(January 22, 1729-February 15, 1781)
Born in Kamenz, Germany
German writer, philosopher, translator, dramatist, publicist, poet, and art critic
Wrote 'Miss Sara Sampson' (1755), 'Philotas' (1759), 'Minna von Barnhelm' (1767), 'Emilia Galotti' (1772), 'Nathan the Wise' (1779), and 'The Education of the Human Race' (1780)
Also known for his literary criticism, theoretical writings 'Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry' and 'Hamburg Dramaturgy'
Why he might be annoying
He was a librarian.
He has been overshadowed by contemporaries Goethe and Schiller.
He was tolerant of Germany's Jews, as long as they were 'assimilated.'
He is remembered as a philosemite, but was noncommittal to the cause of any actual civil rights for the Jewish people.
Like many theologists of the period, his main argument was that the Jewish community had potential but could not achieve perfection until they renounced their belief that they were 'the chosen people.'
He called the Christian orthodox doctrine 'the ugly great ditch which I cannot cross, however often and however earnestly I have tried to make that leap.'
Due to pirated editions of his dramaturgies being printed, the Hamburg National Theater was forced to close down from the incurred financial losses.
His pamphlets, 'Fragments from an Unnamed Author' set off a heated feud between himself and theologian, Johann Melchior Goeze, ultimately resulting in more restricted censorship laws being put in place.
Why he might not be annoying
Margaret Fuller was a huge fan.
Hannah Arendt praised him in her writings.
He was an early proponent of treating Shakespeare's works as serious literature.
His writings have been credited with substantially influencing the development of German literature.
Theatrical historians have called him the first dramaturg of theater.
He published heated pamphlets calling for tolerance of Jews which were eventually banned.
He wrote 'Nathan the Wise' as a fervent plea for religious tolerance of Jews in German society.
Its performance was forbidden by the Catholic Church and was not staged until after his death.
'Nathan the Wise' was apparently Otto Frank's favorite book to read to his young daughters at night.
His lifelong friendship with Jewish-German philosopher Moses Mendelssohn was called 'the most illuminating metaphors for the [Enlightenment's] clarion call... for religious tolerance.'
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