"Make music, women, music!": the Amazonian power of music in Heinrich von Kleist's Penthesilea (1808).
In Kleist's Penthesilea (1808), the Amazons infamously undermine conventional gender, power, and identity constellations. Their destabilizing effect is clear from the moment they pour onto the battlefield near Troy as an incomprehensible "third power" that confounds the Greek's logic of "force /And counter force" (8). The Amazonian third power takes a panoply of shapes through the play's elemental, androgynous, and animal imagery as well as through a less often noted aspect of the warrior women: their "silver voice" (27), "bell-like voices" (68), and their capacity for song. Whereas androgyny and animal imagery apply to Greeks and Amazons alike in the play (Krimmer, Representation 58), music appears to be something only the women warriors make. At the beginning of scene 14, the Greeks have temporarily routed the Amazons. Achilles has bested Penthesilea in a battle that left her senseless ("von Sinnen" ), but Prothoe has convinced him to feign defeat until the queen recovers. When Penthesilea believes she has triumphed, "bounteous waves" of joy overwhelm her (82). She declares herself ready to join the Gods' "choir" and calls for song: "Make music, women, music! I'm not calm. / Sing out with your clear voices! Quiet me" (84). (1) She turns down "the victory song" and demands "the hymn" (84). When the Amazons obey, they create the only explicitly musical moment of the play and one altogether rare in Kleist's dramatic works. (2) Penthesilea's plea emphatically places women at the center of music and places music at the boundaries of what it means to be women. Indeed, the scene invokes the conventional poles of music's naturalization as feminine in literary and musicological discourse around 1800: the association of music with the deadly siren song of seduction and dissolution on the one hand and with the chaste healing of human passions on the other. (3) Yet the musical moment also deconstructs these feminine boundaries. The hymn "Ares departs!" is both premature and displaced. As an overture to the Amazon love ritual, it should be sung after battle, in the Amazon homeland, and certainly not before the victory song (Mahlendorf 263). (4) As an incursion of music into an ostensibly tragic drama, the hymn also marks a generic disruption, a potential shift toward operatic representation. When the Amazons sing, categories like victor and vanquished, love and war, masculine and feminine, drama and opera become confused. In other words, the Amazonian power to destabilize "force / And counterforce" in Penthesilea emerges as the power of music.
This essay considers questions of musical performance, gender, and identity in Penthesilea. The same questions emerge explicitly in Kleist's later--and most famous--reflection on music. In the short story "Saint Cecilia or the Power of Music (A Legend)" ("Die heilige Cacilie oder die Gewalt der Musik [Eine Legende], 1810), the narrator emphasizes the nuns' skilled musical performance and relates it to "the femaleness of this mysterious art" (368). Just as the powerful music of the story is played by nuns, in Penthesilea it is played and sung by virginal maidens: the stage directions specify "a maiden" ("eine Jungfrau") anda "Chorus of maidens" ("Chor der Jungfraun") as the singers. (5) This is the only time that the stage directions identify Amazonian characters as maidens rather than as Amazons or by proper name, even though the women are constantly referred to, and refer to each other, as "maidens" in the dialogue. On the one hand, then, music is best performed by virginal women in Kleist. But on the other hand, it is a powerfully ambivalent art: music in the short story has masculine as well as feminine attributes that undermine its overt gendering by the narrator (Naumann 108). Likewise, in Penthesilea, music issues from the mouths and instruments of warrior women, (6) who themselves confound binary categories through their shifting performances of gender roles (Krimmer, Representation 56; Pfeiffer 53-54). Nevertheless, Kleist's emphatic connection of musical performance with the feminine suggests a starting point for the investigation of music and identity in Penthesilea. The short story "Saint Cecilia" was first published in Kleist's newspaper, the Berliner Abendblatter, where the author also published numerous anecdotes and critiques pertaining to music. A discussion of Kleist's journalistic comments on female performance will thus preface this essay's reading of Penthesilea.
In the scholarship on the play, the music of Penthesilea has been largely overheard. Rarely does a study mention the hymn at all, (7) and Helga Kraft's is the only account to present a reading of Penthesilea through its music, when she relates harmony and dissonance to Penthesilea's stages of self-realization (74-77). Feminist studies approach the play's deconstruction of gender roles from numerous angles, including love (Lange; Pahl; Schuller, "Liebe"), eroticized war (Krimmer, Representation; Simpson; Stephan), language (Jacobs), gente (Theisen), nation (Angress), and the body (Menke), bur the unusually consistent association of the feminine with music has not been addressed. (8) Nor have scholars linked the play's performances of identity to the Amazons' capacity for musical performance. (9) Carol Jacobs comes tantalizingly close when she identifies Penthesilea's movement toward "total performance" as a realization of "a purely material sound object" (109). Jacobs notes that the play constantly points arrows at the throat, the "origin of the voice" (113), bur in her account of how "the impetuous lip, that third force, becomes master of the self" (110), Jacobs remains concerned with rhetoric and makes no broader connection to the music of the Amazon voice in the play. (10) As this essay draws that connection between music and vocality, it shifts away from Penthesilea scholarship's focus on the visual. (11) It also emphasizes an aural dimension that has gone unheard in accounts of the play's "rampant orality" (Benbow 146). (12) In attending to vocality, the performative dimension of the female voice (Dunn and Jones 2), this essay will attempt to move beyond music as a metaphor for the gender constellations of the play by attending to how music constructs and deconstructs them.
Stephan Bock's 200l account of Kleist's musical talent underscores the problem that can arise if considerations of music are isolated from gender in Penthesilea. Bock compares Penthesilea to a clarinet, the musical instrument played by Kleist. He argues that her "silver voice" echoes the silvery tone of the clarinet KIeist would have played and that the in strument's vulnerability to temperature changes could be compared to Penthesilea's fatal conflation of "kisses" and "bites" (12). While Bock's observations reveal a sensitivity to Penthesilea's musical characterization in the play, the unreflected comparison of a woman to an instrument rings hollow. Indeed, Bock's comparison is perfectly in tune with unsettling comparisons made by Kleist. Ina letter to his fiance, Wilhelmine von Zenge, from 5 September 1800, he likens educating a woman to whittling a mouthpiece for his clarinet:
I myself must form and educate [a girl], and if not, it would be as with the mouthpiece of my clarinet. You can buy these by the dozens at the marketplace, but when you try them, you cannot coax out one pure note. Thus Baer, the musician, once gave me one of his own in Potsdam, with the assurance that it was a very good one and that he could play well with it. And I do believe that he could. I, however, got nothing out of it but sour, squeaky notes. So I cut a piece for myself from a fresh reed, formed it to my own lips, shaved and scraped away with my knife until it fit my embouchure exactly--and it worked superbly! I played to my heart's content. (Abyss 54) (13)
The comparison exemplifies Kleist's overt subscription to the early nineteenth century's restrictive gender discourse of feminine plasticity and masculine rigidity, of passivity and activity. (14) But the introduction of music undercuts Kleist's alienating manipulation of the feminine. The logic of his musical simile leads him to mention the contours of his mouth, which the translator interprets as "embouchure": the positioning of a musician's facial muscles and lips as he conforms to the mouthpiece of his instrument. Kleist's projection of plasticity onto his feminine mouthpiece dissolves if the musical simile is taken too far toward musical performance. When thought through in the context of performance, the notion of the woman as a musical instrument gains subversive, even empowering potential.
