lessing and nathan the wise guy

It says much about the Enlightenment spirit that the playwright Gotthold Lessing preferred to look upon himself as a critic. It says much about Lessing the critic that his greatest work of poetic criticism was entitled Laokoon. To Lessing, the critic’s heroic role was to destroy the serpent of supersition, conformity, and pedantry that strangles people’s reason, feelings, sentiments and imagination. It was Lessing who championed Shakespeare against the rule bound classical drama of Racine and Voltaire. It was Lessing who championed free thinking against bigoted German theologians and then championed the “inner truths” of religion against the freethinking deists themselves.

---The film had been missing for half a century and is one of the most important rediscoveries in cinematic history in recent years. Sultan Saladin (Fritz Greiner) takes Jerusalem in spite of counter efforts from his brother Assad, a Christian convert who fought with the Knights Templar. Meanwhile Jewish merchant Nathan (Werner Krauss) loses his sons when the synagogue burns, but ends up adopting young Recha, the daughter of Assad. Max Schreck - well known for his role in Nosferatu - stars as the Grand Master of the Templars. Director: Manfred Noa Germany, 1922, 128 min.---Read More:http://www.germany.info/Vertretung/usa/en/__events/Wash/2012/02/04__Film__NathanWeise.html

In his life and in his work he was distinguished by a manly openness of spirit. It was characteristic of Lessing that his most famous play, Nathan the Wise, was meant to demonstrate that nobility of spirit can be associated with any religious creed. It typified that same open spirit that Lessing saw the history of all religions as a record of man’s continuing “education” in knowledge of the Divine. When Lessing died, famous but nearly destitute, it was Goethe who paid pregnant tribute to his brave and generous spirit:” we have lost more than we think.”

---Based on a 19th-century painting, this engraving depicts an imaginary meeting between the philosopher and political publicist Moses Mendelssohn (seated on the left, 1729-1786), the renowned playwright and philosopher Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (standing, 1729-1781), and the Swiss theologian Johann Caspar Lavater (seated on the right, 1741-1801). This scene is a conflation of various historical facts and events. Mendelssohn, an eloquent advocate of Jewish claims to religious and civil rights, was indeed a close friend of Lessing, who modeled his dramatic poem Nathan the Wise (1779) after him. And in April 1763, Lavater did in fact travel from Zurich to Berlin to pay Mendelssohn a visit. Lessing, however, was not present at the meeting. The fictional scene takes place in the library of Mendelssohn’s home, where traditional elements of the Jewish faith – e.g. the Judenstern Sabbath lamp above the table – mix easily with symbols of bourgeois learning, culture, and civility.---Read More:http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/sub_image_s.cfm?image_id=2964


( see link at end) …In her sympathetic characterization of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Arendt shows that critical thinking can go along with passions.

Lessing “never made his peace with the world in which he lived. He enjoyed ‘challenging prejudices’ and ‘telling the truth to the court missions.’ Dearly though he paid for these pleasures, they were literally pleasures. Once when he was attempting to explain to himself the source of ‘tragic pleasure’, he said that ‘all passions, even the most unpleasant, are as passions pleasant’ because, they make us … more conscious of our existence, they make us feel more real.” Read More:http://www.hannaharendtcenter.org/?tag=gotthold-ephraim-lessing

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