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Contents:


  1. badufyjuhi.cf: Minna von Barnhelm
  2. *Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim
  3. References
  4. Diotima's Children: German Aesthetic Rationalism from Leibniz to Lessing
  5. “Die Dienste der Großen”: The Flight from Public Service in Lessing’s Major Plays

It simply coUects and arranges the information necessary to a proper understanding of the Situation of the author and the problem of the drama. Acknowledgment is here given for the aid derived from those whose works are men- tioned in the Bibliography on p. Special mention is also made in the body of the work wherever necessary. The text is based on that of Dr. Some changes have been made after a careful coUation with the excellent text of Lachmann-Maltzahn.

The Notes are critical and explanatory, though the literary side has not been forgotten. The aim has been to bring out all the beauties of the play and show the poet and dramatic critic in his work. For the critic produced masterpieces according to his own high Standard proclaimed in his Dramaturgy. For helpful suggestions, thanks are due Professor Calvin Thomas, Dr. Walter Lefevre and Dr. Morgan Callaway, Jr. Austin, Texas, May 30, It is the child of the Age of Enlightenment, that age in which the minds of men were deeply moved, in which there was such a revolution of opinions and feelings as had not been since the great Reformation.

The movement of the Reformation is theological, that of the Age of Enlightenment is philosophical ; with the former revelation remains intact ; the latter denies divine revela- tion, and lets religious knowledge consist merely in human thought and feeling. Was he to be a law unto himself, or should there be a third person, or principle, that should be authority to him?

Here the Reformers took two courses diametrically opposed to each other.

badufyjuhi.cf: Minna von Barnhelm

Others, without regard to the confessions of faith in their particular chnrches, explained the Scriptures according to the dictum of their own subjective reason, thus endangering the truth as a whole, the real body of religious faith ; for only when there is some generally recognized principle which will enable us to determine what truth the Scriptures do teach, and to distinguish the true from the false, can the freedom de- manded by the Reformers, independent of every mere outer authority, be brought into unison with the objective divine truth. Soon, however, the spiritual life of the Protestant movement yielded to doctrinal soundness, and the piety of the emotions was underrated.

Dogmatism now usurped all authority, which was naturally not at all pleasing to the more devout ; hence we find mysticism and pietism rapidly gaining ground. But the real attack on the Lutheran faith came from a quarter hitherto little heeded, and with weapons which had not been used for a long time. It threatened to subvert the entire fabric. Reason in religion was the mighty force which now came to the front and began that destructive Biblical criticism which is still raging.

The authority which the Reformers, when contesting the infallibility of the Church, had placed in the Holy Scriptures, had yielded to that criticism which subjected the Bible to the same tests as were applied to classic authors. It was the Age of Enlightenment which made reason the norm by which the truth of revelation was to be judged. Belief became doubt ; doubt, rationalism. The bonds of the narrow point of viewwere rent asunder by the free intellect of a general civilization.

Ger- man theological rationalism endeavored to test thoroughly the underlying principles of the various beliefs, sift the good from the bad, and elevate the moral Standard. VU sensible doctrine of morality proclaimed by the rationalists, and moral philosophers spread good morals, freedom of thought and religious tolerance. An attempt was made to reconcile philosophy and religion. Many theologians, who believed that the real orthodox faith harmonized with philosophy, confidently asserted that the union between reason and revelation had been sealed forever.

But the attempt at such union proved abortive. It must not be supposed that this new movement was entirely successful in suppressing the adherents of the old faith. This was not accomplished tili the last two decades of the Century, when Kanf s philosophy transformed the essential doctrines of the Christian belief into general expressions of morality ; how- ever, the conflict in which Lessing took such an important part was advanced to another stage by Kant's Philosophy of Pure Reason. The representatives of orthodoxy, who insisted upon the authority of the Bible and the symbols, and also claimed the power of the temporal authorities for themselves, strove with all the means at their command to overcome this enemy who was threatening to overthrow the very foundation of the present theological System.

Early in life Lessing showed a deep interest in everything pertaining to the religious nature of man. In the fragment en- titled Thonghts on the Moravians he sought to free religious truth from all adulteration, and guard it against the caprice of the opinions, subtilties and sophisms of reason. There he maintained that poverty of knowledge is superior to the arro- gance of hollow thinking.

Cardan i had' repre- sented in his De Stibtilitate the four religions of the World, Heathenism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islamism, in a dialogue in which each representative defended his own belief and sought to refute the others. Since Cardan showed indiffer- ence as to which was victor in the controversy he was accused of hostility to Christianity. The Jew and the Mns- sulman, said Lessing, could have defended themselves against the unjust attacks of the Christian fer better than Cardan lets them.

Then Lessing took up the cause of the Jew and Mussul - man and showed how both could and should have answered. In the defence of the Mussulman he used the arguments of the Deists to prove the superiority of Islamism to Christianity. What, then, was Lessing's position on the religious questions of the day?

Minna von Barnhelm, by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

A difficult problem to solve. He certainly was not strictly orthodox, and yet he did not whoUy reject orthodoxy and pass over to the so-called school of rationalism which seemed to wish to make tabula rasa of the past and leave the future to wild speculation. Lessing preferred to leave the old, bad as it was, tili something better could be found to take its place. The trend of Lessing's thoughts was on the side of the movement of Enlightenment. But he was by nature an investigator and needed to examine everything carefully, and to consider thor- oughly every possible phase of a question before he decided.

In his opinion the final object of religion was not absolute sal- vation, no matter how, but salvation through enlightenment, for enlightenment to him meant salvation. He hated dogmatism of what- ever kind, whether of old tradition, of authoritative faith, or of Enlightenment itself, and fought it wherever he found it.