From Mouthpiece to Artist: Performing Women in Berlin
Kleist's quest for a suitable "mouthpiece" seems to continue in his newspaper, the Berliner A bendblatter (1810-11). In its pages Kleist published numerous entries related to music: from the famous and sophisticated "Saint Cecilia" and "On the Puppet Theater" ("Uber das Marionettentheater," 1810; Abyss 211-16); to quizzical anecdotes and scientific notes; to barbed critiques of the production and casting of Berlin's musical theater. (15) Kleist's critiques comprised a campaign against August Wilhelm Iffland's direction of the National Theater on both personal and ideological grounds: he found his career and his vision of National Theater thwarted by Iffland's directorship. (16) But Kleist's frustrations come to a head over the quality of the female performers engaged in Berlin. He devotes several critical pieces to both their vocal and dance abilities, from the merits of age and experience in a singer ("Schreiben aus Berlin," October 1810, SW 2:411-12) to praise for the pantomimic performance art of Henriette Hendel-Schutz ("Einleitung," February 1811, SW 2: 423). Kleist's critical focus on the women of musical theater may simply address popular diva culture, but it is suggestive given the fraught gender relations in his letters and literary works. When he sarcastically proposes cross-dressed productions of Goethe's plays as the epitome of Iffland's directorial pandering (SW 2: 410-11), the mind leaps to Penthesilea, Kleist's serious drama of shifting gender performances. Where music and performance, practical or abstract, are at stake for Kleist, issues of gender are not far behind.
Kleist's commentary on the casting of the female lead in Iffland's production of the opera Die Schweizer Familie (The Swiss family) brought his conflict with the director to a catastrophic climax. (17) Die Schweizer Familie premiered in Vienna in 1809 and went on to become one of the nineteenth century's most popular folk operas. In Berlin, Iffland produced it as a singspiel (Weigel 46), which struck a blow to Kleist's theatrical ideals--his objections to simplification and pandering. (18) But the production could apparently be redeemed in Kleist's eyes through the casting of a quality singer. On 13 November the Abendblatter reported:
The singspiel, "The Swiss Family" [...] is now being rehearsed at the Royal National Theater. [...] Now, how the role of Emeline (on whom, as the main character, the fortunes of this play completely depend) will be cast, and whether it will fall to Mademoiselle Schmalz, because of the range and solidity of her voice, because of experience and agility in play to Madame Muller, or because of the fortunate combination of both to Madame Eunicke, (which would probably be the most advantageous) remains to be seen. (my translation) (19)
Short of the opening announcement, the remaining two-thirds of the piece are devoted to singer-actresses who may play, or have played, the protagonist.
The practical matter of female performance proved a critical turning point for Kleist's career. Although Kleist and many others favored the Berlin-educated, internationally known opera singer Auguste Schmalz, Iffland cast his protegee, Emilie Herbst. Kleist had stirred up public resentment for Herbst in his disparaging poem "An die Nachtigall" (To the nightingale), which ran in the Abendblatter on 17 October 1810. (20) Both the mixed reaction to Madame Herbst at the Schweizer Familie premiere and the appearance of a thinly veiled critique in the Abendblatter prompted Iffland to organize a substantial police presence at the next performance. (21) Aggravated by the heightened security, audience members disrupted Madame Herbst's performance with loud knocking and pounding ("pochen"). Iffland represented the protests as a challenge to his court-appointed office, and the state reacted with increased censorship. Among other things, the state response banned publications like the Abendblatter from commenting on the theater. Thus the "opera scandal," as these events became known, closed off Kleist's outlet for musico-theatrical critique. The scandal illustrates that music had a more than abstract importance for Kleist and that quality musical performance, particularly singing women, were central to his poetic ideals and their theatrical realization.
Kleist's concern with gender and music echoes in the sole performance of Penthesilea during his lifetime. The play's reputed unstageability meant not only a delayed and difficult performance history but also that from the outset productions have tended to push dramatic form toward musical forms. (22) A first such experiment took place in Berlin on 23 April 1811, when the renowned actress Henriette Hendel-Schutz (1772-1849) pantomimed scenes from Penthesilea in the concert hall of the National Theater. Her husband introduced the performance with readings from the play. In Hendel-Schutz's concept, pantomimic gesture does not replace the language of Kleist's play but rather shifts it to a recitative component. Despite the centrality of gesture to the concept, reviewers blamed Kleist's language for its failure (Reeve 79), but William Reeve echoes the Berlin "opera scandal" when he faults the actress for the failed performance: "clearly she only desired to exploit Kleist's tragedy as a means of self-advertisement at the expense of the tragedy's true greatness--the spoken word." (23) Reeve's dismissal suggests that Kleist's language should be revered and preserved, but Kleist himself had no such reverence: he employed language to outdo language (Pfeiffer) and to transform rhetoric into performance (Jacobs, Brandstetter). HendelSchutz, like Penthesilea, is a woman central to Kleist's explorations of language and performativity. (24)
In HendeI-Schutz, Kleist apparently finds more than a "mouthpiece" for his aesthetic agenda. Reeve's indignation, seemingly on Kleist's behall, passes over the author's friendship with the actress, his admiration for her art, and bis approval of, if not involvement with, her performance of Penthesilea. In a letter to Hendel-Schutz, Kleist documents his intention to sit in on pre-performance preparations, and he expresses gratitude in a letter to her husband three days after the performance (Abyss 193; SW 2: 860, 862). (25) But Kleist's admiration was not merely that of an artist for a fine instrument. In February 1811 he had published one of her travel letters in the Abendblatter. In his introduction to the letter, be calls her an "apt artist [...] who possesses at the same rime the tare gift of representing living with the quill what she has seen, thought and felt; just as she has long since achieved the same at the highest level of dramatic mime, and mimic sculpture" (my translation). (26) First of all, Kleist praises--and publishes--the actress's writing. His regard for her is based on her own artistic agency and, second, on her achievements in his chosen medium.
