¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 [21.6] Final line in Book I, Ch. 38 of Cicero’s De Officii: “Still further, it is in bad taste to talk about one’s self, especially to lie about one’s self, and, with the derision of the audience, to play the part of the Braggart Soldier.”
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 [21.7] Plautus, Miles Gloriosus 2.1: “Alazon is the title of the comedy in Greek; in Latin we would say Gloriosus.” Alazon: stock character of ancient Greek comedy; a braggart.
¶ 11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 [21.10] Nanine was originally published in 1749 with the first of these subtitles, “Prejudice Overcome” (le préjugé vaincu); the second, “The Man without Prejudice” (l’homme sans préjugé) was added later, perhaps to avoid confusion or comparison to Marivaux’s Le Préjugé vaincu (1746) (see Labriolle and Duckworth 22). Both subtitles appear singly or together in later editions.
¶ 12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 [21.11] Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded (1741): popular epistolary novel by Samuel Richardson (1689–1761), in which a young servant, fending off rape and seduction, is rewarded by her master’s proposal of marriage. Voltaire’s play also centers on a mésalliance, but otherwise does not resemble Richardson’s novel. Lessing draws his statement directly from Léris, Dictionnaire portatif: “Le sujet de cette piece est tiré du Roman de Pamela” (313).
¶ 15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 [21.14] From Voltaire’s preface to Nanine, 72. Vulcan, Hector and Andromache: from Homer’s Iliad (Books I and VI, respectively). Battle of Speyer (1703): disastrous German defeat by the French during the War of Spanish Succession. Alcmena, Sosia: characters from Plautus’s Amphitryon.
¶ 16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 [21.15] Cénie: see . The Father of the Family: Diderot’s Le Pere de famille (1758), translated by Lessing in his collection Das Theater des Herrn Diderot (1760). See [14.2].
¶ 18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 [22.1] Die kranke Frau (1747), a one-act comic afterpiece by Christian Fürchtegott Gellert (1715–69). Frau Stephan, envious of her sister-in-law’s fashionable dress (an “Andrienne”), appears to be at death’s door. Herr Stephan explores numerous remedies to restore her health; eventually, he is persuaded to purchase the dress in question, which results in Frau Stephan’s immediate recovery. For The Village Lawyer, see .
¶ 21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 [22.4] Der Mann nach der Uhr, oder der ordentliche Mann (1760), one-act comedy by Theodor Gottlieb von Hippel (1741–96), from Königsberg (not Danzig). For Melanide, see .
¶ 22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 [22.5] Vaterland, an uncommon word for Lessing, did not yet have the political associations that it would garner after the unification of Germany in 1871. Sara Figal explains that, “For some, the German Vaterland meant Prussia; for others, it included various constellations of German-speaking regions. . . . The German Vaterland was far from being clearly identifiable, whether by geographic, political, philosophical, linguistic, or ethnic identity markers” (72).
¶ 23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 [22.6] Thomas Corneille (1625–1709), younger brother of Pierre Corneille. Le Comte d’Essex (1678): five-act verse tragedy, translated by L. Peter Stüven as Der Graf von Essex (1747). Based on Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex (1567–1601), a famous favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, later executed by her after an attempted coup.
¶ 24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 [22.7] Calprenede: Gaultier de Coste, seigneur de La Calprenède (c. 1610–63), French playwright and novelist; his tragedy Le Comte d’Essex was published in 1638.
¶ 26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 [22.9] David Hume discusses this incident in the fourth volume of his six-volume History of England (528–30). Lessing would have read Hume’s history in English; a German translation of volume four would not appear until 1771. For the two-volume History of Scotland (1759) by Scottish historian William Robertson (1721–93), Lessing used the German translation published in 1762 by Matthias Theodor Christoph Mittelstedt.
¶ 27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 [22.10] Quote here taken from Robertson, History of Scotland 2: 284–6, with original spelling retained. In the original German, Lessing quotes from the Mittelstedt translation (301–3).
