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Vom Sieg der Vernunft über das Vorurteil. Gotthold Ephraim Lessings Frühwerk ,,Die Juden"

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image of Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte

C. F. Gellert's 1748 novel "Leben der schwedischen Gräfin von G***" portrays the moral actions of Jews as a result of good Christian conduct. In reaction, G. E. Lessing disputes this depiction in his one-act-play "Die Juden" from 1749. The recognition that a Jew could fulfill the ideals of the Enlightenment helped overcome the prejudices of Christian stage characters and of the audience, but it failed in the social circumstances of the time. Christian reception (J. D. Michaelis) understood a "noble Jew" to be a violation of the poetic principle of probability - and even for Lessing such a figure was the exception. Moses Mendelssohn, however, believed that Judaism was especially well-suited for fostering the development of certain virtues. In light of far-reaching interreligious concepts on the one hand and religiously motivated conflicts on the other, Lessing's early works reveal today the persistent value of self-critical examination concerning hidden prejudices towards religious and cultural minorities.


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