Third, Kleist lauds Hendel-Schutz's ability to put her experiences and emotions into words--no small praise from a writer who thematized the struggle to find language adequate to life, thought, and feeling. Just one month prior, Kleist had formulated a poet's ideal in similar terms: "While at work with my writing, if I could reach into my heart, take hold of my thoughts, and with my bate hands lay them without further embellishment in your own, then, I confess, the innermost desire of my soul would be fulfilled" (Abyss 236). (27) The poet longs to circumvent language, to externalize thought without mediation. If seems that Hendel-Schutz approaches this ideal with her "lively" representations of experience and feeling, both in writing and performing. Perhaps not coincidentally, Penthesilea possesses the same power to reach into her breast, grasp feeling, and give it life, albeit with deadly consequences. Kleist's recognition of creative agency in Hendel-Schutz, the performer who writes, thus suggests reading Penthesilea likewise as an artist, a performer who sings. To do so, it will be necessary to consider more carefully the role of music in Kleist's play.
Gender-Bending through Genre-Bending
The notoriously unstable gender constellations of Penthesilea gain a new dimension when the play is situated within operatic, rather than dramatic, tradition. In operatic tradition, Achilles plots frequently center on ah episode of cross-dressing. While drama preferred to represent the death of Achilles, the tragic hero, opera favored the amatory Achilles (Frenzel 6-7). More than three quarters of eighteenth-century Achilles libretti set the episode on Skyros (Parsons 1-2), a plot from Statius's Achillead that revolves around shifting gender identities. In Metastasio's version, Achille in Sciro (Achilles in Skyros, 1737), the hero's mother, Thetis, has disguised him has a girl ("Pyhrra") and placed him at the court of Lycomedes to keep him out of the Trojan War. Achilles spends most of the opera in women's clothing. He enjoys a love affair with the king's daughter, Deidamia, until Ulysses penetrates his disguise with a trick. Ulysses (Odysseus) offers Achilles a gift from a pile of jewels and feminine trinkets, among which lie weapons and armor. When Achilles throws down his lyre and reaches for the weapons, his masculine identity is affirmed. But the final restoration of the hero's essential gender does not undo the opera's flirtation with a long tradition of Achilles reception. In P. J. Heslin's provocative terms, he was known in the West "as the hero of transvestite sex-farce" (xii). In performance the figure of Achilles would have accrued further complicated gender associations, in that either a female or male soprano was required for this heroically masculine role (Heller 580n25). Viewed from the traditions of opera and operatic performance, Achilles already suggestively destabilizes gender boundaries.
Kleist's destabilization of identity in Penthesilea seems to unfold through parallels to and inversions of the Skyros plot. In the opera, Odysseus successfully identifies Achilles so that he may return to the Trojan War. In the play, Odysseus ends up questioning Achilles's sanity (2495), and the hero renounces his identification with the Trojan cause (2518-26). As the opera's Achilles selects weapons from among feminine charms and discovers his masculine essence, so do Kleist's Amazons forge weapons from their trinkets and take on a masculinized role (194043). On Skyros, a male warrior in women's clothing comedically woos "another" woman. On the Trojan battlefield, a woman in warrior's garb tragically pursues another warrior. While the opera's identity intrigue can end comedically with the restoration of essentialized gender roles, Kleist's no longer rests on any naturalized notion of gender or identity. But because comic resolution is no longer available, the cross-dressed, gender-ambivalent Achilles of Skyros is still present in the play's imagination, which subjects him as much as Penthesilea to dehumanizing animal comparisons (Krimmer, Representation 58; ter Horst 137). Neither gender guarantees a boundary between the human and the savage.
Reading Penthesilea as a flirtation with the operatic Achilles plot underscores familiar epistemological problems in Kleist. Elisabeth Krimmer has already convincingly connected the motif of cross-dressing in Kleist's Die Familie Schroffenstein (The Schroffenstein family, 1803) to the author's "nostalgia" for unmediated truth and an identity located in the body (Company 116-17). In the fatal cross-dressing of the cave scene, when the blind Sylvius recognizes his cross-dressed granddaughter Agnes, Kleist flirts with the notion that communication through the body, through touch, can restore an authentic identity grounded in the gendered body (121, 125-26). Sylvius's identification comes too late, however: Agnes is dead, and the notion of essential gender remains a nostalgic fantasy. But Krimmer also refers to another episode that shaped Kleist's thoughts on cross-dressing and the search for authenticity. While Kleist is on the road with his sister Ulrike, who routinely traveled in men's clothing, they come across a blind flute player who recognizes U1rike for a woman as soon as she speaks (Company 121; Sembdner 539). As Krimmer argues, Kleist's anxieties about bis sister's identity help to inspire the author's "ardent desire that, by interrogating the body, he could snatch from it the absolute truth of a person's identity and gender" (121). Yet in the context of thinking Kleist through music, the encounter suggests that a specific bodily element is of concern here, namely, Ulrike's voice.
The notion that voice undermines the performance of gender could offer reassurance of an essential identity to early-eighteenth-century theatergoers. When Caroline Neuber (1697-1760) played four different breeches roles in one play, Johann Christoph Gottsched found the performance almost perfect: "nothing was missing but a rougher, more masculine voice" (350). (28) Despite her "wonderful" appearance as an assortment of men, Neuber's performance runs aground on her feminine voice. Yet, for Kleist, it seems that not just anyone is capable of pinpointing an essential voice. It is a blind man, like Sylvius, who interprets Ulrike as woman. But more importantly, this blind man is a musician, a flute player, and thus a specially attuned listener. If, following Leslie Dunn and Nancy Jones, vocality is taken to be an "intersubjective acoustic space" from which "meanings cannot be recovered without reconstructing the contexts of their hearing" (2), then it is crucial to note that Ulrike's identity-shaping voice is received by someone with a musical ear. The encounter thus suggests that musically contextualized vocality adds another dimension to Kleist's pursuit of an authentic self.
But the role of music in Kleist's ideal suggests that any essential self is far from clearly gendered. In examining references to music in Kleist's letters, John Hamilton shows how the author routinely associates music with the unconscious, with idyilic childhood, and a state prior to subjectivity (136-40). In this fluid and resonant state, "waves of air and of water" encompass the listener in sound, and a "musical self" emerges as a kind of communal identity in joy (142). (29) In Penthesilea, Kleist describes a similar musico-natural experience. In scene 14, Penthesilea wishes to "bathe" in a "limpid stream of joy"; she feels the "wafting nearness of the Gods" and "their choir" (82). In scene 15 she again refers to a musical paradise, a "nightingale-enchanted grove / of pomegranates" where lovers meet, but which is closed off to the Amazons (92). (30_ Hamilton identifies the music of this paradisiacal scene with a specific historical form: "against the secunda prattica of monody, Kleist aligns himself with the prima prattica of polyphony, where words are subordinate to music, where the individual voice melts into the voice of God" (144). In a similar vein, Bernhard Greiner argues that polyphonic music prior to 1600 provided Kleist, in the tale of "Saint Cecilia," with a possible model for representing the experience of the sublime ("'Das ganze Schrecken'"). In polyphonic vocal music, individual voices singing in counterpoint blend together into a complex soundscape that drowns out the actual words sung. Thus polyphony paradoxically constructs a structural transcendence. (31) Greiner and Hamilton acknowledge, however, that musical metaphors of transcendence do not evade violence in Kleist. In "Saint Cecilia," the savage howls of the three brothers undermine the utopian appeal of experiencing music's power (Hamilton 151), highlighting the dehumanization of experiencing the divine (Greiner, "'Das ganze Schrecken'") 519)- If musical metaphors facilitate an attainment of authentic selfhood beyond or prior to categories like gender in Kleist, it can only be a fleeting experience, hampered or blocked by the structures that bring it into being.