¶ 29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 [23.1] Lessing continues his discussion, from , of Thomas Corneille’s Le Comte d’Essex [The Earl of Essex] (1678). Voltaire, in his collected works of Pierre Corneille, includes two plays by Thomas Corneille, including Le Comte d’Essex, which he critiques in his prefatory material entitled “Le Comte d’Essex, Tragédie de Thomas Corneille, 1678. Préface de l’Éditeur” (1761).
¶ 33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 [23.5] Sir Walter Raleigh (1552?–1618), the courtier-explorer, competed with Essex for Elizabeth’s favor. Sir Robert Cecil (1563–1612), 1st earl of Salisbury, became Elizabeth’s chief minister.
¶ 36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 [23.8] From Hume, History of England 4: 475. Voltaire, “Le Comte d’Essex,” 1013. Capture of Cadiz: in 1596, the Spanish port of Cadiz fell to a naval expedition led by Essex, Raleigh, and Charles Howard (1536-1624), commander of the English fleet against the Spanish Armada, later ennobled as the Earl of Nottingham.
¶ 42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 [23.14] Lessing read the 1767 French translation of Horace Walpole’s novel The Castle of Otranto (1764), the preface of which takes issue with Voltaire’s historical accuracy (see Walpole, 23).
¶ 50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 [24.3] French historian Paul Rapin de Thoyras (1661–1725) recounts Elizabeth’s relationship with Essex in his Histoire d’Angleterre [History of England] 7: 508ff. As Rapin de Thoyras indicates, there was a thirty-four-year age difference between the monarch and her young favorite.
¶ 52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 [24.5] The Duchess of Irton [sic] is a fictional creation of Corneille; Jane Conroy suggests the name may have been inspired by Henry Ireton, son-in-law of Oliver Cromwell (Terres tragiques, 309).
¶ 65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 [25.5] After this essay, Lessing abandons reviews of specific performances and discussions of the acting process in general, and thereby relinquishes one of the original goals of his project. It is generally assumed that Lessing was responding to pressure from the Hamburg company actors (most particularly Sophie Hensel) who were displeased with his criticism.
¶ 67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 [26.1] L. A. Gottsched, Die Hausfranzösin, oder die Mamsell, five-act prose comedy, which satirizes the Francophilia of the German upper-middle classes. In the play, Herr Germann, a widower, places his household under the control of a French governess, not knowing that she and her associates are actually criminals. For a modern English translation, see L. A. Gottsched, Pietism in Petticoats and Other Comedies.
¶ 69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 [26.3] Lessing’s objections have to do with issues of both language and plot. Both French and German characters use oaths and course expressions, and various unsavory events occur (a teenaged son sleeps in his governess’s bed, a Frenchman is given a meal of bird excrement and vomits onstage, and the French villains kidnap Herr Germann’s little daughter and threaten to sell her to a Parisian brothel). The play was in fact performed regularly through the end of the century.
¶ 72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0 [26.6] Johann Adolf Scheibe (1708–76): German-Danish composer and theorist who promoted emerging musical aesthetics of the Enlightenment. His works, including his weekly periodical Critischer Musikus (1736–40; expanded edition 1745), were influenced by the ideas of J. C. Gottsched.
¶ 73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 [26.7] Scheibe, Critischer Musikus, Article 67 (8 December 1739). In the following paragraphs, Lessing’s quotations are close to the original but not exact. Polyeucte (1642), Mithridate (1673): tragedies by P. Corneille and Racine, respectively.
¶ 78 Leave a comment on paragraph 78 0 [26.12] French titles: Le Faucon et les oies de Boccace (Delisle de la Drevetière, 1725); La Double Inconstance (Marivaux, 1723); L’enfant prodigue (Voltaire, 1738).
¶ 83 Leave a comment on paragraph 83 0 [26.17] Johann Wilhelm Hertel (1727–89): German musician, composer, and theorist. In 1767, in addition to the incidental music for Olindo and Sophronia, Hertel provided the Hamburg National Theater with music for C. F. Weisse’s tragedies Richard die Dritte [Richard III] (1759) and Romeo und Julie (1767), and for the “divertissement” following J. F. Löwen’s comic afterpiece, Das Räthsel [The Riddle] (1767). Johann Friedrich Agricola (1720–74): German musician, composer, and theorist; a student of J. S. Bach, he was appointed court composer (1750) and musical director (1759) by Frederick II.
