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'Dies hohe lied der duldung?' The ambiguities of tolertion in Lessing's 'Die Juden' and 'Nathan der Weise.'

Lessing's plays Die Juden and, especially, Nathan der Weise have usually been considered impressive pleas for social and religious toleration. The parable of the three rings, in particular, has been taken as a compelling argument for showing equal respect to the three great monotheisms: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, German Jews appealed to Lessing, and above all to Nathan, as evidence that a symbiosis of German and Jewish culture was possible. (1) Thus the liberal Jewish leader Gabriel Riesser wrote in 1838: 'So bedeutet uns der Name Lessing Menschenbildung, Menschenliebe, Aufklarung, Gewissensfreiheit, Kampf gegen Unduldsamkeit, Religionshass, Geistesdruck', and singled out Nathan as Lessing's 'erhabenste Dichtung'. (2) In 1860 the Leipzig rabbi Abraham Meyer Goldschmidt agreed: 'Durch ihn [Nathan] hat Lessing nicht nur die deutsche Literatur mit einer ihrer schonsten Zierden beschenkt; er hat eine ganze, numerisch nicht unbedeutende Klasse--die Juden Deutschlands--mit dem deutschen Vaterland beschenkt!' (3) On the play's centenary, the liberal Jewish politician Emil Lehmann declared: 'Fur die Juden aber war der Nathan der Ausgangspunkt einer neuen Zeit, die flammende Saule, die sie hinausfuhrte aus dem Wustenleben der Ghetti in das gelobte Land der Gleichberechtigung.' (4) It seemed that the tolerance preached in the play had now been turned into reality by emancipatory legislation. A number of German Jews, including the grandfather of the historian and polemicist Theodor Lessing, adopted the surname Lessing out of gratitude for 'dies hohe Lied der Duldung'. (5)

Dissentient voices, however, have queried both the extent and the character of Lessing's tolerance. A character in Fanny Lewald's novel Jenny (1843) complains that the representatives of the three religions are suspiciously similar:

In dem Bestreben, die positiven Religionsunterschiede als unwesentlich darzustellen, sobald die innere, wahre Religion vorhanden, hat Lessing den einzelnen Reprasentanten der verschiedenen Konfessionen ihren nationalen und durch den Glauben bedingten Typus genommen, so dass Saladin, der Templer und Nathan, drei so ganz abweichende Charaktere, eine Art von protestantischer Familienahnlichkeit bekommen. (6)

The Zionist Kurt Blumenberg claims in his autobiography that even as a boy he read Nathan sceptically, noting that Lessing, by revealing that the Templar and Recha are brother and sister, prevents a mixed marriage. (7) Recently the German-Jewish novelist and polemicist Rafael Seligmann has described Nathan as a 'judischen Onkel Tom', the intolerant German's version of an acceptable Jew, (8) and the very character of the tolerance exemplified in the play is thrown into doubt by Nicholas Boyle's aside in his biography of Goethe: 'The representatives of the three major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, are not here shown to tolerate one another's differences, for it is only temporary misunderstanding that prevents them from recognizing that they all think alike: they are shown rather to be agreed in a fourth, secret, religion of agnostic humanism.' (9) The purpose of this article is to substantiate some at least of these criticisms by showing that the toleration extended to Jews in Nathan der Weise is qualified and that the very concept of toleration expressed in the play is deeply problematic.

Nathan helps to illuminate the problems arising from two varieties of toleration. The first is religious toleration: the relations among different communities of faith, or individual practitioners of different religions. The second is the acceptance of cultural diversity, an issue that has become prominent in present-day debates on multiculturalism. In eighteenth-century Germany it was both religious difference and cultural difference that hindered the emancipation of the Jews.

In moving towards religious toleration, the Enlightenment transferred the emphasis from the community of faith to the individual believer. (10) The homogeneity of belief the medieval Church had tried to impose was an ideal retained by the Reformers, especially Luther and Calvin, and the maxim of the Peace of Augsburg (1555), 'cuius regio eius religio', limited toleration by letting princes dictate the religion of their subjects. After over a century of religious wars, however, toleration found its advocates, including Milton, Bayle, and Locke. Locke's Letter on Toleration (1689) assumes that the Church must be quite separate from civil society. Religion becomes a purely private, individual matter: 'The care of each man's salvation belongs only to himself.' (11) The ruler must not interfere with his subjects' religious beliefs and practices, unless they endanger the peace of society. Frederick the Great wrote in 1751 about the many sects tolerated in Prussia: 'Toutes ces sectes vivent ici en paix, & contribuent egalement au bonheur de l'etat; il n'y a aucune religion, qui sur le sujet de la morale s'ecarte beaucoup des autres; ainsi elles peuvent etre toutes egales au gouvernement, qui consequemment laisse a un chacun la liberte d'aller au ciel par quel chemin il lui plait: qu'il soit bon citoien, c'est tout ce qu'on lui demande.' (12) A policy of toleration was also implied by the gradual weakening of Lutheran orthodoxy, with its insistence that the Scriptures were divinely inspired and that the Jews had been rejected by God for their obdurate resistance to the Christian message. (13) It lost ground to liberal theology or neology, based on the historical and philological study of Scripture. While the neologists, unlike the more radical deists, retained the concept of revelation, they insisted that revelation must be in accordance with reason, and its purpose must be the moral enlightenment of mankind. Thus neology tended to empty revelation of any content that was not already supplied by reason and nature. (14)

The question of Jewish emancipation also began to raise the question of how to accommodate different cultures within the same polity. In present-day discussions of multiculturalism, it is often unclear how the 'culture' in 'multiculturalism' is to be understood. (15) Is it to be understood in the strong sense whereby 'culture' includes a language and a legal system? The presence of two or more legal systems in one country would be hard to reconcile with the power and integrity of the national state, and the coexistence of two or more official languages is even today an unusual and precarious situation. In the case of Jewish emancipation, it was always clear that the strong sense of culture was not to apply. Linguistic integration was expected on both sides. The Jewish Enlightenment or Haskala promoted the literary use of Hebrew, but frowned on Yiddish and urged Jews to acquire German for all practical purposes. Jews were not to retain self-governing institutions, but were to be integrated into the state as individual citizens. That was the argument put forward in 1781 by the Prussian civil servant Christian Wilhelm von Dohm in his treatise Uber die burgerliche Verbesserung der Juden. 'Der Jude ist noch mehr Mensch als Jude, und wie ware es moglich, dass er einen Staat nicht lieben sollte, in dem er ein freyes Eigenthum erwerben, und desselben frey geniessen konnte, wo seine Abgaben nicht grosser als die andrer Burger waren, und wo auch von ihm Ehre und Achtung erworben werden konnte?' (16) Dohm was animated by the mercantilist outlook common among German bureaucrats, which sought to maximize the productive capacity of the state, including the state's human resources. A similar motive lay behind the Patents of Toleration issued by Joseph II from 1781 onwards (for Bohemia on 19 October 1781, for Vienna and Lower Austria on 2 January 1782). These did not give Jews citizenship or equal legal rights, but did promote their 'civic betterment' by admitting them to civil trades and professions and to general institutions of education.

