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Minna von Barnhelm


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AT: The Soldier's Fortune; The Disbanded Officer; The School for Honour A: Gotthold Ephraim Lessing W: 1760–3 Pf: 1767, Hamburg Pb: 1767 Tr: 1786 G: Com. in 5 acts; German prose S: The entrance hall and neighbouring room in an inn, Berlin, 1763 C: 7m, 3fMajor von Tellheim, an officer in the Prussian army, has fought bravely in the Seven Years War but now finds himself dishonourably discharged and impoverished. Feeling himself unworthy, he breaks off his engagement with Minna von Barnhelm, his fiancée from the former enemy state of Saxony. He now lives in an inn in Berlin. The landlord insists that Tellheim must vacate his room to make way for a well-to-do lady, who turns out to be none other than Minna, come in search of her fiancé. Tellheim refuses to allow her to marry a poor and disgraced soldier, so Minna now pretends that she has herself been disinherited and is living in poverty, which brings about a change of heart in Tellheim. Fortunately, the arrival of Minna's uncle and a message from the King that Tellheim has been reinstated and his fortune restored allow the couple to look forward to a future together.

AT: The Soldier's Fortune; The Disbanded Officer; The School for Honour A: Gotthold Ephraim Lessing W: 1760–3 Pf: 1767, Hamburg Pb: 1767 Tr: 1786 G: Com. in 5 acts; German prose S: The entrance hall and neighbouring room in an inn, Berlin, 1763 C: 7m, 3f

Considered the first German comedy, and still one of the best, Minna von Barnhelm shows Lessing, the so-called ‘father of German theatre’, turning from the tragic mode of his Miss Sara Sampson and the seriousness of Nathan the Wise. Minna goes beyond conventional comedy in placing the source of the action not in the external discovery of the identity of Tellheim and Minna, but in Tellheim's exaggerated sense of honour and his gradual inner reform to becoming less self-centred and more loving. In his gently comic depiction of Prussian stubbornness and Saxon charm, Lessing also hoped to heal some of the wounds of the Seven Years War. Howard Barker adapted it in 1994.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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