There are six main themes that are favorite subjects for all the arts in the Romantic era. These are evident in the work of writers such as Poe, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats and Byron.
The Struggling Hero
the notion of a hero that struggles against impossible odds the hero can be a contemporary figure (fictional or real). often the artist uses myth or legend to find a hero that will illustrate the struggle they wish to convey.
very old story that has varying version over the course of several centuries
Romantics were interested in the late 1700’s version of the legend by Goethe.
Faust is a medieval scientist who sells his soul for ‘superhuman illumination’ – is eventually saved by his love for Marguerite. story contains typical Romantic flavor – distant setting, cosmic questions about the limitations of man, demonic character, the pure love of an ideal woman.
Works that draw upon Faust for inspiration include:
The Faust Symphony (Franz Liszt)
Damnation of Faust (Hector Berlioz)
Eighth Symphony (Gustav Mahler)
Romantics viewed nature as an ‘idealized, magical and even divine world.’ they used it as a source for tranquility, or overwhelming demonic power.
Artists – painted the sea, or the Alps
Writers – commented on the power of nature and its’ endless, mysterious life
Pastoral Symphony by Beethoven – depicts moods of nature (stormy and peaceful).
literary master of Romantic horror – Edgar Allan Poe
Artists strove for dramatic effect – loved horror
Examples: Carl Maria von Weber’s opera Der Freischutz (midnight scene in forest features tolling bells, demonic manifestations, and magic bullets.
Mussorgsky’s – Night on Bald Mountain
Dukas – The Socerer’s Apprentice
distant, far away places, mysterious.
Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’ – literary example.
Composers focused on music that depicted far away places – they used instrumentation to depict the Far East (gongs, and scales); Spain (castanets and flamenco rhythms)
Romantic composers were