There is a latent tension between two of Dohm's key terms, 'Mensch' and 'burgerliche Verbesserung'. The word 'Mensch' attests to a conception of universal humanity that made it wrong to exclude the Jews from civil society simply because of their religion. 'Burgerliche Verbesserung', however, not only means the amelioration of their legal status but signifies that for Dohm and his friends, such amelioration depended on the Jews' adoption of the life-style of the surrounding majority as a prerequisite for citizenship. (17) Similarly, for Joseph II toleration was not an acknowledgement of Jews' difference but, he hoped, a first step towards their assimilation and Christianization: 'In effect Jews were to cease to be Jews, by adopting German dress, German names, German education, German laws, German occupations and, last but not least, the German language.' (18) A similar tension underlies Wilhelm von Humboldt's proposal to grant Prussian Jews unconditional legal equality as 'Menschen', since Humboldt also expected emancipation to lead to a complete assimilation that would end the specific existence of Jews as Jews. (19) Thus the abstract ideal indicated by the word 'Mensch' could easily conflict with the pressure on Jews to adopt a specific culture. The gradual and hesitant removal of legal disabilities from Jews (a process completed in Austria in 1867, in Germany in 1871) accompanied an unwritten 'emancipation contract' that continually obliged Jews to demonstrate that they had in fact acquired German culture. While Jews throughout the nineteenth century continued to identify German culture with the universalist values of the Enlightenment, they eventually found themselves exposed to hostility from proponents of a nationalist German culture so defined as to be inaccessible to Jews. The universalism denoted by the word 'Mensch' was in ultimately tragic conflict with the pressure to adopt a particular culture.

An analogous tension exists within the concept of toleration. It implies that those extending toleration are more powerful than those receiving toleration, and that the former tolerate the beliefs of the latter only reluctantly and disapprovingly. Toleration presupposes disapproval; otherwise there would be nothing to tolerate. (20) To weaken the link between toleration and disapproval, to satisfy rationalist scepticism about the truth-claims of revelation, to smooth relations among proponents of different religions, and to avoid stirring up enmities like those that devastated Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it is tempting to seek a common ground on which proponents of different religions can agree. Enlightenment thinkers found this common ground in natural religion and natural morality. 'By Natural Religion', wrote the English deist Matthew Tindal, 'I understand the Belief of the Existence of a God, and the Sense and Practice of those Duties, which result from the Knowledge, we, by our Reason, have of him, and his Perfections; and of ourselves, and or own Imperfections; and of the Relation we stand in to him, and to our Fellow-Creatures; so that the Religion of Nature takes in every Thing that is founded on the Reason and Nature of Things.' (21) Yet this common ground has proved unstable. For many people nowadays, the assumptions that Tindal thought self-evident have been undermined by moral and cognitive relativism. Moreover, what purports to be a neutral standpoint, intended to promote tolerance, has developed into a secular agnosticism that is hostile to religion as such. The toleration offered by such an agnosticism tends to sidestep judgement, either by interpreting other people's beliefs as being only superficially different but fundamentally the same as one's own, or by denying that any judgements of truth or value are legitimate. This conception is a pseudo-tolerance that tolerates different beliefs only on the assumption that they are not really different; masquerading as toleration of others, it actually makes the implicit claim that its own values are universal and unchallengeable. As James Parkes put it in his 1961 lecture The Theology of Toleration: 'Neither Jew nor Christian would be willing to accept the solution that all religions were alike to God, or that there was no difference between truth and error as they were manifested in this world. That would not be toleration, but indifference. It would not enrich man's understanding of God; it would so impoverish the idea of Deity as to make it meaningless and ineffective.' (22) Such indifference rules out dialogue between adherents of different religions: for either the other people hold beliefs different from and incommensurable with our own, to which we can only listen uncomprehendingly, or else they really hold the same beliefs as we do, and there is nothing to hold a dialogue about. My argument is that Lessing illustrates this deceptive toleration.

While Jews were adjusting to the Gentile society around them, some Enlightenment writers were experiencing a conflict between their anti-Jewish prejudices and their advocacy of religious toleration. To resolve this conflict, they argued that Jews too, being human, were capable of virtue. Differences of religion could be put aside once it was clear that Jews agreed with Christians on how to behave morally. The literary pathbreaker was Christian Furchtegott Gellert. Before Gellert, German novels had portrayed Jewish figures as malicious and deceitful, unwilling to help Christians except for money. (23) Gellert's novel Leben der schwedischen Grafin von G*** (1747-48) contains a noble Polish Jew, who is saved from freezing to death in Siberia by the Count von G*** and shows his gratitude by having him released from captivity and giving him food, clothes, and money. Unlike the novel's central characters, however, the Jew has no name, and indeed his Jewish features, apart from his grey beard and long fur coat, are played down. His piety is illustrated when he is found praying on his knees, in a posture that seems more Christian than Jewish. He represents a questionable dialectic of emancipation, for he is held up as an exception, proof that there can be good Jews: 'Dieser Mann ist auf die edelste Art dankbar gewesen und hat mir bewiesen, dass es auch unter dem Volke gute Herzen gibt, das sie am wenigsten zu haben scheint.' (24) Thus Gellert's philosemitism actually confirms anti-Jewish prejudice by conveying that most Jews are indeed scoundrels and good Jews exceptional. (25)

A similar dialectic qualifies Lessing's philosemitic plays Die Juden (1754) and Nathan der Weise (1779). Lessing supported Jewish emancipation long before it seemed a practical possibility: as early as 1753, for example, he agreed with the anonymous author of Schreiben eines Juden an einen Philosophen 'dass es der Gerechtigkeit und dem Vorteile eines Regenten gemass sei, das Elend der judischen Nation aufzuheben' (G III, 175). (26) He describes the play Die Juden as 'das Resultat einer sehr ernsthaften Betrachtung uber die schimpfliche Unterdruckung, in welcher ein Volk seufzen muss, das ein Christ, sollte ich meinen, nicht ohne eine Art von Ehrerbietung betrachten kann' (I, 645). Lessing's reputation as a militant supporter of toleration is based largely on these two plays. But what kind of toleration do they represent?

