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Elsa's reason: On beliefs and motives in Wagner's Lohengrin

Abstract
Abstract

Once Wagner's most popular opera, Lohengrin has suffered scholarly neglect in the post-war period. This essay re-engages with the work from the novel perspective of game theory analysis. Centring on Elsa's breach of the Frageverbot, it offers a close epistemological study of the opera's main characters. As an alternative to traditional interpretations of the heroine's fatal decision, we propose a complex and psychologically more compelling account. Elsa asks the forbidden question because she needs to confirm Lohengrin's belief in her innocence, a belief that Ortrud successfully erodes in Act II. This interpretation reveals Elsa as a rational individual, upgrades the dramatic significance of the Act I combat scene, and, more broadly, signals a return to a hermeneutics of Wagnerian drama.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Heike Harmgart , Steffen Huck and Wieland Müller , ‘The Miracle as a Randomization Device: A Lesson from Richard Wagner's Romantic Opera Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg’, Economics Letters, 102 (2009), 3335

Ken Binmore's Game Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2007)

Graham G. Hunt , ‘Ortrud and the Birth of a New Style in Act 2, Scene 1 of Wagner's Lohengrin’, Opera Quarterly, 20 (2004), 4770

Robert J. Aumann , ‘Agreeing to Disagree’, Annals of Statistics, 4/6 (1976), 12361239

Paul Milgrom and Nancy Stokey , ‘Information, Trade and Common Knowledge’, Journal of Economic Theory, 26 (1982), 1727

James K. Sebenius and John Geanakoplos , ‘Don't Bet On It: Contingent Agreements With Asymmetric Information’, Journal of the American Statistical Association, 78 (1983), 424426

Stephen M. Stigler , ‘Thomas Bayes's Bayesian Inference’, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A (General), 145 (1982), 250258

Dan Sperber , ‘Intuitive and Reflective Beliefs’, Mind & Language, 12/1 (March1997), 6783

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Cambridge Opera Journal
  • ISSN: 0954-5867
  • EISSN: 1474-0621
  • URL: /core/journals/cambridge-opera-journal
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