Customer Reviews: Nathan the Wise (Bedford Series in History & Culture)
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on June 19, 2009
Lessing played a pivotal role in the German Enlightenment. Lessing's play "Nathan the Wise" is as relevant, if not more so, in the post 9/11 world of the 21st century as it was in the late 18th century when it was written. No single group has a monopoly over religious beliefs and practices. Every individual has the right to exercise freedom over whatever religion he or she chooses to follow. "All religions lead to the same God through different paths" according to the Indian divine and mystic Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa who practiced all religions. No religion can claim to know the absolute truth.

The belief of knowing the absolute truth has been the starting point of all religious violence that has been witnessed through the ages, even to the present day. Thinking of one religion's as superior to others and holding prejudices towards other religions has led to riots and religious holocausts. The false notion of thinking of the other religions as antagonistic to others has been the root of religious fundamentalism. Making generalizations about people from a specific religion as evil or moral or superior is a folly. Every religion has its share of adherents who not only fall into extreme shades of black and white but can also be classified within intermediary shades of grey. Devouts and fanatics are in every religion though most people fall in between these two categories. In today's world the stakes are too high for religious bigotry and belligerence.

In a world armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, religious chauvinism can lead to the decimation of all of humanity, no matter what religion they follow. Religious jingoism has to be struck at its roots before the monster devours the whole of humanity. It is also important to remember that religious riots and violence are often triggered by petty and avaricious politicians and leaders for their own vested interests while the gullible public fall prey to such predatory and vicious political marketing of hypocritical and immoral ideals. It is necessary to have a balanced view of religion and not look at other religions with a jaundiced view.
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on March 15, 2000
I first read this book (actually it is a play) in highschool and though I generally hated to be forced to read a book I really loved this one. I finished way ahead of schedule.
The reason: this book is extremely very well and has an up-to-date message even though it was written several 100 years back. The story is abou a Jewish merchant called Nathan, a templar and Nathan's daughter and the love between the templar and the daughter and the conflicts arising from it.
It is set in the time of the crusades and its message is: it does not matter which religion you believe in as long as you are a decent human being. This message was only written in a play because the author was officially forbidden from teaching his reconciliatory views on religion in university! It must have been a hardship for him, but today we can enjoy a literary masterpiece for just that reason. For me it is a perfect book and it might very well be the same for you.
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on June 28, 2013
Used for a "religion and reason" class, this tale was definitely interesting. Would definitely recommend it to any high school or college student looking for different perceptions of religion!
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on March 5, 2009
Lessing grapples with thoughts that are contradictory such as truth verses dignity, tolerance versus supremacy and inconsequential free speech verses influential word of chastisement. This is a good book that teaches social responsibility and hence, one's burdens from having achieved persuasions. Recha character is so precious that it holds the narration together despite odd mingling of characters encompassing 3 distinct religions.
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on November 9, 2011
I admit that I bought this play because one of the original sources of it--a short story--really made an impression on me. I'd considered writing a modern version of it, and then I found a play version already written, and jumped at purchasing it.

I'm a playwright, too, so reading plays is something I do a LOT. The format was not the problem.

The play, at least for me, was neither moving nor meaningful. The story was lost in strangeness and confusion, and I read through entire scenes several times over, trying to figure out how the arc of the play was served. By the end, the characters seemed no less stilted than at the beginning, and I was utterly disappointed in how the elements were treated. I can only hope that this is not the last time this story is created... it deserves a far better rendition.
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