¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 [31.3] Iphigenia in Tauris: Euripides’ tragedy, Iphigeneia en Taurois (c. 413 BCE). Lessing translates the title as Iphigenia in Taurika, following perhaps Dacier’s Iphigenia Taurique (see Robertson 171). Aristotle does not describe Iphigenia as a perfect tragedy per se, but uses the play to illustrate the best method for inciting pity and fear, as well as the best form of recognition and plot construction; see, respectively, Parts XIV, XVI, and XVII in Section 2 of Butcher’s translation of Poetics. In Parts XVI and XVII, Aristotle also speaks favorably of a different Iphigenia in Tauris by Polyidus the Sophist.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 [31.4] Euripides: Helen (412 BCE), in which a phantom Helen is taken to Troy. The real Helen languishes in Egypt until she is reunited with Menelaus after the war’s end.
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 [31.5] In the Hamburg Dramaturgy, Lessing repeatedly challenges Voltaire’s need for historical accuracy in drama, as well as Voltaire’s own accuracy as a historian; see, for example  and . For Voltaire’s comments on Rodogune’s age, see Commentaires sur Corneille (II) 501.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 [31.6] Lessing alludes to French and German critiques of the Essai sur les moeurs et l’esprit des nations [Essay on the Manners and Spirit of Nations] (1756) and other historical works by Voltaire.
¶ 12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 [32.4] According to an anecdote recounted by both Diogenes Laertius and Plutarch, after seeing Thespis perform, Solon equated fiction with the presentation of lies. See Diogenes, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Chapter 2, and Plutarch, Plutarch Lives I, Chapter 29. For a more nuanced exploration of Solon’s view of tragedy, see Fantuzzi 394–5.
¶ 13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 [32.5] The concept of “probability,” derived from Aristotle, is a lynchpin of neoclassical dramatic theory. In Butcher’s translation of Aristotle’s Poetics, see Section 1, Part IX (“it is not the function of the poet to relate what has happened, but what may happen – what is possible according to the law of probability or necessity”); Section 3, Part XXIV (“the poet should prefer probable impossibilities to improbable possibilities”); and Section 3, Part XXV (“with respect to the requirements of art, a probable impossibility is to be preferred to a thing improbable and yet possible”).
¶ 14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 [32.6] Tr. note: this is the first instance in the Hamburg Dramaturgy in which Lessing invokes the familiar Aristotelian coupling of phobos (fear) and eleos (pity). The terms Lessing uses in this essay, and in all of the subsequent essays until , are Schrecken and Mitleid; beginning in  he argues for the use of Furcht (fear) instead of Schrecken (terror). In  Lessing grounds his understanding of Mitleid in Mendelssohn’s theory, outlined in his Philosophische Schriften [Philosophical Writings], that Mitleid involves the capacity to “share all sorts of suffering or pathos” with another person, hence the word (mit = with, + Leid = suffering, pain). “Compassion” in English has a similar etymological construction, hence our choice to use “compassion” for eleos/Mitleid instead of the conventional term “pity.” Dahlstrom, Mendelssohn’s translator, chooses “sympathy.” See Mendelssohn, Philosophical Writings 141–2, and .
¶ 16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 [32.8] An honest Huron: Lessing refers to the protagonist of Voltaire’s novella, L’Ingénu [The Innocent] (1767). French by birth, but raised by Hurons, the young man knows nothing of European civilization; after arriving in Paris, he is imprisoned in the Bastille for renouncing French suppression of religious freedom. Lessing may not have known that Voltaire was the author of L’Ingénu (see Robertson 171–2).
¶ 17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 [32.9] In chapter 12, the imprisoned “Huron” reads ancient Greek and French drama. He enjoys the Greek works, Molière, and Racine, but finds Rodogune’s verse unmoving and its plot confusing, improbable, and sometimes disgusting.
¶ 18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 [32.10] Some believe that Lessing refers to Francesco Scipione Maffei (1675–1755), the influential Italian playwright, critic, and archaeologist, who published his Osservazioni sopra la Rodoguna [Observations on Rodogune] (1700). Robertson, however, argues that Lessing refers instead to Count Pietro dei Conti di Calepio (1693–1762), the author of Paragone della Poesia tragica d’Italia con quella de Francia [Comparison of Italian Tragic Poetry with that of France] (1732); see Robertson 291–2.