Die Juden, written in 1749 and published in 1754, exhibits, more interestingly and wittily than Gellert, a philosemitism that is ultimately subject to the same restrictions. A traveller saves a Baron from two highway robbers who are in fact the Baron's own servants, disguised as Jews. To protect themselves, the servants hold forth about godless, thieving Jews, while the Baron remarks that the Jews' deceitful character is apparent from their faces. He does not yet know that the traveller he is addressing is himself a Jew. The Baron offers the traveller, out of gratitude, his daughter and hence his fortune. The traveller replies that he cannot marry his daughter because he is a Jew. Since intermarriage would have required the traveller's conversion, the standard happy ending of comedy is frustrated. The traveller's religion excludes him from the real integration represented by intermarriage, and his acceptance in Gentile society is confined to social and intellectual intercourse.

It was certainly Lessing's intention, as the plural title shows, to combat prejudice against the Jews in general. (27) Accordingly, the traveller, addressing the Baron in the closing scene, acts as a spokesman of his people: 'Zu aller Vergeltung bitte ich nichts, als dass Sie kunftig von meinem Volke etwas gelinder und weniger allgemein urteilen' (I, 413). Yet the play's philosemitism is limited by its presentation of the Jew as good because exceptional. (28) The Baron's words 'O wie achtungswurdig waren die Juden, wenn sie alle Ihnen glichen!' (I, 414) suggest that the Jew is an admirable Jew because he is untypical, both in his goodness, and in having no readily perceptible Jewish qualities. We learn that he avoids eating pork, and evidently follows Jewish religious practice, in what his servant dismissively describes as 'Alfanzereien', but none of this is visible on stage. Despite Lessing's efforts to be even-handed, Jews and Christians are not subject to the same criteria. Both groups are judged by the standard of natural morality, but the Jew is further obliged to dress and talk like a Gentile. Religious toleration and social acceptance are mixed. When Johann David Michaelis, a professor of Oriental languages at Gottingen, complained that such a noble and cultivated Jew was very unlikely to exist in reality, as most Jews lived by trade, Lessing replied that the traveller was an unusual but possible figure, in contrast to the common run of Jews: 'Freilich muss man, dieses zu glauben, die Juden naher kennen, als aus dem luderlichen Gesindel, welches auf den Jahrmarkten herumschweift' (I, 418). This statement is unlikely to rest on much actual experience of Jews, since Saxony, where Lessing was brought up, prohibited them from residing. Wealthy Jewish merchants were allowed to visit the annual fairs, but swarms of Jewish pedlars were certainly not permitted. Lessing seems to be relying on familiar cliches. (29) Hence in Lessing's reply to Michaelis the individual Jew is presented as good by contrast with an anonymous and faceless swarm of bad Jews.

It might be more accurate to describe Die Juden not as philosemitic but as anti-anti-Semitic. Or, as Wilfried Barner puts it: 'Die Besonderheit der fruhen Lessingschen Position liegt nicht primar in einer moralisch heraushebenden Bewertung des Judentums, gar in einem Philosemitismus, sondern in der Anklage gegen die ihn selbst umgebende christliche Majoritat.' (30) Hence the play emphasizes not the specific qualities of Jews but the varieties of anti-Semitism displayed by Christians. Martin Krumm, having removed the false beard with which he disguised himself as a Jew, denounces the Jews as being cheats, thieves, and highwaymen. He declares alarmingly that if he were king he would leave not one of them alive, and that if he could he would poison them all. These sentiments, which in the eighteenth century could be taken as grotesque hyperbole, are supported by a reference to the anti-Jewish doctrines of orthodox Lutheranism, for Martin cites the clergyman in his support against 'das gottlose Gesindel' (I, 380-81). The anti-Semitism of the Christian rabble is further illustrated by the traveller's own servant, who, on learning his master's identity, declares himself insulted through being employed by a Jew. The Baron's anti-Semitism has more substance, since he claims to base it on the experience of being cheated by a Jew, but the traveller's gentle reminder that every nation contains good and bad people implies that the Baron is generalizing from a single incident. In a soliloquy, the traveller reflects that if Jews cheat, then, seven times out of nine, they are driven to do so by dishonest Christians (I, 382), and, in reply to the Baron's double-edged compliment, the traveller wishes that all Christians possessed the Baron's amiable qualities. His reply may well be ironic, for, as Renate Heuer has recently argued, the traveller represents an exalted conception of virtue, probably derived from Spinoza, in which a benefactor seeks to avoid being rewarded, whereas the Baron's effusive and exaggerated gratitude, offering the traveller first his daughter and then his entire property in return for saving his life, reveals his inability to live up to Lessing's conception of friendship. (31) Rather than defending the Jews, then, Lessing is using a virtuous Jew to bring out the moral defects of Christians and above all to attack their anti-Semitism.

In his moral comedy, Lessing is adumbrating a utopia in which people, whether Jews or Christians, are judged by the standard of universal morality: the traveller says that 'die allgemeine Menschenliebe' obliged him to save the Baron (I, 378). But this is not a utopia in which difference is acknowledged, but one to which people are admitted in so far as they erase their difference and conform to a common model, that of the universal, rational, enlightened human being. The traveller's comically stupid Christian servant exclaims: 'es gibt doch wohl auch Juden, die keine Juden sind' (I, 414). Unwittingly, he has blurted out the truth: Jews can be admitted to the society of the Enlightenment only if they are not Jews.

This interpretation of Die Juden can be supported by glancing at one of Lessing's earliest writings on religion, 'Rettung des Hier. Cardanus' (1750), which is an anti-Christian satire with sarcastic touches worthy of Hume. Lessing (then trying to make his living as a writer in Berlin, after a year spent reluctantly studying theology in Leipzig) undertook to defend the philosopher and physician Geronimo Cardano (1501-76) against the charge of atheism, which was founded mainly on the comparison of paganism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity that Cardano had made in his book De subtilitate ('On Ingenuity'). Pretending to praise Cardano's account of Christianity, Lessing makes much of his assertions that the prophets foretold Christ's life as accurately as though their prophecies had been written after the fact, and that the truth of Christianity was demonstrated by its propagation among the poor and ignorant. More seriously, he commends Cardano's remark that Christianity contains nothing contrary to natural morality and philosophy. To refute Cardano's dismissive accounts of Judaism and Islam, Lessing composes imaginary orations, one by a Jew who compares the sufferings of the Jewish people to those of Job, and one by a Muslim who represents Islam as a religion of pure reason with no need for miracles or Resurrection. Here Judaism and Islam are of little interest in their own right; instead, they serve as sticks with which to beat Christianity. I shall argue presently that they serve the same purpose in Nathan der Weise.

