Emilia Galotti

by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Emilia Galotti is a play written in the 1800s by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing that recounts the story of a prince named Hettore Gonzaga spurning his former mistress to reveal his love and affection for Emilia Galotti and the ramifications of this deceitful affair. Here are some important quotes from the text.

Traitor! What is mine? Well I love her; I adore her. May you know it.

This is a rough translation of the original German, where Hettore is revealing his love for Emilia Galotti. The surprising and damning phrase Hettore says in this passage is "What is mine?" By saying this, he reveals his view of the people in his life and, in particular, the women with whom he surrounds himself. He believes that he has a right to the women he desires: they are "his," regardless of the consequences to others. In this moment, he reveals his callous heart and the fact that he feels no remorse for the damage he has caused.

A death sentence should be signed.

Camillo Rota, the mother of the murdered Count Appiani, is speaking with Hettore and mentions that a death sentence must be signed for the murderer of her son. During the abduction of Galotti, Appiani is murdered by the hired assassin. Count Appiani was a good man, innocent of the evils of the play. Much like Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, the innocent always pay the price on behalf of the evil men.

So much beauty should bloom in a monastery?

Late in the events of the play, after the abductions and assassinations, Galotti's father requests that she be sent to a monastery instead of be married off. Hettore is hesitant but acquiesces in the end. There is too much grief surrounding the evil that has been done to continue on like normal.

Odoarbo Galotti sends Emilia to a monastery so she can live in peace and not be taken by a man. Hettore believes it is a waste, that her beauty she not be sheltered and should be given to a man to enjoy, whoever it may be. This is in-line with his general attitude towards the women in the story: that they are objects for men's enjoyment as opposed to people who deserve peace and respect. Finally he concedes, ending the circle of suffering caused by the unhappy union.

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