¶ 85 Leave a comment on paragraph 85 0 [27.1] Lessing continues his discussion from  of J. F. Agricola’s score for Semiramis; the music composed for this performance is lost. For details on the characters and plot of Semiramis, and Lessing’s analysis thereof, see [10-12].
¶ 88 Leave a comment on paragraph 88 0 [28.1] For Nanine, see . L’Héritier de Village (1725): one-act prose comedy by Marivaux, translated by J. C. Krüger as Der Bauer mit der Erbschaft. First performed and published in 1747, the play was a great favorite in Hamburg and was one of the staples of the Hamburg National Theater repertoire. To date, this play has not been translated into English.
¶ 90 Leave a comment on paragraph 90 0 [28.3] Lessing misrenders Krüger’s name as “Krieger” in the text. Krüger translated the French patois into Plattdeutsch, a dialect of the Hamburg region; our translation attempts to approximate that “low dialect” in English. Thanks to Karen Jürs-Munby for assistance with the Plattdeutsch, and Savannah Reich for help in devising an English equivalent.
¶ 91 Leave a comment on paragraph 91 0 [28.4] Marivaux, L’heritier de Village 4–5. In the original, after Blaise tells his wife the coach is more comfortable, she asks, “You spent an écu?” to which Blaise responds: “Oh, very nobly. How much? I asked. One écu, he said. Here you go, look, take it. Just like that.”
¶ 92 Leave a comment on paragraph 92 0 [28.5] Jean-François Regnard, Le Distrait (1697), five-act verse comedy. An English version, under the title The Absent-Minded Lover, appears in Regnard et. al., The Heirs of Molière 9-86. A German translation, Der Zerstreute, oder der seine Gedanken nicht beysammen hat [The Absentminded One, or he who does not have his wits about him], was first produced in 1735 (see Robertson 81).
¶ 94 Leave a comment on paragraph 94 0 [28.7] Tr. note: the modern use of the word zerstreut – “scattered” – to mean “absentminded” or “distracted” (after the French word distrait) dates from the beginning of the eighteenth century (Grimm 31: 784).
¶ 99 Leave a comment on paragraph 99 0 [28.12] This paragraph is directly paraphrased from Parfaict (81). Jean de la Bruyère (1645–96): French lawyer and writer; his masterpiece, Les caractères de Théophraste, traduits du grec avec les caractères ou les moeurs de ce siècle [The Characters of Theophrastus, translated from the Greek, with The Characters or The Manners of This Century] (1688), provided a satirical and moralist critique of seventeenth-century France.
¶ 101 Leave a comment on paragraph 101 0 [28.14] From the neoclassicists onward, theorists have debated to what extent derision is a necessary component of comedy’s potential moral function; Molière posits that the defects of mankind can be corrected by exposing them to ridicule. Lessing presents a counterview in .
¶ 102 Leave a comment on paragraph 102 0 [28.15] J. J. Rousseau’s antitheatrical polemic, the Lettre à M. d’Alembert, argues that, regardless of Molière’s intentions, comedy cannot be moral if it hopes to succeed with audiences. For Rousseau’s criticism of The Misanthrope, see Politics and the Arts: Letter to M. d’Alembert on the Theatre 36–45.
¶ 106 Leave a comment on paragraph 106 0 [29.3] Das Räthsel, oder; Was dem Frauenzimmer am meisten gefällt (1765/66): an afterpiece that was followed by a musical divertissement. Queen Bertha has sentenced the knight Robert to death; he can avoid this sentence by solving the riddle of what women find most pleasing. An old woman gives him the answer in exchange for his promise that he will repay her when she asks. When the answer saves his life, the old woman demands he marry her; he agrees, and she is magically revealed to be the Queen’s daughter, who had been cursed by a fairy to live as an old woman until she could find a man to marry her.