Written in the winter of 1778-79, Nathan der Weise not only represents a move in Lessing's theological controversy with Hauptpastor Goeze of Hamburg but follows a prolonged preoccupation with theological questions that intensified in the 1770s. Lessing's religious thought is difficult to describe, because he never expounded it systematically but expressed it in controversies, where prudent evasions and polemical point-scoring obscure what may have been his real opinions. Indeed, it is likely that his beliefs, opinions, or attitudes were always mobile and inconsistent: hence we find him, surprisingly, defending orthodoxy against the historical and rationalist approach taken by the neologists with whom he might have been expected to sympathize. (32) Nevertheless, at least one constant can be identified: an appeal to reason and morality rather than faith or revelation as the criteria of religious truth. For Lessing, it was an insoluble problem that Christianity made historical claims (that God's revelation occurred at a particular time and place in history) instead of being based on the universal claims of reason. The resurrection of Christ was a contingent historical fact, based on historical testimony but not underwritten by reason. Reason and revelation were disjoined: 'Das, das ist der garstige breite Graben, uber den ich nicht kommen kann, so oft und ernstlich ich den Sprung versucht habe', he wrote in 1755 (II, 13). The image of the ditch expresses at least two aporias. (33) First, the evidence for a historical event can never be completely reliable; falsification must always be possible in principle. Second, even an eye-witness to the events recorded in the Gospels could not know, simply from observation, that these were religious events: 'Wenn ich historisch nichts darwider einzuwenden habe, dass dieser Christus selbst von dem Tode auferstanden: muss ich darum fur wahr halten, dass eben dieser auferstandene Christus der Sohn Gottes gewesen sei?' (VII, 13) There is, then, no cognitive access to religious truth, the only kind of access that the rationalist Lessing is prepared to consider. As Nicholas Boyle stresses, he cannot 'accept that direct presence of divine meaning within human facts which in theological terms is called revelation, incarnation or sacramental presence'. (34) Lessing respects religious feeling as an impetus to moral action, but when emotion is adduced as a ground for belief, it arouses his sarcasm. Thus he says that devout Christians will not be worried by Reimarus's hypotheses because their faith is based on emotion, and compares them disparagingly to victims of paralysis receiving electric shock therapy: 'Aber was gehen dem Christen dieses Mannes Hypothesen, und Erklarungen und Beweise an? Ihm ist es doch einmal da, das Christentum, welches er so wahr, in welchem er sich so selig fuhlet.--Wenn der Paralyticus die wohltatigen Schlage des Elektrischen Funkens erfahret: was kummert es ihn, ob Nollet, oder ob Franklin, oder ob keiner von beiden Recht hat?' (VII, 458).

Unwilling to discard the concept of revelation, Lessing interprets it as moral instruction, and describes its gradual transmission to humankind in Die Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts (written probably by 1777, published in 1780), a speculative history of human development, relativizing Christianity by setting forth a doctrine of progressive revelation. Lessing supposes that the revelations of Moses and Christ are God's (or Providence's) way of gradually educating humankind; their content could have been discovered by unaided human reason, but the providential process of education speeds things up. Thus the revelation of Moses was made to a savage and child-like people in the appropriately crude language of rewards and punishments; but when these moral lessons were in danger of being obscured by rabbinical over-ingenuity, a better instructor came in the person of Christ with a new schoolbook. Humanity will become mature when we no longer need such artificial inducements to morality and are able to do good because it is good, as Lessing foresees in paragraph 85 of Die Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts:

Nein; sie wird kommen, sie wird gewiss kommen, die Zeit der Vollendung, da der Mensch, je uberzeugter sein Verstand einer immer bessern Zukunft sich fuhlet, von dieser Zukunft gleichwohl Bewegungsgrunde zu seinen Handlungen zu erborgen, nicht notig haben wird; da er das Gute tun wird, weil es das Gute ist, nicht weil willkurliche Belohnungen darauf gesetzt sind, die seinen flatterhaften Blick ehedem bloss heften und starken sollten, die innern bessern Belohnungen desselben zu erkennen. (VIII, 508).

Lessing's historical account of religion both promotes and limits toleration. It promotes toleration by offering a perspective in which even the most barbarous beliefs disclose a measure of truth appropriate to their time, but it limits toleration by removing any need to tolerate a belief that has outlived its usefulness. (35) Thus in Nathan der Weise the belief of the Christian Daja, that Recha was saved from the fire by an angel, is dismissed by Nathan as illogical in itself and as belittling the human capacity for good action. Catholic Christianity evidently belongs to an early stage in human development.

Judaism is allotted a dual role in Lessing's historical scheme. On the one hand, the ancient Israelites are depicted in unflattering terms, in keeping with the common Enlightenment view of them. Reimarus presented Moses as an unscrupulous political manipulator, while the notorious Traite des trois imposteurs portrayed him, along with Jesus and Muhammad, as a deliberate fraud. (36) Lessing acknowledges that the ancient Israelites, before the Babylonian captivity, show such an uncertain grasp of divine truth that they can hardly serve as exemplars for future ages. Even in the course of the Old Testament, as Lessing points out in the fourth of his 'Gegensatze' (published responses to Reimarus's fragments), we see conceptions of God becoming nobler and more sophisticated (VII, 473-74). On the other hand, Nathan's Judaism represents a humane and enlightened outlook free from superstition. Thus, in Lessing's scheme, versions of Judaism both precede and follow Christianity on the way to the pure morality of the future.

The message about toleration conveyed by Nathan der Weise, however, is not as straightforward as one would like to think. Dogmatic religious belief is set in opposition to natural human affection and honesty, and the play's great strengths include its warm and attractive portrayal of flawed but convincingly and profoundly decent people. Such natural morality made the Templar save Recha's life and makes him, despite the contempt for Jews that he owes to his upbringing, warm to Nathan's palpable sincerity; it makes him unwilling to obey the Patriarch, who wants him to assassinate Saladin, and restrains him from revealing to the Patriarch the identity of the Jew who has brought up a Christian child. This natural solidarity among people is symbolized in the general embraces with which the final curtain falls. By contrast, Christian dogma is represented as encouraging inhumanity. Daja, shown as a superstitious believer in miracles, thinks it wrong for Recha to be brought up in a non-Christian faith. The Patriarch, the only evil figure in the play, denies that there are any moral obligations towards non-Christians, or any moral commands that cannot be overridden by the (supposed) divine imperative. As his reluctant emissary, the Lay Brother, puts it when transmitting to the Templar the Patriarch's proposal that he should murder Saladin,

Nur, --meint der Patriarch,-- sei Bubenstuck

Vor Menschen, nicht auch Bubenstuck vor Gott.

