Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (/ˈlɛsɪŋ/; German: [ˈlɛsɪŋ]; 22 January 1729 – 15 February 1781) was a German writer, philosopher, dramatist, publicist and art critic, and an outstanding representative of the Enlightenment era. His plays and theoretical writings substantially influenced the development of German literature. He is widely considered by theatre historians to be the first dramaturg in his role at Abel Seyler's Hamburg National Theatre.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
|Born||22 January 1729|
Kamenz, Upper Lusatia, Saxony
|Died||15 February 1781 (aged 52)|
|Occupation||Writer, philosopher, dramatist, publicist, art critic and dramaturg|
|Alma mater||Leipzig University|
University of Wittenberg
|Notable works||Miss Sara Sampson; Emilia Galotti; Minna von Barnhelm; Nathan the Wise; Laocoön; Hamburgian Dramaturgy|
Lessing was born in Kamenz, a small town in Saxony, to Johann Gottfried Lessing and Justine Salome Feller. His father was a Lutheran minister and wrote on theology. Young Lessing studied at the Latin School in Kamenz from 1737 to 1741. With a father who wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, Lessing next attended the Fürstenschule St. Afra in Meissen. After completing his education at St. Afra's, he enrolled at the University of Leipzig where he pursued a degree in theology, medicine, philosophy, and philology (1746–1748).
It was here that his relationship with Karoline Neuber, a famous German actress, began. He translated several French plays for her, and his interest in theatre grew. During this time, he wrote his first play, The Young Scholar. Neuber eventually produced the play in 1748.
From 1748 to 1760, Lessing lived in Leipzig and Berlin. He began to work as a reviewer and editor for the Vossische Zeitung and other periodicals. Lessing formed a close connection with his cousin, Christlob Mylius, and decided to follow him to Berlin. In 1750, Lessing and Mylius teamed together to begin a periodical publication named Beiträge zur Historie und Aufnahme des Theaters. The publication ran only four issues, but it caught the public's eye and revealed Lessing to be a serious critic and theorist of drama.
In 1752 he took his master's degree in Wittenberg. From 1760 to 1765, he worked in Breslau (now Wrocław) as secretary to General Tauentzien during the Seven Years' War between Britain and France, which had effects in Europe. It was during this time that he wrote his famous Laocoön, or the Limitations of Poetry.
In 1765 Lessing returned to Berlin, leaving in 1767 to work for three years at the Hamburg National Theatre. Actor-manager, Konrad Ackermann, began construction on Germany's first permanent theatre in Hamburg. Johann Friedrich Löwen established Germany's first national theatre, the Hamburg National Theatre. The owners hired Lessing as the theatre's critic of plays and acting, which would later be known as dramaturgy (based on his own words), making Lessing the very first dramaturge. The theatre's main backer was Abel Seyler, a former currency speculator who since became known as "the leading patron of German theatre." There he met Eva König, his future wife. His work in Hamburg formed the basis of his pioneering work on drama, titled Hamburgische Dramaturgie. Unfortunately, because of financial losses due to pirated editions of the Hamburgische Dramaturgie, the Hamburg Theatre closed just three years later.
In 1770 Lessing became librarian at the ducal library, now the Herzog August Library (Herzog-August-Bibliothek, Bibliotheca Augusta), in Wolfenbüttel under the commission of the Duke of Brunswick. His tenure there was energetic, if interrupted by many journeys. In 1775, for example, he accompanied Prince Leopold to Italy.
On 14 October 1771 Lessing was initiated into Freemasonry in the lodge "Zu den drei Goldenen Rosen" in Hamburg.
In 1776 he married Eva König, who was then a widow, in Jork (near Hamburg). She died in 1778 after giving birth to a short-lived son. On 15 February 1781, Lessing, aged 52, died during a visit to the wine dealer Angott in Brunswick.
Lessing was also famous for his friendship with Jewish-German philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. A recent biography of Mendelssohn's grandson, Felix, describes their friendship as one of the most "illuminating metaphors [for] the clarion call of the Enlightenment for religious tolerance". It was this relationship that sparked his interest in popular religious debates of the time. He began publishing heated pamphlets on his beliefs which were eventually banned. It was this banishment that inspired him to return to theatre to portray his views and to write Nathan the Wise.