He there makes the true distinction between religion per se and the form in which it is clothed at any definite time and by any definite sect. Whether religion with him" means anything more than morality still remains an unsolved Problem. He certainly understood the distinction between the religion of Christ and the Christian religion, that is, the religion of piety and love of mankind, and the worship of Christ as a supernatural being. Lessing did not accept the orthodox doctrines of faith without questioning them ; he was too independent for that.

He certainly showed that he was a thinker on theological questions who understood the specu- lative depth inherent in the dogmas of Christianity, and took the field against the Socinians and Deists who ignored that depth. And yet, though often a defendant of Lutheran ortho- doxy, the time came when Lessing was considered its greatest Opponent, and with much justice, though he was forced into this attitude against his own wish and in self-defense.

While in Hamburg Lessing probably made the acquaintance of the writings of Professor H. These fragments excited little interest at first; a mere accident drew public attention to them. The Hamburg Pastor Goeze was then engaged in writing the history of the Low Saxon Bibles, and had written to Lessing to collate a Bible found in the library for a certain passage. Lessing was then in great anxiety about the life of his wife, who lay at the point of death, and either neglected or forgot to attend to the matter.

This won him the bitter enmity of Goeze, who con- sidered himself misused. When outdone by Lessing in this literary pas- sage-at-arms he resorted to the Consistory at Brunswick. The Fragments were confiscated and Lessing was strictly forbidden for the future to publish anything on religious matters, either at home or abroad, either with or without his name, without the express sanction of the government. But Lessing was not intimidated, and in he directed another scathing article at his foe entitled, Necessary Answer to an Unnecessary Ques- tion, It was the last word of the whole controversy.

Thus the affair took a different turn from that which Lessing had at first thought to give it. He now found himself obliged to shake the very foundations of the Orthodox-Lutheran System, and to call forth a battle between the spirit and the letter which has been left to us as an inheritance. Lessing's Anti-Goeze writings which this controversy called forth have ever been admired for their wit and brilliancy. Xl the wit, even where it plays with the person of Goeze, who was by no means to be despised, produces an elevating feeling in us, the reason of this elevation can only be found in the fact that it is the force of the truth by which we feel ourselves imper- ceptibly drawn on.

The Bible contains more than belongs to religion, and it is a mere hypothesis that the Bible is as infallible in this more as in the rest. He does not deny, therefore,that that part of the Bible which contains real religious principles was inspired by the Holy Ghost. Consequently objections to the letter and the Bible are not likewise objections to the spirit and religion. Some time passed before the first of these wrote, and a very considerable time before the whole canon was produced.

However much we may depend on these writings, the whole truth of the Christian religion cannot possibly rest upon them. If there was indeed a period in which it had already taken possession of so many souls, and in which assuredly no letter of that which has come to us was written, it must be possible that all that the evangelists and apostles wrote was lost and yet the religion taught by them maintained itself.

The Rule of Faith existed before any book of the New Testament, and it became the test of the writings of the apostles by which the present canon was made, and many other epistles, though bearing the names of apostles, were rejected. Ages passed before the Scriptures acquired any authority, and without the Rule of Faith it would be impossible to prove the present Christian religion.

This was playing into the hands of the Catholics, but whether intentionally or rather to point out a real defect of the Protestant doctrines, is left ambiguous ; it is certainly the weighty point in the contest. Religion, then, is independent of the Bible. Our historical knowledge of revealed religion comes to us immediately from the Bible, but the real knowledge of truth is to be found in independent inner signs which are no more dependent on the Bible than the truth of a geometrical problem is dependent on the book in which it is found.

Lessing distinguishes in the Bible the spirit from the letter, the eternal from the temporal. Lessing's contemporaries were not able to comprehend nor fuUy to appreciate the truth which forms the basis of his polemic against his opponents. In his Education of the Human Race he advances to a grander truth, viz.

Educa- tion is Revelation which comes to the individual man. Fear of temporal punishment prevented the evil from breaking out in man. Christianity was the second stage, the spiritual religion. Christ became the teacher of the immortality of the soul, and thus another true future life gained an influence upon the acts of men. A certain eudemonistic dement, therefore, will still cling to the common Christian doctrine and it would only be reserved for the religion of the future to display virtue in its complete purity.

Not tili the time when men recognize the truth of religion and have given themselves wholly up to that truth, with the heart fireed from every emotion of eudemonism, Iiave they arrived at that grade of development where they may expect the New Gospel. This third age will come, of that our author has no doubt. Lessing therefore declares that no posi- tive religion has aay right to claim supremacy. There is constant growth, constant advance. In this light no nation, no person, has the right to claim that his religion is the only true religion ; nor can he claim his to be superior on the plea of special revelation, but only as having more of the divine nature in it.

In other words it must be less mixed with Clements foreign to the true nature of religion and to God in Order to be superior. Lessing did not join those skeptics who were attempting to overthrow the Church and all religious. It had achieved great good for the human race and would continue its work. Therefore he conceived the idea of preparing the Nathan for publication and selling it on subscription. The first defiuite notice we find of the play is in a letter to his brother, dated August II, I, Nov.

III, Melchisedech, Giudeo. XV Uie theologians a greater joke than with ten more fragments. It will be as pathetic a piece as I have ever written, and Mr. But I do not yet have the least desire to abandon it, and he Moses shall indeed see that I am not going to injure my own cause by this dramatic digression. The theologians of all revealed religions will indeed silently curse it, but they will be carefiil not to take sides against it openly.

It may not produce its true effect ini everyone ; for it requires one condition, namely, faith or confi- dence, and only he who possesses this faith, this confidence, can make himself well pleasing to God and man. For religion is not an outer garment, but a living, animating principle which makes its possessor well-pleasing to God and man. And yet every religion which does not confine itself to one indi- vidual, but is to take root in a nation, must be expressed in a certain form of divine service, in certain customs and rites.

