Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 426
Emilia Galotti is an attractive young woman who awakens the interest of the work’s antagonist, Prince Hettore Gonzaga. She is the prize over which male characters in the work, such as the prince and her father, compete throughout, and she fits perfectly the medieval archetype of the feminine, as shown by her submissive reaction to being kidnapped.
Prince Hettore Gonzaga
This lecherous prince has made many enemies due to his evil ways—not only political enemies, such as Emilia’s father and her fiancé, but also personal enemies, such as his former lover Countess Orsina. He is a capable schemer, endeavoring to disguise his true intentions with Emilia by making out he is acting in her best interests. He is dependent to a great extent, however, on his intelligent and devious servant, the Marquis Marinelli.
Emilia’s father is a soldier with nationalist beliefs, having opposed the prince’s endeavor to occupy his homeland in the past. His decision to kill his daughter rather than see her sexually assaulted reflects his belief in strong principles being more important than love or other human emotions. He is portrayed as winning a moral victory at the culmination of the work in that while he has lost both his land and his daughter, he has at least deprived his enemy of the latter and can die with his honor intact.
Emilia’s mother evokes a different kind of feminine archetype than her daughter. Where Emilia is submissive and passive, Claudia is frantic and highly emotional, especially when her daughter is kidnapped. Her accusal of the Marquis Marinelli demonstrates her courage and a keen understanding of the intentions and motives of others.
The Marquis Marinelli
The prince’s chamberlain, this character is the brains behind his master, devising the plan to kidnap Emilia and successfully heading off her father when he comes to rescue his daughter.
Emilia’s betrothed, the count is murdered for his defiance of the prince. He has a keen intuition for other people’s intentions, as demonstrated by his seeing through the prince’s orders that he go on a mission on his wedding day.
The countess was once involved in a happy and reciprocal relationship with the prince. His dismissal of her on seeing Emilia leaves her bitter and disillusioned, and she even shows herself capable of murder when she plans to stab him. She is instrumental in the work’s climax, when she informs Emilia’s father of the prince’s true intentions.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 362
Emilia Galotti (gah-LOHT-tee), the beautiful daughter of a soldier. She is betrothed to Count Appiani. Lecherous Prince Hettore Gonzaga, though engaged to marry the princess of Massa and in love with his mistress, Countess Orsina, desires Emilia. The prince’s wily chamberlain, the Marquis Marinelli, suggests to the prince that Count Appiani be sent on a mission to another province, thus leaving Emilia unprotected from the designs of the prince. When Count Appiani refuses to go on the mission, he is assassinated. Emilia is abducted and taken to the prince’s palace. When her father sees that his daughter’s chastity is about to be violated, he stabs her and presents her body to the lustful prince.
Prince Hettore Gonzaga
Prince Hettore Gonzaga (eht-TOH-ray gohn-ZAH-gah), the lascivious ruler of Sabionetta and Guastalla. He covets Count Appiani’s betrothed. Led on by his wicked chamberlain, the prince agrees to Marinelli’s treacherous plot to kill Count Appiani and take Emilia by force. In the end, however, he loses the love of his mistress, Countess Orsina, and is left with only Emilia’s dead body at his feet.
Odoardo Galotti (oh-doh-AHR-doh), Emilia’s father. Unable to protect his daughter from the machinations of Marinelli, he takes her life rather than have her violated by the carnal prince. After stabbing his daughter, he throws the dagger at the prince’s feet and gives himself up to the guards.
Claudia Galotti, Emilia’s mother. Frantic when she and her daughter are abducted while on the way to Emilia’s wedding, she accuses the Marquis Marinelli of plotting Count Appiani’s murder.
The Marquis Marinelli
The Marquis Marinelli (mah-ree-NEHL-lee), Prince Gonzaga’s evil chamberlain. He contrives the treacherous plan to remove Count Appiani so that the prince can seduce Emilia.
Count Appiani (ahp-pee-AH-nee), Emilia’s betrothed. When he refuses to be beguiled into leaving Emilia on the day of their wedding, he is assassinated.
Countess Orsina (ohr-SEE-nah), the prince’s mistress. When he spurns her, she first plans to stab him; instead, she gives the dagger to Odoardo Galotti. Galotti uses this knife to stab his daughter.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 214
Allison, Henry E. Lessing and the Enlightenment. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1966. Excellent source for information on Lessing’s philosophy of religion.
Brown, F. Andrew. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. New York: Twayne, 1971. Remains a good introduction to Lessing’s life as a critic, dramatist, and theologian. Lessing’s major works have been discussed against the backdrop of eighteenth century German literature and culture.
Graham, Ilse. Goethe and Lessing: The Wellsprings of Creation. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1973. Offers a new reading of Emilia Galotti by concentrating on the ideal image of the character and the failure of its realization. Discusses Lessing and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s different sources of creativity.
Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim. Emilia Galotti. Translated by Edward Dvoretzky. New York: Felix Ungar, 1962. Introduction provides information about the source of this play and its reception in eighteenth century Germany. Translation has successfully retained the original flavor of the play by taking into account its rhetorical devices.
Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim. “Nathan the Wise,” “Minna von Barnhelm,” and Other Plays and Writings. Edited by Peter Demetz. New York: Continuum, 1991. Includes a foreword by Hannah Arendt, which discusses Lessing’s idea of friendship and fraternity and its political relevance in eighteenth century Germany. Also provides translations of selections from Lessing’s philosophical and theological writings.