(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

All of Prussia rejoices, and European courts lose their best topic of scandal when Duke Eberhard Ludwig breaks with the countess who had been his mistress and returns to his wife to beget another heir to the throne. The countess had been his mistress for thirty years, bleeding the country with her extravagant demands for wealth and jewels. Ludwig had been too vain, however, to remain her lover when she grew fat and middle-aged.

The countess sends for Isaac Landauer, the wealthy international banker who is her financial agent. Unable to advise her as to the means by which she could keep her hold on the duke, he offers to liquidate her possessions and send them to another province. The countess, who has a strong belief in black magic, nevertheless insists that Landauer bring to her the Wandering Jew to help cast a spell on Ludwig.

Landauer visits his young friend, Joseph Süss Oppenheimer, and offers half of what his dealings with the countess will bring him if the young man will aid Landauer in the countess’s scheme. The so-called Wandering Jew is an uncle of Süss, Rabbi Gabriel, whose melancholy demeanor and mystic ways had caused people to think that he is the legendary Wandering Jew. Süss considers the offer. It is tempting, but for some unknown reason the young man is half afraid of his uncle, whose presence always instills in his nephew a feeling of inferiority. Furthermore, Rabbi Gabriel is rearing motherless, fourteen-year-old Naemi, the daughter whom Süss wishes to conceal from the rest of the world. At last, however, he sends for Rabbi Gabriel.

Penniless Prince Karl Alexander comes to Wildbad in hopes of gaining the grant of a substantial income from the duke. Süss, discovering the poverty of the prince, makes himself the financial adviser of the destitute nobleman. Although Landauer warns him that Karl Alexander is a poor risk, Süss continues his association with the prince merely because he hopes to ingratiate himself with the nobility. Half in gratitude, half in jest, the prince grants Süss admission to his levees.

On his arrival in Wildbad, Rabbi Gabriel tells Süss that he intends to bring Naemi to his nephew. Landauer, however, no longer needs Gabriel to help carry out the countess’s scheme, and the rabbi returns to his home. The countess had been banished from the duchy, taking with her the money procured by Landauer.

Süss becomes the favorite of Prince Karl Alexander. To Wildbad also comes Prince Anselm Franz of Thurn and Taxis and his daughter, Princess Marie Auguste. Their mission is to urge Karl Alexander to marry the princess and turn Catholic. Angry because the duke has refused to give him a pension, the prince consents.

Duke Eberhard Ludwig dies suddenly, and Karl Alexander, now a Catholic, inherits the duchy. Süss becomes a court favorite, appointed by the new duchess to be...

(The entire section is 1178 words.)