Early in his life, Lessing showed interest in the theatre. In his theoretical and critical writings on the subject—as in his own plays—he tried to contribute to the development of a new type of theatre in Germany. With this he especially turned against the then predominant literary theory of Gottsched and his followers. Lessing's Hamburgische Dramaturgie ran critiques of plays that were performed in the Hamburg Theatre, but after dealing with dissatisfied actors and actresses, Lessing redirected his writings to more of an analysis on the proper uses of drama. Lessing advocated the outline of drama in Aristotle's Poetics. He believed the French Academy had devalued the uses of drama through their neoclassical rules of form and separation of genres. His repeated opinions on this issue influenced theatre practitioners who began the movement of rejecting theatre rules known as Sturm und Drang ("Storm and Stress"). He also supported serious reception of Shakespeare's works. He worked with many theatre groups (e.g. the one of the Neuberin).
In Hamburg he tried with others to set up the German National Theatre. Today his own works appear as prototypes of the later developed bourgeois German drama. Scholars see Miss Sara Sampson and Emilia Galotti as amongst the first bourgeois tragedies, Minna von Barnhelm (Minna of Barnhelm) as the model for many classic German comedies, Nathan the Wise (Nathan der Weise) as the first German drama of ideas ("Ideendrama"). His theoretical writings Laocoön and Hamburg Dramaturgy (Hamburgische Dramaturgie) set the standards for the discussion of aesthetic and literary theoretical principles. Lessing advocated that dramaturgs should carry their work out working directly with theatre companies rather than in isolation.
In his religious and philosophical writings he defended the faithful Christian's right for freedom of thought. He argued against the belief in revelation and the holding on to a literal interpretation of the Bible by the predominant orthodox doctrine through a problem later to be called Lessing's Ditch. Lessing outlined the concept of the religious "Proof of Power": How can miracles continue to be used as a base for Christianity when we have no proof of miracles? Historical truths which are in doubt cannot be used to prove metaphysical truths (such as God's existence). As Lessing says it: "That, then, is the ugly great ditch which I cannot cross, however often and however earnestly I have tried to make that leap."
In the final leg of his life, Lessing threw himself into an intense evaluation of theology and religion. He did much of his studying by reading manuscripts he found while working as a librarian. While working for the Duke, he formed a close friendship with a family by the name of Reimarus. The family held an unpublished manuscript by Hermann Samuel Reimarus which attacked the historicity of Christian revelation. Despite discouragement from his brother Karl Gotthelf Lessing, he began publishing pieces of the manuscript in pamphlets known as Fragments from an Unnamed Author. The controversial pamphlets resulted in a heated debate between him and another theologian, Johann Melchior Goeze. In concern for tarnishing his reputation, Goeze requested the government put an end to the feud, and Lessing was silenced through a law that took away his freedom from censorship.
In response, Lessing relied upon his skills as a playwright to write what is undoubtedly his most influential play, Nathan the Wise. In the play, Lessing set up tension between Judaism, Islam, and Christianity by having one character ask Nathan which religion was the most genuine. Nathan avoids the question by telling the parable of the three rings, which implies the idea that no specific religion is the "correct religion." The Enlightenment ideas to which Lessing held tight were portrayed through his "ideal of humanity," stating that religion is relative to the individual's ability to reason. Nathan the Wise is considered to be the first example of the German "literature of humanity". As a child of the Enlightenment he trusted in a "Christianity of Reason", which oriented itself by the spirit of religion. He believed that human reason (initiated by criticism and dissent) would develop, even without help by a divine revelation. In his writing The Education of Humankind (Die Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts) he extensively and coherently lays out his position.
The idea of freedom (for the theatre against the dominance of its French model; for religion from the church's dogma) is his central theme throughout his life. Therefore, he also stood up for the liberation of the upcoming middle and upper class from the nobility making up their minds for them.
In his own literary existence he also constantly strove for independence. But his ideal of a possible life as a free author was hard to keep up against the economic constraints he faced. His project of authors self-publishing their works, which he tried to accomplish in Hamburg with C. J. Bode, failed.
Lessing is important as a literary critic for his work Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry. In this work, he argues against the tendency to take Horace's ut pictura poesis (as painting, so poetry) as prescriptive for literature. In other words, he objected to trying to write poetry using the same devices as one would in painting. Instead, poetry and painting each has its character (the former is extended in time; the latter is extended in space). This is related to Lessing's turn from French classicism to Aristotelian mimesis, discussed above.
Johann Daniel Müller (born 1716 in Wissenbach/Nassau, today part of Eschenburg, deceased after 1785) published the following anonymous book against Lessing and Reimarus:
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was the world's first officially appointed dramaturg.
Christian Friedrich Lessing (10 August 1809 – 13 March 1862) was a German botanist who was a native of Groß Wartenberg, Niederschlesien. He was a brother to painter Carl Friedrich Lessing (1808–1880), and a grandnephew of poet Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781).
