Herodias, Magdalen and Prakriti
Like the young Parsifal, the wild woman has many names. The many elements in Wagner's Kundry included another archetype found in literature from the Middle Ages onwards: the Wandering Jew. In Wagner's poem, Kundry becomes a reincarnation of Herodias who, because she had laughed at the Saviour's suffering, was cursed to wander through the world until His return. She is not only cursed to wander, but also always to tell the truth; and she cannot weep, only laugh her accursed laugh. Another Herodias can be found in Heine's poem Atta Troll; this former princess of Judea does not wander the world, but rides, laughing, with the Wild Hunt across the sky. She appears as a cruel rose in Mallarmé's Les fleurs (1864):
L'hyacinthe, le myrte à l'adorable éclair
Et, pareille à la chair de la femme, la rose
Cruelle, Hérodiade en fleur du jardin clair,
Celle qu'un sang farouche et et radieux arrose!
In her Cambridge Handbook, Lucy Beckett entirely misses the point of the Herodias reference, but makes an interesting observation about the reference to Mary Magdalen. Beckett reminds us that in 1848 Wagner had sketched a scenario for a play called Jesus of Nazareth, which includes a scene in which the penitent Magdalen kneels in repentance before Jesus on the shore of Lake Gennesareth; later in the play she was to anoint his head and wash his feet, just as Kundry does toward Parsifal in the opera. Although Wagner repeatedly denied that Parsifal was a Christ- figure (I never gave the Saviour a thought, he said), this image had stayed with him and was incorporated by him into the Good Friday scene.
In Die Sieger, an opera that Wagner never completed, a chaste young man called Ananda receives into the religious community a beautiful girl called Prakriti, who has passionately loved him; but Shakyamuni, the future Buddha persuades him to renounce her. The Buddha reveals that in an earlier incarnation, Prakriti had rejected, with mocking laughter, the love of a young man. Prakriti is a parallel to Mary Magdalen in the sense that both are outcasts. By absorbing these two outcast women, in their different ways excluded and despised by patriarchal societies, who by their associations with the Buddha and Christ respectively introduce further religious iconography to Wagner's drama, Kundry gained a further dimension.
You give me this long lecture on a fictional operatic character by Wagner with biblical connotations and you rail at me for countering with another fictional character with biblical connotations by another Wagner, who was arguably one of the greatest and deepest authors in his literary genre of the late 20th century. Get over yourself, Milo.