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G. E. Lessing

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G. E. Lessing

*  1729 Kamenz
† 1781 Braunschweig


The German writer Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was born on January 22, 1729 to a pastor's family in Kamenz. After attending school in Kamenz and Meißen, he went to Leipzig in 1746 to study theology and medicine. Lessing quit his studies in 1748 and went to Berlin. He earned his living there as a reviewer and editor but soon started writing pieces for the theater. On the insistence of his father, Lessing resumed his studies in Wittenberg and earned the title Magister in 1752. After his return to Berlin, he met Moses Mendelssohn, with whom he developed a deep friendship. Lessing returned to Leipzig in 1755, but the next year returned to Berlin. He published letters on contemporary literature with his friends Mendelssohn and Friedrich Nikolai. Turning more and more toward literature, Lessing worked as a professional writer in Berlin and as the dramatic advisor for the National Theater in Hamburg beginning in 1767. His drama "Minna von Barnhelm" premiered at the National Theater in Hamburg. In Hamburg, Lessing met his future wife, Eva König. The "Hamburg Dramaturgy" appeared at this time. In 1770, the National Theater in Hamburg closed for financial reasons. Lessing then took a position as a librarian in the Duke August Library in Wolffenbüttel. There he translated the medieval work "Schedula diversarum artium" ("List of various arts") by Theophilus Presbyter, which he published in 1774 as "Of the Age of Oil Painting by Theophilus Presbyter" ("Vom Alter der Ölmalerey aus dem Theophilus Presbyter"). Lessing wrote his drama "Emilia Galotti" in 1772. Four years later, he married Eva König. It was a short, though happy marriage, for in the next year, their newborn son died, with Lessing's wife following a few weeks later. Despite these circumstances and his worsening health, he finished his last piece, "Nathan der Weise," in 1779. Lessing died on February 15, 1781 in Braunschweig (Brunswick) following a stroke.