Lessing was a botanical authority on the plant family Asteraceae, and in 1832 published an influential treatise on Asteraceae called Synopsis generum Compositarum. He performed extensive botanical research in Siberia. In 1862 he was buried in Trinity Cemetery, in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.
The plant genus Lessingia from the family Asteraceae is named in honor of Christian Friedrich, Karl Friedrich and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.Dramaturge
A dramaturge or dramaturg is a literary adviser or editor in a theatre, opera, or film company who researches, selects, adapts, edits, and interprets scripts, libretti, texts, and printed programmes (or helps others with these tasks), consults with authors, and does public relations work. Its modern-day function was originated by the innovations of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, an 18th-century German playwright, philosopher, and theatre theorist.Emilia Galotti
Emilia Galotti is a play in five acts by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), which premiered on 8 March 1772 in Brunswick ("Braunschweig" in German). The work is a classic example of German bürgerliches Trauerspiel (bourgeois tragedy). Other works in this category include Schiller's Kabale und Liebe and Hebbel's Maria Magdalene. The story is based upon the Roman myth of Verginia.
Emilia Galotti is a drama of the Enlightenment, though it doesn't precisely follow the standard French model of the era. Although love is a central theme, in reality Emilia Galotti is primarily a political commentary. The arbitrary style of rule by the aristocracy is placed in stark contrast to the new and enlightened morality of the bourgeoisie. The more feudal ideas of love and marriage thus come into conflict with the growing tendency to marry for love, rather than family tradition and power. This combination results in a rather explosive situation. It was made into a film in 1958.Eva König
Eva Catharina Lessing (22 March 1736 – 10 January 1778) was a German woman of letters. She was born Eva Catharina Hahn on March 22, 1736 in the southern German city of Heidelberg. In 1756 she married the Hamburg businessman Engelbert König, giving her the married name Eva König. It was in 1767 that she first became friends with the playwright Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, who was also godfather to her son Fritz. After her husband König died in 1768, Eva was looked after by Lessing. In 1771 they became engaged, though circumstances did not favour a timely marriage. In fact, due to matters related to König's estate, Eva was obliged to make several visits to Vienna, over a lengthy period of time, and then accompany the young Prince Leopold of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, a future Prussian general, on a journey to Italy in 1775. As a result, the couple's main mode of contact during their engagement was through written correspondence, much of which has survived. In 1776 they were finally married, in Jork near Hamburg. Eva Lessing then moved to Wolfenbüttel with her husband. She died there, aged 41, in 1778, of neonatal sepsis soon after the birth of their son Traugott.Hamburg Dramaturgy
The Hamburg Dramaturgy (German: Hamburgische Dramaturgie) is a highly influential work on drama by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, written between 1767 and 1769. It was not originally conceived as a unified and systematical book, but rather as series of essays on the theater, which Lessing wrote as commentary on the short-lived Hamburg National Theater. This collection of 101 short essays represents one of the first sustained critical engagements with the potential of theater as a vehicle for the advancement of humanistic discourse. In many ways, the Hamburg Dramaturgy defined the new field of dramaturgy, and also introduced the term.During the time Lessing wrote the Hamburg Dramaturgy, there was a new movement of German theatre, based on self-reflection. Actors were beginning to perform the inner and outer lives of their characters at the same time. One of Lessing's most famous and renowned quotes from the compilation considers the responsibilities of the actor and the playwright: “The great discernment of the drama critic lies in his ability to distinguish, whenever he feels pleasure or displeasure, to what extent that feeling should be credited to the writer or to the actor”The idea of a journal with Lessing as a dramatic critic to reflect on the Hamburg National Theater's efforts was conceived by the theatre's founder Johann Friedrich Löwen, and Abel Seyler, "the power behind the throne," who at first reluctantly agreed, but was eventually won over by the journal's success. Because the plays of the new German Bourgeoisie theatre became more detailed and complicated, the audience often felt confused or left out; Lessing’s development of the Hamburg Dramaturgy was in part a reaction to this.Topics covered by Lessing in the series of essays include Aristotle's theory of tragedy, acting theory, the role of theater in society, the means by which theater achieves its emotional effects, criticism of the actor and the play, issues of translation, and a nascent theory of the psychology of emotions. Lessing's writings were influential for many German theater artists who came after, notably Bertolt Brecht.Kamenz
Kamenz (Upper Sorbian: Kamjenc) is a town (Große Kreisstadt) in the district of Bautzen in Saxony, Germany. Until 2008 it was the administrative seat of Kamenz District. The town is known as the birthplace of the philosopher and poet Gotthold Ephraim Lessing also Bruno Richard Hauptmann. It lies north-east of the major city of Dresden.Lessing
Lessing is a German surname of Slavic origin, originally Lesnik meaning "woodman".Lessing may refer to:
A German family of writers, artists, musicians and politicians who can be traced back to a Michil Lessigk mentioned in 1518 as being a linen weaver in Jahnsdorf near Chemnitz.
