Paper 3 v2 - Chew 1 Vanessa Chew Adrienne Damiani German R5A November 6 2010 Lessings Emilia Galotti Lessings work based on the Roman tragedy of

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Chew 1 Vanessa Chew Adrienne Damiani German R5A November 6, 2010 Lessing’s Emilia Galotti Lessing’s work, based on the Roman tragedy of Virginia, is considered one of the finest works of German literature (Dvoretzky, viii). The titular character herself references the myth in the play. The Roman story focused more on the politics of such an act, but Lessing chose to focus on the sorrow of murder to save a woman’s virtue, which he felt was sad enough (Dvoretzky, ix). Indeed, the tragedy is still felt amongst audiences today, and has not lost its poignancy through time. A natural reaction to such an untimely death is the need to lay the primary blame on a character; but who is it that deserves the pointed finger? It is easy to blame the Prince, whose initial desire is the catalyst for the unfortunate series of events. Yet it is Marinelli who is the mastermind behind the various schemes to trap Emilia. Odoardo also plays a key role: he is the one who eventually deals the deathblow, stabbing his daughter in his struggle between his love for her and his love for her virtue. To resolve this quandary, we must not only survey the direct actions of these three characters, but also examine their personalities to understand their motivations. Then can we delve deeper, uncovering links between events, between characters; and then can we begin to draw conclusions. We begin with the Prince, the starting point of the tragedy. From the very first scene, his desire for Emilia is obvious. But perhaps this is just an interest in the girl, perhaps he wishes for her to become his wife – but this is not the case. “Ah, my Prince, we artists count on the finished 1
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Chew 2 picture finding the lover just as ardent as when he commissioned it,” says Conti, regarding the painting of Countess Orsina (Lessing 1.4). It now appears that he has just lost his interest in a former lover, which does not bode well for his interest in Emilia. Later, the Prince himself mentions, “My impending marriage with the Princess of Massa makes it necessary that I break off all such activity immediately” (Lessing 1.6). Here, it becomes apparent that the Prince is merely greedy. He is engaged to another princess, and yet still desires other women; in fact, the audience may think of the Prince as a womanizer, with a fiery passion for one woman that is soon quenched, only to flare in the name of another, forming a never-ending cycle of lust. His hypocrisy also shines through: he invokes his upcoming marriage in an attempt to dissociate himself from the Countess, and yet he appears to have no barriers against engaging in such activity with Emilia, should she be available to him. The Prince is also rather ignorant and ineffective. We see that he approves the petition of “an Emilia Bruneschi”, simply because “her name’s Emilia” (Lessing 1.1). Later, he gives fickle- minded instructions to his councillor Camillo Rota regarding this: “Hold off final action on it awhile. Or don’t; whatever you want to do.” (Lessing 1.8) He cannot even begin to create a plan
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This note was uploaded on 11/29/2010 for the course GERMAN R5A taught by Professor Dobryden during the Fall '09 term at University of California, Berkeley.

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Paper 3 v2 - Chew 1 Vanessa Chew Adrienne Damiani German R5A November 6 2010 Lessings Emilia Galotti Lessings work based on the Roman tragedy of

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