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Nathan the Wise: Interpretation / Analysis 2nd act

With his play Nathan the Wise Lessing creates a symbol of tolerance, since in the end it becomes clear that the different people and followers of different religions are related to one another. This article interprets the piece in detail and goes into each performance.

Overview of elevators:

second elevator

1. Appearance:
The siblings Sittah and Saladin play chess for money, but the Sultan is out of the game and loses, although Sittah draws his attention to his mistakes in the game. He doesn't want to win and concentrate on the game because his thoughts are on the broken truce. This thwarted his plans to seal the peace with a double wedding between two of his siblings and two siblings of Richard I.

He also has money worries and does not know how to finance the further war. On the other hand, he is extremely generous to Sittah because if she loses the game of chess, he will give her double the bonus to comfort her. His sister is presented as a clever and astute woman. She questions the motives of the Crusades, since Christians only want to spread the name "Christ", but do not take any example from his exemplary life.

2. Appearance:
When Al-Hafi arrives, he is supposed to pay Sittah the lost money. Since he plays chess himself, he sees at first glance that Saladin has not yet lost and points this out to him. This shows the stubborn and quick-tempered manner of the Sultan, because he doesn't want to hear about it and in the end even knocks over the chessboard.

Al-Hafi is not your typical submissive servant and openly tells Saladin that something is going on behind his back. Sittah tries to prevent it, but then has to confess to her brother that she has not only waived the money she won recently, but has also paid all the court's expenses with her money, since the expected money from Egypt has not yet arrived and Saladin is broke. Her brother is deeply grateful to her for this, even though she interfered in his affairs as a subordinate and a woman. This shows, on the one hand, that Sittah knows more about business than her brother and, on the other hand, that she is an emancipated woman who takes the initiative herself.

You can see that Saladin is generous. He's ready to save money, but he only wants to do it on himself. Since he lives very modestly and only owns a sword, a robe and a horse, there is no potential for savings here. But it should not be forgotten that he lives in a huge palace with many servants and is surrounded by riches. The solution to the problem should be that Al-Hafi should borrow money. But he is only allowed to go to people who the Sultan has not made rich, so that it does not seem like a reclamation. That makes the search for donors difficult.

Sittah then remembers that her treasurer has a rich Jew for his friend whom he usually speaks of in the highest tones. Since Al-Hafi already knows that Nathan will not lend the Sultan anything and that he does not want to invoke Saladin's anger on him, he speaks ill of his friend. He tries to protect him from being attacked by the palace and declares that Nathan does justice to all prejudices against Jews. This means that although he gives to the poor, since the Torah commands him to do so and he wants to look good before God, he does not give anything in order to always have enough to give away. In doing so, he reinterprets Nathan's wisdom in calculation. He also claims that he knows a rich black man he wants to see and hurries off to stop talking about his boyfriend.


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Nathan the Wise Interpretation 3rd to 5th appearance

3. Appearance:
Sittah has noticed that Al-Hafi has now spoken very differently about Nathan than usual. She wonders whether he was wrong about the Jew or whether he is ashamed of him. But she also takes into account that he didn't want to talk about Nathan. This shows again her acuteness and also her knowledge of human nature, because she saw through the dervish. However, in the end he doesn't care about her motives because she wants Nathan's money.

Her brother, who is not as cunning as she, fears that she will take it from him by force, but her plan is that she wants to find his weak point and exploit it. This is Recha, which Sittah does not yet know. So she still wants to think about it.

4. Appearance:
While Nathan and Recha wait for Daja to tell them where the Templar is, the intimate father-daughter relationship between the two becomes apparent. Nathan notices that Recha raves about her savior, which he does not see as questionable and admits this. He asks her not to keep any secrets from him, even in matters of love, and the mere idea of ​​not telling her father everything is unthinkable for Recha, since he is her closest confidante.

5. Appearance:
Even though Nathan already knows that the Templar does not want any contact with him, he speaks to him anyway. He is completely free of prejudice and only assumes the best. It is completely different with the temple master, because he is anti-Jewish and demeans Nathan by addressing him as "Jew", which he means contemptuously. He also interrupts his counterpart in order to nip a conversation in the bud.

He makes it clear that by rescuing Recha he was only doing his duty as a temple lord and that he didn’t care whether he lived or died. So he was happy to risk it even for a Jewess. In doing so, he insults Nathan, but this does not deter him. On the contrary, he recognizes the modesty of the temple gentleman, since he interprets the insult as an escape from admiration. Then he offers him money as a thank you, but the latter directly refuses.