Every nation has its peculiar form of religion. Only when a religion is adapted to the nation which possesses it, can it fulfil its mission and educate the people to true religion. Sometimes the mere outward form Covers up the real kemel of religion, but as long as the real kernel is there it has some vitalizing power.

True tolerance is quite opposed to mere indifference and proceeds from a firm conviction of the truth of one's own faith ; it consists in the fact that we recognize in others the moral principle of their convictions and the historical right of certain Symbols and rites.

Lessing cannot therefore be justly reproached witn having made Christianity inferior to Islamism and Judaism, nor does any blame attach to him for having left it undecided which of the three religions is in possession of the true ring. And do we not know which produces the best fruits? Let modern civilization answer those who still doubt. Although it is Christianity in which the spirit of Christ reveals the truths of God most perfectly, it is not true of all individuals in it, and no one has the right to draw conclu- sions about the essence of Christianity from isolated examples.

For there is a vast difference between the real, vivifying power of the gospel and sporadic distortions produced by crippled, mis-shapen growth ; between the truth of an idea itself and indi- vidual appearances of the same ; between its effect in universal history and its subjective existence in the souls of individual men. But why, we may justly ask, did Lessing make a Jew Nathan , a Saracen Saladin , the representatives of his higher religion, and make of the Patriarch a true pattern of priestly arrogance and all that is most abhorrent in human nature?

We repeat that Lessing did not choose the persons of his drama as representatives of their special religions. But neither Nathan nor Saladin, nor Sittah, nor Al-Hafi represents at all his religion ; but one is forced to believe that Lessing had just the opposite in view in sketching their characters and actions. For he has either completely suppressed, or at least weakened and placed in the background, the peculiar, innate marks of diflferent feiths by the compensating power of their religion of humanity and reason.

No one would be able to extract the true doctrine of Christ from the characters and acts of the Patriarch, of Daja, of the Templar, of the Friar. For he wished to rebuke those who put the letter above the spirit, which results in arrogance, hypocrisy, intolerance, and fanatical persecutions. This was the answer to Goeze and his clan and was the con- tinuation of his controversy by which he hoped to defeat his opponents. Therefore he could not take his dramatic characters in which he intended to show the distortions of the Christian religion from among the Jews and Muhammedans, but must choose them from among the Christians.

For his drama was intended for eifect upon Christians, as he had his motive from tthem. The belief in Jehovah as the jealous, angry God of punishment rather nourishes hate than the common love of mankind ; the belief in Jehovah and in the Jewish nation as his chosen people leads to national and religious arrogance ; to contempt for the Gentiles : it obstructs, er at least renders difficult, the germination of the idea of humanitarianism and cosmopolitanism. The history of the Jews confirms this Statement.

Upon what high plane of enlightenment and civilization must a people be in which a man can rise to this height of sentiment, can educate himself to this excellent knowl- edge of divine and human things. The setting of Lessing's conception of a perfect religion is the tale of the three rings, to which we now turn our attention. In the times of the Crusades the belief obtained to a considerable exten t that Christians, Jews and heathen all serve one God ; or, as some stated it, God possesses three kinds of children in Christians, Jews and heathen. The decision of rank for the children of the house rests only with the father.

The order of Knights Templars favored these liberal views, and even the fore- most thinkers among the Jews believed that Judaism and Chris- tianity were two true religions Coming from God and that neither was tainted with deceit. One of their wise rabbis it must have originated in the eastern country which is so fiill of metaphorical language clothed this thought in a parable, afterwards known as the parable of the rings. About the year iioo a Spanisli ] Jew put it in its earliest and simplest Jewish form. Don Pedro of Arragon once asked a rieh Jew, who had the reputation of great wisdom, which of the two laws Mosaic or Christian he considered the better, in order to have an excuse for appropriat- ing his money, no matter what answer he might give to the question.

The Jew took three days' time for thought, at the. This moming they had asked him, the Jew, about the worth of the two treasures, and, on his explanation that they must wait for the return of the father who alone was competent to decide the question, they had abused him and beaten him. Pedro said that this mean conduct of the sons deserved punishment. In Spain, probably, a third ' religion was added, the Moorish. The indecision remains, but the early Christian transformation clouded the clearness of the Spanish-Jewish anecdote.

In number 72 is the parable of the rings which is nearly like the Arragonian, but we have here a Sultan and three rings, one genuine and two false, the father alone knowing the true one. Here the true ring has the power of making its wearer beloved by God and man. With Boccaccio it is no longer an indefinite sultan, but the war- like and heroic Saladin who in his need of money callsthe rieh and usurious Jew Melchisedec from Alexandria to Jerusalem in Order to force a loan from him by means of the vexatious ques- tion which of the three religions he considers the true one.

The Jew is soon resolved and recounts to Saladin as if by sudden inspiration the story of the three rings. The story of Boccaccio varies very little from the other Italian accounts. He does not teil us, as the others did, for what purpose the Sultan needed money.

Busone also gives the reason why the Sultan seeks to rob the Jew. Jews are hated, therefore they can conscientiously be robbed of their money. For the tolerant Boccaccio this was wrong, so he changes his Jew into a rieh, avaricious usurer instead of leaving him a noble and wise person. Lessing has made several changes. In order to prevent the son who should possess the ring from alone becoming the head and prince of the house, the father had two others made so like the original that he could not distinguish the true from the false.

Rejoicing that he could now show eaeh of his sons the same marks of love he calls each one to him separately and gives eaeh of them a blessing and the ring. After the father's death there arose the same controversy about the genuine ring as in the other versions, and the judge before whom all appeared could give no verdict. XXIU from his tribunal on account of lack of proof to form any decision, it occurs to him that there is a key to this seeming riddle. The true ring possesses a magic virtue which cannot fall to manifest itself in the one who has it and wears it in this confidence.