¶ 19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 [32.11] A reference to Voltaire and the origins of his edited collection of P. Corneille’s plays. Voltaire had indeed assumed guardianship of Marie Corneille, the impoverished granddaughter not of Pierre Corneille, but of his cousin (also named Pierre), and through his herculean publishing efforts, succeeded in providing her with income and a handsome dowry. For the complete backstory and fuller literary context, see Williams, “Prelude to the First Edition” in Commentaires sur Corneille (I). For Voltaire’s opinion of Rodogune, see Commentaires sur Corneille (II) 475–560.
¶ 20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 [32.12] Rodogune was repeated on August 26, 1767, but Lessing provides no commentary on this performance, nor on the following half dozen performances in 1768 and 1769.
¶ 25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 [33.2] C. S. Favart, Soliman second, ou les trois Sultanes [Solomon the Second, or the three Sultanas] (1761): a three-act comedy in verse. See [29.7] for a note on the Danish king. The German translation used was Solimann der Zweyte, oder: Die drey Sultaninnen (1765) by Rudolf Erich Raspe (1736–94).
¶ 26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 [33.3] The great Turkish sultan Süleyman I (c. 1494–1566) did indeed marry his European concubine, Hürrem Sultan (c. 1505–58) (known in the West as Roxolana or Roxelane), violating longstanding tradition. Although most accounts of Roxelane are conjecture rather than historical fact, the incident became a subject of great fascination in Europe. One of Lessing’s earliest (unfinished) attempts at tragedy, Giangir oder der verschmähte Thron [Giangir, or the Rejected Throne] (1748), featured Roxelane. For more on the European literary preoccupation with Süleyman and Roxelane, as well as a translation of Giangir, see Yermolenko, Roxolana in European Literature, History, and Culture (2010).
¶ 27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 [33.4] The historical Roxelane was neither French nor Italian, but is believed to have been Ukrainian. In Marmontel’s story, “Soliman II” (1760), three European slaves are procured to entice Soliman, whose concubines no longer interest him, but he eventually tires of both Elmire, a modest beauty, and Délia, a dazzling singer. He is then smitten by the saucy Roxelane, who orders him around and rebuffs him until, defying the laws and customs of his country, Soliman agrees to make her his wife. For an English translation of Marmontel’s story see Marmontel’s Moral Tales, 1–18.
¶ 28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 [33.5] Jean de La Fontaine (1621–95): renowned fabulist; author of the licentious Contes et nouvelles en vers [Tales and Novels in Verse] (1664–85). Jean-Baptiste Joseph Willart de Grécourt (1683–1743): libertine priest; author of many forms of light verse.
¶ 30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 [33.7] “You are much better than a Turk should be: you even have something of a Frenchman about you – Really, these Turks are amusing – I undertake to teach this Turk how to live – I do not despair of making him into a Frenchman some day.” (Marmontel, “Soliman II” 48–50; Marmontel’s Moral Tales 11–13.)
¶ 35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 [33.12] In her own time, Roxelane was accused of scheming and witchcraft, due to her unprecedented influence as a sultana and her power at court; most European accounts of Roxelane were based on these allegations.
¶ 37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 [33.14] Lucretia: legendary figure of ancient Rome; a virtuous wife who committed suicide after having been raped. Socrates: considered synonymous with modesty and restraint.
¶ 40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 [34.2] Lessing continues a discussion, begun in , on the proper treatment of historical characters; his critique centers on Marmontel’s story “Soliman II,” and its theatrical adaptation by Favart, Soliman second [Soliman the Second].
¶ 41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 [34.3] As Lessing indicates in his footnote, this statement on genius references the second Olympic ode by Pindar (c.518–c.438), lyric poet of ancient Greece: “The wise man knows many things in his blood; the vulgar are taught. They will say anything. They clatter vainly like crows against the sacred bird of Zeus.”
¶ 45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 [34.7] In Marmontel’s story, Roxelane has Délia sing for Soliman; she then asks Soliman for his handkerchief and gives it to Délia (Marmontel’s Moral Tales 13–14). In Act 2 of Favart’s play, Elmire dances while Roxelane and Délia sing; Soliman gives his handkerchief to Roxelane, who bestows it on Délia. Soliman then takes back the handkerchief and gives it to Elmire (Soliman second 41). In the same act, Roxelane seizes the pipe Soliman is smoking and hurls it toward the back of the theatre (Soliman second 22).
