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Kritische Bemerkungen zur Geschichte der religiösen Toleranz und zur Tradition der Lessing'schen Ringparabel

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Although the medieval tradition of the famous parable which stands in the centre of Lessing's Nathan der Weise is quite well known, the present writer holds that the older versions of this motive are usually misinterpreted, being habitually read in the light of the German poet's text written during the age of enlightenment. An analysis, however, of the original stories of Etienne de Bourbon, Busone, Boccaccio et al., shows that their real aim was to illustrate an aporia and the shrewdness necessary to escape from it, not to call for religious tolerance. Indeed, the latter idea grew out of the disasters of the Thirty Years' War only, and was nearly completely alien to the Middle Ages. The few exceptions (Wolfram von Eschenbach, Ramon Llull, Nicolaus Cusanus) — and their limitations — are briefly discussed.

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Affiliations: 1: Institut für Wirtschafts- und Sozialgeschichte, Universität Wien, Universitäts-Hauptgebäude, Dr. Karl Lueger-Ring 1, A-1010 Wien, Österreich;, Email:


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