(II, 230)

This dogmatic intolerance is in turn based on the illusion that one's own religious belief is the one true faith and that one is therefore entitled to criticize members of other faiths. As the Templar points out, this exclusivism originates from the Jews, who first called themselves the chosen people, but has been bequeathed both to Christians and Muslims, and is at present showing its pernicious character in the Crusades:

Ihr stutzt,

Dass ich, ein Christ, ein Tempelherr, so rede?

Wenn hat, und wo die fromme Raserei,

Den bessern Gott zu haben, diesen bessern

Der ganzen Welt als besten aufzudringen,

In ihrer schwarzesten Gestalt sich mehr

Gezeigt, als hier, als itzt?

(II, 253)

The representation of Christianity is hardly unbiased. In the case of the two decent Christian characters, the Templar and the Lay-Brother, their decency is shown as conflicting with the obligations of their religion; Daja illustrates naive superstition, the Patriarch amoral bigotry. Daja encourages Recha to suppose that the Templar who rescued her from the fire was an angel. Nathan not only dismisses this belief as showing too little trust in humanity but analyses its origins in medical terms: disappointed at finding her expressions of thanks rebuffed by the Templar, Recha defends herself against the feeling of rejection by resorting to 'Schwarmerei', superstitious emotionalism. By reminding her that the Templar, as a human being, may be ill and in need of help, Nathan provides a cure ('Arznei') for her emotionalism. Thus religious behaviour of which Lessing disapproves is explained away in medical terms. While this accords with the developmental scheme of religious history proposed in Die Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts, it means that no other outlook is allowed seriously to challenge the practical benevolence upheld by Nathan. An incompatible belief can be dismissed as a survival from a more primitive period. If one does not accept Lessing's historicism, one is bound to conclude that he illustrates the very exclusivism which he is anxious to denounce. He gives Nathan's ethical humanism the status of an unchallengeable master doctrine that relativizes all other beliefs.

Neither Judaism nor Islam is represented in any detail. Nathan is never shown as engaging in any specifically Jewish religious practices. He stands for a universal, humane benevolence, as do the Muslims Saladin and Sittah. (37) Lessing shows little interest in the distinctive character of historical religions. To typify Islam, he introduces a dervish, or pious mendicant, who intends to join the Ghebers (Parsees or Zoroastrians from Iran) and do penance with them on the banks of the Ganges. It seems that for Lessing, Islam was not distinct from Zoroastrianism or Hinduism. Instead of anticipating Herder's sympathetic interest in other cultures, Lessing shares the ahistorical outlook of Voltaire. Voltaire's tragedy Les Guebres, ou la Tolerance (1769), which, like Nathan, culminates in the discovery that practitioners of different religions are long-lost relatives, represents the Ghebers as exponents of pure morality; their apparent sun-worship, which enrages the bloodthirsty priests of Pluto, merely symbolizes a rational deism. His anti-Christian Essai sur les moeurs (1756) conflates the religions of China and India, representing both as 'le culte pur d'un Etre supreme, degage de toute superstition et de tout fanatisme'. (38) Lessing similarly uses Judaism and Islam, not as distinctive historical religions but as codes of pure morality serving as foils to Christianity.

If Nathan does not represent Judaism as it existed historically, it is also doubtful how far he is meant to typify the Jewish people. Some commentators have found his liking for disputation typically Jewish. (39) A sympathetic nineteenth-century reader, David Strauss, thought Nathan displayed 'acht orientalisch-judische Zuge' in his artful and conciliatory dealings with other people and in his use of imagery and parable. (40) However, the other characters remark more than once how different he is from most Jews. His friend the dervish says of him: 'Es ist | Ein Jude freilich ubrigens, wie's nicht | Viel Juden gibt. Er hat Verstand; er weiss | Zu leben; spielt gut Schach' (II, 245). The anti-Semitic prejudices voiced by Sittah and the Templar concern the Jews' supposed avarice and cowardice. (41) Nathan is unusual in not lending money: he is a merchant, not a usurer. Thus, since he does not correspond to the stereotype of the money-grubbing Jew, the play implies that the stereotype does apply to most Jews. Like the traveller in Die Juden, Nathan is presented as exceptional. (42) Accordingly, he refuses to identify himself with his people. He tells the Templar, in a famous passage:


Mein Volk so sehr Ihr wollt. Wir haben beide

Uns unser Volk nicht auserlesen. Sind

Wir unser Volk? Was heisst denn Volk?

Sind Christ und Jude eher Christ und Jude,

Als Mensch? Ah! wenn ich einen mehr in Euch

Gefunden hatte, dem es gnugt, ein Mensch

Zu heissen!

(II, 253)

Indeed, Nathan shows considerable awareness of how national identities are constructed. He wonders whether to present himself to Saladin as 'Stockjude' or 'ganz und gar nicht Jude'. When Saladin demands the truth as though it were a coin, Nathan describes him as imitating a stereotype of 'Jewish' behaviour: 'Wie Geld in Sack, so striche man in Kopf | Auch Wahrheit ein? Wer ist denn hier der Jude? | Ich oder er?' (II, 275). And when the simple Lay Brother, impressed by Nathan's goodness, naively exclaims: 'Ihr seid ein Christ!', Nathan's reply, 'Wohl uns! Denn was | Mich Euch zum Christen macht, das macht Euch mir | Zum Juden!' (II, 317), relativizes denominational terms by showing that each person uses such terms to denote the same set of values. Thus the Christian who praises someone else for being 'a Christian' is not really discovering a disguised co-religionist but, unwittingly, affirming a shared commitment to a universal morality.

