Nathan the Wise

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  • Topic: Religion, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Reason
  • Pages : 3 (1245 words )
  • Download(s) : 160
  • Published : October 8, 1999
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Continually present in Gotthold Lessing's play, Nathan the Wise, is the pursuit for truth. In particular, a truth that goes beyond religion, one that reaches to the depths of humanity: human nature's freedom. In his play, Lessing reveals the freedom of human nature among mankind through the bonds of friendship. Furthermore, Lessing conveys an optimistic view of human nature in such a way that left to its own devices, human nature will seek the goodness of mankind and fraternity. Friendship in its purest form is not bound to the confines of religious differences, social status, or selfishness. Without religion or society imposing its ideals, human nature is free to pursue truth and seek the goodness in mankind while bonding in friendship. A selfless act is good but good is not an act done for recognition. To Nathan, part of friendship is giving of oneself without receiving. The Templar shows his selflessness when Nathan offers the Templar riches for rescuing his daughter from a fire, but the Templar declines any praise with anti-Semitic insults, "Permit what, Jew?" (211). The Templar's refusal, although harsh, seemed to affirm the goodness Nathan saw in the young man, "A modest greatness would hide behind the monstrous, merely to escape admiration" (212). The lengths the Templar went to in order to save a life is a testament in itself of his goodness, far more powerful than his insults, "I find it strange that such an ugly spot [on Templar's robe], soiled by the fire, bears better witness than a man's own lips" (212). For Nathan, friends do not concern themselves with social status, religious beliefs, or titles; but rather, they can distinguish between the man and the facade. In Nathan's words, "are Jew and Christian, Jew and Christian first and human beings second?" (214). In Act II, Scene IV, Nathan makes an attempt to thank the Templar for fleeing Temptation on behalf of his daughter. In which the Templar replies, "You know how the Templars ought to...
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