Did Nietzsche actually say this?
April 11, 2012 12:08 PM   Subscribe

"And those who were seen dancing were thought insane by those who could not hear the music." Did Nietzsche actually say this? What work is it from?

I've seen this quote attributed to him all over the place. It seems kinda suspicious to me & I want to know the context in which he actually said it if he did. Google gets me a whole bunch of people quoting it, but even a Google Books search doesn't turn up any actually Nietzsche books. Of course that might be an issue with translation (and I speak very little German). Can anyone help me out with this?
posted by vanitas to Writing & Language (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There's this bit, from The Birth of Tragedy:
Even in the German Middle Ages, under the same power of Dionysus, constantly growing hordes thronged from place to place, singing and dancing; in these St. John’s and St. Vitus’s dances we recognize the Bacchic chorus of the Greeks once again, with its precursors in Asia Minor, right back to Babylon and the orgiastic Sacaea. There are people who, from a lack of experience or out of apathy, turn mockingly or pityingly away from such phenomena as from a “sickness of the people,” with a sense of their own health. These poor people naturally do not have any sense of how deathly and ghost-like this very “health” of theirs sounds, when the glowing life of the Dionysian throng roars past them.
It's a little less pithy, but these "quotes" by famous writers you see floating around tend to be extreme paraphrases like this.
posted by theodolite at 12:16 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

This person looked into your question and decided that it's actually a misquote of Henri Bergson, who referred to comedy instead of insanity. The insanity quote has also been attributed to George Carlin and Angela Monet.
posted by John Cohen at 12:18 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

That was easy. Thank you! It definitely didn't sound like Nietzsche to me, even if there are some similar sentiments in that passage from the Birth of Tragedy...
posted by vanitas at 12:55 PM on April 11, 2012

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