grounded in the person’s own private character, in the contingency of caprice. Although they can very commonly find others, there is no man who does not regard his beloved as the most beautiful, no girl who does not regard her lover as the most magnificent, in all the world, beyond comparison with anyone else. But precisely because this exclusion is made by everyone, or at least by many people, and the object of a man’s love is not the unique Aphrodite herself, for it is true rather that every man has an Aphrodite (or quite likely better than an Aphrodite) of his own, it is obvious that there are many women who count as the most beautiful; as, after all, everyone knows in fact that there are many pretty, or good and excellent girls in the world who all – or at least most of them – find their lovers, suitors, and husbands to whom they appear as beautiful, lovable, and paragons of virtue. To give absolute preference to one woman and precisely to this one alone is therefore in every case a private matter of the subjective heart and the particularity or peculiarity of the person, and the endless stubbornness of necessarily finding his life, his supreme consciousness, precisely in this woman alone is seen to be an endless caprice of fate. Of course in this situation the higher freedom of subjectivity and its absolute choice are recognized – the freedom of not being subjected, like the Phaedra of Euripides, to a ‘pathos’, to a divinity; but since the choice proceeds from a purely individual will, it appears at the same time as an idiosyncrasy and a pertinacity of personal caprice.

Therefore, especially when love is opposed and hostile to substantial interests, its collisions always retain an aspect of contingency and lack of justification, because it is subjective caprice as such which with its not absolutely valid demands opposes what has to claim recognition on the score of its own essential character. The individuals in the high tragedy of the Greeks, Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Orestes, Oedipus, Antigone, Creon, etc., do likewise have an individual aim; but the substantial thing, the ‘pathos’ which, as the essence of their action, drives them on, has absolute justification and for that very reason is in itself of universal interest. What falls to their lot on account of their action is therefore not touching on the strength of its being an unfortunate fate but because it is a misfortune which at the same time does them absolute honour, since the ‘pathos’ which does not rest until it is satisfied has an explicitly necessary content. If the guilt of Clytemnestra in this concrete case is not punished, if the injury suffered by Antigone as a sister is not expunged, this is a wrong in itself. But those sufferings of love, those shattering hopes, that mere being in love, those endless griefs felt by a lover, that endless happiness and bliss which he foresees for himself, are in themselves of no universal interest but something affecting himself alone. Every man does have a heart for love and a right to become happy through it; but if here, precisely in this instance, under such and such circumstances, he does not achieve his end in relation to precisely this girl, then no wrong has occurred. For there is nothing inherently necessary in his taking a fancy for this girl alone, and we are therefore supposed to be interested in supreme contingency, in the man’s caprice which has neither universality nor any scope beyond itself. This remains the aspect of coldness which freezes us despite all the heat of passion in its presentation.

3. Fidelity

The third feature which is of importance for romantic subjectivity within its mundane sphere is fidelity. Yet by ‘fidelity’ we have here to understand neither the consistent adherence to an avowal of love once given nor the firmness of friendship of which, amongst the Greeks, Achilles and Patroclus, and still more intimately, Orestes and Pylades counted as the finest model. Friendship in this sense of the word has youth especially for its basis and period. Every man has to make his way through life for himself and to gain and maintain an actual position for himself. Now when individuals still live in actual relationships which are indefinite on both sides, this is the period, i.e. youth, in which individuals become intimate and are so closely bound into one disposition, will, and activity that, as a result, every undertaking of the one becomes the undertaking of the other. In the friendship of adults this is no longer the case. A man’s affairs go their own way independently and cannot be carried into effect in that firm community of mutual effort in which one man cannot achieve anything without someone else. Men find others and separate themselves from them again; their interests and occupations drift apart and are united again; friendship, spiritual depth of disposition, principles, and general trends of life remain, but this is not the friendship of youth, in the case of which no one decides anything or sets to work on anything without its immediately becoming the concern of his friend. It is inherent essentially in the principle of our deeper life that, on the whole, every man fends for himself, i.e. is himself competent to take his place in the world.

(a) Fidelity in Service

While fidelity in friendship and love subsists only between equals, fidelity as we have to consider it now affects a superior, someone higher in rank, or a master. Fidelity like this we find already among the Greeks in the fidelity of servants to the master’s family and his house. The finest example of this is afforded by Odysseus’s swineherd who sweats by night and in bad weather to tend the swine; he is full of concern for his master and in the end, as it turns out, lends him loyal aid against the suitors. The picture of similarly touching fidelity, though here it becomes a matter entirely of the mind alone, is sketched for us by Shakespeare, e.g. in Lear (I. iv) where Lear asks Kent, who wants to serve him, ‘Dost thou know me, fellow?"No, sir’, Kent replies, ‘but you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master.’ This gets very near to what we have defined here as romantic fidelity. For fidelity at the stage we have reached is not the fidelity of slaves and serfs, which may indeed be beautiful and touching, yet it lacks the free independence of the individual and his own aims and actions and therefore is of a subordinate kind.

What confronts us, on the contrary, is the vassal’s fidelity in chivalry in which, despite his devotion to one of higher rank, whether Prince, King, or Emperor, he preserves his free self-dependence throughout as his preponderating characteristic. Yet this fidelity is so lofty a principle in chivalry because on it depends the chief bond of a community’s connection and its social organization, at least when that is originating.

(b) Fidelity’s Subjective Independence

But this new unification of individuals brings into appearance a more concrete end. This is not, as may be supposed, patriotism as an interest in something objective and universal; on the contrary it is bound up with only one person, the superior; and therefore once again it is conditioned by the vassal’s own honour, particular advantage, and personal opinion. In its greatest splendour fidelity appears in an unformed, uncouth, external world where rights and laws have no dominion. Within such a lawless world the mightiest and most overpowering individuals get into the position of being fixed centres, i.e. leaders and princes, round which others group themselves of their own free will. Then, later on, such a relationship was itself developed into a legal bond of feudal overlordship where now each vassal claims rights and privileges for himself too. But the fundamental principle on which the whole rests, in its origin, is the vassal’s free choice both of the superior on whom he is to depend and also of persistence in that dependence. Thus chivalry’s fidelity can very well uphold property, law, the personal independence and honour of the individual, and therefore it is not recognized as a duty as such, which would have to be performed even against the arbitrary will of the vassal. On the contrary. Every individual takes it that the persistence of his obedience along with the persistence of the universal order is dependent on his pleasure, inclination, and private disposition.

(c) Fidelity’s Collisions

Fidelity and obedience to the overlord may therefore very easily come into collision with subjective passion, the susceptibility of honour, the feeling of injury, love, and other inner and outer accidents and thereby become something extremely precarious. A knight, e.g., is true to his Prince, but his friend gets into a dispute with the Prince; therefore he has at once to choose between one loyalty and the other; and first of all he has to be faithful to himself, his honour, and his advantage. The finest example of such a collision we find in the Cid. He is true both to the King and to himself. If the King acts rightly, he lends him his arm; but yet if his Prince acts wrongly or he, the Cid, is injured, he withdraws his powerful support. – The same relation appears in Charlemagne’s Paladins.[19] There is a bond of obedience to an overlord, but it is rather like what we became acquainted with [above, on pp. 177, 187] in the relation between Zeus and the other gods. The overlord commands, blusters, and disputes, but the independent and powerful individuals oppose him how and when they like. But the truest and most graceful picture of the looseness and slackness of this association is in Reynard the Fox. Just as in this poem the magnates of the Kingdom really only served themselves and their independence, so the German Princes and knights in the Middle Ages were not at home when they were supposed to do something for the whole Empire and their Emperor; and perhaps the Middle Ages have been rated so highly precisely because in such a state of affairs everyone is justified, and is a man of honour, if he follows his own caprice – something that cannot be allowed him in a rationally organized political life !

At all these three stages, Honour, Love, and Fidelity, the basis is the independence of the subject in himself, the heart which yet always opens itself to wider and richer interests and in them remains reconciled with itself. It is here that romantic art comes into possession of the fairest part of the sphere lying outside religion as such. The aims here concern what is human; with this, in one of its aspects at least, namely the aspect of subjective freedom, we can sympathize, and, unlike what is now and again the case in the religious field, we do not find the material or the manner of presenting it in collision with our conceptions. But nevertheless this sphere may be brought into relation with religion in many ways, so that now religious interests are interwoven with those of worldly chivalry, as, e.g., the adventures of the Knights of the Round Table in connection with the search for the Holy Grail. Then in this interlacing of divine and secular there comes into the poetry of chivalry much that is mystical and fanciful, as well as much that is allegorical. But, even so, the mundane sphere of love, honour, and fidelity may also appear quite independently of absorption in religious aims and dispositions and bring before our eyes only the earliest movement of the heart in its inner mundane subjective life. Yet what is still lacking at this present stage is the filling of this inwardness with the concrete content of human relations, characters, passions, and real existence in general. In contrast to this variety, the inherently infinite heart remains still abstract and formal, and therefore gets the task of adopting this wider material too into itself and presenting it transformed in an artistic way.

Chapter III
The Formal Independence of Individual Characteristics

To glance back over what lies behind us, we first considered subjectivity in its absolute sphere: consciousness in its reconciliation with God, the universal process of the spirit reconciling itself within. Here the abstraction consisted in the fact that the heart, sacrificing the mundane, the natural and human as such (even when this was moral and therefore justified), withdrew into itself in order to find its satisfaction in the pure heaven of the spirit. Secondly, human subjectivity did become affirmative for itself and others, without displaying the negativity implicit in that reconciliation; yet the content of this mundane infinite as such was only the personal independence of honour, the deep feeling of love, and the vassalage of fidelity – a content which can come before our eyes in many kinds of relationships, in a great variety and gradation of feeling and passion amid a great change of external circumstances, but which yet displays within these things only that same independence of the person and his inner life. The third point now therefore remaining to us for consideration is the manner and way in which there can enter into the form of romantic art the further material of human existence, both outer and inner – nature and its interpretation and significance for the heart. Thus here it is the world of the particular, of the existent in general, which becomes explicitly free and, because it does not appear permeated by religion and compression into the unity of the Absolute, stands on its own feet and treads independently in its own domain.

