Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim

Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim

biographical name

(born Jan. 22, 1729, Kamenz, Upper Lusatia, Saxony—died Feb. 15, 1781, Braunschweig, Brunswick) German playwright and critic. After writing several light comedies, he became a theatre critic in Berlin in 1748. His play Miss Sara Sampson (1755) was the first German domestic tragedy. After studying philosophy and aesthetics in Breslau, he wrote the influential treatise Laocoön: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry (1766). Minna von Barnhelm (1767), his finest play, marks the beginning of classical German comedy. He was adviser to the first Hamburg national theatre and published his reviews as essays on the principles of drama in Hamburg Dramaturgy (1767–69). His Wolfenbüttel Fragments (1774–78) attacked orthodox Christianity, arousing great controversy. He also wrote the tragedy Emilia Galotti (1772) and the famous dramatic poem Nathan the Wise (1779).

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