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Apollonian And Dionysian Impact On Literature English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1613 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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“As on the stormy sea which extends without limit on all sides, howling mountainous waves rise up and sink”


In these lines, it is shown that how a sailor amid heavy storm sit in his boat peacefully, not panicking. Apollo can be explained as the calm, self-control and rationality that the sailor has shown. He trusts in his principle of individuation, i.e., in his “TRUE SELF”. His immature psyche becomes integrated over time into a well-functioning whole. The concept of individualism here shows it is Apollonian and the Dionysian.

Line 2

“It is a dream! I want to dream it some more!”


We all dream about something. The dream can be explained as our interpretation of life. It is the world that we want to see. A world away from reality, filled with joy and happiness. Although all dreams are not always agreeable and friendly, some are filled with serious, dark and haunting images, filled with events that we are afraid of, that we don’t wants. This is dream state of Apollo. Hence the impact of Apollonian and Dionysian is clear here.

Line 3

“Do you fall down, you millions? World, do you have a sense of your creator?”


In Greek mythology, Dionysus is defined as the god of wine, ecstasy, and intoxication. The contrast between Apollo and Dionysus symbolizes principles of wholeness versus individualism, light versus darkness, or civilization versus primal nature. This is a typical Greek approach of literature.

Line 4

“When Silenus finally fell into the king Midas’ hands, the king asked: what was the best thing of all of men, the very finest.”


By above lines, we can see that Greeks knew about the horrors of living and the tragedy of existence. Hence out of fear or necessity, Greeks created these gods: Apollo and Dionysus. So the concept here is clearly Apollonian and Dionysian.

Line 5

“The very worst thing for them was to die soon; the second worst was to die at all.”


The above line is the creation of Silenus. By the creation of gods: Apollo and Dionysus, people started believing in life. There former fears of terrors of existence were diminishing. Through Apollo, through their dream, they can imagine a peaceful, self-controlled life for themselves. Similarly, Dionysus gave them happiness, passion and their wholeness of existence. People thought of living under blessings of these gods as living under bright sunlight and they started referring to pain as a separation from this sunlight.

Line 6

“With me, feeling at first lacks a defined and clear object; the latter develops for the first time later on”.


In the above lines, Schiller explains his psychological observation during his writing process. He explains that initially he does not have any clear picture of ideas that he want to share. All there is the blur image. This can be explained as unification with himself and the world, which is as explained by Dionysus.

Line 7

“What does music look like in the mirror of imagery and ideas?”


If we see the explanation given by Schopenhauer, which states exactly opposite to what above lines say, i.e., the music will appear as the aesthetic, purely contemplative, will-less state. But a lyric poet needs all the passion, lunacy and the excitement. If he sees music with Apollonian approach, he will find music in images, images parts of his dreams, his desires. He will interpret the music with his emotional dissatisfaction, his groaning, yearning and cheering.

Line 8

“Here I sit-I make men

in my own image,

a race like me,

to suffer, to weep,

to enjoy life and rejoice,

and to ignore you,

as I do.”


These are the lines of Aeschylus’s Prometheus. In these lines he is referring to the sufferings faced by individuals and the dangers faced by god. He wants to say that he can create men with his wisdom and knowledge and can also destroy gods. He knew about the sufferings but still was brave enough and confident that even these sufferings seem to him so minute.

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Line 9:

“Suffering creature, born for a day, child of accident and toil, why are you forcing me to say what would give you the greatest pleasure not to hear? The very best thing for you is totally unreachable: not to have been born, not to exist, to be nothing. The second best thing for you, however, is this-to die soon.”


The two lines shown above, in which first best thing is described as not to have been born and the second best thing is described as to die soon, shows us the fear in the hearts of emotionally sensitive and suffering people. The creation of these gods gave them strength, the hope to live. It showed to them the joy of life, the pleasure of living.

Line 10:

“The beautiful appearance of the world of dreams, in whose creation each man is a complete artist, is the precondition of all plastic art, and also, in fact, as we shall see, an important part of poetry”


According to this, the man, now not only is united with its neighbors but also with himself. This approach treats man, not as an artist but as a work of art. This work of art is created by nature. Due to intoxication, man feels himself above from reality, closer to god. The arguments are enough to show it is Apollonian and the Dionysian.

Line 11:

“A sailor sit in a row boat, trusting the weak craft, so, in the midst of a world of torments, the solitary man sits peacefully, supported by and trusting in the principium individuationis”


Apollo is the god of brightness, truth, clarity. It preaches humans to be sane, calm and composed even if they are surrounded by myriads of problems, same as the sailor does in the midst of stormy sea.

Line 12

“A certain musical emotional state comes first, and from this, with me, the poetic idea then follows.”


Then comes the emotion in the musical state and then followed by poetic ideas. Initially, he sees his ideas in the form of music. These ideas are filled with his pain and contradiction. Hence they can be explained as his unification with himself. This music seems to him as metaphorical dream image, which is explained in Apollo

Line 13

“It was in a dream that the great artist saw the delightful anatomy of superhuman existence”


But still everyone wants to dream more. They see light, brightness, a way to live there life through these dreams. Greeks associate this joyful necessity of dream experience with Apollo, the god of brightness. Apollo rules our inner world, our fantasy world. This is dream state in Apollonian.

Line 14

“The consciousness of the singer is filled with the subject of willing, that is, his own willing, often as an unleashed satisfied willing (joy), but also, and more often, as a restricted willing (sorrow), always as emotion, passion, a turbulent state of feeling”


The above lines signifies introduction of flock songs in literature which is a consequence of union between the Apollonian and the Dionysian.

Line 15:

“Singing and dancing, man expresses himself as a member of a higher community: he has forgotten how to walk and talk and is on the verge of flying up into the air as he dances”


Dionysian is artistic force is highlighted here and hence impact of Dionysian on literature is clearly visible.

Line 16:

“The earth freely offers up her gifts and the beasts of prey from the rocks and the desert approach in peace”


As Under the magic of the Dionysian the bond between man and nature itself rejoices. This highlights it is Dionysian.

Line 17:

“Now the slave a free man; now all the stiff, hostile barriers break apart, those things which necessity and arbitrary power or “saucy fashion” have established between men”


This is Dionysian’s artistic world where man in not fixed in boundaries of reality and is free to imagine.

Line 18:

“They have become their god’s timeless servants, living beyond all regions of society”


Here the Greek tragedy is represented as the Dionysian chorus. The man is servant of God and the Chorus is the sign for the jointly aroused Dionysian crowd.

Line 19:

“We’re not so particular in what we say:

Woman takes a thousand steps to get her way.

But no matter how quickly she can hurry on,

With just one leap the man will get it done”


This is a chorus which is constituent of Dionysian. Here the tragedy of a woman is represented in the form of chorus.

Line 20:

“Spontaneously he transferred the whole picture of the god, magically trembling in front of his soul”


Apollonian dream state is again in action here. The imagination of man to visualize god in dream state is highlighted here. Hence impact of Apollonian is clear.


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