In preferring the term 'Mensch', Nathan shows that he and the Templar have transcended the restrictions of religion and nationality and joined a society of pure humanity. A 'Mensch', a human being, independent of nationality, religion, or indeed gender, is presented as the ideal norm, just as it is in that other Enlightenment masterpiece, The Magic Flute. (43) The bearers of Lessing's ethical humanism are human beings independent of nationality or religion. Similarly, in his dialogues on Freemasonry, Ernst und Falk (written probably in 1777), Lessing describes the division of humanity into different nations and classes as an evil which Freemasonry exists to alleviate. Freemasonry is a network of men who have transcended the limitations and prejudices of nationality: 'Manner [...], die uber die Vorurteile der Volkerschaft hinweg waren, und genau wussten, wo Patriotismus, Tugend zu sein auf horet' (VIII, 465). In practice, Freemasonry does not live up to this ideal: Ernst finds that only educated Christians are admitted, and a Jew or a shoemaker would be unacceptable. The ideal of pure humanity in Nathan, however valuable as a regulative idea, is equally remote from experience, and to give it dramatic form Lessing has to dilute the specific national identities of his characters, thereby minimizing the barriers that have to be overcome. As a commentator complained as long ago as 1909: 'Lessing stand der positiven Religion schon viel zu fern, als dass er einen Sonderglauben mit Sympathie hatte darstellen konnen. Sein Nathan ist kein Jude mehr, sein Saladin kein Moslem, sein Kloster-Bruder kein Christ-wenn sie's je gewesen sind; den ausser Name und Stand erinnert nichts an ihre Konfession. [...] Ihre Toleranz kann keinen tiefen Eindruck machen: was sie aneinander zu tolerieren haben, ist fur sie ein Nichts.' (44) Instead, Lessing represents humanity as uniform: good people, followers of natural morality, may be found in every country. He is not interested in exploring cultural diversity, but in bypassing it.

The centre of Nathan der Weise is commonly taken to be the parable of the three rings. Thanks to his reputation for wisdom, Nathan is summoned before Saladin and asked which of the three religions is the true one. Nathan sidesteps this embarrassing conundrum by telling how a ring that made its possessor pleasing to God and man was handed down through the generations till it came to a father with three sons. He had two externally similar rings made, so that each son received one. Wondering which was the true ring, they took their problem to a judge, who told them that the authenticity of the ring could be demonstrated only by the upright conduct of its owner, and advised each to assist the ring's power by his benevolence, peacefulness, and devotion. Thus moral action becomes the test of a religion's truth. It is important to note that the parable is not saying that the other two rings are as good as the true one. Rather, as Berthold Auerbach noted in 1879, all three rings must be false. (45) For all three sons behaved equally badly in their dispute: 'jeder will der Furst | Des Hauses sein' (II, 277]), though the owner of the true ring ought to have behaved more magnanimously than the other two. Indeed, the judge speculates that the true ring may have got lost and that each facsimile will serve, provided its possessor lives up to it. The inner truth of each religion is its incitement to moral action. Tradition (the historical content of religion) cannot establish any absolute religious truth, because everyone believes the traditions in which he was brought up; the historical element of religion is a fiction, and the only proof of any religious pudding is in the eating.

What does this parable contribute to religious toleration or the appreciation of cultural diversity? It might seem to assist the former by discouraging unproductive disputes about the truth-claims of different religions, and the latter by directing attention instead to the specific traditions within which each individual's experience of religion occurs. With regard to the truth-claims of different religions, however, Lessing does seems to imply, as Boyle says, an agnostic humanism that regards the cognitive element in religion as a fiction. Revelation does not survive sceptical examination, just as the ring fails of its effect when put to the test. The historical and traditional basis of religion is revealed as simply a fairy-story, no different in principle from the 'Marchen' with which Nathan fobs off Saladin. We have a toleration based on indifference. One can tolerate opinions because one assumes that none of them is true anyway, as in Gibbon's well-known account of the religious toleration practised under the Roman Empire: 'The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful.' (46) However, Lessing's position is more complex than Gibbon's urbane scepticism. In a posthumously published fragment, variously dated to the 1750s or the 1760s, he maintains: 'Alle positiven und geoffenbarten Religionen sind [...] gleich wahr und gleich falsch' (VII, 283). Their falsity consists in the local and historical modifications which mediate but also falsify their 'inner truth'. Lessing prudently avoids offering any blunt definition of this 'inner truth', but Nathan der Weise would imply that the inner truth of religion is the degree to which it promotes rational morality.

Although this conception of religion may sound somewhat arid, the text of Nathan der Weise continues to use familiar terms of religious emotion. The ring's first wearers felt assurance ('Zuversicht', (II, 276)); the judge in the parable recommends 'innigste[r] Ergebenheit in Gott' (II, 280). Nathan tells how this emotion issues in action: 'was sich der gottergebne Mensch | Fur Taten abgewinnen kann' (II, 316). Many commentators have maintained that these terms express religious experience. According to Ingrid Strohschneider-Kohrs, they convey 'die Dimension der religio, der religiosen Erfahrung'. (47) Or it may be argued that that Lessing's apparent scepticism is directed not towards transcendent truth as such but only towards the assumption that transcendent truth can be captured in a verbal formula. If Lessing offered such a formula, he would be reinventing the positive religion he opposed. He therefore resorts, in his prose writings, to an ironic and riddling mode of discourse, and in his last play to a dramatic confrontation that shows religious truth being experienced contingently in a human encounter. (48) But if one asks what this is an experience of, what this devotion is directed towards, one receives uncertain answers. This devotion cannot be directed towards a transcendent or absolute source of good, for such a source would need to be located on the other side of the 'ugly, broad ditch' that Lessing could not cross. Nathan speaks in personal terms of God, but he also personifies Providence (II, 317). Lessing seems still to assume a Leibnizian providentialism, finding in the structure of the world an intrinsic order that makes it ultimately unnecessary to imagine any creator outside the world. His emotional rhetoric suggests that with the gradual education of the human race, the devotion that was misdirected in conventional religion will be transferred to the providential structure of reality which was all along its true though unrecognized object. This bold suggestion becomes most nearly explicit when Nathan tells the Lay Brother how, long before, his wife and seven sons were burnt in a pogrom by Christians, and that he accepted this as God's will and took the infant Recha as compensation for his loss. Dramatically, it feels right that Nathan's goodness should rest on inner strength acquired by the acceptance of suffering. There is less psychological plausibility in his adoption of Recha as a providential substitute for his wife and sons. Both the emotional force of this scene, and its partial implausibility, are connected with Lessing's own experience of bereavement: the death of his newborn son in December 1777, followed two weeks later by that of his wife after just over a year of marriage. The play is thus a 'work of mourning', in which Lessing confronts his own bereavement, and the substitution of Recha recalls how Lessing, at one stage in his grief, transferred his affection to his wife's teenage daughter Amalie. (49) But Lessing's providentialism creaks most audibly when Nathan says that after lying in dust and ashes, weeping, protesting against God, and cursing Christians, he gradually yielded to the voice of reason, which told him that the death of his wife and sons resulted from God's decree. This submission to the divine will recalls the Book of Job and Job's statement: 'Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him' (Job 13.15). (50) Such submission is perhaps the most difficult thing that can be required of the believer. It is hard to imagine that grief and bereavement can be accepted as part of the divine will simply through rational persuasion. By a welcome contradiction, Lessing shows us a saintly submission to the divine will which is hard to reconcile with the agnosticism for which he implicitly argues.