In this third sphere of the romantic form of art, therefore, the religious materials have vanished together with chivalry and the lofty views and aims which it generated out of its inner being and to which nothing in the present and in reality directly corresponds. On the other hand, the thing which gives new satisfaction is the thirst for this present and this reality itself, the delight of the self in what is there, contentment with self, with the finitude of man and, generally, with the finite, the particular, and with paintings like portraits.[20] In his present world man wants to see the present itself as it is – even at the cost of sacrificing beauty and ideality of content and appearance – as a live presence recreated by art, as his own human and spiritual work. As we saw at the outset, the Christian religion, unlike the oriental and Greek gods, has not grown up, either in content or form, on the ground of imagination. Now while imagination [in the East] creates the meaning from its own resources in order to [try, though in vain, to] bring about the unification of the true inner with its perfect shape, and while it does actually bring about this linkage in classical art, we find on the contrary in the Christian religion the mundane particularity of appearance, just as it is immediately from the start, accepted as one factor in the Ideal,[21] and the heart is satisfied in the familiarity and contingency of the external, without making any demand for beauty. But nevertheless man is at first only implicitly and potentially reconciled with God; all are indeed called to felicity, but few are chosen ;[22] and the man to whose heart the kingdom alike of heaven and this world remains a ‘beyond’ must in the spirit renounce the world and his selfish presence therein. His point of departure is infinitely far away; and to make what is at first merely sacrificed into an affirmative ‘here’ for him, i.e. to bring about the positive discovery and willing of himself in his present world, which elsewhere is the beginning – this endeavour is but the conclusion of the development of romantic art and is the last thing which man reaches by plumbing his own depths and concentrating his whole experience into a single point.[23]

As for the form for this new content,[24] we found romantic art from its beginning onwards afflicted with the opposition that the inherently infinite subjective personality is in itself irreconcilable with the external material and is to remain unreconciled. This independent confrontation of the two sides and the withdrawal of the inner into itself is what constitutes the subject-matter of romantic art. Developing themselves inwardly, these sides separate again ever anew until at the end they fall apart from one another altogether and therefore show that they have to seek their absolute unification in a field other than art. Owing to this falling apart from one another, the sides, in respect of art, become formal [i.e. abstract] since they cannot appear as one whole in that full unity which the classical ideal gives to them. Classical art stands in a circle of fixed shapes, in a mythology and its indissoluble products perfected by art; therefore, as we saw in the transition to the romantic form of art, the dissolution of classical art, apart from the, on the whole, more restricted sphere of comedy and satire, is a development towards something pleasing or an imitation which loses itself in pedantry, in death and frostiness, and finally degenerates into a perfunctory and bad technique. The topics, however, remain the same on the whole and only exchange the earlier spirited mode of production for an ever more spiritless presentation and a mechanical external tradition. Whereas the progress and end of romantic art is the inner dissolution of the artistic material itself which falls asunder into its elements; its parts become free and in this process, conversely, subjective skill and the art of portrayal are enhanced, and the more the substantial element is discarded, all the more are these perfected.

The more clear-cut division of this final chapter may now be made in the following way:

First of all, we have before us the independence of the character which yet is a particular character, a specific individual shut in upon himself with his world, his particular qualities and aims.

Secondly, contrasted with this formalism of the particularity of character there is the external shape of situations, events, and actions. Now since romantic inwardness as such is indifferent to the external environment, real phenomena enter here explicitly free, as neither penetrated by the inner significance of aims and actions nor shaped adequately thereto, and, in their unfettered, disconnected mode of appearance, they assert the contingency of complications, circumstances, sequence of events, mode of execution, etc., in the form of adventures.[25]

Thirdly and lastly, we see the severance of the sides, whose complete identity affords the proper essence of art, and therefore the decay and dissolution of art itself. On the one hand, art passes over to the presentation of common reality as such, to the presentation of objects as they exist in their contingent individuality with its particular characteristics, and it now has the interest of transforming this existence into a show by means of artistic skill; on the other hand, it turns vice versa into a mode of conception and portrayal completely contingent on the artist, i.e. into humour as the perversion and derangement of everything objective and real by means of wit and the play of a subjective outlook, and it ends with the artist’s personal productive mastery over every content and form.

1. The Independence of the Individual Character

The subjective infinity of man in himself, from which we started in the romantic art-form, remains the fundamental characteristic in this present sphere too. What on the other hand enters this explicit independent infinity as something new is (a) the particularity of the material which constitutes the world of the individual subject; (b) the immediate coalescence of the subject with this his particularity and its wishes and aims; (c) the living individuality to which character in itself is confined. Therefore by the word ‘character'[26] we must not mean here what, e.g., the Italians presented in their masques. For the Italian masqueraders, though indeed determinate characters too, display this determinacy only in its abstraction and universality, i.e. without subjective individuality. Per contra the characters at the present level of our discussion are each of them independently a special character, explicitly a whole, an individual person. If here, therefore, we nevertheless speak of formalism and abstraction of character, this is relevant only to the fact that the chief material, the world of such a character, appears on the one hand as restricted and therefore abstract, and on the other hand as accidental. What the individual is, is not carried and sustained by the substantial inherently justified element in his make-up, but by his character’s mere subjectivity, which therefore instead of resting on something substantial and on an explicitly firm ‘pathos’ rests only formally on its own individual independence.

Within this formalism two chief differences may be distinguished.

On the one side there is the energetically self-sustaining firmness of character which limits itself to specific ends and puts the whole power of its one-sided individuality into the realization of these ends; on the other side, character appears as a subjective totality, but one which persists undeveloped in its inwardness and undisclosed depth of heart and cannot unbosom itself and completely express itself.

(a) Formal Firmness of Character

Thus what we have before us in the first place is the particular character who wishes to be simply what he immediately is. Just as animals are different and explicitly submit to this difference, the same is true here of different characters whose sphere and particularity remains contingent and cannot be firmly delimited through the Concept.

(α) Such a purely self-dependent individual has therefore no meditated intentions and ends which he has linked to some universal ‘pathos’ ; on the contrary, what he has, does, and accomplishes, he draws immediately, without any further reflection, from his own specific nature which is just what it happens to be; he does not wish to base himself on something higher, to be lost in it, and to be justified in something substantive, but instead, unbending and unbent, he rests on himself and in this firmness either realizes himself or perishes. Such an independence of character can only occur when the fullest importance is given to what is external to the Divine, i.e. to the particular element in man. Shakespeare’s characters especially are of this kind; in them it is precisely this taut firmness and one-sidedness that is supremely admirable. In them there is no question of religious feeling, of an action due to the man’s own religious reconciliation, or of morality as such. On the contrary, we have individuals before us, resting independently on themselves alone, with particular ends which are their own, prescribed by their individuality alone, and which they now set themselves to execute with the unshakeable logic of passion, without any accompanying reflection or general principle, solely for their own satisfaction. The tragedies especially, like Macbeth, Othello, Richard III, and others, have as their chief topic one such character surrounded by others less prominent and energetic. So, for example, Macbeth’s character is determined by his passion of ambition. At the start he hesitates, but then stretches out his hand to the crown, commits murder to get it, and, in order to maintain it, storms away through every atrocity. This reckless firmness, this identity of the man with himself and the end arising from his own decision, gives him an essential interest for us. Not respect for the majesty of the monarch, not the frenzy of his wife, not the defection of his vassals, not his impending destruction, nothing, neither divine nor human law, makes him falter or draw back; instead he persists in his course. Lady Macbeth is a similar character, and only the tasteless chatter of modern criticism has been able to regard her as affectionate. At her very first entrance (I. v), as she [reads] Macbeth’s letter which tells of his meeting with the witches and their prophecy: ‘Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor, hail to thee, King thou shalt be’, she exclaims, ‘Glamis thou art and Cawdor; and shalt be what thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature. It is too full of the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way.’ In her no affectionate comfort appears, no joy for her husband’s good fortune, no moral emotion, no cooperation, none of the pity that becomes a noble soul; she is merely frightened that her husband’s character will stand in the way of his ambition; him she treats as a mere means, and in her there is no hesitation, no uncertainty, no reflection, no weakness like what even Macbeth had himself at first, no remorse, but only the pure abstraction and severity of character which carries out, without more ado, what is in line with it, until at last it breaks. What shatters Macbeth after he has done the deed is a storm from without, whereas his Lady is shattered by madness within her feminine soul. And the same is the case with Richard III, Othello, Queen Margaret, and so many others: the opposite of the miserableness of modern characters, Kotzebue’s for example, which seem extremely noble, great, excellent, and yet within they are at the same time only trumpery. In a different way, others later who had a supreme contempt for Kotzebue have done no better, as, e.g., Heinrich von Kleist in his Kfithchen and his Prince of Homburg: characters in whom, in contrast to a wideawake situation with fixed logical consequences, magnetism, somnambulism, and nightmares are presented as what is supreme and most excellent. The Prince of Homburg is the most contemptible General; distracted in making his military dispositions, he pens his orders badly, in the night before action he agitates himself with morbid stuff, and on the day of battle he acts like a bungler. Despite such duality; disruption, and inner dissonance in their characters, these authors suppose themselves to be disciples of Shakespeare. But they are far from being so, for his characters are self-consistent; they remain true to themselves and their passion, and in what they are and in what confronts them they beat about according only to their own fixed determinacy of character.

(β) Now the more idiosyncratic the character is which fixedly considers itself alone and which therefore is easily on the verge of evil, the more has the individual not only to maintain himself in concrete reality against the hindrances standing in his way and blocking the realization of himself, but the more he is also driven to his downfall through this very realization. In other words, because he succeeds, he is met by the fate proceeding from his own determinate character, i.e. by a self-prepared destruction. But the development of this fate is not merely a development out of the individual’s action, but is at the same time an inner growth, a development of his character itself in its storming, brutishness, and violence, or in its fatigue. In the case of the Greeks, with whom the ‘pathos’, the substantial content of the action, and not the agent’s personal character, is the important thing, fate is less inherent in this determinate character which is not further developed essentially within its action but at the end is what it was at the beginning. But at the stage we are now considering, the achievement of the action is eo ipso a further development of the individual in his subjective inner life and not merely the march of events. The action of Macbeth, e.g., appears at the same time as a demoralization of his heart with a consequence which, once indecision ceases and the die is cast, can no longer be averted. His spouse is decided from the start; in her the development is only an inner anguish which intensifies into physical and spiritual wreck, into the madness in which she perishes. And so it is with most of Shakespeare’s characters, important and unimportant alike. The Greek characters are indeed shown as firm too, and so in their case there arise oppositions where no help is any longer possible, and a dens ex machina must come on the scene for their resolution; yet this firmness, like that of Philoctetes, for example, is fully concrete and on the whole penetrated by an ethically justified ‘pathos’.

