Nathan the Wise
First Edition   ©2004

Nathan the Wise

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing , Ronald Schechter (College of William and Mary)

  • ISBN-10: 0-312-44243-2; ISBN-13: 978-0-312-44243-9; Format: Paper Text, 192 pages

One of the most frequently performed and widely read comedies of the eighteenth century, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's Nathan the Wise (1779) combines rich characterization with an engaging plot. Set in Muslim-ruled Jerusalem at the time of the Crusades, it deals with universal themes -- including the nature of God, antisemitism, wealth and poverty, and the conflict between love and duty. Today the play is as timely as ever. This edition, the first English version expressly intended for undergraduates, contains an insightful introduction that discusses the play, Lessing and the Enlightenment, and the situation of Jews in eighteenth-century Europe. Additionally, there are five related historical documents -- each with a context-setting headnote -- illustrations, a chronology, questions for consideration, and a selected bibliography.
"This is most certainly a volume that I will use, and use time and again. Ronald Schechter offers a brilliant and fresh new translation of Lessing’s Nathan the Wise. His lucid and accessible introduction illustrates both the importance of this text for our understanding of the European Enlightenment and the significance of Lessing’s reflections on tolerance for contemporary debates on religion and multiculturalism. Schechter’s translation and edition are a major accomplishment and should finally secure for Lessing’s Nathan the Wise the prominent place it deserves in undergraduate courses."
— Jonathan M. Hess
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill