Konrad & Jacob: A Hypothetical Kabbalistic Subtext in Adam Mickiewicz's Dziady, Czesc III

Stuart Goldberg, University of Wisconsin

The similarity between Konrad in Mickiewicz's Dziady, Czesc III and the biblical Jacob has been mentioned in passing by both Juliusz Kleiner and Michal Maslowski (Kleiner, Mickiewicz, 358; Maslowski, "Kto jest bohaterem 'Dziadów'?" Ruch Literacki 3, 147). However, neither explores the connection further. At the same time, while scholars such as Kleiner, Abraham Duker, Artur Sandauer, and Jadwiga Maurer have written about Jewish and particularly kabbalistic influences in Dziady, discussion has remained focused largely around the image of the "Max straszny" ['man of dread'] in Widzenie Ksiedza Piotra and especially on the gemmatriac formula A imie jego czterdziesci i cztery ['And his name is two score and four']. In the present paper, I explore the kabbalistic question further by testing the hypothesis that while Konrad does, in fact, function as a biblical Jacob who struggles with God, his true prototype is the kabbalistic Jacob of the Zohar whose mission is to harmonize the antagonistic forces of love and judgment through a mystic journey to the demonic other side (sitra ahra).

The poet's ties to Judaica have remained one of the most persistently taboo topics in Mickiewicz studies. Moreover, while it is highly probable that Mickiewicz had some knowledge of Kabbalah, due in part to alleged censorship of the poet's biography (not least of all by his son and most influential biographer, Wladislaw Mickiewicz), it is not possible to "prove" (or disprove) his acquaintance with any particular kabbalistic source. I focus my attention, rather, on the way an examination of kabbalistic texts enriches our reading of Dziady. If my reading can provoke new insights into the dynamics of the work as a whole, I will be happy to have ventured into a critical space so far removed from "verifiable" literary influences.

Similarities between the roles of Jacob in the Zohar and Konrad in Dziady can be seen clearly in at least three areas: the nature of Konrad's mystic journey, the nature of his sin, and the nature of his mission. The first part of my paper shows the parallels between Konrad's mystic journey at the beginning of Dziady, Czesc III and the mystic path of Jacob in the Zohar. The second part challenges the claim that Konrad's fundamental sin is hubris. The third part attempts to show how Konrad's kabbalistic mission is fulfilled within the work and, in doing so, points to organic links between the dramatic scenes of Dziady, Czesc III, the epic Ustep, and the closing epistle Do przyjaciol Moskali. In this way, I also attempt to shed light on one of the fundamental questions of Mickiewicz studies, that of the unity of Dziady, Czesc III and the function within the drama of non-dramatic elements.