(γ) In the characters at this stage of our discussion, owing to the contingency of what they take as their end and the independence of their individuality, no reconciliation with objectivity is possible. The connection between what they are and what befall them remains indefinite, and whence and whither is an unsolved riddle for them. Fate as the most abstract necessity comes back here once again, and the sole reconciliation for the individual is his infinite being in himself, his own firmness in which he surmounts his passion and its destiny. ‘It is so’, and what he meets, whether from the rule of fate, from necessity, or from chance, likewise just is, without his reflecting on whither or why; it happens, and the man makes himself inflexible and intends to remain inflexible in face of this rule.

(b) Character as Inner but Undeveloped Totality

But in a completely contrasted way, secondly, the formal character may be based in inwardness as such, in which the individual steadily remains without being able to expand and develop it in outward expression.

(α) This is the situation of the substantial hearts which incorporate a totality but in their simple compactness generate every deep feeling only in themselves without developing it outwardly and unbosoming themselves of it. The formalism which we have just considered was related to the determinacy of the object aimed at, the complete concentration of the individual on the one purpose which he made emerge completely in its firm severity, which he expressed and carried through, and therein, depending on the circumstances granted to him, perished or survived. The present second formalism consists conversely in undisclosedness, in absence of outward shape, in the lack of expression and development. Such a heart is like a costly precious stone which catches the light only on single facets and they then shine like a flash of lightning.

(β) If such a reserve is to be of worth and interest, there must be an inner richness of heart, but it lets us recognize its infinite depth and fullness only through precisely this stillness in a few, so to say dumb, expressions. Such simple, unselfconscious, and silent natures. may exercise a supreme attraction. Yet, in that case, their silence must be the stillness of the unruffled surface of the sea, concealing unfathomable depths, not the silence of what is shallow, hollow, and pointless. For it may sometimes happen that a very commonplace man, through a demeanour which expresses little but which here and there provides something half intelligible; arouses an impression of his great wisdom and inner resources, so that one thinks marvellous all that lies hidden in this heart and spirit, while at the end it is obvious that there is nothing behind his façade. Whereas the infinite content and depth of those still hearts is revealed (and this is something that demands great genius and skill on the part of the artist) through separate, scattered, naïve, and unpremeditated spirituel expressions which, without any eye on others who could understand them, show that such a heart grasps with deep feeling the substance of existing circumstances; yet that its reflection is not complicated by the whole concatenation of particular interests, concerns, and finite ends, and so is clear of them and unacquainted with them; and that such a heart cannot be distracted by ordinary emotions or by the seriousness and sympathies ordinarily involved.

(γ) But nevertheless for a heart so shut in upon itself a time must come when it is touched at one specific point of its inner life, when it throws its undivided force into one feeling determining its life, clings to it with undispersed strength, and is fortunate, or else, lacking support, perishes. For as a support man needs the developed breadth of an ethical substance [like the state] which alone supplies objective firmness. Amongst characters of this sort are the most charming figures of romantic art, e.g. those created likewise by Shakespeare in the most beautiful perfection. Juliet in Romeo and Juliet is to be included in this class. You have seen the present performance of this play with Madame Crelinger as Juliet.[27] It is worth the trouble of seeing her. This is a production extremely moving, living, warm, glowing, intelligent, perfect, and noble. Yet Juliet can not otherwise be taken at the beginning than as a quite childlike simple girl, fourteen or fifteen years old; we perceive that she still has no inner consciousness of herself and the world, no movement, no emotion, no wishes; on the contrary, in all naïveté she has peeped into her surroundings in the world, as into a magic-lantern show, without learning anything from them or coming to any reflection on them. Suddenly we see the development of the whole strength of this heart, of intrigue, circumspection, power to sacrifice everything and to submit to the harshest treatment; so that now the whole thing looks like the first blossoming of the whole rose at once in all its petals and folds, like an infinite outpouring of the inmost genuine basis of the soul in which previously there was no inner differentiation, formation, and development, but which now comes on the scene as an immediate product of an awakened single interest, unbeknown to itself, in its beautiful fullness and force, out of a hitherto self-enclosed spirit. It is a torch lit by a spark, a bud, only now just touched by love, which stands there unexpectedly in full bloom, but the quicker it unfolds, the quicker too does it droop, its petals gone. Miranda in The Tempest is a still better example; brought up in seclusion, she is shown to us by Shakespeare in her first knowledge of men; he sketches her in only a few scenes but in them he gives us a complete unrestricted idea of her. Although Schiller’s Thekla[28] is a product of reflective poetry, she too can be reckoned a member of this class. In the midst of a life so great and rich she is untouched by it but remains without vanity, without reflection, in the naïveté of the one interest which alone engrosses her soul. In general it is beautiful and noble feminine characters especially for whom the world and their own inner being is first disclosed in love, so that now alone are they born spiritually.

In the same category of this inner depth of feeling which cannot be unfolded or completely unbosomed, there belong in the main also the folk-songs, especially Germanic ones, which show in their sterling compactness of heart how strongly the heart is gripped too by some one interest, yet can only bring itself to fragmentary expressions and reveal in them its depth of soul. This is a mode of presentation which in its taciturnity goes back again as it were into symbolism, since what it affords is not the open clear manifestation of the whole inner life but is only a sign and indication of it. Yet we get here not a symbol the meaning of which remains, as previously, something abstract and universal, but an expression of something inner, i.e. of precisely this subjective living actual heart itself. In more recent times, with our thoroughly reflective consciousness which is far removed from that self-absorbed naïveté, portrayals of such a heart have become of the greatest difficulty and provide proof of an originally poetic spirit. We have already seen earlier that Goethe, especially in his songs, is a master of symbolic depiction too, i.e. of laying open the whole fidelity and infinity of the heart in simple, apparently external, and indifferent traits. Of this kind, e.g., is The King in Thule, one of Goethe’s most beautiful poems. The King discloses his love only through the drinking cup which this old man preserved as a gift from his beloved. In his death throes the old carouser stands in his lofty royal hall, surrounded by his knights; his kingdom, his treasures he bequeaths to his heir, but the drinking cup he flings into the waves; no one else, is to have it. ‘He saw it fall, fill, and sink to the bottom of the sea; then fell his eyelids and never a drop did he drink again.[29]

But such a deep tranquil heart, which keeps its energy of soul pent up like the spark in the flint, which does not give itself outward form, and which does not develop its existence and reflection on it, has after all not freed itself through an imagery of this kind. When the discord of misfortune resounds through its life, it remains exposed to the grim contradiction of having no skill, no bridge to reconcile its heart with reality and so to ward off external circumstances, to be supported against them, and to be its own support. If it comes to a collision, it therefore knows of no help, it rushes rashly and thoughtlessly into activity or is passively involved in complications. So, e.g., Hamlet is a beautiful and noble heart; not inwardly weak at all, but, without a powerful feeling for life, in the feebleness of his melancholy he strays distressed into error; he has a keen sense of how the weather lies; no external sign, no ground for suspicion is there, but he feels uncanny, everything is not as it ought to be; he surmises the dreadul deed that has been done. His father’s ghost gives him more details. Inwardly he is quickly ready for revenge; he steadily thinks of the duty prescribed to him by his own heart; but he is not carried away, like Macbeth; he does not kill, rage, or strike with the directness of Laertes; on the contrary, he persists in the inactivity of a beautiful inner soul which cannot make itself actual or engage in the relationships of his present world. He waits, looks in the beautiful uprightness of his heart for objective certainty, but, even after he has found it, he comes to no firm decision but lets himself be led by external circumstances. In this unreality he now makes a mistake, even in what confronts him, and kills old Polonius instead of the King; he acts too hastily when he should have investigated prudently, while when the right energy was needed he remains sunk into himself – until, without his action, in this developed course of circumstances and chances, the fate of the whole realm and of himself has steadily been developed in his own withdrawn inner life.

But in modern times this attitude appears especially in the case of men belonging to the lower classes who are without education enough to understand national purposes and without a variety of objective interests, and therefore when one purpose of their own fails, they cannot now find in another a stay for their inner life or a firm footing for their activity. The more rooted this lack of education is, the more stiffly and obstinately do self-enclosed minds cling to what, be it ever so one-sided, has made a claim on them involving their whole individuality. Such a monotony in buttoned-up, speechless men is principally characteristic of Germans who therefore in their reserve easily appear headstrong, stubborn, gnarled, unapproachable, and perfectly unreliable and contradictory in their actions and speech. As a master in depicting and representing such dumb minds in the lower orders of the people, I will mention here only Hippel, the author of Lebensldäfe in aufsteigender Linie,[30] one of the few original German works of humour. It keeps far away throughout from Jean Paul’s situations with their sentimentality and tastelessness, and has instead a wonderful individuality, freshness, and vitality. He can depict, extremely grippingly, repressed characters especially who cannot disburden themselves and, when it comes to action, act violently in a frightful way. In a dreadful way too they resolve the endless contradiction between their inner life and the unfortunate circumstances in which they see themselves involved, and by this means . bring about what elsewhere an external fate does – as, e.g., in Romeo and Juliet where external accidents frustrate the cleverness and artfulness of the go-between Friar and bring about the death of the lovers.

(c) What the Substantial Interest is in the Presentation of Formal Character

Thus, then, these formal characters either display generally only the endless will-power of the particular person who asserts himself just as he is and storms ahead at will, or alternatively, they present an inherently total and unrestricted heart which, touched on some specific side of its inner being, now concentrates the breadth and depth of its whole individuality on this one point, yet, by possessing no development into the external world, falls into a collision and cannot find itself and help itself prudently.

A third point which we now have to mention consists in this, that if these one-sided characters, restricted in their aims but developed in their consciousness, are to interest us not only superficially but profoundly, we must at the same time come to see in them that this restrictedness of their personality is itself only a fate, i.e. an entanglement of their peculiar restricted character with a deeper inner life. Now this depth and this wealth of spirit Shakespeare does in fact let us find in them. He exhibits them as men of free imaginative power and gifted spirit, since their reflection rises above and lifts them above what they are in their situation and specific ends, so that, as it were, it is only through the ill-luck of the circumstances, through the collision involved in their own situation, that they are impelled on to what they accomplish. Yet this is not to be taken as if in Macbeth’s case, e.g:, what he ventures were to be blamed only on the evil witches; rather are the witches only the poetic reflection of his own fixed will. What the Shakespearean figures carry out, their particular end, has its origin and the root of its force in their own individuality. But in one and the same individuality they preserve at the same time the loftiness which wipes away what they really are, i.e. in their aims, interests, and actions; it aggrandizes them and enhances them above themselves. Thus Shakespeare’s vulgar characters, Stephano, Trinculo, Pistol, and the absolute hero of them all, Falstaff, remain sunk in their vulgarity, but at the same time they are shown to be men of intelligence with a genius fit for anything, enabling them to have an entirely free existence, and, in short, to be what great men are. Whereas in French tragedies even the greatest and best characters, closely examined, prove to be nothing but strutting evil brutes with only enough brains to justify themselves by sophistry. In Shakespeare we find no justification, no condemnation, but only an observation of the universal fate; individuals view its necessity without complaint or repentance, and from that standpoint they see everything perish, themselves included, as if they saw it all happening outside themselves.