As none of the three possesses the power to make himself beloved by the others, so none has the true ring; this must be lost and those they have are false ; the father would not bear the tyranny of one ring any longer in his house ; each may now think he has the true oue, and let each strive to show the virtue of his ring. The magic virtue is the moral efFect of religion. When the judge asks the sons to help the virtue of the ring by meek- ness, by hearty docility, by well-doing, by inner resignation to the will of God, he shows that these virtues are the moral effects of religion meant by the magic virtue of the ring.

That religion is the true one which produces the best men. Whether Islamism, Judaism, or Christianity is best adapted to effect this result Lessing does not say, but only implies that it is not impossible in all three We cannot, however, deny that the way in which the principal character of the drama throws doubt on every positive religion which lays claim to objective truth has something dazzling for the great mass of mankind. It would almost appear as if the Story in its comprehensive, gracefiil form, was well suited to spread that Enlightenment which desires to resolve religion into complete agnosticism.

The story is highly poetical, however, and does not completely conform to the real thought. Whether only two of the possessors of the rings, or, as the judge seems to think, all three have been deceived, cannot be decided under the circumstances. But this is only a story intended to inculcate a truth, and must be judged as the parables of the Lord.

It can- not be expected that Nathan, who, according to his own con- fession, does not wish to give the truth as such, but rather by means of the story which he teils the sultan, thinks himself dis- pensed from the Solution of the problem, will really State the principle which distinguishes the truth of the three religions and and their relation to one another. When Saladin objects that the religions named by him can be distinguished from one another, Nathan replies that they are all based on tradition and history, and adds that it is quite natural that we all, Muham- medans, Jews, Christians, should doubt least of all the words of those whose blood flows in our veins, of those who have given US proof of their love from our childhood.


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This mode of reasoning is truly such that the conscience, which does not -enter into the inner reasons upon which real knowledge rests, is satisfied. But it does not enter into the greater, profounder depths of the question where knowledge alone can guide. But this is only belief founded on authority and is to be distinguished from the real religious belief founded on more perfect knowledge and the inner witness of the Spirit.

This is why Lessing insists on the fact that the truth of religion is to be recognized in itself, in its inner characteristics, thus ris- ing to an ideal sphere to which Nathan does not attain. While denying that for him who would gain the knowledge, the charac- teristics of the truth are already present in the three religions, Nathan gives voice to the sentiment that it is the moral life, love, through which the truth of our inherited religion manifests itself.

The manner in which the cwners of the three rings quarrel with one another tends to show us that that miraculous force inherent in the true religion is active in none of the three religions whose INTRODUCnON. Hence they are iirged to emulate this love, so that, perhaps, later the truth might be revealed to their descendants. This love we know is the touchstohe of real religion. Having announced the doctrine of love in the story, the poet shows the moral force springing from pure love in his dhioue- ment.

Characters separated by nationality, but obeying the purely human feelings, appear before us at the close of the drama in a real union. The powerful sultan Saladin, Nathan, the rieh Jew living in Jerusalem, a German Templar, prisoner of the Saracens, Sittah, Daja, Recha, are drawn to one another by similar sentiments, and the ties of blood and the benevolence of the Jew seal the bond. As in nature night yields to the rising sun, so here delusion and hate disappear from the consciences of men as soon as love appears.

Oriental and Occidental, Muham- medan, Jew, Christian, rise above particular interests, feel drawn to one another as man to man, even love one another as mem- bers of one family. This is the same high Standard that we saw in the Education of the Human Race. These characters have advanced far enough to accept the new cternal gospel. But this makes them true Christians, in whose religion alone all the conditions for such a development are found. Besides the novel in the Decamerone of Boccaccio already mentioned, two others have an important bearing on the plot of cur drama. The family history, some features in Nathan him- self, and, in a certain measure, the character of the Templar are undoubtedly due to Lessing's study of this Italian author.

The Story related in Giorn. V,V, throws light on the family relations of our characters. Here, however, two young men fall in love with her, one of whom turns out to be her brother and the other marries her. All the features of the Templar and Recha are present. The two servants are combined in Daja ; and Bema- buccio, the father of the lost girl, is Wolf von Filneck, the father of the Templar and Recha.

Lessing is still further indebted to Boccaccio, Giorn. X, Nov. Here we have a man named Nathan who is exceedingly wealthy, benevolent, hospitable, of noble sentiments, giving thirty-two times to the same beggar woman without letting her See that she is recognized by him, going about in modest attire, calm and composed when a rival in wealth and goodness comes and teils him that he is going to kill him because he outdoes him in goodness and benevolence, prudent, noble minded and selfdenying in every way.

Had he talked and been a Jew he would have been Lessing's Nathan. How much the Nathan in the Novel reminds of the Nathan in the Drama and yet how skilfully Lessing has transformed and remodelled his characters to suit his own idea to be represented in his drama! For the trend, the idea of the drama is profounder, more consistent, more according to the dictates of reason, than any Boccaccio ever even imagined. Critics say that Boccaccio was not the only source of Lessing's drama.

That absurd story that Dean Swift and Esther Johnson, or Stella, were both the natural children of Sir William Temple, the English diplomatist and political writer, is cited as a source. XXVU spirit of Christianity that there was no more life in any of them. The parable of the Three Rings is certainly more elevated than that of the Tale of the Tub, though there is a certain resemblance in the subject-matter and trend of the latter to the drama.

Les- sing was well acquainted with this story and also with Swift's work. But Caro p. For there is no more inner con- nection between the Tale of a Tub and Swift's supposed love to a sister then considered true, but now known to be false than there is between the three novels of Boccaccio I, III ; Giorn. X, III; Giorn.

For inner connection is not a per- sonal element, but a natural cause and effect. The complete idea contained in Nathan had long been lying in the poefs mind ; its extemal form was a mere secondary thought which Boccaccio's novels were as likely, and even more so, to put into definite shape as Swift's story and work. For the historical background naturally brought the Templars into action, and it was only to be expected that they would play a prominent part in the drama. It may be possible that the Swift incident had an unconscious influence upon Lessing.

