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12/08/2005
Get wise in Hampstead by: Leslie Bunder
FILED UNDER DAILY JEWS >> Arts
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Way back in 1779, German author Gotthold Ephraim Lessing finished writing Nathan the Wise. Not seen on the London stage for over 40 years, this 226-year-old work is coming to London's Hampstead Theatre in September for a month.
 
The play features a Jewish guy called Nathan who lives in Jerusalem at the time of the Third Crusade and is about the struggle for Jews, Muslims and Christians to all live together. The story is told via the three main characters -  Nathan (Jewish), Saladin (Muslim) and Knight Templar (Christian).
 
When Lessing wrote Nathan der Weise, as it was called in German, it took him three years to finish it.

At the time, it was quite rare for non-Jewish authors to present Jewish characters in a favourable or positive way.
 
But Lessing was good friends with many Jews, including the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn.
 
In fact, some Jewish German families adopted the surname of Lessing due to his criticism of anti-Semitism and the respect he showed towards Jewish people.
 
Lessing died in 1779 and while the play was published prior to his death, it wasn't until 1781 when it made its stage debut.
 
Nathan the Wise is on at the Hampstead Theatre from September 15 to October 15.

More info: Hampstead Theatre,  Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage,  London NW3 3EU
Tel:  020 7722 9301

 
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