"the music of the voice"
Already the shifting gender characterizations of Achilles and the Amazons, together with the violent excesses that blend desire and desecration in the play, suggest that Penthesilea's music has a gender-bending, rather than a stabilizing, effect. In the manner of an opera heroine (Clement 59), Penthesilea enters the play as a musical foreigner who straddles boundaries of geography along with gender. She comes from the edge of the Greek world, from Themyscira, in modern-day Turkey. Although battle brings her into Greek lands, her tactics rely on liminality. As one of the Greeks complains, "She's in the background and will not come forth" (27). To get close to her is to be aware of her first and foremost through her voice: "And one who even from afar would hear / Her silver voice, borne over by the wind, / Should have to fight a dubious battle first" (27-28). (32) Penthesilea's silvery voice, carried on the wind, suggests the blend of music and nature, the "waves of air and of water" that envelop the listener in musical sound in the pre-conscious paradise of Kleist's letters. But to engage with the marginal is perilous: the listener must be prepared for "dubious" violence. The passage suggests that the silvery voice of paradise cannot be heard without accompanying dissonance. Elsewhere, Kleist reformulates the musical transmission of a paradoxically violent ideal in dramaturgical terms. In an epigram on the hypothetical production of his play in Weimar he proposes translating the howling of Penthesilea's dogs into music. (33) Music offers a decorous version of the passions' "howling." The epigram suggests that Kleist exploits the conventionally feminine-gendered aspects of music--beauty, composure, a calming effect--in order to get at something beyond the feminine. Music offers a decorous structure for the entrance of a savage, authentic, natural state prior to or beyond conventional structures such as masculine and feminine, self and other.
The decorous frame of music carries over to the dramaturgical level of the play, where operatic entrances define the margins of action. In scene 3 a soldier narrates the sun-like rise of Achilles's chariot on the horizon (18), and another invokes the gods as Penthesilea emerges from a dust cloud behind him astride a "Tiger" of a horse (19-20). The entrance of divine-seeming figures, conveyed by wild animals, and their ascent out of darkness or emergence from clouds are all typical of operatic spectacle. (34) But where operatic convention would portray a clear difference between the hero and the villainess, Penthesilea and Achilles are described in similar terms. In scene 7 a maiden invokes the gods at Achilles's sudden appearance in a ray of sunlight on the battlefield (47). Moments later Penthesilea appears, glittering, as the battlefield lights up (48), and the two collide "like two stars" (49). Achilles, like Penthesilea, is a liminal figure who must be accessed through operatic forms. Like Penthesilea, his gender-shifting form can be perceived from these margins: in the teichoscopic account of his masculine parts, he appears as a "fragile construction" (Wilson 195), even as a "breast" (Richter 236). The operatic entrance allows a glimpse of the self in an indistinctly gendered state.
Of course, these entrances only occur offstage: they are described by captivated viewers of the scene who narrate for the onstage audience. In her consideration of Penthesilea's performative rhetoric, Gabriele Brandstetter defines teichoscopy as a technique of rendering visible what the action on stage excludes. (35) Brandstetter aligns teichoscopy with the rhetorical figure of hypotyposis, of picture making through language (190). (36) When Kleist takes teichoscopy and hypotyposis to extremes they open up "new stages" within tragic form, imaginary spaces for representing the unrepresentable (192). Bur on her way to a point about language and visualization, Brandstetter nevertheless indicates that "hearing" is an important dimension of teichoscopy (192). Indeed, a report must be heard before its content can be pictured in the imagination, so that hearing emerges as prior to seeing, a kind of unconscious dimension of the dramatic technique in particular, and of language in general. Just as Kleist describes shutting out reflection and thought in order to hear the natural-paradisiacal music in his letter, just as it is the blind flute player who can recognize a (fantasy of) the authentic gendered self, so does the audibility of reported speech suggest another dimension through which the ideal might be performed. Penthesilea calls this purely aural dimension the "music of the voice." (37) The vocality of teichoscopic reportage and its aural reception constitute a "voice prior language" (Schuller, "Penthesilea" 90; my translation). (38) Kleist's dramaturgy of teichoscopy and reportage can be read as a circumvention of sight and understanding via sound.
The Greeks and the Amazons employ teichoscopy equally, which could suggest that the "music of the voice" is equally audible to the two nations. But although, as Angress argues, the Amazons and Greeks are equally rational (117), the Amazons have a special relationship to the pre-rational musical domain. At the founding of their state, an unidentifiable voice warns the Amazons that a nation of women will be mocked by men (94). It claims they will suffer military defeat because women's "full breasts" interfere with wielding a bow. The voice provokes Queen Tanais's removal of her breast, which gives the Amazons their name. One could interpret this incident, with Renee Schell, as an indication that the Amazon state is inescapably shaped by the male gaze (45-46), but it can also be argued, in line with the discussion of music and language above, that the aural dimension of the voice precedes its content of gender determination. The music of speech comes before the naming of the Amazon state in Penthesilea's narrative. As Schell notes, the voice itself is "anonymous" (45), "genderless" (46). While Tanais's reaction reshapes a woman's body, tearing off the breast does not give a body a clear position in the masculine-feminine binary. Rather, it sets the Amazon body somewhere between. Joachim Pfeiffer suggests that gender ambiguity already inhabits the figure of Tanais, whose name appears to come from a boy in Kleist's mythological source (48). (39) Like Achilles, then, Tanais already appears in the play as a cross-dressed figure. Her reshaping of the body makes her gender ambivalence visible, but not until she has listened to the voice which, as pure voice (prior to language), suggests the possibility of embodying multiple identities. Tapping into this power has simultaneously deadly and generative results: the queen perishes, but a nation is born, accompanied by the "resounding drone, like a huge bell," of Tanais's bow (95). (40) Accordingly, the Amazons can be said to originate in ambiguous sound.
