Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.  Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.

First published in 1882.

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The Problem of the Actor.

The problem of the actor has disquieted me the longest; I was uncertain (and am sometimes so still) whether one could not get at the dangerous conception of "artist"- a conception hitherto treated with unpardonable leniency from this point of view.  Falsity with a good conscience; delight in dissimulation breaking forth as power, pushing aside, overflowing, and sometimes extinguishing the so-called "character"; the inner longing to play a role, to assume a mask, to put on an appearance; a surplus of capacity for adaptations of every kind, which can no longer gratify themselves in the service of the nearest and narrowest utility: all that perhaps does not pertain solely to the actor in himself?  Such an instinct would develop most readily in families of the lower class of the people, who have had to pass their lives in absolute dependence, under shifting pressure and constraint, who (to accommodate themselves to their conditions, to adapt themselves always to new circumstances) had again and again to pass themselves off and represent themselves as different persons, thus having gradually qualified themselves to adjust the mantle to every wind, thereby almost becoming the mantle itself, as masters of the embodied and incarnated art of eternally playing the game of hide and seek, which one calls mimicry among the animals: until at last this ability, stored up from generation to generation, has become domineering, irrational and intractable, till as instinct it begins to command the other instincts, and begets the actor and "artist" (the buffoon, the pantaloon, the Jack- Pudding, the fool, and the clown in the first place, also the classical type of servant, Gil Bias: for in such types one has the precursors of the artist, and often enough even of the "genius").  Also under higher social conditions there grows under similar pressure a similar species of men: only the histrionic instinct is there for the most part held strictly in check by another instinct, for example, among "diplomatists"; for the rest, I should think that it would always be open to a good diplomat is to become a good actor on the stage, provided his dignity "allowed" it.  As regards the Jews, however, the adaptable people par excellence, we should, in conformity to this line of thought, expect to see among them a world-wide historical institution at the very first, for the rearing of actors, a proper breeding-place for actors; and in fact the question is very pertinent just now: what good actor at present is not a Jew?  The Jew also, as a born literary man, as the actual ruler of the European press, exercises this power on the basis of his histrionic capacity: for the literary man is essentially an actor, he plays the part of "expert” of "specialist".  Finally, women.  If we consider the whole history of women, are they not obliged first of all, and above all to be actresses?  If we listen to doctors who have hypnotised women, or, finally, if we love them and let ourselves be "hypnotised" by them, what is always divulged thereby?  That they "give themselves airs” even when they "give themselves".  Woman is so artistic.  
 

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