Zarathustra: The Tragic Figure of the Last Philosopher
Nietzsche says often that he is the disciple of the philosopher Dionysus. After the death of God and the exhaustion of Socratism and philosophy, suddenly just at this moment Dionysus, the god of tragedy, becomes a philosopher. My aim in this essay is to explore the character of this tragic philosopher who wears the mask of the god whom, Nietzsche claims, was unmasked by Socrates and remained thus disempowered by this Socratic exposure even up until the time of Nietzsche. As a Dionysian disciple, Nietzsche positions himself as a satyr in the retinue of Dionysus; thus a he-goat, a tragic sacrificial figure who is destined to go under, to be surpassed, to perish. He is a manifestation of Dionysus himself since the distinction between the god and his devotees is surpassed in the frenzy of the Dionysian rites. The inadequacy of the distinction between disciple and god is evident in Euripides’ Bacchae where Dionysus in fact appears in the disguise of his followers. One of Dionysus’ favourite activities as the wearer of masks is in fact just this sort of selfmirroring disguising of himself. We might then conclude that Nietzsche, as the disciple of Dionysus, is the manifestation, the image, of Dionysus, the figure of this god; that Nietzsche’s name is a substitute for that of Dionysus. So when towards the end of his life Nietzsche at times signs his letters ‘Dionysus’, this is a confusion that is characteristic of devotees of Dionysus and of tragic theatre.