For when Voltaire returned from Eng- land he brought the Tale of a Tub with him, asserting that this notorious Tale of a Tub was an imitation of the three undis- tinguishable rings which the father left to his three children ; and we know that Lessing eagerly read and admired Voltaire before their rupture. But no one now contends that it was the veritable source ; for Boccaccio stood nearer in thought to the poet's idea than the Swift source. Had Lessing wished to employ dramatic poetry to represent certain general phenomena of the psychological life he could have chosen no better period or locality for his purpose than Palestine during the third cnisade.

The East and the West met here, and Palestine formed the center of all the historical life of the age. Richard the Lion-hearted of England, Philip Augustus of France, Leopold of Austria, the most powerful rulers of the West ac- companied by the greatest and noblest vassals of their kingdoms, the king of Jerusalem with his barons, the bloom of knighthood in the priestly orders of the Templars and Knights of Malta, and a high clergy ; Saladin, the victorious warrior of the East, who ruled from the Nile to the Euphrates and Tigris with his Emirs and Pashas were present.

Boccaccio had placed his Jew in Alexandria and had him calied to Saladin. For his place of action Lessing chose Jerusalem at a time when Saladin had captured the holy city from the crusaders. Here that people, which calied itself the chosen people of God, had assembied for worship. Christ, by his glorious death on the cross, had made the city sacred and had promulgated a universal religion. XXIX of violence and blood. The spirit of humanity displayed by noble men formed a striking contrast with most frightful intoler- ance, and thus set off the truths announced by our drama ; this very contrast makes the ideal part of our'poem more real and the real part more ideal.

Lessing wished to exhibit the evils of religious fanaticism, and the reign of Saladin was best suited for that. Time and place were admirably adapted to bring the representation of the three religions into close connection. For at this time the spirit of adventure reigned supreme and rumors of Strange incidents and curious events filled the air.

From the historical allusions in the play the exact time, as near as that can be determined, was probably between the first of September, , and the fifth of March, , that is, after the conclusion of the truce with Richard the Lion-hearted, and be- fore the death of Saladin. As Nathan the Wise represents the conflict of tolerance with prejudice, we can on this principle divide the characters into certain groups. Nathan, Saladin and the Templar represent the cosmopolitan and humanitarian idea, while the Patriarch, and, in a certain degree, Daja also, Stands for narrow-minded- ness and intolerance.

The friar and Al-Hafi have a leaning to nature-life, and are representatives of noble Naturalism. Nathan himself properly leads the first group. Lessing is said to have glorified in him his life-long friend, Moses Mendelssohn, but there is not a single trait in Nathan bearing any resemblance whatever to Moses Mendelssohn. Most of the features are taken from Melchisedec and that Nathan of Boccaccio already men- tioned, though they have been idealized. The true religion Ar him is the one which teaches love to God and man. He is in every way the opposite to Shakespeare's Shylock, and is, in fact, the possessor of the true ring, in that he understands how to make himself well-pleasing to God and man.

And yet we have some- thing of the Jew in Nathan ; the cunning observable in all his dealings with his fellowmen, his deference to others in order to attain his ends which, indeed, are always the purest and noblest , a fondness for metaphor and parable, these are all Oriental- Jewish traits. He is the ideal hero who has undergone struggles that excite our interest, and we cannot help loving and honoring him.

The historic Saladin was a strict Mussulman who looked up- on war against the Crusaders as his life-mission. For these, his natural foes, he cherished an implacable hatred. He was ever true to his word, ever kept faith with the Christians, though they betrayed bim again and again. Brave and intrepid by nature, he was yet a peace-loving man, who rose above his environ- ment and showed himself magnanimous alike to friend and foe. His self-abnegation was great, for at the height of power he feit no desire for mere show and magnificence, but was piain and simple in his daily life.

Boccaccio had already made him a tra- ditional hero, and the Middle Ages crowned him with a halo of glory. But little was left for Lessing to do. He has idealized in him imperial greatness, noble sentiments, magnanimity and liberality. Sittah, the sister of Saladin, is not so tolerant as he, and per- haps for that very reason sees Christians and Jews in a truer light, though not unmixed with prejudice. She takes an im- portant part in the action of the drama, especially in the in- trigues.

Prudence and cunning are her virtues, and we miss in her the individual truth of a real poetic character. Like her brother she is historical, though history barely mentions her. The contradictions in his character are so striking that it will require much reflection to bring the special features into harmony. The predominant trait is the vein of deep melancholy which gives a serious earnestness to his every act. The disharmony in his character and his discontent spring partly from his early training and partly from his recent experiences among the Tempiars, as Christian and as prisoner in the hands of Saladin.

He represents the transition State on his passage from a belief in a positive religion, through disbelief, to Lessing's thitd stage, to Nathan's Standard. He has found that no one belief is infallible, but has not yet discovered that there is always wheat in the chaff, none so bad as to be utterly con- demned. At the very end of the drama he still appears dis- trustful and has to pass through a struggle to renounce his passionate love and accept Recha as a sister.

Even then the disharmony fermenting in his inner and outer life is but slowly removed. His , striking physical resemblance to Assad, his father, is deepened by his strjking resemblance in all the quali- ties of his character. Nathan represents wise old age, Saladin matured manhood, Curd the Templar immature youth, which, like fresh must must ferment and foam and by long fermentation become purified. The most fragrant flower of German literature is Recha.


  • Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim.
  • Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim.
  • .

In her simple, cheerfiil nature all the virtues of a maiden's pure heart blossom. How tenderly she loves her father, what thank- ful love she bears for Daja! The latter is what Nathan made of her, a susceptible and pure souI which a wise and just education has taught self-abnegation and love. She lived in her father ; he was her world, her faith, her home. She is tender without be- ing weakly sentimental, intellectual and cultivated without being a bluestocking.