Nathan is rightly accounted a masterpiece, not only for its restless intelligence but, above all perhaps, for the warmth and humanity of its characters. Gabriel Riesser may have been right in saying that the play's didactic effect came from its characters rather than from its explicit lesson: 'Wem aber die Charaktere in Lessing's Nathan kein warmes Mitgefuhl erregen, wem die Vertreter der drei Religionen nicht die Duldung und die Liebe, die sie lehren, durch ihre Personlichkeiten abgewonnen haben, noch ehe sie sie gelehrt, der ist des poetischen Mitgefuhls uberhaupt nicht fahig' (p. 25). But even here there is a difficulty. At the end, it turns out that the Templar and Recha are brother and sister. Both are the children of Saladin's brother, who married a German woman, so that the Templar was brought up in Germany. Lessing uses this standard comic ending to show how illusory are the religious and national differences among people who are linked by blood. Blood-relationships are being used only metaphorically to signify a real relatedness that is based on shared humanity, friendship, and love. Contingent physical bonds are merely symbolic of the bonds that are created by choosing and actively caring for other people. Nathan, however, is not related by blood to any of the characters. Granted, his adoption of Recha makes him her father in every sense that matters. But since he is not a blood-relative of anyone else, his membership of the human family is only a matter of choice; it is not underwritten by a symbolic blood-relationship. Thus he remains a lonely figure (like the bereaved Lessing) and one who must earn his membership of a community to which the others, as their blood-relationship signifies, already belong; in this respect his admission is analogous to the admission of Jews to German society. Instead of being declared to be already full members of society by virtue of their natural rights, they had to earn their membership by demonstrating their fitness to be citizens. Read thus against the grain, Nathan turns out to prophesy not the integration of Jews into German society but the precarious nature of the position that they held ultimately on sufferance.

(1) On Jewish critics of Nathan, see Jo-Jacqueline Eckardt, Lessing's 'Nathan the Wise' and the Critics: 1779-1991 (Columbia, SC: Camden House, 1993), pp. 38-41. I am very grateful to Barry Nisbet and Paul Kerry for their constructive comments on this paper.

(2) Einige Worte uber Lessing's Denkmal an die Israeliten Deutschlands gerichtet (Frankfurt a.M.: Stockmar & Wagner, 1838), pp. 3, 24.

(3) 'Rede zur Lessingfeier in Leipzig' (1860), in Lessing--ein unpoetischer Dichter. Dokumente aus drei Jahrhunderten zur Wirkungsgeschichte Lessings in Deutschland, ed. by Horst Steinmetz (Frankfurt a.M.: Athenaum, 1969), pp. 346-48 (pp. 346-47).

(4) 'Lessing. Mendelssohn. Nathan', in Lessing-Mendelssohn-Gedenkbuch. Zur hundertfunfzigjahrigen Geburtsfeier von Gotthold Ephraim Lessing und Moses Mendelssohn, sowie zur Sacularfeier von Lessing's 'Nathan', ed. by the Deutsch-Israelitische Gemeindebund (Leipzig: Baumgartner, 1879), pp. 3-26 (p. 4).

(5) Theodor Lessing, Einmal und nie wieder [1935] (Gutersloh: Bertelsmann, 1969), p. 34.

(6) Jenny (1872 edn), ed. by Ulrike Helmer (Frankfurt a.M.: Helmer, 1988), p. 233.

(7) Erlebte Judenfrage. Ein Vierteljahrhundert deutscher Zionismus (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1962), p. 30.

(8) Mit beschrankter Hoffnung. Juden, Deutsche, Israelis (Munich: Knaur, 1993), p. 118.

(9) Goethe: The Poet and the Age, Vol. I: The Poetry of Desire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 33; see also p. 273.

(10) See Klaus Schreiner, 'Toleranz', in Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland, 7 vols, ed. by Otto Brunner, Werner Conze, and Reinhart Koselleck (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1972-92), VI, 445-605; Harald Schultze, Lessings Toleranzbegriff: Eine theologische Studie (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1969).

(11) Epistola de Tolerantia/An Essay on Toleration, ed. by Raymond Klibansky, trans. by J. W. Gough (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 125.

(12) Memoires pour servir a l'histoire de la Maison de Brandenbourg (Berlin: Au Donjon du Chateau, 1751), p. 396.

(13) On the decline of theological anti-Judaism, see Gunnar Och, Imago judaica: Juden und Judentum im Spiegel der deutschen Literatur 1750-1812 (Wurzburg: Konigshausen & Neumann, 1995), pp. 3-9.

(14) See Henry E. Allison, Lessing and the Enlightenment (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1966), especially p. 39.

(15) See Charles Taylor and others, Multiculturalism, ed. by Amy Gutmann (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994).

(16) Uber die burgerliche Verbesserung der Juden (Berlin and Stettin: Nicolai, 1781), p. 28.

(17) See Reinhard Rurup, 'The Tortuous and Thorny Path to Legal Equality: "Jew Laws" and Emancipatory Legislation in Germany from the late Eighteenth Century', Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook, 31 (1986), 3-33 (especially p. 7).

(18) T. C. W. Blanning, Joseph II (London: Longman, 1994), p. 75.

(19) See Peter Honigmann, 'Uber den Unterschied zwischen Alexander und Wilhelm von Humboldt in ihrem Verhaltnis zum Judentum', in Konfrontation und Koexistenz: Zur Geschichte des deutschen Judentums, ed. by Renate Heuer and Ralph-Rainer Wuthenow (Frankfurt a.M. and New York: Campus, 1996), pp. 46-81 (especially p. 51).

(20) See Ian C. Markham, Plurality and Christian Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

(21) Christianity as Old as the Creation (London, 1730; facsimile repr., New York and London: Garland, 1978), p. 13.

(22) James Parkes, The Theology of Toleration, Claude Montefiore Lecture 1961 (London: Liberal Jewish Synagogue, 1961), pp. 10-11.