In all these respects the sphere of such individual characters is an infinitely rich field but it is readily in danger of declining into emptiness and banality, so that there have been only a few masters with enough poetry and insight to apprehend its truth.

2. Adventures

Now after considering the inner side which can be portrayed at this stage, we must secondly turn our eyes also to the outer side, to the particular circumstances and situations which stir the character, to the collisions in which it is involved, and also to the whole form which the inner life assumes within concrete reality.

As we have seen several times already, a fundamental characteristic of romantic art is that spirituality, the mind as reflected into itself, constitutes a whole and therefore it is related to the external not as to its own reality permeated by itself, but as to something purely external separated from it, a place where everything goes on released from spirit into independence, and which is a scene of complications and the rough and tumble of an endlessly flowing, mutable, and confusing contingency. For the fixedly enclosed mind, it is just as much a matter of indifference to which circumstances it turns as it is a matter of accident which circumstances confront it. For, in the case of its action, to complete a work grounded in itself and persisting through itself matters less to it than asserting itself in general and getting something done.

(a) The Contingency of Aims and Collisions

Here we have before us what in another connection[31] may be called the rejection of God from nature. The spirit has withdrawn into itself out of the externality of appearances which now on their side are shaped no matter how, for they are unconnected with the subject since his inner world no longer sees itself in them. In its truth, the spirit is in itself mediated and reconciled with the Absolute; since, however, as we stand here on the ground of independent individuality which has no point of departure but itself just as it directly is, and so clings to itself, the same rejection of the Divine affects the character of the agent in his action also; he, therefore, with his own contingent ends, comes out into a contingent world with which he does not set himself in one to form a consistent whole. Adventure, which provides for the form of events and actions the fundamental type of the romantic, is constituted by this relativity of ends in a relative environment, the specific character and complication of which do not lie in the individual person but are determined from without and accidentally, and so lead to accidental collisions as the extraordinarily intertwined ramifications of the situation.

Action and event, taken in the stricter sense of the Ideal and classical art, require an inherently true and absolutely necessary end; such an end includes in itself what determines both its external shape and also the manner of carrying it out in the real world. In the case of the deeds and events of romantic art this is not so. For if here too inherently universal and substantial ends are displayed in their realization, still these ends in themselves neither determine the action nor order and articulate its inner course; on the contrary, this aspect of actualization they must let go and therefore yield it to contingency and accident.

(α) The romantic world had only one absolute work to complete, the spread of Christianity and the continued activity of the spirit of the [Christian] community. Within a hostile world, first of unbelieving antiquity, later of barbarism with its crudity of mind, this work, when it left doctrines for deeds, became chiefly a passive work of enduring grief and martyrdom, the sacrifice of one’s own temporal existence for the eternal salvation of the soul. The further act, related to the like end, is in the Middle Ages the work of Christian chivalry, the expulsion of the Moors, the Arabs, Mohammedans in general, from Christian countries, and then, above all, the conquest of the Holy Sepulchre in the Crusades. Yet this was not an end affecting men as human beings, but one which had to be achieved by a mere collection of single individuals who just streamed together at will as individuals. From this point of view, the Crusades may be called a collective adventure of the Christian Middle Ages, an adventure inherently broken in twain and fantastic: of a spiritual kind and yet without a truly spiritual aim and, in relation to actions and characters, a sham. For, considered from the religious point of view, the Crusades have an aim extremely external to religion. Christendom is supposed to have its salvation in the spirit alone, in Christ who, risen, has ascended to the right hand of God and has his living actuality, his abode, in the Spirit, not in his grave and in the visible immediately present places where once he had his temporal abode. But the incentive and the religious longing of the Middle Ages was concentrated only on the place, the external locality of the Passion and the Holy Sepulchre. Just as contradictorily there was immediately bound up with the religious aim the purely mundane aspect of conquest and gain, which in its externality bore a character quite different from the religious one. So men wanted to gain something spiritual and inward, and they made their aim the purely external locality from which the spirit had vanished; they strove for temporal gain and linked this mundane thing to religion as such. This discordance constitutes here the broken and fantastic situation in which externality perverts the inner, and vice versa, instead of both being brought into harmony. Therefore it turns out that in the execution of the enterprise opposites are linked together without any reconciliation. Piety turns into inhumanity and barbaric cruelty, and the same inhumanity which leads to the outbreaks of every selfishness and passion of which men are capable, turns round again into the eternal deep emotion and penitence of the spirit which was properly the thing at issue. In these opposed elements, deeds and events with one and the same end turn out after all to lack all unity and consistency of leadership : the whole collection of Crusaders was scattered, split away into adventures, victories, defeats, and various accidents, and the outcome does not correspond to the means used and the great preparations made. Indeed the aim itself is cancelled by its achievement. For the Crusades wished to make the word true again: ‘Thou lettest him not rest in the grave, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.'[32] But precisely this longing to look for Christ, the living one, in such places and localities, even in the grave, the place of death, and to find satisfaction for the spirit in this search, is itself, no matter what a substantial thing Chateaubriand makes of it, a corruption of the spirit out of which Christendom was to arise in order to revert to the fresh full life of concrete reality.

A similar aim, mystical on one side, fantastic on the other, and adventurous in its accomplishment, is the search for the Holy Grail.

(β) A higher work is that which every man has to achieve in himself, i.e. his life, whereby he settles for himself his eternal fate. This topic Dante has taken up from a Catholic point of view in his Divine Comedy, where he conducts us through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. But here, despite the strict organization of the whole, there is no lack of fantastic ideas or adventures in so far as this work of salvation and damnation comes before us not only absolutely in its universality but as a list of practically innumerable individuals brought forward in their particular characteristics – and, besides this, the poet claims for himself the right of the Church, holds the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven in his hands, pronounces salvation and damnation, and so makes himself the world’s judge who removes into Hell, Purgatory, or Paradise the best known individuals of the classical and the Christian world, poets, citizens, warriors, Cardinals, and Popes.

(γ) Consequently, on mundane ground the other basic causes of actions and events consist of the endlessly varied adventurousness of ideas and of the external and internal contingency of love, honour, and fidelity; here we see men hitting around for the sake of their own fame, there we see them leaping to the aid of persecuted innocence, accomplishing the most astounding exploits for their lady’s honour, or restoring the rights of the oppressed by the force of their fists or the skill of their arm, even if the ‘innocence’ thus freed be only a gang of rascals.[33] In most of these things there is no state of affairs, no situation, no conflict which would make the action necessary; the heart just wants out and looks for adventures deliberately. So here the actions on behalf of love, e.g., in their more detailed character have in them, in great part, no other determining factor save affording proofs of firmness, fidelity, and constancy in love, and showing that the surrounding reality with the whole complex of its relationships counts only as material for the manifestation of love. Thereby the specific act of this manifestation, since it is only the proof [of love] that matters, is not determined by itself but is left to the fancy or mood of the lady and to the caprice of external contingencies. Exactly the same is the case with the aims of honour and bravery. They belong for the most part to the individual who still keeps far aloof from all wider substantive content [for his action] and who can put his personality at stake in every matter casually confronting him and find himself injured as a result, or look in it for an opportunity to display his courage and adroitness. Just as here there is no measuring-rod for what must be made an object of the agent’s action and what not, so there is missing also a criterion for what can actually be an injury to honour or be the true objective of bravery. With the administration of law, likewise an aim of chivalry, there is no difference. Here, in other words, right and law do not yet evince themselves as an absolutely fixed situation and end which is being steadily realized in accordance with law and its necessary provisions, but as only a purely subjective fancy, so that both judicial proceedings and the judgement of what in this or that case is right or wrong remains remitted to the person’s purely capricious estimate.

(b) The Comic Treatment of Contingency

Thus what in general, especially on the field of the mundane, we have before us (i) in chivalry and (ii) in the formal independence of characters is more or less the contingency, both of the circumstances within which actions are done, and also of the mind that wills. For those one-sided individual figures may take as their aim something wholly contingent which is sustained only by the energy of their character and which is carried out, or results in failure, under the influence of collisions conditioned from without. The same is true of chivalry which nevertheless contains in honour, love, and fidelity a higher justification similar to that belonging to the truly ethical. On the one hand, owing to the individuality of the circumstances to which it reacts, chivalry directly becomes a matter of contingency because, instead of a universal work, only particular ends are to be accomplished, and absolutely necessary connections are missing; on the other hand, consequentially, on the side of the subjective spirit of the individuals, caprice or deception occurs in relation to projects, plans, and undertakings. Carried through consistently, this whole field of adventures proves in its actions and events, as well as in their outcome, to be an inherently self-dissolving and therefore comical world of incidents and fates.

This dissolution of (i) chivalry from within and of (ii) those individual characters in their singularity has come home to our minds and achieved its most appropriate portrayal above all, (i) in Ariosto and Cervantes, and (ii) in Shakespeare.

(α) In Ariosto we are amused in particular by the endless complications of fates and ends, the fictitious entanglement of fantastic relations and foolish situations with which the poet plays adventurously up to the point of frivolity. What the heroes are supposed to be serious with is pure downright folly and madness. Love especially is degraded from the divine love of Dante, and from the fanciful tenderness of Petrarch, down to sensual and obscene stories and ludicrous collisions, while heroism and bravery are screwed up to such a pitch that what is aroused is not so much a credulous astonishment as mere laughter at the fabulousness of the deeds. But along with indifference in regard to the manner in which situations are brought about, we find marvellous ramifications and conflicts introduced, begun, broken off, re-entangled, cross-cut, and finally resolved in a surprising way. In the comic treatment of chivalry, however, Ariosto can safeguard and emphasize what is noble and great in knighthood, courage, love, honour, and bravery just as well as he can depict other passions excellently, e.g. astuteness, cunning, presence of mind, and so much else.

