Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Emilia Galotti

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

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

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

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

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.


(Great Characters in Literature)

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.