Friedrich Neitzsche

Today is the birthday of the great (and almost universally misunderstood) German philosopher Friedrich Neitzsche (1844-1900). Properly appreciated he is not the enemy of goodness, as is commonly assumed, but the enemy of dogma, and as such his influence on twentieth century art, particularly the drama, was incalculable. Not that I have to relate every post on this blog to vaudeville (because I frequently don’t) but you can actually draw a plausible line between the two. The connection is through major playwrights like August Strindberg, George Bernard Shaw and Eugene O’Neill (all of whom were massively influenced by Neitzsche) through to the lesser playwrights who wrote one acts playlets for the vaudeville stage in imitation of their betters. Neitzsche also influenced the great critic H.L. Mencken, who most assuredly is the original model for every bratty blogger and pundit practicing today (whether they know it or not). Neizsche’s The Birth of Tragedy (1872/1886) and his explication of the Apollonian vs. the Dionysian in art had a profound impact on me in my youth, and you will find countless references to that concept in both my earlier plays and critical writings, although in my old age I have grown leery of such facile constructs. It seems to me Neitzsche would have approved!

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