(β) Now while Ariosto leans rather to the fairy-tale side of adventurousness, Cervantes develops the romance side. His Don Quixote is a noble nature in whom chivalry becomes lunacy, because we find his adventurousness inserted into the midst of the stable specific situation of a real world precisely depicted with its external relationships. This provides the comic contradiction between an intelligible self-ordered world and an isolated mind which proposes to create this order and stability solely by himself and by chivalry, whereby it could only be overturned. Despite this comic aberration, however, there is wholly contained in Don Quixote what we previously eulogized in Shakespeare. Cervantes too has made his hero into an originally noble nature, equipped with many-sided spiritual gifts which always truly interest us at the same time. In his lunacy Don Quixote is a heart completely sure of itself and its business, or rather this only is his lunacy that he is and remains so sure of himself and his business. Without this peaceful lack of reflection in regard to the object and outcome of his actions, he would not be genuinely romantic, and this self-assurance, if we look at the substance of his disposition, is throughout great and gifted, adorned with the finest traits of character. Even so, the whole work is on the one hand a mockery of romantic chivalry, genuinely ironical from beginning to end, while in the case of Ariosto the adventurousness remains as it were only a frivolous joke; on the other hand, the adventures of Don Quixote are only the thread on which a row of genuinely romantic tales is strung in the most charming way in order to exhibit as preserved in its true worth what the rest of the romance dissipates comically.

(γ) Just as here we see chivalry turning into the comic even in its most important interests, Shakespeare too either places comic figures and scenes alongside his firm individual characters and tragic situations and conflicts, or else by a profound humour lifts these characters away above themselves and their crude, restricted, and false aims. For example, Falstaff, the Fool in Lear, the Musicians’ scene in Romeo and Juliet [Iv, vi are examples of the first kind, Richard III of the second.

(c) Romantic Fiction

This dissolution of the romantic, in the form of the romantic hitherto considered, closes, thirdly and finally, with romance in the modern sense of the word which the knightly and pastoral romances precede in time. This romantic fiction is chivalry become serious again, with a real subject-matter. The contingency of external existence has been transformed into a firm and secure order of civil society and the state, so that police,[34] law-courts, the army, political government replace the chimerical ends which the knights errant set before themselves. Thereby the knight-errantry of the heroes as they act in more modern romances is also altered. As individuals with their subjective ends of love, honour, and ambition, or with their ideals of world-reform, they stand opposed to this substantial order and the prose of actuality which puts difficulties in their way on all sides. Therefore, in this opposition, subjective wishes and demands are screwed up to immeasurable heights; for each man finds before him an enchanted and quite alien world which he must fight because it obstructs him and in its inflexible firmness does not give way to his passions but interposes as a hindrance the will of a father or an aunt and civil relationships, etc. Young people especially are these modern knights who must force their way through the course of the world which realizes itself instead of their ideals, and they regard it as a misfortune that there is any family, civil society, state, laws, professional business, etc., because these substantive relations of life with their barriers cruelly oppose the ideals and the infinite rights of the heart. Now the thing is to breach this order of things, to change the world, to improve it, or at least in spite of it to carve out of it a heaven upon earth: to seek for the ideal girl, find her, win her away from her wicked relations or other discordant ties, and carry her off in defiance.[35] But in the modern world these fights are nothing more than ‘apprenticeship’, the education of the individual into the realities of the present, and thereby they acquire their true significance. For the end of such apprenticeship consists in this, that the subject sows his wild oats, builds himself with his wishes and opinions into harmony with subsisting relationships and their rationality, enters the concatenation of the world, and acquires for himself an appropriate attitude to it. However much he may have quarrelled with the world, or been pushed about in it, in most cases at last he gets his girl and some sort of position, marries her, and becomes as good a Philistine as others. The woman takes charge of household management, children arrive, the adored wife, at first unique, an angel, behaves pretty much as all other wives do; the man’s profession provides work and vexations, marriage brings domestic affliction – so here we have all the headaches of the rest of married folk. – We see here the like character of adventurousness except that now it finds its right significance, wherein the fantastic element must experience the necessary corrective.

3. Dissolution of the Romantic Form of Art

The last matter with which we now still have to deal in more detail is the point at which romanticism, already implicitly the principle of the dissolution of the classical ideal, now makes this dissolution appear clearly in fact as dissolution.

Now here above all there at once comes into consideration the complete contingency and externality of the material which artistic activity grasps and shapes. In the plastic figures of classical art the subjective inner element is so related to the external one that this external is the very own shape of the inner itself and is not released therefrom into independence. In romantic art, on the contrary, where inwardness withdraws itself into itself, the entire material of the external world acquires freedom to go its own way and maintain itself according to its own special and particular character. Conversely, if subjective inwardness of heart becomes the essential feature to be represented, the question of which specific material of external actuality and the spiritual world is to be an embodiment of the heart is equally a matter of accident. For this reason the romantic inwardness can display itself in all circumstances, and move relentlessly from one thing to another in innumerable situations, states of affairs, relations, errors, and confusions, conflicts and satisfactions, for what is sought and is to count is only its own inner subjective formation, the spirit’s expression and mode of receptivity, and not an objective and absolutely valid subject-matter. In the presentations of romantic art, therefore, everything has a place, every sphere of life, all phenomena, the greatest and the least, the supreme and the trivial, the moral, immoral, and evil; and, in particular, the more art becomes secular, the more it makes itself at home in the finite things of the world, is satisfied with them, and grants them complete validity, and the artist does well when he portrays them as they are. So, for example, because in Shakespeare’s plays actions as a rule run their course in the most limited connection with others, for they are isolated and broken up into a series of accidents and every situation has its own importance, we see alongside the loftiest regions and most important interests the most insignificant and incidental ones: as, in Hamlet, the sentries alongside the King’s Court; in Romeo and Juliet, the domestics; apart from this, in other pieces there are fools, louts, all sorts of everyday vulgarities, taverns, carters, chamber-pots, and fleas, just precisely, as in the religious sphere of romantic art, in the case of the birth of Christ and the Adoration of the Kings, oxen and asses, the manger and straw must not be left out. And it is the same throughout, so that even in art the saying is fulfilled that ‘They that humble themselves, the same shall be exalted’.[36]

Within this contingency of the objects which come to be portrayed partly as a mere environment for an inherently more important subject-matter, but partly also as independent on their own account, there is presented the collapse of romantic art, which we have already touched on above. On one side, in other words, there stands the real world in, from the point of view of the ideal, its prosaic objectivity: the contents of ordinary daily life which is not apprehended in its substance (in which it has an element of the ethical and divine), but in its mutability and finite transitoriness. On the other side, it is the subjectivity of the artist which, with its feeling and insight, with the right and power of its wit, can rise to mastery of the whole of reality; it leaves nothing in its usual context and in the validity which it has for our usual way of looking at things; and it is satisfied only because everything drawn into this sphere proves to be inherently dissoluble owing to the shape and standing given to it by its subjective opinion, mood, and originality; and for contemplation and feeling it is dissolved.

We have therefore in this connection to speak first of the principle of those numerous works of art whose mode of portraying common life and external reality approaches what we are accustomed to call the imitation of nature;

secondly, of the subjective humour which plays a great role in modern art and provides, especially for many poets, the fundamental type of their works;

thirdly, in conclusion, what still remains to us is only to indicate the standpoint from which art can pursue its activity even in these days.

(a) The Subjective Artistic Imitation of the Existent Present

The group of topics which this sphere can comprise widens indefinitely because art takes for its subject-matter not the inherently necessary, the province of which is complete in itself, but contingent reality in its boundless modification of shapes and relationships, i.e. nature and its variegated play of separate products, man’s daily active pursuits in his natural necessities and comfortable satisfaction, in his casual habits and situations, in the activities of family life and civil society business, but, in short, the incalculable mutability of the external objective world. Thereby art becomes not only what romantic art is more or less throughout, i.e. portrait-like, but it completely dissolves into the presentation of a portrait, whether in plastic art, painting, or descriptive poetry; and it reverts to the imitation of nature, i.e. to an intentional approach to the contingency of immediate existence which, taken by itself, is unbeautiful and prosaic.

Therefore the question soon arises whether such productions in general are still to be called works of art. If in considering them we keep before our eyes the essential nature of works of art proper (i.e. of the Ideal), where the important thing is both a subject matter not inherently arbitrary and transient and also a mode of portrayal fully in correspondence with such a subject-matter, then in the face of works of that kind the art-products of the stage we are now considering must undoubtedly fall far short. On the other hand, art has still another feature which is here essentially of special importance: the artist’s subjective conception and execution of the work of art, the aspect of the individual talent which can remain faithful both to the manifestations of spirit and also to the inherently substantial life of nature, even in the extreme limits of the contingency which that life reaches, and can make significant even what is in itself without significance, and this it does through this fidelity and through the most marvellous skill of the portrayal. Then in addition there is the subjective vivacity with which the artist with his spirit and heart breathes life entirely into the existence of such topics according to their whole inner and outer shape and appearance, and presents them to our vision in this animation. In view of these aspects we may not deny the name of works of art to the creations of this sphere.

In more detail, amongst the particular arts it is poetry and painting especially which have applied themselves to such topics. For on the one hand it is what is essentially a particular emotion that provides the content; on the other hand, the form of the presentation is to be external appearance in its own character, contingent but in its own sphere genuine. Neither architecture nor sculpture nor music is qualified to fulfil such a task.

(α) In poetry, common domestic life, which has the honesty, worldly wisdom, and morality of its day as its substance, is portrayed in the complications of ordinary civil life, in scenes and figures drawn from the middle and lower classes. In the case of the French, it is Diderot[37] especially who has insisted in this sense on naturalness and the imitation of the present. Amongst our Germans, on the contrary, it was Goethe and Schiller who, in a higher sense, took a similar road in their youth, but within this living naturalness with its particular details they sought a deeper content and essential conflicts full of interest; while at that time Kotzebue and Iffland,[38] the one with superficial swiftness of conception and production, the other with more serious precision and commonplace bourgeois morality, counterfeited the daily life of their time in prosaic rather narrow respects with little sense for true poetry. But in general our art has adopted this tone as its greatest favourite, even if most recently, and reached a measure of virtuosity in it. For art, long since until now, was something more or less strange to us, borrowed and not our own creation. Now this turning to the reality confronting the artist implies that the material for art requires to be immanent, indigenous, the national life of the poet and the public. When art began to appropriate this material and when purely in subject-matter and presentation it was to be our own and at home with us even at the sacrifice of beauty and the ideal, the urge which led to such representations was let loose. Other nations have rather despised such things or are only now coming to a livelier interest in such materials drawn from what exists today and every day.

