No, AC! No, no, no, no, no! And did I say "no"?If there is a real tragedy in Tristan und Isolde it is that Tristan's death really IS "pathetic" by itself, a misunderstanding by him - he who ironically was Isolde's "teacher" in this whole business as I point out in my S&F article - about death and its nature in the eternal union of two lovers. As always with Wagner, it is Isolde, the female, who finally understands everything and understands just what death in this context actually means, and it is she who makes the eternal union with her Tristan possible for them both by her Verklärung and by so doing lifts the music-drama above the level of mere tragedy and into the realm of the radiantly transcendent.
As to W's stage directions, there may be no direct statement that Isolde is still living, but, then, there's none that directly indicate she's ordinarily dead either. Hence, the ambiguity I note in my article.
Oh, and as to those "Leichen" Marke blesses, there are some half-dozen or so of them scattered about the scene here and there.
1. A "pathetic misunderstanding" is not a tragedy.
2. There is no indication that Isolde "understands" anything. Her last words before her vision of his transfiguration are to chide Tristan for dying without her. That leaves only her dying song to express an "understanding" of the situation, which it plainly does not. It is in fact quite meaningless except as a poetic verbalization of her hallucinations.
3. How often in Wagner does the woman "understand" everything? Senta? Elisabeth? Elsa? Eva? Kundry? Only Brunnhilde, to some extent - but even about her you admit that her eulogy of siegfried as a "hero" rings false. And does she ever really understand that "love" does not bring "redemption"?
4. Isolde does not make "the eternal union with her Tristan possible for them," with her Verklaerung or with anything else. Nothing can make it possible, because there is no such thing as eternal union. That is the point. Union was a dream they shared, as so many lovers share it, only to learn how unreal it is. Death together is their only possible "union."
5. Tragedy is not "mere." And this tragedy is the death, not of two people only, but of the notion that the realm of the "radiantly transcendent" you speak of can be reached through passion. This is the lesson Wagner took from Schopenhauer and quite consciously embodied here. All his operas, beginning with this one, expose or renounce that fantasy. Tristan, as I've said, was Wagner's final, exhaustive tribute to the ideals and longings of his youth, now viewed as sweet illusions. He wanted it to drain passion dry, to be a monument to the thing he now knew could never be attained. It's insight that brings dignity to suffering, and which raises mere pathos to tragedy. The insight is not Isolde's, but Wagner's.
6. Wagner's directions are unambiguous: "Mark blesses the corpses." To suggest, as you do, that he was referring to various now irrelevant dead bodies scattered around the stage is, as you know perfectly well, ludicrous. Wagner never committed an aesthetic crime like that.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.