Clavigo: A Little Tale about the Sense of Guilt
The literary figure of Clavigo occupies a specific position in the Kierkgaardian corpus. It appears in the pseudonymous piece Either/Or, published in 1843. More significantly, it is in the section “Silhouettes” in which the aesthete A reworks three seduced and abandoned female figures from literature: Marie Beaumarchais, Donna Elvira, and Margarete. Together with that of Marie Beaumarchais, the character has evolved from the homonymous theatrical work by Goethe, published in 1774. Of clear Goethian inspiration, Kierkegaard’s Clavigo is a concentration of the image of the unfaithful lover who betrays and abandons the woman he loves, leaving her in the throes of desperation. The character takes the form of the literary-philosophical idea of the seducer who characterizes the entire aesthetic stage. The placement of Clavigo among the aesthetes is accomplished through the studied choice to place the object of his love among the “betrothed to sorrow,”1 alongside the famous silhouettes of Donna Elvira and Margarete. The unfaithful lover is thus placed on Olympus alongside the two great titans, Don Giovanni and Faust, despite lacking the theoretical consistency which characterizes the other two.