Nathan, however, is not her only instructor. Daja, the Christian widow, the nurse, planted many seeds in her receptlve mind, and they also brought forth fruit of another kind. On the one hand we find philosophy and reason, on the other wild fancy and belief in angels, legends, the fanciful side of life. She belongs to the poetic figures of German literature, whose presence can be feit rather than described. Rarely do we catch glimpses of such beings in the world's litera- ture, and yet Germany has given us three, Recha, Mignon, Thekla.

As sister of the Templar and niece of Saladin, adopted and brought up by Nathan, she forms a convenient center about which all the separate interests of race and religion converge, being of all three, and yet belonging exclusively to neither of the three races or religions. Of our second group the Patriarch naturally Stands at the head and is an excellent pattern of priestly thirst for power ; he has also departed farthest from the doctrines which Christ came on earth to preach, not having the least trace of that meekness and gentleness which forms an essential element of a Christian character.

It has been said that Pastor Goeze, Lessing's bitter Opponent in his controversy occasioned by the publication of the Fragments, is intended to be represented by the Patriarch, but nothing could be farther from the mark. It is the portrait of what a true Christian Should not be. Instead of self-abnegation we have self-aggrandizement with all its worldly lusts.


  1. ?
  2. ;
  3. Paganism: An Introduction to Earth- Centered Religions.
  4. Un été de canicule (HORS COLLECTION) (French Edition)!
  5. .
  6. “Die Dienste der Großen”: The Flight from Public Service in Lessing’s Major Plays | SpringerLink.
  7. The Bard of Armagh.
  8. No feeling of humanity reigns in bis breast. While demanding blind Submission from others he seeks to draw profit from everything. Faith is for him a sub- servient means of power, a pliant tool for satisfying his ambition to rule. Though by nature intolerant and fanatical he is him- self only a too willing subject, yielding servilely to every danger- Gus power, even when it is repugnant to him ; creeping where he thinks it will advance his interests.

    The character is historical. At the time when Saladin cap- tured Jerusalem the reigning Patriarch was Heraclius, though he left the city instead of remaining as represented in our drama. This Heraclius was a notorious character and very much worse than Lessing has painted him in the drama. He thinks of every- thing eise rather than of the welfare of the souls entrusted to him.

    He was a politician of the worst stamp. Treason and murder are not only legitimate means with him, but become a duty when the priest says that it is for the honor of God. It was no matter to him how kind the Jew may have been to his adopted daughter Recha ; if he had taught her no dogma nor positive religion, then he rnust burn at the stake. Rather a false belief than no belief. He will show how dangerous it is to the State when anyone may have no belief.

    So preached Goeze in the controversy. He is a priest and ecclesiastical prince, but not a Christian. He represents rather the office of High Priest, er Egyptian Hierophant, or the priests of the Middle Ages, who were mostly opponentS'of humanity and pure religion. He is bigoted, and the interests of humanity are subordinate to those of his Church and hierarchy. Without this character Lessing could not have done justice to the fundamental idea of his poem. Firm in her belief, she overlooks the genuine kernel of religion in the form which excites her imagination and produces the frenzy of fanati- cism.

    She is the widow of a noble Swiss squire, drowned with the emperor Frederick Barbarossa on the loth of June, Nathan took her as companidn to Recha, probably because the old nurse had sickened. Soon after Daja's arrival the latter died, but not before she had disciosed the secret of Recha's birth, though it is a mystery where the nurse could have found it out. According to this account Daja could not have been more than two years in the house of Nathan when our drama opens ; and yet the references to her indicate a longer Service in Nathan's family.

    Anxious for the welfare of her fosterchild's soul, she is con- stantly urging Nathan to make good his great sin of keeping his daughter from the true faith. She does not consider what a noble woman Recha has become under the instruction of Nathan ; she only Sees a Christian child in the hands of a Jew. XXXV were to put to the truest test what reason and long contempku tion had ripened in his mind and made a part of bis being.

    The friar Game to the East as squire, but after serving many masters he finally left the tumult of war for the cloister, devoting him seif entirely to the worship of God, to which his pious nature in- clined him. Robbed and taken prisoner by Arabian marauders, he managed to escape and fled to Jerusalem into the cloister of the Patriarch, who promised him the first free hermit's cell on Mt.

    Everything unworthy or wrong was repugnant to his upright soul. Though ever obedient to his oath, he realizes that there are bounds to his obedience, and he keeps back the knowl- edge that Nathan has a Christian child. What he really lacks is the knowledge of the world.

    He is one of the poor in spirit to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs. By some he is called the true representative of Christianity in the drama, and probably comes nearer the Standard than any of the other repre- sentatives. He certainly has childlike simplicity, and all the qualities which go to make up a true Christian character. It is one of the most lovely personages Lessing has sketched for us ; and yet the childlike simplicity, the childlike cunning, forms a comical contrast to the pries tly, Jesuitical Patriarch. The Dervish is so little an adherent of the doctrine of Muhammed that he has been a follower of Parsees.

    He appears to US as the son of pure, unmixed nature, which, as it is manifested in this character, forms a remarkable contrast to those artifi- cial relations on which the social System actually rests. He was considered the greatest mathematical genius of the day, who, however, had no idea of the world and its relations.

    He was also an excellent chess-player, and this characteristic has been skillfully brought out in the drama. Lessing had great respect for him on account of his piety and natural cynicism. The temptation was too great ; he was introduced into the drama in the person of the Dervish as the unfortunate treasurer and chess-critic, where he cuts a most wonderfiil figure. Considered from an aesthetical point of view and from the philosophical purpose pervading the whole poem, it has by some been denied the name of drama in the usual acceptance of the Word.