The family includes:
Johann Gottfried Lessing (1693–1770) pastor primarus in Kamenz, well respected, published theologian, translator and father of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781) and Karl Gotthelf Lessing (1740–1812). Johann Gottfried's father Theophilus Lessing (1647–1735) was mayor of Kamenz and Robert Schumann's (the composer and pianist 1810–1856) four-times great uncle, Johanne Sophie Susanna Lessing (1745–1818 daughter of Carl Heinrich Lessing 1713, a trumpeter) his grandmother.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), one of the most prominent philosophers of the Enlightenment era, recognised as the world's first dramaturg, Germany's first dramatist and comedy playwright, champion for religious tolerance, friend of Moses Mendelssohn, critic for the Vossische Zeitung, translator and Shakespearean scholar. Today his own works appear as prototypes of the later developed bourgeois German drama. Scholars generally see Miss Sara Sampson and Emilia Galotti as the first bourgeois tragedies, Minna von Barnhelm as the model for many classic German comedies, Nathan the Wise as the first German drama of ideas ("Ideendrama") and his theoretical writings Laokoon and Hamburg Dramaturgy set the standards for the discussion of aesthetic and literary theoretical principles.
Karl Gotthelf Lessing (1740–1812), Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's (1729–1781) younger brother and his first biographer, comedy playwright, translator, mint director and owner through marriage to Marie Friederike Voß, the daughter of Christian Friedrich Voß of the Vossische Zeitung.
Carl Friedrich Lessing (1778–1848), son of Karl Gotthelf Lessing (1740–1812), published philosopher, chancellor under Prince Biron von Curland in Polnisch Wartenberg.
Karl Friedrich Lessing (1808–1880), German painter, son of Carl Friedrich Lessing (1778–1848) and great nephew of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), married to Ida Heuser niece of painter Henriette Jügel and whose niece Malwine Schroedter (1847–1901) married painter and then director of the Academy of Arts, Berlin, Anton von Werner.
Christian Friedrich Lessing (1809–1862, died and buried in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia), physician, botanist, writer, son of Carl Friedrich Lessing (1778–1848) and great nephew of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781)
Carl Louis Gotthold Ludwig Lessing (1817–1897), modelmaker/designer, wine grower and lecturer, son of Carl Friedrich Lessing (1778–1848) and great nephew of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781) married to Marie von Ammon (1833–1928), granddaughter of Daniel Heinrich Delius, a lawyer in Brussels and later president of the region of Trier, also sister of Clara von Ammon who married Johannes Rösing (1833–1909), a diplomat between the States and Germany and son of controversial politician Johannes Rösing (1793–1862) who had been imprisoned for left wing ideas.
Franziska Fanny Maria Lessing (1818–1901), daughter of Carl Friedrich Lessing and great niece of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), married to German painter Emil Ebers (1807–1884).
Carl Robert Lessing (1827–1895), publicist, owner of the Vossische Zeitung and Schloss Meseberg, son of Carl Friedrich Lessing (1778–1848) and great nephew of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781).
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing the Younger (1861–1919), son of Carl Robert Lessing (1827–1895), landowner and liberal politician.
Otto Lessing (sculptor) (1846–1912), German sculptor, photographer and writer, gifted pianist, son of Karl Friedrich Lessing (1808–1880), married to Sigrid Gude, daughter of Norwegian painter Hans Gude.
Bertha Lessing (1844–1914) daughter of Karl Friedrich Lessing (1808–1880), married to royal court actor and dramatist Karl Koberstein; their son Hans Koberstein became a painter.
Konrad Lessing (1852–1916) landscape painter, son of Karl Friedrich Lessing (1808–1880).
Heinrich Lessing (1856–1930), painter, son of Karl Friedrich Lessing (1808–1880).
