Summary: Part IV: Chapter 10-20

Chapter 10: At Noon

Zarathustra lies down under a tree at noon and takes a nap, enraptured at how perfect the world seems.

Chapter 11: The Welcome

Zarathustra returns to his cave, where he hears once more the cry of distress that he thought came from the higher man. Entering his cave, he realizes it has come collectively from all those whom he encountered during the day. Zarathustra speaks to this assembly, telling them that they are not overmen and that he has not been searching for them. They are still too weak, seeking consideration from others and bearing still some of the prejudices of the past. They are mere bridges to the overman, signs that something greater is on its way.

Chapter 12: The Last Supper

At the soothsayer's urging, the company prepares a feast together.

Chapter 13: On the Higher Man

At supper, Zarathustra speaks to his companions about the higher man. Zarathustra learned early on (in the Prologue) that there is no use in talking to the mob about the overman, since they all claim that everyone is equal before God. God is dead now, and man must be overcome in order to create the overman. Self-overcoming requires courage, evil, suffering, self- motivation, and solitude. Zarathustra suggests to the higher men around him that they should not be sad that they are not overmen. What is most important is that they should mistrust everything unconditionally and should learn to laugh and to dance.

Chapter 14: The Song of Melancholy

Zarathustra steps outside, and the magician sings to the others. The poem centers on the melancholy surmise that he is not a seeker after the truth, but only a fool or only a poet.

Chapter 15: On Science

The man who is conscientious of spirit asserts that science originated in fear: humans feared other animals and their own animal instincts, and refined this fear into science. Zarathustra, returning to the cave, hears this last bit, and suggests that science was born from refining our courage, not our fear.

Chapter 16: Among Daughters of the Wilderness

Zarathustra's shadow sings about a time when he was in the Orient—far from Europe—and surrounded with all sorts of delights.

Chapter 17: The Awakening

Zarathustra steps outside again and is pleased that his companions and he have chased away the spirit of gravity. But then he sees them all inside, praying to the king's ass (donkey).

Chapter 18: The Ass Festival

Zarathustra leaps in and chastises his guests for praying to the ass. However, he takes this as a good sign, since it shows that they are convalescing.

Chapter 19: The Drunken Song

They all step outside into the cool night and the ugliest man says that for the first time he is satisfied with his entire life. The others agree and all turn to Zarathustra in gratitude. Zarathustra sings a song that in many ways is the culmination of the entire book. The world is very deep, full of deep sorrows and deep joys. But while sorrow and suffering want people to aim for something else, joy wants only itself for all eternity. Because all things in the universe are intimately connected, we cannot wish for an eternity of joy without wishing for the suffering that accompanies this joy. "Joy wants the eternity of all things, wants deep, wants deep eternity."

Chapter 20: The Sign

Zarathustra rises the next morning and finds a lion outside his cave, which he takes to be a sign that the overman is coming. Zarathustra rises triumphantly, realizing he has overcome his final sin: pity for the higher man.

Analysis: Part IV: Chapter 10-20

Part IV is lined with the pervasive irony and humor that we should expect from a book that is constantly praising laughter. In the first nine chapters, we see all sorts of caricatures that are meant in part to poke fun at Nietzsche himself. The last eleven chapters contain even more light-heartedness, which reaches its epitome in the delightfully frivolous song by Zarathustra's shadow.

None of Zarathustra's companions can be overmen because they all carry too much of the old world with them. For instance, the pope is weighed down by his love for God, and the ugliest man is weighed down by his resentment of pity. Zarathustra (and Nietzsche elsewhere) claims several times that the overman is something that must be bred, which explains his interest in marriage and breeding. These men are potential breeders: they have the right goal in mind, and the right intentions. Unlike them, perhaps their children may be born free of the prejudices that they themselves have worked so hard to shake off.

Zarathustra reassures his companions, urging them to dance and laugh. Above all, they should avoid the unconditional: anything that claims to be absolute, such as God, truth, or morality. This is equivalent to the claim made in the commentary on the second half of Part III, that all Nietzsche's criticisms are aimed fundamentally at the "spirit of gravity," which fails to see that nothing is permanent. The chapter "On the Higher Man" contains something of a summary of Nietzsche's thought (like "On Old and New Tablets" in Part III), and ends with a long exhortation to dance and laughter.

Immediately following this exhortation, however, we have the magician's "Song of Melancholy," in which he wonders whether this dance and laughter is merely an escape from the truth that makes them only fools or only poets. This is a moment of self-criticism and self-doubt by Nietzsche, and this song, as with all the other poems in Part four, was published elsewhere in a slightly altered version under Nietzsche's own name. Perhaps, he wonders, in all my efforts to free myself from dogmatism and absolutism, I've freed myself from everything substantial. Like a fool or a poet, perhaps I deal only with frivolous and pleasing subjects, and that's why I laugh. These doubts are immediately dismissed, and are followed by a discussion of science that is a bit out of place in this part of the book.

The final moment of self-doubt comes when the company begins praying to an ass, in an allusion to Exodus: 32 in the Bible, where the people of Israel build a golden calf just before Moses descends from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments. Similarly, the Last Supper, which is alluded to in the title of chapter twelve, is the moment of the Holy Eucharist, which is central to Christian worship. These moments of solemn law giving, however, become moments of laughter for Zarathustra. By alluding to these biblical passages, Nietzsche is signaling that he is about to lay down his own "commandments" in the penultimate chapter, but that these are not law-like commandments that must be obeyed by all. Rather, he lays out an exhortation to laugh and to seek joy, to mock anything serious, including ourselves, and, of course, including the scriptures that are being alluded to.

The Drunken Song contains a joyous affirmation of the eternal recurrence:

Have you ever said Yes to a single joy? O my friends, then you said Yes to all woe. All things are entangled, ensnared, enamored; if ever you wanted one thing twice, if ever you said, "You please me, happiness! Abide, moment!" then you wanted all back. All anew, all eternally, all entangled, ensnared, enamored—oh, then you loved the world. Eternal ones, love it eternally and evermore; and to woe too, you say: go, but return! For all joy wants—eternity.


The universe is not made up of static, separate moments that can be identified and isolated. Rather, it is in constant flux, and everything in every moment is a part of this fundamental process of becoming. Thus, no moment of joy can be singled out from this flux and held on to as if it were separate from the rest. If one can accept the eternal recurrence and what Deleuze calls "the being of becoming," one can accept that one's joys are not distinct from one's miseries. You can either take all or nothing, and if you take all, you must be willing to have it for all eternity.

The appearance of the lion in the final chapter is an allusion to the first chapter, "On the Three Metamorphoses," where the lion is represented as the second stage on the way to becoming an overman. The lion will be followed by the child, the innocent creator. On seeing the lion, Zarathustra says, "my children are near, my children."

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