(23) See Wolfgang Martens, 'Zur Figur eines edlen Juden im Auf klarungsroman vor Gotthold Ephraim Lessing', Der Deutschunterricht, 36 (1984), 48-58; Jurgen Stenzel, 'Idealisierung und Vorurteil. Zur Figur des "edlen Juden" in der deutschen Literatur des 18. Jahrhunderts', in Juden in der deutschen Literatur, ed. by Stephane Moses and Albrecht Schone (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1986), pp. 114-26; Charlene A. Lea, 'Tolerance Unlimited: "The Noble Jew" on the German and Austrian Stage (1750-1805)', German Quarterly, 64 (1991), 166-77.

(24) C. F. Gellert, Leben der schwedischen Grafin von G*** (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1968), p. 79.

(25) For the dialectic of emancipation, see Karl S. Guthke, 'Lessing und das Judentum. Rezeption. Dramatik und Kritik. Krypto-Spinozismus', Wolfenbutteler Studien zur Aufklarung, 4 (1977), 229-71 (p. 245).

(26) References are to Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Werke, ed. by Herbert G. Gopfert and others, 8 vols (Munich: Hanser, 1970-79).

(27) See Karl S. Guthke, 'Aufklarung in Preussen. Lessings Problemkomodie Die Juden', in Guthke, Erkundungen: Essays zur Literatur von Milton bis Traven, Germanic Studies in America, 45 (New York and Berne: Lang, 1983), pp. 59-71 (p. 61).

(28) See the sceptical examination by Hans Mayer, Aussenseiter (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1975), pp. 334-39.

(29) See Stefan Rohrbacher and Michael Schmidt, Judenbilder. Kulturgeschichte antijudischer Mythen und antisemitischer Vorurteile (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1991), pp. 23-25.

(30) Wilfried Barner, 'Vorurteil, Empirie, Rettung. Der junge Lessing und die Juden', in Juden und Judentum in der Literatur, ed. by Herbert A. Strauss and Christhard Hoffmann (Munich: dtv, 1985), pp. 52-77 (p. 68).

(31) Renate Heuer, 'Rezeption eines Vorurteils--Uber Lessings Komodie Die Juden', in Konfrontation und Koexistenz, pp. 9-33.

(32) See, for example, his reply to the neologist Eberhard in Leibniz von den ewigen Strafen, VII, 171-97.

(33) See Gordon E. Michalson, Jr, Lessing's 'Ugly Ditch': A Study of Theology and History (University Park and London: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1985).

(34) 'Pascal, Warburton, Lessing: The Argument from Despair', in Nation und Gelehrtenrepublik: Lessing im europaischen Zusammenhang, ed. by Wilfried Barner (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press; Munich: text + kritik, 1984), pp. 239-47 (p. 240).

(35) See Gerd Hillen, 'Toleranz und Wahrheit. Absicht und Grenzen der Toleranz Lessings', in Lessing und die Toleranz, ed. by Peter Freimark, Franklin Kopitzsch, and Helga Slessarev (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press; Munich: text + kritik, 1986), pp. 186-97 (p. 194).

(36) See 'Viertes Fragment eines Ungenannten', in Gopfert and others, vii, 398-403; Traite des trois Imposteurs, ed. by P. Retat (Grenoble: Universites de la Region Rhone-Alpes, 1973), pp. 46-47; H. B. Nisbet, 'De Tribus Impostoribus: On the Genesis of Lessing's Nathan der Weise', Euphorion, 73 (1979), 365-87.

(37) See Andrea Fuchs-Sumiyoshi, Orientalismus in der deutschen Literatur (Hildesheim: Olms, 1984), pp. 35-41 (especially p. 39).

(38) Essai sur les moeurs, ed. by Rene Pomeau, 2 vols (Paris: Garnier, 1963), I, 237. See the comments by J. H. Brumfitt, Voltaire Historian (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958), p. 77.

(39) For example, F. J. Lamport, Lessing and the Drama (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), p. 205.

(40) David Friedrich Strauss, 'Ueber Lessing's Nathan' [1863], in Lessings 'Nathan der Weise', ed. by by Klaus Bohnen (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1984), pp. 11-45 (p. 32).

(41) On the play's treatment of anti-Jewish stereotypes, see Och, pp. 149-62.

(42) As noted by Victor Klemperer in his diary for 28 January 1943: 'Ich blatterte im "Nathan". Nicht der (fragwurdige) Philosemitismus ergriff--fragwurdig, denn Nathan ist ja betonte Ausnahme--, sondern der Satz: "Was heisst denn Volk?"' (Klemperer, Ich will Zeugnis ablegen bis zum letzten. Tagebucher 1933-1941, 1942-1945, ed. by Walter Nowojski, 2 vols (Berlin: Auf bau, 1995), II, 320). I am grateful to Stephan Wendehorst for drawing my attention to this passage.

(43) 'Sprecher: [...] Er ist Prinz!--Sarastro: Noch mehr--er ist Mensch!' (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Die Zauberflote, ed. by Hans-Albrecht Koch (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1991), p. 37).

(44) Christoph Schrempf, Lessing als Philosoph [1909] (Stuttgart: Frommann, 1921), p. 165.

(45) Berthold Auerbach, 'Gedanken uber Lessing's "Nathan"', in Lessing-Mendelssohn-Gedenkbuch, pp. 321-28 (p. 324).

(46) Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 6 vols (London: Dent, 1910), I, 29. See also the frank contempt for religious beliefs shown by the enlightened Frederick the Great: 'depuis parurent toutes sortes de Quackers [sic], les Zinzendorffiens, les Hychiliens, sectes plus ridicules les uns que les autres' (Memoires, p. 396).

(47) Vernunft als Weisheit. Studien zum spaten Lessing (Tubingen: Niemeyer, 1991), p. 59 (her emphasis). See also Allison, p. 145; Lamport, p. 213.

(48) This is stimulatingly argued by John Walker, '"Der echte Ring vermutlich ging verloren": Lessing's Ringparabel and the Contingency of Enlightenment in Nathan der Weise', Oxford German Studies, 23 (1994), 45-70 (esp. p. 68).

(49) See Jill Anne Kowalik, 'Nathan der Weise as Lessing's Work of Mourning', Lessing Yearbook, 21 (1989), 1-17 (esp. p. 7).

(50) On Nathan's resemblance to Job, as the latter was understood by eighteenth-century commentators, see Strohschneider-Kohrs, pp. 90-101.

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Date:Jan 1, 1998
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