Kolja Lessing (born 1961), five times great nephew of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), German pianist, violinist, composer and music professor at the Stuttgart Musik Hochschule.Lessing is also the surname of:
Doris Lessing (1919–2013), British novelist and the 2007 Nobel Prize laureate in literature. once married to Gottfried Lessing
Gottfried Lessing (1914–1979), German diplomat
Feodor Yulievich Levinson-Lessing (1861–1939), Russian geologist
Erich Lessing (1923-2018), Austrian Magnum photographer
Lawrence Lessing, US journalist
Roland Lessing (born 1978), Estonian biathlete
Simon Lessing (born 1971), British athlete
Theodor Lessing (1872–1933), German-Jewish philosopherLessing-Gymnasium, Frankfurt
The Lessing-Gymnasium is the oldest Gymnasium in Frankfurt. Named after Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, it was founded in 1519 by the city council.Lessing (crater)
Lessing is a crater on Mercury. It has a diameter of 100 kilometers. Its name was adopted by the International Astronomical Union in 1985. Lessing is named for the German writer Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, who lived from 1729 to 1781.Lessing Monument
The Lessing Monument (German: Lessing-Denkmal) is a monument to Gotthold Ephraim Lessing by Otto Lessing, installed at Tiergarten in Berlin, Germany.Minna (disambiguation)
Minna is a city in west central Nigeria.
Minna may also refer to:
Minna (given name), given namePeople (surname):
Maria Minna (born 1948), Canadian politicianOther:
Minna von Barnhelm, a lustspiel by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Minna Bluff, a rocky promontory in Antarctica
Minna Airport, Nigeria
SS Minna (1922), a Swedish cargo ship in service 1922-39
Minna-Dietlinde Wilcke, a character in the anime Strike Witches
Minna Häkkinen, a recurring character played by Sally Phillips on the television series Veep.Minna von Barnhelm
Minna von Barnhelm or the Soldiers' Happiness (German: Minna von Barnhelm oder das Soldatenglück) is a lustspiel or comedy by the German author Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. It has five acts, was begun in 1763 and completed in 1767 – its author put the year 1763 on the official title page, presumably to emphasize that the recent Seven Years' War plays a major part in the play, which is set on 22 August 1763. It is one of the most important comedies in German literature.Miss Sara Sampson
Miss Sara Sampson (original spelling Miß Sara Sampson) is a play by the Enlightenment philosopher, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Written in 1755 while the author was living in Potsdam, it is seen by many scholars to be one of the first bourgeois tragedies. In the same year it was represented at Frankfurt-on-the-Oder and was very well received. It was afterwards translated and acted in France, where it also met with success. The play was Lessing's first real success as a playwright and it was in part due to the success of this play that he was asked to be the dramaturg at the German National Theatre in Hamburg.Nathan the Wise
Nathan the Wise (original German title: Nathan der Weise) is a play published by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in 1779. It is a fervent plea for religious tolerance. Its performance was forbidden by the Lutheran church during Lessing's lifetime, and it was first performed in 1783 at the Döbbelinsches Theater in Berlin.Set in Jerusalem during the Third Crusade, it describes how the wise Jewish merchant Nathan, the enlightened sultan Saladin, and the (initially anonymous) Templar, bridge their gaps between Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Its major themes are friendship, tolerance, relativism of God, a rejection of miracles and a need for communication.Nathan the Wise (film)
Nathan the Wise (German: Nathan der Weise) is a 1922 German silent historical film directed by Manfred Noa and starring Fritz Greiner, Carl de Vogt and Lia Eibenschütz. It is based on the 1779 play Nathan the Wise by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. It was made by Bavaria Film at the Emelka Studios. The film provoked protests in Munich from far-right groups who felt it was too pro-Jewish.In 2010 oud player and composer Rabih Abou-Khalil released a soundtrack composed for the film entitled Trouble in Jerusalem.Peter Francke
Peter Francke (1897-1978) was a German screenwriter. He wrote the screenplay for The Girl from Barnhelm (1940), an adaptation of a play by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.Philotas
Philotas (Greek: Φιλώτας, died October 330 BC) was the eldest son of Parmenion, one of Alexander the Great's most experienced and talented generals. He rose to command the Companion Cavalry, but was accused of conspiring against Alexander and executed.The Girl from Barnhelm
The Girl from Barnhelm (German:Das Fräulein von Barnhelm) is a 1940 German historical comedy film directed by Hans Schweikart and starring Käthe Gold, Ewald Balser and Fita Benkhoff. It is an adaptation of the 1767 play Minna von Barnhelm by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.The Jews (play)
Die Juden (English The Jews) is German-language play by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Written in 1749 in Berlin it was staged 1754. Like the same author's Nathan der Weise the play pleads for religious tolerance and is generally seen as sympathetic to the Jewish people.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing