Around the hero everything becomes a tragedy; around the demigod everything becomes a satyr-play; and around God everything becomes--what? perhaps a "world"?

This may be a common question, but how is this quote from Beyond Good and Evil usually interpreted?

I can see how he might say that heroism requires sacrifice, and that this sacrifice makes the hero tragic, or perhaps that heroes can only arise in an already tragic situation. However, I have no idea what the piece about the demigod might mean. Furthermore, although I suppose the piece about God might be using the term "God" in place of "creator", thereby making a statement about how creators shape worlds around them, but I'm not very confident that my interpretation captures the full depth of the quote. This seems like a very important quotation to me, so I'd like to understand it thoroughly.

  • 1
    He means that: the mere existence of a hero spotlights everyone else's deficiencies and, specifically, reveals how everyone and everything "could have been great" if the same traits and abilities existed in everyone.
    – RAD30N
    Apr 13, 2022 at 2:24

6 Answers 6


To me the Hero seeks out tragedy, he sees that people are down and helps them whith his big ol' heart. The hero is part of the play thus trapped in the movie of life. A demi-god can see all the plays from an airial point of view, while God can see the world as one,perhaps.

  • I like this perspective. If you have a reference this would guide me to more information. Welcome! Feb 25, 2019 at 17:50

I guess one of the way this quote can be interpreted (I don’t want to claim it’s the only way) regards getting the “semantic of the language” (the meaning of terms) N. will use to explain his philosophy, which is a fundamental step to understand someone’s point. Here N. simply defines the “hero” as the center of the “tragedy sphere”, the “demigod” as the center of the “satyr-play sphere” and the “God” as the center of the “World”.

While heroic nature is inherently linked with tragedy main concepts of unfulfillment and struggle against faith, the demigod nature goes beyond the idea of “struggling against faith to death” and it comes closer to the idea of “getting into the flow of faith”

The “Also sprach Zarathustra” has been structured as Satyrspiel (made of 4 parts: 3 tragic acts and 1 final satyr-play act) as Zarathustra is a demigod (in a Nietzscheian sense, see above) just like Christ: both are not tragic heros.

  • +1: for some reason I was wondering recently how useful it would be to read TSZ as a satire. Sep 1, 2016 at 3:04

“Around the hero everything turns to tragedy, around the demigod everything turns to satyr play: and around god everything turns to – what? perhaps to ‘world’ –?” Yes, Nietzsche invites us to say, to world. .. in classical Athens on the great days of theatre at the Dionysia festival, first came the tragedies, then the satyr play, and last the comedy. “Everything” turns to world only around a god – and turns to comedy.

Laurence Lampert, "Nietzsche’s Philosophy and True Religion", Blackwell Companion, 2006, p.144

This is perhaps a 'technical' view and but thus it is rather difficult to see how it could be wrong. More on the centrality in Michael W. Grenke, Man in the Middle, Int. St. in Phphy, 34:3, 2002, p.153-69

  • Excellent! This sounds exactly like the point Nietzsche would obliquely make, expecting people to get the reference. "If it ends with a wedding, it's a comedy. And if it ends with a funeral, it's a tragedy." as Robyn Schnieder puts it, a mortal hero can only end their story with death, but a god has a transcendental perspective, and in that freedom who would not laugh? That is redefining personal narrative beyond the personal.
    – CriglCragl
    Mar 19, 2020 at 16:40

Here's my take on it in terms of pain and humour.

The first part could be read ironically - one regards himself a hero in the face of what he regards a tragedy. It's the principle of self-pity, of the desire to be felt sorry about (once you categorise the tragedy as a real tragedy, the hero seems noble).

To develop this interpretation for the second part; a step out of this dynamics requieres the identification with the grotesque, pranster-like aspect of pain and suffering. Suddenly the hero seems rather comic - and the demigod is the one laughing.

God is the one who's isolated from the realm of mortality and vulnerability - as the world is a subject to interpretation, God is a subject of interpretation too.

What do y'all think about such an approach?

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    – J D
    Mar 18, 2020 at 4:07
    Nietzsche may also be alluding to his observation that when

the masses honor their Gods of peace, they do so only with destruction. It would be easier to make the statements in question metaphorical, depending on the words he used in the original German text.


To understand this quote, watch any Marvel or DC movie. At some point, inevitably and without fail, the hero(es) and the villain(s) get into it, and end up destroying a large part of some major city. Cars get tossed around like candy, buildings collapse, fires burst out of nowhere, people run screaming in terror... For each of the people on the street, the event is pure tragedy.

The concept of a hero is built around virtue ethics. Heroes are those with intrinsic virtues that lead them (naturally) to confront and oppose what they perceive as contemptible and corrupt. For the concept of a hero to be meaningful there must be misery, depravity, and maliciousness. There must be tragedy or there is nothing for the hero to overcome. A man intent on becoming a hero must find or create tragedy; no other path to heroism exists.

In Nietzsche-speak we could say that a hero is an over-coming, not an over-going or a down-going (things Zarathustra finds great in mankind).

A hero needs villainy to confront; a demigod needs monsters and monstrosities to confront. Analogically, a god needs a world to confront: a world in which evil and ignorance and brutalism hold sway and must be overcome. Without a decadent world to confront, the concept of God would have no meaning.

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