¶ 48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 [35.2] Lessing continues his discussion, begun in , of Favart’s play Soliman second [Soliman the Second], an adaptation of Marmontel’s story “Soliman II;” here Lessing responds to French criticism of stage business involving Roxelane’s rejection of Soliman’s handkerchief. See .
¶ 49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 [35.3] In , Lessing interrupts his analysis of Favart’s changes to Marmontel’s story (“I want to dwell on just one of these changes. But first I must quote the criticism that the French themselves made regarding this play.”).
¶ 50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 [35.4] Here we provide a translation of Lessing’s rendering of Favart’s text; Lessing appends a (mostly faithful) quote of the original French in his footnote (Favart, Soliman second, 58–9).
¶ 56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 [36.2] Lessing continues his discussion, begun in , of Favart’s play Soliman second [Soliman the Second], an adaptation of Marmontel’s story “Soliman II;” the “happy twist” in Favart’s version is that Roxelane only acts in a flighty manner to test Soliman’s love. See . La serva padrona (The Maid the Mistress) (1733): short opera buffa with music by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710–36) and libretto by Gennaro Antonio Federico. Serpina (Serbinette) cons her elderly master Uberto (Pimpinello) into marrying her and making her mistress of the household. For an English version, see Federico.
¶ 57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 [36.3] Reference to a story told in the Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter in Bk. IV, Ch. 111–112 (The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter I: 254–8 and II: 259–61). A young widow known for her chastity so deeply mourns her husband that she intends to starve to death in his tomb, but instead yields to the advances of a solicitous soldier guarding the crosses of crucified thieves. During his absence, one of the bodies is stolen; to save the soldier’s life, the widow offers her husband’s body as a replacement.
¶ 58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 [36.4] “If that governor had been a just man, he would have ordered the husband’s body taken down and carried back into the vault, and crucified the woman.” See The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter II: 261-2. Lycas (Lichas): character in The Satyricon who has been cuckolded.
¶ 60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 [36.6] Mérope (1744), five-act verse tragedy. First staged in 1743, it was an immediate success and remained so throughout Voltaire’s lifetime. See Vrooman and Godden “Introduction to Mérope,” 91–210. For a plot synopsis, see Robertson 86–7.
¶ 61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 [36.7] Voltaire may have begun work on Mérope as early as 1736. Maffei’s Merope (1713), also a five-act verse tragedy, was performed at the Comédie-Italienne in 1717. Cirey: Château of Voltaire’s lover and patroness Émilie du Châtelet (1706–49), the French natural philosopher, mathematician, and physicist. Urania: the muse of astronomy.
¶ 62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 [36.8] Pierre Brumoy (1688–1742), a French Jesuit humanist scholar. His internationally influential three-volume masterwork, Théâtre des Grecs (The Theatre of the Greeks), contained translations, summaries, and criticism of Greek tragedies.
¶ 63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 [36.9] René (Renatus) Joseph de Tournemine (1661–1739), Jesuit theologian and classical scholar; the addition of Tournemine’s letter was intended to circumvent criticism of Mérope.
¶ 65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 [36.11] Edward Young (1683–1765): English poet, playwright, and critic; famous for The Complaint: or, Night Thoughts (1742–45) and his Conjectures on Original Composition (1759).
¶ 71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 [37.2] Lessing continues his discussion, which extends from  to , of Voltaire’s tragedy Mérope and its relationship to Maffei’s original. For the plot of Mérope, see Robertson 86–7.
¶ 73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 [37.4] The text Lessing very loosely quotes in the following can be found in Maffei’s dedication of the play to Rinaldo I, Duke of Modena (Maffei, Teatro, xxxiv–xxxv).
¶ 78 Leave a comment on paragraph 78 0 [37.9] Cresphontes: lost tragedy by Euripides. See Aristotle, Poetics (Part XIV); and Plutarch, “On the Eating of Flesh II (De esu carnium II)” 2.5. Lessing’s footnote refers to the collection Euripidou Sōzomena Apanta (Extant Works of Euripides) (1694) by English scholar Joshua Barnes (1654–1712); the fragment from Euripides’ Cresphontes was indeed later found and published by German classicist August Nauck (1822–92) in his Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta (Fragments of Greek Tragedy) (1856), 395–98 (Fragment 452–462).