Since Nathan does not give up, he says that if his coat is broken, he will want to borrow money or cloth. He wants to get rid of Nathan, because apart from a small burn mark it is still completely intact and it is not to be expected that it will come at all. Nathan falls a tear on his coat when he sees the burn mark as it reminds him that he almost lost his beloved child. He asks the temple master to send the cloak to Recha one day so that she can kiss the stain, since the temple master himself does not want to come to receive her thanks. With these words he shamed the temple master, who gave up his arrogance and now addresses Nathan by his name.

Another rapprochement between the two takes place when Nathan sees through the temple master again that he just did not come into his house because the householder was far away and he did not want to embarrass Recha with his visit. That would be the way of thinking of every good person and good people should get along without arguing. On the other hand, the Temple Lord objects that he considers the Jews to be arrogant because in his eyes they are too proud to be God's chosen people and he accuses them of having passed this pride on to the Christians and Muslims.

Because this led to the crusades, which he feels as a bloody imposition of his own God. This criticism of holy war is extremely unusual both for the time and especially for a temple gentleman. Actually, as a Christian monk and knight, he should fully support the crusades, as they bring infidels out of heresy and thus bring them closer to the kingdom of heaven. In addition, the liberation of Jerusalem was regarded as the highest goal of all and should be the purpose of a temple master's life.

This view of war and religions coincides with Nathan's, which is why he wants them to be friends. Because first and foremost everyone is a person and only then is a follower of a religion, and there is also the fact that you cannot choose your religious affiliation.

At the end of their conversation, the Templar has an unbiased view of Nathan and only on this basis is it possible for both of them to become friends. This friendship includes families, which is why the templar is now eager to get to know Recha, which he had previously rigorously rejected. He didn't even want to speak to Nathan, but Nathan acted as a wise educator and thus led him step by step to an encounter free of prejudice.


Nathan the Wise Analysis 6th to 9th appearance

6. Appearance:
Daja joins the conversation because she can't wait for Nathan to come into the house because of the worry and excitement. The reason for this is that the Sultan sends for Nathan, but contrary to all expectations, he does not want his goods or money, but wants to talk to the Jew.

7. Appearance:

Nathan has not yet had anything to do with the Sultan and has made it clear to Al-Hafi that he will not lend him any money. This attitude has now changed, however, as he feels bound to Saladin by the pardon of the Templar. Because only then it was possible that this Recha saved. Nathan is therefore full of expectation to be able to serve the Sultan.

Before that, he discusses with the templar that he will come to visit on the same day and he also learns his name: Curd von Stauffen. This and the gestures of the Templar remind him of a person named Wolf and he wants to investigate more closely. Nathan suspects that the Templar might be Wolf's son. He tries to hide his curiosity from his counterpart, but he does not succeed and the Temple Lord does not want to spread his whole family history in front of him.

8. Appearance:
Nathan sees through that Daja and Recha also want to know what he has discussed with the templar and that this preoccupies them much more than the sultan's call. Nathan tells that the temple master is coming soon and asks Daja again urgently not to tell Recha about the secret, because he himself has a plan that he does not explain. He senses that Daja is finding it harder and harder to keep silent.

9. Appearance:
Al-Hafi comes to Nathan again and he thinks that the Sultan sent him as a second messenger because he is taking too long. But this is not the case, because Al-Hafi comes to say goodbye. He secretly resigns from his position as treasurer, since he cannot watch as his friends are removed from Saladin. He apologizes to Nathan for not being able to prevent the Sultan from wanting to borrow money from him.

In addition, he warns him that Saladin will not take advice and gives the game of chess as an example. Nathan responds a bit mockingly to this, since he says that his friend feels offended in his pride as a good chess player. But he repels that and goes on to explain how bad borrowing is for him. He feels like a thief and doesn't want to live like that anymore. Therefore he wants to realize his lifelong dream and live as a mendicant monk with teachers of his faith on the Ganges.

He offers Nathan to come with him, which is a great honor and expresses his appreciation for him. But when he hesitates, he doesn't hold it against him, but realizes that they will part ways. Nathan promises to pay off the small debts that he still has and he admires his friend who simply leaves everything behind in order to lead a self-determined and free life.

Author: Kirsten Schwebel

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