    XXXVll true, independent life to the action. The general historical Situation fiimished an excellent foundation upon which Lessing could build with his own inventions. The action is slower because the development of the truths Lessing wished to inculcate demanded a more quiet movement, but it bears the indelible stamp of classic beauty, whether we call it a drama or didactic poem.

    The length of the verse varies from eight to thirteen syllables and, though the pentameters are far more numerous than other measures, still Lessing did not trouble himself much about the matter. The liberties he had taken with the meter deprive the drama of a symmetrical beauty of form, so that the verse often appears harsh and unmusical. His style is simple, natural, and original. Not unfrequently Lessing went into the street and picked up the most expressive phrases, and legalized their use by adopting them.

    Lessing portrays the very spirit of the Orient, and the first Oriental scholars could not do better ; the parabolical teachings remind us of the East. The drama, however has those qualities which will stand the buffets and shocks of time. Sin junger XtmpelfitxT. Sa, ia! SRutt liegt er ba! Suer 2 ertoifdJ. Dritter 2tuftrttt. Vierter 2tuftritt. SBer, 3 aia? D eilt! D nein! Unb frommte mir'S? SRun bann? Seiit ie 4er? Wai ein Snbe! SSerluft toitt Sortoanb. Um ben 9? Unb S8erIorcn? Biji bu tott? Sie umarmenb. Shin, SBSaS machen toir benn aber?

    Stimm auf, bei toem bu lannftl unb toie bu lannft! S er 62 ttatl an5erlPetfe. Selb nimmermehr. Unb fo ein SWann. SRur fo toeiter! Bip bu tott? Db linfg? SOSie immer. Selbe hinein. Siebenter 2tuftritt. Heunter 2tuftritt. Reifet baS fpielen? Erfter 2tuftritt. S aj[a. Safet nur, lafet. SRun ja, SBenn bu fo toillft. Ptcrtcr Jtuftritt. D nun bann! Siebenter Jtuftritt. Seib unb geben! Ran Ilagt. Sei bem Sebenbigen! Unb nun, ber Stifter? Unb an toeffen 33eifall Siegt mir benn fonft? Sieber, Reber greunb!

    I SBSie? D, fo tjergebt! Unb toie? Seitt iel err. S33ie, Slitter? Setii ie 4err. Oanj getoife. X aja. D, fo ijergebt I. Einfang, lo. SBer Sft ba? Um mir? SemlieQerr froiHg. SBirb et benn bon bir betlangen, S aft bu etft Sube toetben fottft? Xem iel4ert. Sllled auSerlef en! SBag loftet er? SBarum Srautlleib eben? SP mein? Sin filofterbruber?

    *Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim

    Siebenter 2luftrttt. SQtoo idb meinem Sott in infam! SBie baS? Ptinjefftn Bxttaf. SWur ju! Hatfjan ber tPeife. SEBag toart'ft bu? Dritter Jtuftrttt. Unb toeffen? Senf ein! SEBer toeife? Xem iel4err. SBie fo? SBo ftc fmb? Unb toer fie ftnb? Unb fonft? Itommt nur mit! Sedjfter 2tuftrttt. Don Sudlern. SRedia bie ftcft ermannt unb auffielt. SEBer ift fte? SBie toarb mir? SBenn fte nun fterben? Sie HoratDan' ift ba. SBar euer greunb?

    SBetrieger felbft! Sonft leiner? Komm, Siebe. SBer fagt bag? Setrieger felbft! SOBicbcr laut. Possibly the prophet Nathan 2 Sam. They were interpolated, in this Latin form, by Phil. Beroaldus into the preface of Aulus Gellius to his Noctes Atticae and transmitted to reoent times as a saying of Gellius.

    He also found the name Daja in an Arabic history of Saladin. S3ltBQlott, After the destruction of its defenses by Darius Hystaspes, and later, by Xerxes, Babylon never rose again and had at this epoch no special significance. For Nathan is not travelling on a side-way, by-way, but is obliged to make constant deviations from the direct course, either on account of the unsettled times third Crusade, 1 , or for business purposes, as lines would indi- cate. The distance from Babylon to Jerusalem is abou; German or English miles. Possibly a mistake, for this form does not again occur in the play, though the true form does 1.

    It is a dialectic form preferred in the i8th Century by many because they considered it more euphonious. For the fire had made Nathan's absence doubly painful. The iorm inbeg is now generally written tnbed. ACT I. Daja implies that she would either have burned with Recha or never have awaited his return. Babylon was noted for its silks and wooUens and Damascus for its jewelry. This interpretation would be more in accordance with Nathan's gener- ous nature.

    However, we feel that his real danger lies in Daja's prick- ing conscience, and there may be the ulterior meaning of bribery to this conscience. The negation here violates the grammar, and is in imitation of the Latin quis dubitat, quin, and the Romance Languages, especially the French. But such Gallicisms are found in the best writers. Daja knows her Bible well and likes to quote it. Or is it Lessing that knows his Bible so well and likes to put it in Daja's mouth?

    For at the time of the Crusades the Bible was laid on the shelf and no one knew anything about it, not even the priests. Only a select few may have had some knowledge of it. Recha's non-appearance causes Nathan to doubt whether he has heard the whole truth or not. In her feverish excitement her mind continually dwells on fire. She passes from the sleeping to the waking State indifferently, and not at stated intervals as with one in the normal condition of life; while awake her mind is feverish, turbid, visionary, and while asleep she dreams.

    Recha still has a vague dread that she may be burned alive, and in consequence of her excitement her sleep is only broken, so that in the day she feels NOTES. It is well-known that the words of those in such a State can be veiy apt and even betray what seems to be superhuman knowledge. Nathan is reminded of the weakness of the fiesh. Here we have one of those wonderful mental visions so often observed in such cases. In her vivid description Daja usesstrong expressions. In Mid. The figure is taken from gambling where the winnei is ever ready to risk the stakes he has unexpectedly won.