Throughout the play, the Amazons' special relationship to destabilizing vocality continues to set them apart from the Greeks. The play begins with, and calls attention to, an image: with an emphatic "as you can see," Odysseus shows Antilochus the Amazon and Greek armies, "Each with its teeth sunk in the other's throat" (5). His reference to the throat already introduces a source of sound into the visual, and as his report continues, aurality further interferes with the Greek vision of equally matched forces. What the Greeks have "heard" about the Amazons (5) (41)--namely, that they have come to ally themselves with Troy--conflicts with what they eventually "see" (6): the Amazons fighting the Trojans. Unable to believe his eyes, Odysseus resolves to talk to Penthesilea, an idea he deems as smart as any Athena could have "whispered" in his ear. But as he talks with the Queen of logical alliances, his language misses its mark: "she doesn't hear a word" (7). Before long, the "centauress" resumes her attack and "crashes upon" the Greeks and Trojans alike in a wave of sound. (42) The Amazon army confronts the Greeks' binary battle logic with a combination of elemental forces and sound. The comparison to a centaur evokes the most famous centaur, Chiron, whom Kleist's source (Hederich) identifies as Achilles's music teacher (34, 707). (43) If the comparison to the teacher-centaur suggests that the Greeks could learn something from their encounter, they nevertheless distinguish themselves as poor listeners. Odysseus frames listening in the subjunctive: "If I had asked Athena for advice" (49). Well satisfied by his binary reasoning, he never opens his ear to the divine. Likewise, Diomedes expresses the uselessness of Greek proclamations of rank and distances himself from the possibility of wanting to hear Penthesilea: "And one who even from afar would hear her silver voice" (27). Unlike the Amazons, the Greeks are not open to the anonymous, genderless music of speech.
Achilles, however, seems more receptive to the Amazons' voices. At first he still looks for Penthesilea in the distance after Diomedes mentions her silvery voice. (44) But unlike Odysseus, he has an ear for the divine:
What that divine maid wants of me, I know it; She sends me bridal messengers enough On feathered wing, they woo me with her wishes, They speak with deathly whispers in my ear. (29)
In the hiss of Penthesilea's arrows, Achilles hears the blending of desire and violence. His acceptance of the indistinction between divinity and savagery suggests he is especially attuned to the realm opened up by musical voice. In scene II he even senses the difference between language and pure vocality. When he walks safely among the Amazons, protected by Penthesilea's command, his Greek entourage continues to slay the women. The Amazons respond "together" in a choral expression of shock (stage direction, 68), before their fury overcomes them and they call out for their chariots, dogs, and elephants. (45) But Achilles listens past their violent threats to the sound of their voices: "sweet, like sounding silver, / Your bell-like voices give your words the lie" (68). True to his cross-dressed tradition, Achilles would seem to possess the same power as the gender-shifting Tanais, namely, to recognize the identity-destabilizing power of voice. This close to ambivalent vocality, however, he cannot accept its inherent violence. Instead, he seeks refuge in conventionally embodied gender. Unable to believe the contradiction of gentle feminine form unleashing the dogs of war, he imagines that the warrior women would throw their bodies between his masculine breast and their charging hounds (69). Achilles invokes the safely embodied, essentialized feminine to guarantee the sanctity of the masculine.
From this point forward, although Achilles continues to alternate between desirous and violent language, he keeps the categories separate, as if shocked out of his ability to hear both as one. (46) In scene 14, when the Amazons sing, he does not listen, but whispers impatiently to Prothoe instead (85). In the following scene, when Penthesilea tells him her name, he responds: "My swan in death shall sing: Penthesilea" (89), equating the music of nature with fixed, named identity. He continues by pressing her to explain her incomprehensible gender performance: her presence on the battlefield, her armored dress, and her subversion of the discourse of love, by which a woman slays a man with her looks (91). Achilles now insists on clear distinctions between gender roles. He judges Tanais's ambiguous reshaping of the body according to conventional terms: as a noble masculine deed but an inappropriate model for the feminine: "That woman could have ruled a race of men / [...] I hope that in your motherland the women / don't follow her example" (95). From the Amazons' ambiguous origins he extracts the specific conditions under which Penthesilea can be his or he can be hers, namely, if she defeats him in battle. He calls this her "Grille" (2460), a German word for a whim, but also for a cricket. (47) In listening only to the letter of the Amazon law, Achilles pushes its ambivalent vocality into an inaccessible realm of the irrational and reduces it to a chirping bug, nature's pretty but insignificant background noise.
Although Achilles's gender-bending heritage in opera and his original ambivalence in the play give him the potential to challenge the symbolic order, the "music of the voice" fails to do more than meet his ear (113): it doesn't penetrate. He remains rigidly fixed, despite Penthesilea's efforts to teach him the gender-shifting power of music. With his false challenge, he tries to trick her again, by pretending to bend the structures he adheres to. But unlike opera's true trickster figures, whom Clement sees as tearing "opening[s] in the social fabric" (130), his ruse goes awry. He counted on Penthesilea to recognize his challenge as an act of love, but she "thunders in on him" in another ambiguous sound wave from a place beyond such distinctions (127). The play reports Achilles's final flight from Penthesilea as a flight from sound: he stops and "listens" one last time, but then flees, "Almost like a young deer that, from afar, hears the grim lion's roar." Unable to come to terms with what he hears, Achilles ultimately runs in terror from the sound of Penthesilea's roaring voice. His own "constricted voice" falters. After Penthesilea "drives the arrow through his throat," her "howling" mouth completes his undoing. At the same time, the teichoscopic channel through which Achilles's death is heard but not seen shapes his dissolution as a performance.
When Penthesilea Sings
Penthesilea's fixation on the identity of her target, Achilles, initially suggests that she has lost touch with the Amazon power of destabilizing sound. In the very first scene, Odysseus describes how she stares at Achilles and reddens before emphatically declaring her name (7-8). The Queen looks rather than listens, and identifies herself within rational order. Not until her call for music at the center of the play, after her madness (scene 9) and ensuing unconsciousness (scenes 10-13), does Penthesilea regain access to the ambivalent Amazon voice. Her return to music is accompanied by a rejection of fixed categories. In scene 15, after the Amazons' hymn ceases, she dodges Achilles's questions about her identity. Meanwhile, she continues winding his body with rose garlands, until his gaze becomes "soft and mild" (88). Thus cross-dressed in roses, Achilles blurs the conventionally masculine heroic image. Although Penthesilea stares sharply at him (stage direction, 88), his garlanded figure no longer visibly aligns with the violent hero who slayed and mutilated Hector. Prothoe offers another costume, Achilles's armor, as a sign of his true self, and Penthesilea seems pleased with this "unbridled" metonymic identity (88). When he asks her name, she offers an unfixed concept of identity that can only temporarily be grasped in symbols: "If you forgot the name, or lost the ring: would you still find my image in yourself?" Penthesilea proposes a metaphorical image of the self that cannot be seen, that presents itself to the closed eye. Only after Achilles insists that her image is fixed, "etched in diamond," does she resort to the same terms and give him her name (89).