(β) Yet if we wish to bring to our notice the most marvellous thing that can be achieved in this connection, we must look at the genre painting of the later Dutch painters. What, in its general spirit, is the substantial basis out of which it issued, is a matter on which I touched above in the consideration of the Ideal as such [on pp. 168-9]. Satisfaction in present-day life, even in the commonest and smallest things, flows in the Dutch from the fact that what nature affords directly to other nations, they have had to acquire by hard struggles and bitter industry, and, circumscribed in their locality, they have become great in their care and esteem of the most insignificant things. On the other hand, they are a nation of fishermen, sailors, burghers, and peasants and therefore from the start they have attended to the value of what is necessary and useful in the greatest and smallest things, and this they can procure with the most assiduous industry. In religion the Dutch were Protestants, an important matter, and to Protestantism alone the important thing is to get a sure footing in the prose of life, to make it absolutely valid in itself independently of religious associations, and to let it develop in unrestricted freedom. To no other people, under its different circumstances, would it occur to make into the principal burden of its works of art subjects like those confronting us in Dutch painting. But in all their interests the Dutch have not lived at all in the distress and poverty of existence and oppression of spirit; on the contrary, they have reformed their Church themselves, conquered religious despotism as well as the Spanish temporal power and its grandeur, and through their activity, industry, bravery, and frugality they have attained, in their sense of a self-wrought freedom, a well-being, comfort, honesty, spirit, gaiety, and even a pride in a cheerful daily life. This is the justification for their choice of subjects to paint.

A deeper sense arising from an inherently true subject-matter cannot be satisfied by subjects like these; but if heart and thought remain dissatisfied, closer inspection reconciles us to them. For the art of painting and of the painter is what we should be delighted and carried away by. And in fact if we want to know what painting is we must examine these little pictures in order to say of this or that master: He can paint. Therefore it is not at all the painter’s business, as may be supposed, to give us through his work of art an idea of the subject that he brings before us. Of grapes, flowers, stags, trees, sand-hills, the sea, the sun, the sky, the finery and decoration of the furnishings of daily life, of horses, warriors, peasants, smoking, teeth-extraction, domestic scenes of the most varied kind, of all these we have the most complete vision in advance; the world provides us with plenty of things like this. What should enchant us is not the subject of the painting and its lifelikeness, but the pure appearance which is wholly without the sort of interest that the subject has. The one thing certain about beauty is, as it were, appearance for its own sake, and art is mastery in the portrayal of all the secrets of this ever profounder pure appearance of external realities. Especially does art consist in heeding with a sharp eye the momentary and ever changing traits of the present world in the details of its life, which yet harmonize with the universal laws of aesthetic appearance, and always faithfully and truly keeping hold of what is most fleeting. A tree, or a landscape, is something already fixed, independent and permanent. But the lustre of metal, the shimmer of a bunch of grapes by candlelight, a vanishing glimpse of the moon or the sun, a smile, the expression of a swiftly passing emotion, ludicrous movements, postures, facial expressions – to grasp this most transitory and fugitive material, and to give it permanence for our contemplation in the fullness of its life, is the hard task of art at this stage. While classical art essentially gave shape in its ideal figures only to what is substantial, here we have, riveted and brought before our eyes, changing nature in its fleeting expressions, a burn, a waterfall, the foaming waves of the ocean, still-life with casual flashes of glass, cutlery, etc., the external shape of spiritual reality in the most detailed situations, a woman threading a needle by candlelight, a halt of robbers in a casual foray, the most momentary aspect of a look which quickly changes again, the laughing and jeering of a peasant; in all this Ostade, Teniers, and Steen are masters.[39] It is a triumph of art over the transitory, a triumph in which the substantial is as it were cheated of its power over the contingent and the fleeting.

While here it is just the pure appearance of the things depicted that provides the true subject of the picture, art goes still further by making the fugitive appearance stationary. In other words, apart from the things depicted, the means of the portrayal also becomes an end in itself, so that the artist’s subjective skill and his application of the means of artistic production are raised to the status of an objective matter in works of art. The older Dutch painters made a most thorough study of the physical effects of colour; van Eyck, Hemling, and Scorel[40] could imitate in a most deceptive way the sheen of gold and silver, the lustre of jewels, silk, velvet, furs, etc. This mastery in the production of the most striking effects through the magic of colour and the secrets of its spell has now an independent justification. While the spirit reproduces itself in thinking, in comprehending the world in ideas and thoughts, the chief thing now – independently of the topic itself – is the subjective re-creation of the external world in the visible element of colours and lighting. This is as it were an objective music, a peal in colour. In other words, just as in music the single note is nothing by itself but produces its effect only in its relation to another, in its counterpoint, concord, modulation, and harmony, so here it is just the same with colour. If we look closely at the play of colour, which glints like gold and glitters like braid under the light, we see perhaps only white or yellow strokes, points of colour, coloured surfaces; the single colour as such does not have this gleam which it produces; it is the juxtaposition alone which makes this glistening and gleaming. If we take, e.g., Terburg’s[41] satin, each spot of colour by itself is a subdued gray, more or less whitish, bluish, yellowish, but when it is looked at from a certain distance there comes out through its position beside another colour the beautiful soft sheen proper to actual satin. And so it is with velvet, the play of light, cloud vapour, and, in general, with everything depicted. It is not the reflex of the heart which wishes to display itself in subjects such as these, as it often does in the case of a landscape, for example; on the contrary, it is the entire subjective skill of the artist which, as skill in using the means of production vividly and effectively in this objective way, displays its ability by its own efforts to generate an objective world.

(γ) But therefore interest in the objects depicted is inverted, so that it is the stark subjectivity of the artist himself which intends to display itself and to which what matters is not the forming of a finished and self-subsistent work, but a production in which the productive artist himself lets us see himself alone. When this subjectivity of the artist no longer infects the external means of representation only, but the subject-matter itself, art thereby becomes the art of caprice and humour.

(b) Subjective Humour

In humour it is the person of the artist which comes on the scene in both its superficial and deeper aspects, so that what is at issue there is essentially the spiritual worth of his personality.

(α) Now humour is not set the task of developing and shaping a topic objectively and in a way appropriate to the essential nature of the topic, and, in this development, using its own means to articulate the topic and round it off artistically; on the contrary, it is the artist himself who enters the material, with the result that his chief activity, by the power of subjective notions, flashes of thought, striking modes of interpretation, consists in destroying and dissolving everything that proposes to make itself objective and win a firm shape for itself in reality, or that seems to have such a shape already in the external world. Therefore every independence of an objective content along with the inherently fixed connection of the form (given as that is by the subject matter) is annihilated in itself, and the presentation is only a sporting with the topics, a derangement and perversion of the material, and a rambling to and fro, a criss-cross movement of subjective expressions, views, and attitudes whereby the author sacrifices himself and his topics alike.

(β) The natural error in this connection is to suppose that it is very easy to make jests and to be funny about oneself and everything available, and that this is why the form of the humorous is commonly snatched at; but it happens equally commonly that the humour becomes flat if the author lets himself go in the field of the contingency of his notions and pleasantries which, strung loosely together, deviate into indefiniteness, and, often with deliberate bizarrerie, conjoin the most heterogeneous things. Some nations are more indulgent to this sort of humour, others are more severe. In the case of the French, the humorous in general meets with little success, in our case with more, and we are more tolerant of aberrations. So with us Jean Paul, e.g., is a favourite humourist, and yet he is astonishing, beyond everyone else, precisely in the baroque mustering of things objectively furthest removed from one another and in the most confused disorderly jumbling of topics related only in his own subjective imagination. The story, the subject-matter and course of events in his novels, is what is of the least interest. The main thing remains the hither and thither course of the humour which uses every topic only to emphasize the subjective wit of the author. In thus drawing together and concatenating material raked up from the four corners of the earth and every sphere of reality, humour turns back, as it were, to symbolism where meaning and shape likewise lie apart from one another, except that now it is the mere subjective activity of the poet which commands material and meaning alike and strings them together in an order alien to them. But such a string of notions soon wearies us, especially if we are expected to acclimatize ourselves and our ideas to the often scarcely guessable combinations which have casually floated before the poet’s mind. Especially in the case of Jean Paul one metaphor, one witticism, one joke, one simile, kills the other; we see nothing develop, everything just explodes. But what is to be resolved in a denouement must previously have been unfolded in a plot and prepared in advance. On the other side, if the artist himself is devoid of the core and support of a mind filled with genuine objectivity, humour readily slips into what is namby-pamby and sentimental, and of this too Jean Paul provides an example.

(γ) True humour which wishes to hold aloof from these outgrowths therefore requires great depth and wealth of spirit in order to raise the purely subjective appearance into what is actually expressive, and to make what is substantial emerge out of contingency, out of mere notions. The self-pursuit of the author in the course of his expressions must, as is the case with Sterne and Hippel, be an entirely naïve, light, unostentatious jogging along which in its triviality affords precisely the supreme idea of depth; and since here there are just individual details which gush forth without any order, their inner connection must lie all the deeper and send forth the ray of the spirit in their disconnectedness as such.

Herewith we have arrived at the end of romantic art, at the standpoint of most recent times, the peculiarity of which we may find in the fact that the artist’s subjective skill surmounts his material and its production because he is no longer dominated by the given conditions of a range of content and form already inherently determined in advance, but retains entirely within his own power and choice both the subject-matter and the way of presenting it.

(c) The End of the Romantic Form of Art

Art, as it has been under our consideration hitherto, had as its basis the unity of meaning and shape and so the unity of the artist’s subjective activity with his topic and work. Looked at more closely, it was the specific kind of this unification [at each stage] which provided, for the content and its corresponding portrayal, the substantial norm penetrating all artistic productions.

In this matter we found at the beginning of art, in the East, that the spirit was not yet itself explicitly free; it still sought for its Absolute in nature and therefore interpreted nature as in itself divine. Later on, the vision of classical art represented the Greek gods as naïve and inspired, yet even so essentially as individuals burdened with the natural human form as with an affirmative feature. Romantic art for the first time deepened the spirit in its own inwardness, in contrast to which the flesh, external reality, and the world in general was at first posited as negative, even though the spirit and the Absolute had to appear in this element alone; yet at last this element could be given validity for itself again in a more and more positive way.