¶ 108 Leave a comment on paragraph 108 0 [29.5] Voltaire’s Ce qui plaît aux dames (1764): a fairytale poem in verse (itself an adaptation of John Dryden’s adaptation of Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Tale); an English version can be found in Candide and Other Stories 178–89. The Italian comedians: the actors of the Comédie-Italienne. The Fairy Urgele: an early comic opera, La fée Urgele, ou, Ce qui plait aux dames (1765), by Charles Simon Favart, with music by the Italian composer Egidio Romualdo Duni (1708/9–75).
¶ 110 Leave a comment on paragraph 110 0 [29.7] Pierre Corneille, Rodogune, Princesse des Parthes [Rodogune, Princess of Parthia] (1644): a five-act tragedy in verse; it was performed, in a new German translation, for the Danish king, Christian VII (1749–1808), who visited Hamburg on multiple occasions. This translation, in alexandrines, Rodogüne: Prinzessin der Parther, was published in 1769; the translator may have been the actor Wilhelm Christian Dietrich Meyer, or, alternately the playwright Friedrich Georg Behrmann. The play’s backstory: the Syrian king Demetrius (Démétrius) Nicanor was captured by the Parthians and reported dead, whereupon his queen, Cleopatra (Cléopâtre) married his brother (who then died in battle with a would-be usurper, Tryphon). Demetrius, however, is not actually dead and leads a Parthian army toward Syria, where he plans to revenge himself on Cleopatra by displacing her through marriage to the Parthian princess, Rodogune. Demetrius is killed when Cleopatra’s army ambushes him, and Rodogune is taken captive. The play opens with the return of Cleopatra’s twin sons, Antiochus and Seleucus, whom she had sent to Egypt for safety; they expect to learn now which is the elder and will therefore inherit the kingdom and marry Rodogune. Both sons fall in love with Rodogune. Cleopatra offers the crown to whichever brother will kill Rodogune. Rodogune offers to marry whichever brother will kill Cleopatra, but then confesses her love for Antiochus. Cleopatra pretends to accept their union, but kills Seleucus when he will not aid her against them, and plans to poison Antiochus and Rodogune at their wedding. Rodogune is suspicious and challenges Cleopatra to drink from the wedding cup. Cleopatra, poisoned, curses their marriage and is led off to die.
¶ 111 Leave a comment on paragraph 111 0 [29.8] See Corneille, “Examen de Rodogune” 98. Lessing will use Rodogune to address his criticisms of classical French tragedy; for his critique, Lessing will draw on Corneille’s prefatory material to Rodogune and his “Examen,” as well as Voltaire’s criticism of the play in his Commentaires sur Corneille (1764). Cinna (1640) and Le Cid (1637): other tragedies by Corneille.
¶ 112 Leave a comment on paragraph 112 0 [29.9] Appianus Alexandrinus (Appian of Alexandria) (fl. second century AD): Greek historian; wrote Romaica, a history of Rome organized by the peoples it had conquered. Lessing translates Corneille’s version, which precedes his play, in consultation with Appian’s original.
¶ 114 Leave a comment on paragraph 114 0 [29.11] See Corneille, “Appian Alexandrin” 7. Sophocles’ Trachiniae [The Women of Trachis] (c. 458 BCE): Deianeira, attempting to win back her straying husband, Hercules, gives him a love charm. When it poisons him, she kills herself.
¶ 118 Leave a comment on paragraph 118 0 [30.2] Genius: Lessing did not subscribe to the increasingly popular “cult of genius” of the late eighteenth century. For him, genius was not generative (as it would be for the Romantics), but rather an indication of an individual’s intuitive grasp of the laws of nature.
¶ 120 Leave a comment on paragraph 120 0 [30.4] Machiavellian maxims: proverbs of the Italian diplomat and author Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527); his famous treatise The Prince (1513) argues that a prince who wishes to maintain his position must learn how not to be good, and to use his goodness – or not – as necessity requires. The term “Machiavellian” now implies scheming, deceitfulness, cunning, and a lack of scruples. Here Lessing echoes both Corneille and Voltaire. Corneille describes Cleopatra as a “second Medea” in the play’s preface (“Appian Alexandrin” 6), while Voltaire, in his criticism of the play, refers to “sentences in the style of Machiavelli” [Commentaires sur Corneille (II) 498] and calls Cleopatra a monster [Commentaires sur Corneille (II) 508, 550].