Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
|Born||22 January 1729|
Kamenz, Upper Lusatia, Saxony
|Died||15 February 1781 52) (aged|
|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|
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing ( // ; 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.
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 Löwenestablished 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 Gottschedand 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.[ citation needed ]
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.
The Radical Pietist Johann Daniel Müller (born 1716 in Wissenbach/Nassau, today part of Eschenburg, deceased after 1785) published the following anonymous book against Lessing and Reimarus:
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, 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.
Dramaturgy is the study of dramatic composition and the representation of the main elements of drama on the stage.
Hermann Samuel Reimarus, was a German philosopher and writer of the Enlightenment who is remembered for his Deism, the doctrine that human reason can arrive at a knowledge of God and ethics from a study of nature and our own internal reality, thus eliminating the need for religions based on revelation. He denied the supernatural origin of Christianity, and was the first influential critic to investigate the historical Jesus. According to Reimarus, Jesus was a mortal Jewish prophet, and the apostles founded Christianity as a religion separate from Jesus’ own ministry.
Lessing is a German surname of Slavic origin, originally Lesnik meaning "woodman".
Konrad Ernst Ackermann was a German actor.
Bourgeois tragedy is a form of tragedy that developed in 18th-century Europe. It is a fruit of the enlightenment and the emergence of the bourgeois class and its ideals. It is characterized by the fact that its protagonists are ordinary citizens.
Nathan the Wise is a play published by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in 1779. It is a fervent plea for religious tolerance. It was never performed during Lessing's lifetime and was first performed in 1783 at the Döbbelinsches Theater in Berlin.
Christian Wernicke was a German epigramist and diplomat. His surname has also been spelled Wernigke, Warneck, and Werneke.
Konrad Ekhof was a German actor, widely regarded as one of the foremost actors of the German-speaking realm in the 18th century. He was noted for his collaboration with the theatre principal Abel Seyler in the 1760s and 1770s, first at the Hamburg National Theatre and then at the travelling Seyler Theatre Company.
The Thalia Theater is one of the three state-owned theatres in Hamburg, Germany. It was founded in 1843 by Charles Maurice Schwartzenberger and named after the muse Thalia. Today, it is home to one of Germany's most famous ensembles and stages around 9 new plays per season. Current theatre manager is Joachim Lux, who in 2009/10 succeeded Ulrich Khuon.
Andrea Clausen is a German stage actress, member of the Burgtheater ensemble.
Elise Reimarus was a German writer, educator, translator and salon-holder. She was the sister of Johann Albert Heinrich Reimarus and the daughter of Hermann Samuel Reimarus.
Hamid Arzulu is an Azerbaijani poet, writer, translator, dramatist, scientist, teacher,doctor of Philology. He lives in the city of Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan. Hamid Arzulu is one of intellectual men who lives in Nakhchivan. He came to literature with poems, then as well as publication and literary translation from German language effective activity made him famous among readers. In the book of "Call me" and "Hanbadzhy and its guests" all the poems tell that how the author dup knows the national nature of people. His satirical poems in arus metre in free metre "You tell me spean openly", "The legends of our village", "My holiday Novrus is coming", won the first prize from the newspaper competition "The east end" poem "Geydarname". He was connected in the field of translation from German language and workedstrained. He translated and published into our language the works by German classic writer Heinrich Heine, Goethe's lyric poetry "West-Eastern Divan", Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's dramas "Nathan the Wise", "Emilia Galotti" and "Minna von Barnhelm", Friedrich Schiller's "Ballads", Bertolt Brecht's drama "Chalk cross" and Stefan Zweig's Novels.
The Altes Theater was the first theatre building in the German city of Leipzig. It was sited on Richard-Wagner-Platz.
Minna von Barnhelm or the Soldiers' Happiness 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. It was first performed in 1767 by the Hamburg National Theatre, where Lessing worked as a dramaturg.
The Hamburg Enterprise, commonly known as the Hamburg National Theatre, was a theatre company in Hamburg, that existed 1767–1769 at the Gänsemarkt square, and that was led by Abel Seyler. It was the first attempt to establish a national theatre in Germany. It was modelled after Det Kongelige Teater, founded by Ludvig Holberg in Denmark in 1748. Its leading actor was Konrad Ekhof and the theatre employed Gotthold Ephraim Lessing as the world's first dramaturg; Lessing's influential Hamburg Dramaturgy, based on his work at the Hamburg National Theatre, defined the new field of dramaturgy and also introduced the term. The theatre premiered Lessing's Minna von Barnhelm on 30 September 1767.
Der Kanon or more precisely Marcel-Reich-Ranickis Kanon is a large anthology of exemplary works of German literature. Edited by the literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki, he called the anthology, announced on 18 June 2001 in the German news magazine Der Spiegel under the title "The Canon of worthwhile German Works", his magnum opus. The five parts appeared from 2002 to 2006 published by Insel Verlag: 1. Novels (2002), 2. Tales/Stories (2003), 3. Dramatic Works (2004), 4. Poetry (2005), and 5. Essays (2006). As expected, the anthology met with opposition and criticism, and even the idea of an anthology was questioned, but Reich-Ranicki called this questioning "incomprehensible, because the lack of a canon would mean relapse into barbarism. Reich-Ranicki sought to differentiate his anthology from previous compilations in his hope to imagine a "reader judge" such as teachers, students, librarians, who would need to draw from this canon because they were in the "first line of those who deal with literature professionally."
The Hamburg Dramaturgy is a highly influential work on drama by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, written between 1767 and 1769 when he worked as a dramaturg for Abel Seyler's Hamburg National Theatre. 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 plays of 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.
The Girl from 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.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was the world's first officially appointed dramaturg.
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