(α) These ways of viewing the world constitute religion, the substantial spirit of peoples and ages, and are woven into, not art alone, but all the other spheres of the living present at all periods. Now just as every man is a child of his time in every activity, whether political, religious, or scientific, and just as he has the task of bringing out the essential content and the therefore necessary form of that time, so it is the vocation of art to find for the spirit of a people the artistic expression corresponding to it. Now so long as the artist is bound up with the specific character of such a world-view and religion, in immediate identity with it and with firm faith in it, so long is he genuinely in earnest with this material and its representation; i.e. this material remains for him the infinite and true element in his own consciousness – a material with which he lives in an original unity as part of his inmost self, while the form in which he exhibits it is for him as artist the final, necessary, and supreme manner of bringing before our contemplation the Absolute and the soul of objects in general. By the substance of his material, a substance immanent in himself, he is tied down to the specific mode of its exposition. For in that case the material, and therefore the form belonging to it, the artist carries immediately in himself as the proper essence of his existence which he does not imagine for himself but which he is; and therefore he only has the task of making this truly essential element objective to himself, to present and develop it in a living way out of his own resources. Only in that event is the artist completely inspired by his material and its presentation; and his inventions are no product of caprice, they originate in him, out of him, out of this substantial ground, this stock, the content of which is not at rest until through the artist it acquires an individual shape adequate to its inner essence. If, on the other hand, we nowadays propose to make the subject of a statue or a painting a Greek god, or, Protestants as we are today, the Virgin Mary, we are not seriously in earnest with this material. It is the innermost faith which we lack here, even if the artist in days when faith was still unimpaired did not exactly need to be what is generally called a pious man, for after all in every age artists have not as a rule been the most pious of men! The requirement is only this, that for the artist the content [of his work] shall constitute the substance, the inmost truth, of his consciousness and make his chosen mode of presentation necessary. For the artist in his production is at the same time a creature of nature, his skill is a natural talent; his work is not the pure activity of comprehension which confronts its material entirely and unites itself with it in free thoughts, in pure thinking; on the contrary, the artist, not yet released from his natural side, is united directly with the subject-matter, believes in it, and is identical with it in accordance with his very own self. The result is then that the artist is entirely absorbed in the object; the work of art proceeds entirely out of the undivided inwardness and force of genius; the production is firm and unwavering, and in it the full intensity [of creation] is preserved. This is the fundamental condition of art’s being present in its integrity.

(β) On the other hand, in the position we have been forced to assign to art in the course of its development, the whole situation has altogether altered. This, however, we must not regard as a mere accidental misfortune suffered by art from without owing to the distress of the times, the sense for the prosaic, lack of interest, etc. ; on the contrary, it is the effect and the progress of art itself which, by bringing before our vision as an object its own indwelling material, at every step along this road makes its own contribution to freeing art from the content represented. What through art or thinking we have before our physical or spiritual eye as an object has lost all absolute interest for us if it has been put before us so completely that the content is exhausted, that everything is revealed, and nothing obscure or inward is left over any more. For interest is to be found only in the case of lively activity [of mind]. The spirit only occupies itself with objects so long as there is something secret, not revealed, in them. This is the case so long as the material is identical with the substance of our own being. But if the essential world-views implicit in the concept of art, and the range of the content belonging to these, are in every respect revealed by art, then art has got rid of this content which on every occasion was determinate for a particular people, a particular age, and the true need to resume it again is awakened only with the need to turn against the content that was alone valid hitherto; thus in Greece Aristophanes rose up against his present world, and Lucian against the whole of the Greek past, and in Italy and Spain, when the Middle Ages were closing, Ariosto and Cervantes began to turn against chivalry.

Now contrasted with the time in which the artist owing to his nationality and his period stands with the substance of his being within a specific world-view and its content and forms of portrayal, we find an altogether opposed view which in its complete development is of importance only in most recent times. In our day, in the case of almost all peoples, criticism, the cultivation of reflection, and, in our German case, freedom of thought have mastered the artists too, and have made them, so to say, a tabula rasa in respect of the material and the form of their productions, after the necessary particular stages of the romantic art-form have been traversed. Bondage to a particular subject-matter and a mode of portrayal suitable for this material alone are for artists today something past, and art therefore has become a free instrument which the artist can wield in proportion to his subjective skill in relation to any material of whatever kind. The artist thus stands above specific consecrated forms and configurations and moves freely on his own account, independent of the subject-matter and mode of conception in which the holy and eternal was previously made visible to human apprehension. No content, no form, is any longer immediately identical with the inwardness, the nature, the unconscious substantial essence of the artist; every material may be indifferent to him if only it does not contradict the formal law of being simply beautiful and capable of artistic treatment. Today there is no material which stands in and for itself above this relativity, and even if one matter be raised above it, still there is at least no absolute need for its representation by art. Therefore the artist’s attitude to his topic is on the whole much the same as the dramatist’s who brings on the scene and delineates different characters who are strangers to him. The artist does still put his genius into them, he weaves his web out of his own resources but only out of what is purely universal or quite accidental there, whereas its more detailed individualization is not his. For this purpose he needs his supply of pictures, modes of configuration, earlier forms of art which, taken in themselves, are indifferent to him and only become important if they seem to him to be those most suitable for precisely this or that material. Moreover, in most arts, especially the visual arts, the topic comes to the artist from the outside; he works to a commission, and in the case of sacred or profane stories, or scenes, portraits, ecclesiastical buildings, etc., he has only to see what he can make of his commission. For, however much he puts his heart into the given topic, that topic yet always remains to him a material which is not in itself directly the substance of his own consciousness. It is therefore no help to him to adopt again, as that substance, so to say, past world-views, i.e. to propose to root himself firmly in one of these ways of looking at things, e.g. to turn Roman Catholic as in recent times many have done for art’s sake in order to give stability to their mind and to give the character of something absolute to the specifically limited character of their artistic product in itself. The artist need not be forced first to settle his accounts with his mind or to worry about the salvation of his own soul. From the very beginning, before he embarks on production, his great and free soul must know and possess its own ground, must be sure of itself and confident in itself. The great artist today needs in particular the free development of the spirit; in that development all superstition, and all faith which remains restricted to determinate forms of vision and presentation, is degraded into mere aspects and features. These the free spirit has mastered because he sees in them no absolutely sacrosanct conditions for his exposition and mode of configuration, but ascribes value to them only on the strength of the higher content which in the course of his re-creation he puts into them as adequate to them.

In this way every form and every material is now at the service and command of the artist whose talent and genius is explicitly freed from the earlier limitation to one specific art-form.

(γ) But if in conclusion we ask about the content and the forms which can be considered as peculiar to this stage of our inquiry in virtue of its general standpoint, the answer is as follows.

The universal forms of art had a bearing above all on the absolute truth which art attains, and they had the origin of their particular differences in the specific interpretation of what counted for consciousness as absolute and carried in itself the principle for its mode of configuration. In this matter we have seen in symbolic art natural meanings appearing as the content, natural things and human personifications as the form of the representation; in classical art spiritual individuality, but as a corporeal, not inwardized, present over which there stood the abstract necessity of fate; in romantic art spirituality with the subjectivity immanent therein, for the inwardness of which the external shape remained accidental. In this final art-form too, as in the earlier ones, the Divine is the absolute subject-matter of art. But the Divine had to objectify itself, determine itself, and therefore proceed out of itself into the secular content of subjective personality. At first the infinity of personality lay in honour, love, and fidelity, and then later in particular individuality, in the specific character which coalesced with the particular content of human existence. Finally this cohesion with such a specific limitation of subject matter was cancelled by humour which could make every determinacy waver and dissolve and therefore made it possible for art to transcend itself. Yet in this self-transcendence art is nevertheless a withdrawal of man into himself, a descent into his own breast, whereby art strips away from itself all fixed restriction to a specific range of content and treatment, and makes Humanus its new holy of holies: i.e. the depths and heights of the human heart as such, Mankind in its joys and sorrows, its strivings, deeds, and fates. Herewith the artist acquires his subject-matter in himself and is the human spirit actually self-determining and considering, meditating, and expressing the infinity of its feelings and situations: nothing that can be living in the human breast is alien to that spirit any more.[42] This is a subject-matter which does not remain determined artistically in itself and on its own account; on the contrary, the specific character of the topic and its outward formation is left to capricious invention, yet no interest is excluded – for art does not need any longer to represent only what is absolutely at home at one of its specific stages, but everything in which man as such is capable of being at home.

In face of this breadth and variety of material we must above all make the demand that the actual presence of the spirit today shall be displayed at the same time throughout the mode of treating this material. The modern artist, it is true, may associate himself with the classical age and with still more ancient times; to be a follower of Homer, even if the last one, is fine, and productions reflecting the medieval veering to romantic art will have their merits too; but the universal validity, depth, and special idiom of some material is one thing, its mode of treatment another. No Homer, Sophocles, etc., no Dante, Ariosto, or Shakespeare can appear in our day; what was so magnificently sung, what so freely expressed, has been expressed; these are materials, ways of looking at them and treating them which have been sung once and for all. Only the present is fresh, the rest is paler and paler.

The French must be reproached on historical grounds, and criticized on the score of beauty, for presenting Greek and Roman heroes, Chinese, and Peruvians, as French princes and princesses and for ascribing to them the motives and views of the time of Louis XIV and XV; yet, if only these motives and views had been deeper and finer in themselves, drawing them into present-day works of art would not be exactly bad. On the contrary, all materials, whatever they be and from whatever period and nation they come, acquire their artistic truth only when imbued with living and contemporary interest. It is in this interest that artistic truth fills man’s breast, provides his own mirror-image, and brings truth home to our feelings and imagination. It is the appearance and activity of imperishable humanity in its many-sided significance and endless all-round development which in this reservoir of human situations and feelings can now constitute the absolute content of our art.