Although Achilles cannot seem to hear it, Penthesilea communicates from a destabilized subject position in scene 15. When she responds to his persistent questions with a lengthy tale about the origins of the Amazon state, her lapse into exposition deflates the erotic tension raised by her Rose Festival preparations. The "interlude of tedium" devoid of music and action evokes Caroline Abbate's discussion of narrative moments in opera (Unsung 61). Abbate identifies a hesitation in operatic narration between "monaural" straightforward reporting and "reflexive" self-conscious narrating (Unsung 62-63). Such a hesitation arises when Penthesilea narrates the Amazon history: her sense of self is unshaken, but her listeners know that she is actually Achilles's captive. She thus speaks simultaneously from multiple subject positions as the victorious queen, the defeated enemy, the subject and object of desire. The dislocation of voice through operatic narrative appears to open up potential space for the destabilized subject of Amazon history.
Penthesilea narrates the undoing of binary categories when she recalls first seeing Achilles:
I stood there, dazzled by the apparition, After you had withdrawn--as, when at night Lightning falls before a wanderer, The rumbling portals of Elysium open With radiance for a soul and close again. (102) (48)
The Queen describes a disruption of ordinary sight, a blindness, that enables a vision of paradise and love, as if from a place beyond the paradox of victory and defeat in which she is caught. The dislocation of perspective from the binary produces polyphony: Penthesilea describes sounds from no single identifiable source: a "rumbling" in a moment of blindness. (49) Operatic form underscores the multiplicitous aurality of the scene: Penthesilea's speech is essentially a second song. Her extended simile--"as when"--echoes the conventional heightening of expression that motivates aria in eighteenth-century opera. But the openness of the moment quickly re-solidifies into binary conflict: "But quickly I resolved I would accept / But one of these: to win you or to die." (50) Indeed, at this moment, Prothoe has detected the approach of the Greeks and the impending return to action. The polyphonic operatic moment has passed, yet not without destabilizing oppositions.
Of course, the ultimate destruction of categories occurs offstage, in Penthesilea's bacchantic dismembering of Achilles. "Kisses" and "bites" collapse, as if they were a line of song, which distorts language and renders words and meanings indistinguishable. (51) The musical collapse into simultaneous wonder and terror is heard by the other Amazons on stage. When Penthesilea triumphs over Achilles, the high priestess at first hears Achilles's defeat as an "exclamation of joy" more "blissful" than any ever heard (124). Not until an Amazon climbs a hill to look does joy turn to horror, "as if she'd cast eyes on Medusa" (125). Medusa, a Gorgon, was associated with bestial shrieking, with death but also creation, and thus with the ambivalences of female voice (Segal 23). When Penthesilea finally returns to the stage, she does so as a gorgon, the "animal woman" (Clement 112), the opera diva.
In tune with an operatic reading of the finale, Penthesilea does not so much "speak" as sing herself to death. (52) The lyrical continuity of her final lines marks a shift from her prior disjointed, discursive utterances, suggesting that climactic moment of operatic song: the aria.
For now I shall descend into my breast, And dig a shaft, and quarry out the cold Ore of a feeling that annihilates. This ore I purify in fire of grief To hardest steel; in poison then, of bitter, Burning remorse, I soak it, through and through; Now carry it toward Hope's eternal anvil, And grind and sharpen it into a dagger; And to this dagger now I yield my breast: So! So! So! So! Again!--Now it is done. (148) (53)
The Queen's blacksmithing is heard rather than seen, just as in operatic performance, audiences traditionally overlook visual conflicts with verisimilitude and instead receive the performance largely as sound (Abbate, Opera 254-55). The song is a simile aria: it offers an extended comparison of feeling, here to mining and forging. But Penthesilea's swan song lacks the generalization of emotion that typically characterizes aria. It insists on individuality by remaining in the first person. Further, its opening "for" grounds and specifies where the implied "as when" of simile detaches and broadens. While paradoxically limiting, form in aria, as in polyphonic music, provides the grounding structure necessary in order to create the experience of structurelessness. Individual subjectivity persists, even as it is destabilized.
Penthesilea's aria expresses new creative powers. Where the original Amazons melted their jewelry in order to forge weapons to overthrow their captors, Penthesilea finds the necessary raw material within herself, namely, the silvery "ore" of her voice. As in Kleist's typical configuration of musical paradise, Penthesilea recovers with her voice an idyllic musical past remembered by her Amazon companions: "she was a child as of the nightingale" (128). If her suicide were only a radical gesture of undoing, then her "feeling that annihilates" would be a sufficient weapon, its excavation from her breast alone fatal. But Penthesilea processes her raw feeling, that formless silver of her "voice": she purifies it, quenches it, and finally, shapes it on the "anvil of hope." Her blacksmithing metaphor emphasizes creation over destruction, strength over weakness. The Queen's last words, "Now it is done," convey the satisfaction of an artisan who has completed a work, not the despair of a tragic figure.
The language of recovered peace and well-being that follows her song coincides with operatic rather than tragic resolution. Her companions' comments flame her death positively: Meroe declares that she has followed Achilles, the lover inaccessible to her in the world of the play, and Prothoe wishes her well (148). Prothoe sums up Penthesilea's late in closing with an oak parable: "The dead oak stands against the storm, / The healthy one he topples with a crash / Because his grasp can reach into its crown" (148). (54) Scholars often cite the oak parable as a quintessential example of Kleistian paradox, and Brown credits it to Kleist's observation of natural phenomena (48). But the oak parable was also a conventional expression of perseverance in eighteenth-century opera, where the singer typically identifies with the aged yet unyielding tree. (55) The operatic parable thus emphasizes the persistence of the transcendental hope Penthesilea creates simultaneous to her "annihilation." Though fallen, she remains paradoxically "healthy" through the musical dimension of her final act. As a singer, Penthesilea repeats and performatively outdoes Tanais's act of freeing the Amazons from gendered form.
The music of the Amazonian voice resounds with paradox: cannibalistic annihilation can be heard simultaneously as a productive, redemptive performance. (56) What looks monstrous to the eye, or sounds like howling to the unprepared ear, emerges as the destabilization inherent to Kleist's musico-natural ideal. The link between Kleist's musical ideal and the feminine remains unsettling, however. The Greeks never become attuned to vocality in the play, and even the weight of Achilles's operatic tradition fails to open his ears to the destabilizing power of music. Kleist portrays the music of voice as inaccessible to the male characters of the play, and to the male artist. Although Penthesilea's performances suggest a self "prior" to the symbolic order, they cannot be wholly detached from order, in that they are always at some level the performances of a woman. When Kleist bestows only Amazons with the malleable, "silver" ore of voice, he reasserts the fantasy of the woman as mouthpiece. When that mouthpiece starts to sing of its own accord, the logic of representation demands its "undoing" (Clement). In this sense, Penthesilea stands as a prelude to the operatic tradition of the nineteenth century, in which social roles are transgressed and constantly reinscribed.