¶ 83 Leave a comment on paragraph 83 0 [37.14] André Dacier (1651–1722): influential French translator and interpreter of classical works; here Lessing refers to “Remarques sur le Chapitre XV” (“Notes on Chapter 15”) in Dacier’s 1692 translation of and commentary on Aristotle’s Poetics. See Aristotle and Dacier, La poëtique d’Aristote 224–25. Petrus Victorius (Pietro Vittori) (1499–1585): important Italian classicist; provided a commentary on Aristotle’s Poetics in 1560.
¶ 86 Leave a comment on paragraph 86 0 [38.2] Lessing continues his discussion, which extends from  to , of Voltaire’s tragedy Mérope and its relationship to Maffei’s original. For the plot of Mérope, see Robertson 86–7.
¶ 89 Leave a comment on paragraph 89 0 [38.5] To support his argument, Lessing draws from multiple sections of Aristotle’s Poetics: for “composition of the plot,” see Part VI; for the distinction between “simple” and “complex” plots, see Part X; for the “three main categories” of tragic incidents see Part XI; for “reversal of fortune,” “recognition” and “suffering,” see Parts XI and XIV.
¶ 95 Leave a comment on paragraph 95 0 [38.11] There is no ancient play with the title of Merope; Lessing may be referring to Euripides’ Cresphontes, or, as his later remarks here and in  suggest, to a hypothetical dramatic version of the myth.
¶ 98 Leave a comment on paragraph 98 0 [39.2] Lessing continues his discussion, which extends from  to , of Voltaire’s tragedy Mérope and its relationship to Maffei’s original. For the plot of Mérope, see Robertson 86–7. Lessing’s response to the Jesuit scholar Tournemine begins in .
¶ 99 Leave a comment on paragraph 99 0 [39.3] Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (1689–1755): French philosopher and political theorist. In his letter of 5 December 1750 to the Abbé Count de Guasco, Montesquieu refers to the “despotic and turbulent spirit of Father Tournemine.” De Guasco provides a footnote describing the bitter feud between Tournemine and Montesquieu, noting that Montesquieu took his revenge on Tournemine, “who was passionately fond of fame,” by always asking “Who is this Father Tournemine? I have never heard of him.” Montesquieu, Lettres familières (1771) 160; Familiar Letters 4: 63.
¶ 105 Leave a comment on paragraph 105 0 [39.9] Polybius (c. 200–c. 118 CE): Greek statesman and author of a history of Rome; quotes from Euripides’ Cresphontes in his Histories Book XII, § 26 (Polybius and Hultsch, Histories of Polybius 2: 110).
¶ 107 Leave a comment on paragraph 107 0 [39.11] This claim appears in Maffei’s dedication to the Duke of Modena; Lessing provides the Italian in his footnote. See Maffei, Teatro del Sig. marchese Scipione xxxvii–viii. For the English, see page 3 of the preface to Ayre’s translation of Merope.
¶ 110 Leave a comment on paragraph 110 0 [39.14] See Hyginus, “Ino” (2nd fable), “Ino of Euripides” (4th fable), “Antiopa” (7th fable), and “Antiopa of Euripides” (8th fable), in The Myths of Hyginus [Fabulae].
¶ 113 Leave a comment on paragraph 113 0 [40.2] Lessing continues his discussion, which extends from  to , of Voltaire’s tragedy Mérope and its relationship to Maffei’s original. For the plot of Mérope, see Robertson 86–7. Here Lessing continues to explore ancient sources of the Merope story; the question at hand is whether Hyginus’s 137th fable provides the plot of Cresphontes, Euripides’ lost version of the story.
¶ 114 Leave a comment on paragraph 114 0 [40.3] Lessing’s concern has been addressed in later editions of Hyginus’s fables, so that Merope’s story (137th fable) is separated from that of Pentheus and Agave (184th fable).
¶ 115 Leave a comment on paragraph 115 0 [40.4] Joh. Bapt. Liviera: Giambattista Liviera (b. 1565); author of Il Cresfonte (1588). Pomponio Torelli, Count of Montechiarugolo (1539–1608): author of La Merope (1589). See Maffei, Teatro del Sig. marchese Scipione xxxviii. For the English, see page 3 of the preface to Ayre’s translation of Merope. (In his preface, Maffei gives La Merope the date of its second edition, 1598.)