    This is an earlier meaning of the word, now obsolete. This contraction of the article and preposition is very rare. The real grave in this church was a sarcophagus of bluish white marble, they say. The very site of the church is unknown. But Daja is the messenger, not the one sending the message, hence Lessing must have transferred its meaning from the sender to the messenger. Daja intentionally includes herseif in the blessing of a risen Lord and also gently hints to Nathan that Recha belongs to the same faith. In the normal condition reason and feeling are in accord; in the visionary State they exchange places; the head feels, the heart reflects.

    The distorted fancies of the brain become inspira- tions. She had lost the equilibrium between reason and feelings. Therefore she cleverly conceals from him cf. It is the Saxon genitive. Such omissions are common in German. For mit eins cf. The belief of the active interference of angels in bodily form in the affairs of men was common to Christians, Jews and Mussulmans at that period. The thrust is directed against the too com- mon sanctimoniousness of the age.

    SCENE 2. Nathan ridicules the idea of an angel having come to rescue Recha. In lines , Recha in her visionary State hears her father's voice, but his long delay in Coming to her makes her believe that his voice had only preceded him, hence her joyous surprise on seeing him bodily before her eyes. The Templars wore white ttJelge linen mantles. The fond father is speaking here when he makes his daughter equal to an angel. Recha hints as much in her reply. This reading was suggested by Ramler, though no one knows just what the original reading was. For, however much a personal resemblance might flatter his vanity, it would not make him prouder of her or more inclined to compare her with an angel.

    Here it may be a mere question of meter. The brain is hkened to a stringed Instru- ment whose strings snap when over-strained. Rather learned for Daja, but probably she had heard Nathan himself use it in some of his philosopbical talks. In the earlier history of the language the use of the partitive genitive was more frequent than now. Historical facts do not confirm this Statement cf. The Statement in lines rests upon a historical fact related in Marin, Histoire de Saladin, I, f.

    In a battle Odo de St. Amaud had been taken prisoner; the Sultan offered him his liberty in exchange for one of his Emirs who was a prisoner of the Templars. His reply was that a Templar ought either to conquer or die, and could only give his sword and belt as ransom. When the adjective already ends in IT Lessing frequently omits the ending -en.

    Then Recha considers Nathan 's remark an argument in her favor; but by giving the expression a slightly diflferent shade of mean- ing it would refer to Recha's inner conviction that she had seen an angel face to face and needs no further argument to convince her. However, it may only mean " that argues for me. In line we learn that the name was Assad. Line informs us that he feil at Ascalon. That is, the angel theory. For the synco- pated form cf. Marinj 1. Seit tOtnn? Modem usage requires Jett U ann. Originally tuann and menn, bann and benn were not different and even now are interchangeable in coUoquial language.

    About the middle of the i8th Century the two terms were differentiated in the written language. Nathan had urged a natural miracle for Recha's rescne; that is, tbe pardon of the Templar who rescued her, all in the natural Order of things; Daja required an unnatural miracle; that is, an angel.

    References

    Certainly an elevated Christian idea that the counsels and plots of kings serve God's purposes. He makes them bis sport and scorn by destroying them. The repetition of mettt fBoitt is emphatic; for Lessing would hardly be guilty of repetition to fiU out the verse as some critics pretend. A colloquial expression used in good-natured irony wonder-loving people , ff.

    The meaning is not quite clear. Since the fifth Century angel-worship has been quite conunon in the Church, and many angels have special days set apart for their worship, as the archangels Gabriel and Michael, and the patron angels. These remarks are intended more especially for Daja the Catholic than for Recha, as the Jews did not have any da rs set apart for angel-wor- ship.

    SCENE 3. Daja of course means that the Templar has no physical wants. As much as they derive their force from polemical dispute, they also aim to be more than just a victorious attack against the enemy. For these essays redefine the framework wherein arguments are supposed to take place in such a way that the truth-finding process itself is transformed into a critical enterprise. What presents itself as erudite and scholarly is unmasked by Lessing as the petty politics of lazy pretensions. Some of the theological writings do take the form of theses, as was common in both Reformation and scholastic disputations.

    Diotima's Children: German Aesthetic Rationalism from Leibniz to Lessing

    In Lessing the strands of vigorous Reformation and logically rigorous scientific thought combine to form a new way of reasoning. His thesislength paragraphs sketch out the skeleton of an argument that remains strictly objective and yet also projects essayistic qualities. Conceived as a thought experiment, this piece does not advance theses for disputation; rather it suggests a rethinking of the fundamental assumptions of religion and of the course of history. Favoring the accidental, Lessing makes chance the legitimate guide for traveling the road to knowledge. By validating chance, he emancipates curiosity from the grip of dogmatic rationalism.

    Freed from conventions and customs, method is replaced by spontaneity and the sense for contingency is cultivated. Unable to give his mind a firm direction, he will wander through all fields of knowledge, admire everything, desire to recognize everything, and become disgusted with everything. If he is not without genius, he will notice a great deal, but get to the bottom of little. What a pity! I only think for my own instruction.

    If my thoughts satisfy me, I tear the paper apart. Studied theology and medicine at the University of Leipzig, —48; University of Wittenberg, and —52, masters degree in theology, Secretary to General Bogislaw von Tauentzien, Breslau, — Theater critic for the National Theater in Hamburg, — Member, Academy of Mannheim, Died in Brunswick, 15 February Other writings: several plays including Minna von Barnhelm, ; Emilia Galotti, ; Nathan der Weise [Nathan the Wise], , fables, and correspondence.

    Further Reading Blackall, Eric A. Please contact the author for suggestions or further informations: architects.

    “Die Dienste der Großen”: The Flight from Public Service in Lessing’s Major Plays

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    Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.