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Women in German Yearbook, vol. 27, 2011. Copyright [c] University of Nebraska Press.
(1.) Unless otherwise indicated, translations of Penthesilea are Joel Agee's, cited by page number. "Musik, ihr Fraun, Musik! Ich bin nicht ruhig. / Lasst den Gesang erschallen! Macht mich still!" (Samtliche Werke 1: lines 1731-32). The original German text from Kleist's writings is cited from Samtliche Werke und Briefe, henceforth SW, volume 1 or 2. Plays are cited by line number.
(2.) It is one of only four songs in Kleist's plays: Die Familie Schroffenstein opens with a choral song, and Die Hermannsschlacht (1821) contains songs by its heroine (act 2, scene 7) and by a chorus of bards (act 5, scene 14).
(3.) Prothoe's repeated admonishments in scene 14 have already drawn attention to the Queen's misplaced passions: "Be calm, my Queen" (78) ("Sei ruhig, meine Konigin" ) and "Do temper yourself, please, my precious Queen" (80) ("O meine teure Konigin, massge dich" ).
(4.) The curious text of the hymn reflects the empty artificiality of the moment. It is more concerned with the war's retreat than love's advent, and the refrain repeats unanswered calls for the God of marriage: "Hymen! Where art thou?" (85; Kraft 6).
(5.) "eine Jungfrau," "Chor der Jungfraun" (stage directions, 381-82).
(6.) Brown calls the singers "flower maidens" (296), but according to the stage directions, the rose-gathering children exited at the end of scene 9, and their absence is noted when, just prior to calling for song, Penthesilea notices a basket of roses on the ground and Prothoe tells her the maidens left it behind (1722-24).
(7.) Brown briefly speculates that the Amazon song echoes the "lyric and choric interludes" of classical drama (296); Kraft reads the hymn as deceptive and dissonant within her broader discussion of musical dissonance as a symptom of Penthesilea's failed self-assertion (74-77). Mahlendorf notes the inappropriateness of the hymn (263).
(8.) Hermand offers a summary of feminist readings of the play, albeit one seemingly affected by his own views on women's sexuality (Schindler 191-92).
(9.) Pfeiffer follows Jean Wilson in reading the play's shifting performances as a staging of unstable and restrictive cultural constructs.
(10.) Similarly, Schuller's consideration of the play's Bildersprache notes the incursion of aurality into the play but attributes it to sensory confusion ("Liebe" 53; "Penthesilea" 90).
(11.) On vision in terms of the male gaze in Penthesilea see Schell. See also Schneider on the play's deconstruction of the symbolic visibility of the ideal in German classical drama.
(12.) Chaouli and Benbow read Penthesilea's orality, respectively, as a transgression of Enlightenment rationalization of aesthetics, and of gender.
(13.) Except where indicated, Miller's translations of Kleist's letters, anecdotes, and journalism are used. "Ich selbst muss [ein Madchen] mir formen und ausbilden, sonst furchte ich, geht es mir, wie mit dem Mundstuck an meiner Klarinette. Die kann man zu Dutzenden auf der Messe kaufen, aber wenn man sie braucht, so ist kein Ton rein. Da gab mir einst der Musikus Baer in Potsdam ein Stuck, mit der Versicherung, das sei gut, er konne gut darauf spielen. Ja, er, das glaub ich. Aber mir gab es lauter falsche quiekende Tone an. Da schnitt ich mir von einem gesunden Rohre ein Stuck ab, formte es nach meinen Lippen, schabte und kratzte mit dem Messer bis es in jeden Einschnitt meines Mundes passte--und das ging herrlich. Ich spielte nach Herzenslust--" (SW 2: 549).
(14.) Kleist's letters to his fiance constitute a pedagogical project of shaping her (Nobile 40-42), whittling her life's role down to wife and mother. Yet the overtly alienating rigidity of the letters yields on analysis to an investigation of, rather than propagation of, the fixed gender roles of the bourgeois family (Hermann 215). See also Lange 705-06.
(15.) See also Weigel 38.
(16.) Iffland rejected Kleist's Das Kathchen von Heilbronn in August 1810, effectively dashing Kleist's hopes of a theatrical career in Berlin. Kleist articulates his ideals for the National Theater in "Unmassgebliche Bemerkung" (17 Oct. 1810) and "Schreiben eines redlichen Berliners, das hiesige Theater betreffend, an einen Freund im Ausland" (20 Nov. 1810).
(17.) Lyrical opera in three acts by Joseph Weigl (composer) and Ignaz Vincenz Franz Castelli (librettist).
(18.) As expressed, e.g., in "Unmassgebliche Bemerkung" (Non-authoritative remark): "And indeed, if in a theater, like Berlin's, with disregard for all other considerations, the highest law were filling the till: then the scene would needs be conceded directly to the Spanish riders, conjurers, and clowns" (SW 2: 410; my translation).
(19.) "Das Singspiel: "Die Schweizerfamilie" [...] wird nun auch auf dem hiesigen Konigl. Nationaltheater einstudiert. [...] Wie nun die Rolle der Emeline (von welcher, als der Hauptfigur, das ganze Gluck dieses Stuckes abhangt) besetzt werden wird, und ob sie der Mademoiselle Schmalz, wegen des Umfangs und der Gediegenheit ihrer Stimme--wegen Ubung und Gewandtheit im Spiel der Madame Muller, oder wegen der glucklichen Verbindung beider der Madam Eunicke, (welches wohl das Zweckmassigste ware) zufallen wird, steht dahin" (SW 2: 414).
(20.) SW 1: 36. See also Weigel's thorough account of the opera scandal (39-51).
(21.) For the latter see "Schreiben eines redlichen Berliners" (n. 16 above).
(22.) Penthesilea premiered in Berlin on 25 April 1876, with Clara Ziegler in the title role. See Reeve's account of the performance and its reception (80-81).
(23.) For an important correction of disdainful attitudes towards performing women and an account of their contributions to German literature and culture in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, see Dupree.
(24.) When Penthesilea finally premiered (see n. 22 above), Clara Ziegler also relied on gesture and intonation in her portrayal of the Amazon Queen (Reeve 80). These early performances of Penthesilea suggest that its successful staging relies on more than language. The trend continues with Ottmar Schoeck's acclaimed one-act opera of 1927 and into the twenty-first century with Stephan Kimmig's 2005 production, which emphasized music, pantomime, and dance (Gutjahr, "Gewalt" 25-26).
