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LAOCOON - NATHAN THE WISE - MINNA VON BARNHELM
by LESSING
Binding: Paperback, 316 pages
Publisher: Kellock Robertson Press
Weight: 0.89 pound
Dimension: H: 0.75 x L: 8.5 x W: 0.48 inches
ISBN 10: 1408631350
ISBN 13: 9781408631355
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Book Description:
LAOCOON NATHAN THE WISE MINNA VON BARNHELM 1930 INTRODUCTION A feal ure in the story of German literature which all its critics have remarked is the rapidity of its development in the course of the eighteenth century, and the astonishng contrast between the opening and the closing decades of the period. The second half of the century witnessed the outburst of splendour in Goethe and Schiller and Kant, and showed Germany keeping step with England and France. The fertilising influences of the Renaissance had reached Germany late, for in England the Elizabethan age had come, and flourished in full luxuriance, and Milton had followed his greater predecessor, whilst in Germany poetry, drama and literature generally still remained a poverty stricken and almost negligible product. There were special reasons for this retardation. Early in the seventeenth century the curse of war had brooded heavily over Europe, with particular darkness over Germany for thirty years the cock pit where was fought out the fateful struggle between the Catholic South and the Protestant North. On both sides the armies were mercenaries, and their marches to and fro were marches of military locusts, devouring and destroying everywhere. Nor was it merely material desolation that resulted the springs of intellectual and spiritual activity also were choked in the universal debacle. The war was over by 1648, but a prolonged period was required for complete recovery. Another hindrance to the advance of German letters was the absence of national unity, the want of an acknowledged centre of the national life. Berlin, Leipzig, Hamburg, all contended for the central place, at least in the production of books and in theatrical enterprise and thus an advantage was lost which England and France enjoyed by their great capitals. It is also worth remarking that whatever furtherance for intellectual activities can be looked for from men in the high places of society was conspicuously wanting. The King himself, the great Frederick, besides being almost exclusively absorbed by the interests of his army, was cold not only to German literature but even to the German language. He liked to speak French and to have Frenchmen about him. There is notling blameworthy in Fredericks preference. Who is there that does not prefer lightness, clarity and grace to heaviness and clumsiness If we criticise the mistaken notions of French dramatists of those days, their bondage to ancient rules and examples, let us at the same time freely acknowledge their merits. Lessing himself confesses that he owed much to them, acknowledging a particular obligation to Diderot, as the man who has taken so great a share in forming his taste. Be this what it may, he writes, I know that without Diderots example and doctrines it would have taken a quite different direction. Fredericks preference for French writers, then, can be easily understood, yet the natural consequence of his attitude was undoubtedly to chill and discourage German authors and to undermine their efforts. Fredericks real service was in a different field he brought to Germany a national self consciousness and self confidence which it had hitherto lacked. When, moreover, German literature began once more to show signs of vitality and renewal, the leaders who undertook its superintendence were unfortunately unequal to the task. They wanted the natural genius which the great business demanded, and they followed mistaken paths...


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