If after thus determining in a general way the subject-matter peculiar to this stage, we now look back at what we have considered in conclusion as the forms of the dissolution of romantic art, we have stressed principally how art falls to pieces, on the one hand, into the imitation of external objectivity in all its contingent shapes; on the other hand, however, into the liberation of subjectivity, in accordance with its inner contingency, in humour. Now, finally, still within the material indicated above, we may draw attention to a coalescence of these extremes of romantic art. In other words, just as in the advance from symbolic to classical art we considered the transitional forms of image, simile, epigram, etc., so here in romantic art we have to make mention of a similar transitional form. In those earlier modes of treatment the chief thing was that inner meaning and external shape fell apart from one another, a cleavage partly superseded by the subjective activity of the artist and converted, particularly in epigram, so far as possible into an identification. Now romantic art was from the beginning the deeper disunion of the inwardness which was finding its satisfaction in itself and which, since objectivity does not completely correspond with the spirit’s inward being, remained broken or indifferent to the objective world. In the course of romantic art this opposition developed up to the point at which we had to arrive at an exclusive interest, either in contingent externality or in equally contingent subjectivity. But if this satisfaction in externality or in the subjective portrayal is intensified, according to the principle of romantic art, into the heart’s deeper immersion in the object, and if, on the other hand, what matters to humour is the object and its configuration within its subjective reflex, then we acquire thereby a growing intimacy with the object, a sort of objective humour. Yet such an intimacy can only be partial and can perhaps be expressed only within the compass of a song or only as part of a greater whole. For if it were extended and carried through within objectivity, it would necessarily become action and event and an objective presentation of these. But what we may regard as necessary here is rather a sensitive abandonment of the heart in the object, which is indeed unfolded but remains a subjective spirited movement of imagination and the heart – a fugitive notion, but one which is not purely accidental and capricious but an inner movement of the spirit devoted entirely to its object and retaining it as its content and interest.

In this connection we may contrast such final blossomings of art with the old Greek epigram in which this form appeared in its first and simplest shape. The form meant here displays itself only when to talk of the object is not just to name it, not an inscription or epigraph which merely says in general terms what the object is, but only when there are added a deep feeling, a felicitous witticism, an ingenious reflection, and an intelligent movement of imagination which vivify and expand the smallest detail through the way that poetry treats it. But such poems to or about something, a tree, a mill-lade, the spring, etc., about things animate or inanimate, may be of quite endless variety and arise in any nation, yet they remain of a subordinate kind and, in general, readily become lame. For especially when reflection and speech have been developed, anyone may be struck in connection with most objects and circumstances by some fancy or other which he now has skill enough to express, just as anyone is good at writing a letter. With such soon become bored. Therefore at this stage what is especially at stake is that the heart, with its depth of feeling, and the spirit and a rich consciousness shall be entirely absorbed in the circumstances, situation, etc., tarry there, and so make out of the object something new, beautiful, and intrinsically valuable.

A brilliant example of this, even for the present and for the subjective spiritual depth of today, is afforded especially by the Persians and Arabs in the eastern splendour of their images, in the free bliss of their imagination which deals with its objects entirely contemplatively. The Spaniards and Italians too have done excellent work of this kind. Klopstock does say[43] of Petrarch: Tetrarch sang songs of his Laura, beautiful to their admirer, but to the lover – nothing.’ Yet Klopstock’s love-poems are full only of moral reflections, pitiable longing, and strained passion for the happiness of immortality – whereas in Petrarch we admire the freedom of the inherently ennobled feeling which, however much it expresses desire for the beloved, is still satisfied in itself. For the desire, the passion, cannot be missing in the sphere of these subjects, provided it be confined to wine and love, the tavern and the glass, just as, after all, the Persian pictures are of extreme voluptuousness. But in its subjective interest imagination here removes the object altogether from the scope of practical desire; it has an interest only in this imaginative occupation, which is satisfied in the freest way with its hundreds of changing turns of phrase and conceits, and plays in the most ingenious manner with joy and sorrow alike. Amongst modern poets those chiefly possessed of this equally ingenious freedom of imagination, but also of its subjectively more heartfelt depth, are Rückert, and Goethe in his West-östliche Divan. Goethe’s poems in the Divan are particularly and essentially different from his earlier ones. In Willkommen and Abschied [Welcome and Farewell], e.g., the language and the depiction are beautiful indeed, and the feeling is heartfelt, but otherwise the situation is quite ordinary, the conclusion trivial, and imagination and its freedom has added nothing further. Totally different is the poem called Wiederfinden [Meeting again] in the Divan. Here love is transferred wholly into the imagination, its movement, happiness, and bliss. In general, in similar productions of this kind we have before us no subjective longing, no being in love, no desire, but a pure delight in the topics, an inexhaustible self-yielding of imagination, a harmless play, a freedom in toying alike with rhyme and ingenious metres – and, with all this, a depth of feeling and a cheerfulness of the inwardly self-moving heart which through the serenity of the outward shape lift the soul high above all painful entanglement in the restrictions of the real world.

With this we may close our consideration of the particular forms into which the ideal of art has been spread in the course of its development. I have made these forms the subject of a rather extensive investigation in order to exhibit the content out of which too their mode of portrayal has been derived. For it is the content which, as in all human work, so also in art is decisive. In accordance with its essential nature, art has nothing else for its function but to set forth in an adequate sensuous present what is itself inherently rich in content, and the philosophy of art must make it its chief task to comprehend in thought what this fullness of content and its beautiful mode of appearance are.


1. See above, p. 503.

2. Cf. pp. 153 -4, 433-4.

3. In these words, which he often uses, Hegel refers to the Crucifixion.

4. Gen. 1 : 2 (in Luther’s version).

5. On p. 157 above.

6. Previously Hegel has said that some portraits are ‘disgustingly like’ (Introduction, p. 43) and that portraiture must ‘flatter’ (pp. 155, 165). Here the instructions to Lely seem to be approved.

7. The moments or essential factors in the Concept are, as we have seen, the universal, the particular, and the individual. The universal remains abstract until it is actualized in particulars or individuals, and this actualization is a necessary movement of thought or spirit.

8. Originally the goddess of the sky, but later, as distinct from Aphrodite Pandemos, the goddess of higher and purer love.

9. See the following 3(a).

10. See the Introduction to ch. III below. Even though religion necessarily takes an external form, it knows itself to be too elevated ever to be satisfied in real life.

11. Matt. 23: 34, 24: io. Luke 14: 26. John 15: 20.

12. i.e. its content or material is not now given to it by religion, and so the beauty which it creates is freer.

13. i.e. the Garland, forty-six poems in the Greek Anthology, collected by Meleager, poet and philosopher, c. 80 B.c.

14. virtutes gentium splendida vitia is a phrase commonly ascribed to Augustine though it is apparently not in his works. In the following sentence Bassenge substitutes ‘Christian’ for ‘Greek’, the reading of both of Hotho’s editions. The argument of the paragraph may not be wholly clear, but this emendation seems to me to be misconceived. Hegel is contrasting the ‘objective’ morality of Greece with the ‘subjective’ morality of the Christian conscience. The latter is found in chivalry, i.e. at a time when social institutions were undeveloped. A combination of the two sides is what Hegel discerns in the modern world (see part iii of the Philosophy of Right). For those who emphasize conscience or inner conviction alone, habitual instead of conscientious acceptance of the prevailing ethos is just a vice, however splendid.

15. i.e. the negative attitude of penance and martyrdom, or of conscience pursued d outrance.

16. .e. the spread of Mohammedanism.

17. A Donna Diana appears in many Spanish plays but the reference here is probably to the El Desden con el Desdén of A. Moreto y Cabaña, 1618-69.

18. A drama (1807) by H. von Kleist, 1777-1811.

19. Hegel probably has the Chanson de Roland (c. 1170) in mind and perhaps Wieland’s Oberon (1782) also.

20. i.e. true to nature in detail, like the genre pictures discussed below in 3(a).

21. i.e. Jesus is a particular individual in the world, but as the Second Person of the Trinity is one essential moment in the life of God. The religious consciousness is content to contemplate the individual without asking for beauty.

22. Matt. 22: 14. But read ‘many’ for ‘all’ and omit ‘to felicity’.

23. i.e. only in religion, not in art, can this endeavour succeed. Man’s inner self-concentration is ultimate in art; his reconciliation with the world, for which he strives in art, is achieved only in a higher sphere. In romantic art his thirst for presence in objective actuality is not quenched. Where art ends, religion begins.

24. i.e. the development of the person’s inner life.

25. The meaning of this term is explained and illustrated in 2 below. Since romantic art is concerned with inwardness, external events are for it devoid of spirit and are matters of chance, like episodes in a tale of adventure which might well occur in a different order. Hegel is using the word ‘adventure’ in the sense common in eighteenth-century English (if not more recently). In this sense `adventure’ has nothing to do with peril or risk, but means a chance occurrence, something happening without any design in unplanned circumstances.

26. Cf. above, pp. 67-8, 236-44.

27. The text gives a reference to a ‘Berlin performance in 1820’. The date is not impossible, because Hegel did lecture on Fine Art in Berlin in 1820-1. But Auguste Stich, whom Hegel knew personally, did not become, on her marriage, Madame Crelinger until later. In Hegel’s letters she is Madame Stich until 1827.

28. In two plays, Wallenstein, parts ii and iii (1799).

29. This poem occurs in Faust, part r, scene viii. From this precious goblet, according to a previous stanza, the King always drank, and as he did so his eyes filled with tears.

30. i.e. Careers in an ascending Line, by T. G. Hippel, 1741-96. This book was a favourite of Hegel’s from his university days. His judgement on it here has been found ‘astounding’ and even shocking (see, e.g., H. Glockner’s Hegel, Stuttgart, 1929, vol. i, pp. 412 ff.).

31. See, e.g., pp. 374-5 above.

32. Hegel’s adaptation of Ps. 16: 10.

33. This is an allusion to Don Quixote, part i, ch. 22.

34. In Hegel’s day this word had a much wider sense than it has now. P. Colquhoun, Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis (1795), has virtually nothing to say about ‘police’ in the modern sense. At that date the word meant `the whole system of public regulations and agencies for the preservation of the morals, order, and comfort of civil society’ (N. Gash, Mr. Secretary Peel, London, 1961, p. 311.)

35. This passage elucidates Hegel’s sarcastic remark above (p. 571) about the popularity of the Middle Ages in his day. ‘Apprenticeship’ is an obvious allusion to Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre.

36. Hegel’s memory of Matt. 23: 12.

37. See his Essay on Painting (1765, published 1796). It was translated by Goethe, but with severe critical comments.

38. 2 A. W., 1759-1814.

39. A. van Ostade, 1610-85. D. Tethers, 1610-9o. J. Steen, 1626-79.

40. For ‘Hemling’ read Memling’. J. van Eyck, 1370-1441. H. Memling, 1433 -94. J. van Scorel, 1495-1562.

41. G. Terborch, 1617-81. Not his ‘Atlas’, as Osmaston has it.

42. Hegel is obviously alluding to the familiar line of Terence. See p. 46, not

43. In Die künftige Geliebte (The Future Sweetheart), 1747.