(25.) Kleist's letter to Henriette Hendel-Schutz was written on 22 or 23 April 181l (SW 2: 860).
(26.) "die treffliche Kunstlerin, [...] welche die seltne Gabe zugleich besitzt, mit der Feder dasjenige lebendig darzustellen, was sie gesehen, gedacht und empfunden; so wie sie das Gleiche auf der hochsten Stufe der dramatischen Mimik, und der mimischen Plastik langst geleistet hat" (SW 2: 423).
(27.) "Wenn ich beim Dichten in meinen Busen fassen, meinen Gedanken ergreifen, und mit Handen, ohne weitere Zutat, in den deinigen legen konnte: so ware, die Wahrheit zu gestehen, die ganze innere Forderung meiner Seele erfullt" ("Brief eines Dichters an einen Anderen," 5 Jan. 1811; SW 2: 347).
(28.) This is Krimmer's translation (Company 29). Krimmer cites the passage in her discussion of theatrical cross-dressing but does not pursue the notion of voice as a marker of authenticity.
(29.) "waves of air and of water" is my translation. The original reads "so die Wellen der Luft und des Wassers zugleich mich umtonten" (SW 2: 569). Miller's translation, "so that the wind and water resounded together in my ears" (63), omits "waves" ("Wellen").
(30.) "Nachtigall-durchschmetterten / Granatwald" (1895-96).
(31.) "Entgrenzen des Horenden in ein Umgreifendes (als Eins-Werden mit dem unendlichen 'Gotteskorper')" (Greiner, "'Das ganze Schrecken'" 511-12).
(32.) "Und wer auch fern, vom Windzug hergefuhrt, / nur ihre Silberstimme horen wollte, / Musst eine Schlacht, unruhmlich, zweifelhaft / vorher [...] kampfen" (553-56).
(33.) "Nur die Meute, furcht ich, die wird in W [...] mit Gluck nicht Heulen, Lieber; den Larm setz ich, vergonn, in Musik" ("Der Theater-Bearbeiter der Penthesilea," SW 1: 21).
(34.) It could also be argued that teichoscopy lends the entrances intensity parallel to the tension music creates when characters arrive in opera. See Robinson, who claims that the intensity of music is "unapproachable in drama" (131).
(35.) "jene Darstellungsform, die dem Zuschauer mittelbar, in der Deigesis einer am Geschehen nicht beteiligten Figur, vor Augen stellt" (188).
(36.) See also Greiner (Kleists Dramen 172) and Campe, who traces a shift from teichoscopic to pantomimic representation in the play ("Zweierlei Gesetz" 337).
(37.) "Musik der Rede" (2389). In the present context, Trevelyan's translation is preferable (244). See Agee's rendering of the phrase as "speechless Music'" (113).
(38.) "eine [...] Stimme 'vor' der Artikulation." For Schuller, however, the voice is still tied to appearance ("Erscheinung"; "Penthesilia" 90).
(39.) See also Kittler's chapter on Penthesilea (181-90). See Sng, who examines another possible source of the name, the river Tanais, in terms of the play's thematization of origins (83-90).
(40.) "Und klirrte [...] / Mit dera Gedrohn der Glocken, auf" (1999-2000).
(41.) "hiess es" (16), "horen wir" (22).
(42.) Trevelyan's translation is preferable here (170), because it captures the aural denotation of the original, "niederbrausend" (121).
(43.) See also ter Horst 173.
(44.) The stage direction "in die Ferne hinausschauend" (340) appears in Trevelyan's translation ("looking into the distance" 184) but not in Agee's (28).
(45.) They call for the machinery of war with much the same fury as Penthesilea does when Achilles's final challenge enrages her in scene 20 (114-16). Passion on an operatic scale seems to belong to the Amazons as a whole, not merely their queen.
(46.) For example, he tells Prothoe one moment that he intends the same fate for Penthesilea that Hector met (75), and the next that he intends to make her his queen (76).
(47.) See also Simpson 150.
(48.) "Geblendet stand ich, als du jetzt entwichen / Von der Erscheinung da-wie wenn zur Nachtzeit / Der Blitz vor einen Wandrer fallt, die Pforten / Elysiums, des glanzerfullten, rasselnd, / Vor einem Geist sich offnen und verschliessen" (2212-16).
(49.) See Schuller, who reads this passage as a moment in which "Blendung als auratischem geschehen und Blendung als Verblendung und Blindheit" become indistinguishable ("Liebe" 53).
(50.) "Doch von zwei Dingen schnell beschloss ich eines, / Dich zu gewinnen, oder umzukommen" (2220-22).
(51.) Kleist is aware of, and expressly prefers, linguistic distortions to outright substitutions where music is concerned when he comments on translating the French opera Cendrillon (Cinderella) into the German Aschenbrodel: "Why not, before one attacks the very life of this fairy tale to such an extent by substituting an, in itself well chosen, but still arbitrary and meaningless name, rather, in order to oblige the music, contract the 'del' into 'd'l' or elide the d altogether?" ("Schreiben aus Berlin," SW 2: 411-12; my translation).
(52.) See, e.g., Krimmer, Representation 60; Gutjahr, "Gewalt" 39; Debriacher 73; Neumann 65.
(53.) "Denn jetzt steig ich in meinen Busen nieder. / Gleich einem Schlacht, und grabe, kalt wie Erz, / Mir ein vernichtendes Gefuhl hervor. / Dies Erz. dies lautr' ich in der Glut des Jammers, / Hart ruir zu Stahl; trank es mit Gift sodann, / Heissatzendem, der Reue, durch und durch; / Trag es der Hoffnung ewgem Amboss zu, / Und scharf und spitz es mir zu einem Dolch; / Und diesem Dolch jetzt reich ich meine Brust: / So! So! So! So! Und wieder!--Nun ists gut" (3025-34).
(54.) "Die abgestorbne Eiche steht ira Sturm, / Doeh die gesunde sturzt er schmetternd nieder, / Weil er in ihre Krone greifen kann" (3041-43).
(55.) Pietro Metastasio included such a parable aria, "Quercia annosa," in his libretto Scipio's Dream, which was set fourteen times from 1735 to 1772 (the last rime by Mozart). The motif also appears in the aria "Quercus annosa elata" in Simon Mayr's 1793 oratorio Sisara.
(56.) Kleist perhaps prefigures the musical dimension of Penthesilea when he comments to his fiance on the moral ambivalence of voice: "There is no use saying that a voice deep within confides secretly and clearly what is just. The same voice that calls on the Christian to forgive his enemies calls on the save to roast him, and he eats him up with piety" (15 Aug. 1801; Abyss 125).
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|Publication:||Women in German Yearbook|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2011|
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