A tale of forbidden love and inevitable death, the medieval legend of Tristan and Isolde recounts the story of two lovers unknowingly drinking a magic potion and ultimately dying in one another's arms. Critics have lauded Wagner's Tristan und Isolde for the originality and subtlety of the music, but have often viewed the drama as a "mere trifle," about Wagner's own forbidden affair with Matilde Wesendonk, the wife of a banker who supported him during his exile in Switzerland. In Death-Devoted Heart Scruton aims to vindicate the stature of the drama, presenting it as more than just a sublimation of the composer's love for Wesendonck or a wistful romantic dream. Scruton argues that Tristan und Isolde has profound religious meaning, as relevant today as it was to Wagner's contemporaries. Both philosophical and musicological, Scruton's analysis touches on the nature of tragedy, the significance of ritual sacrifice, and the meaning of redemption. Scruton provides a guide to the drama while offering insight into the nature of erotic love and the peculiar place of the erotic in our culture.
Roger Scruton is currently Research Professor for the Institute for the Psychological Sciences where he teaches philosophy at their graduate school in both Washington and Oxford. He is a writer, philosopher and public commentator. He has specialised in aesthetics with particular attention to music and architecture. He engages in contemporary political and cultural debates from the standpoint of a conservative thinker and is well known as a powerful polemicist. He has written widely in the press on political and cultural issues.