Minna von Barnhelm

by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

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Characters Discussed

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Minna von Barnhelm

Minna von Barnhelm (MIH-nah fon BAHRN-hehlm), a charming and beautiful young heiress betrothed to a former Prussian officer, Major Tellheim. Hearing no word from him after the peace, she sets out resolutely with her maid Franziska to find the major. Stopping at an inn, the two women are given the quarters of Tellheim, whom the landlord has dispossessed for nonpayment of rent. Minna learns of Tellheim’s misfortune and, so that his pride will not stand in their way, she pretends to have lost her own fortune too. After many misunderstandings, word is received that Tellheim’s commission and property have been restored. The lovers are soon reconciled.

Major von Tellheim

Major von Tellheim (TEHL-him), a gallant and brave soldier recently discharged from the army, wounded and under shadow of suspicion for double dealing. As much as he loves Minna, he has purposely broken off communications with her to clear his good name, restore his health, and regain his fortune. Never one to accept charity, he rejects the repayment of a loan by the widow of a comrade-in-arms, the offer of financial help from his old sergeant, and the sympathy as well as the fortune of his fiancée. On the other hand, his own generosity, in advancing war taxes for a destitute principality and borrowing large funds for what he was led to believe is a destitute Minna, is forthright and sincere. Eventually, his name is cleared and his property restored. He and Minna then plan their wedding.


Just (yewst), the major’s humorous, loyal servant. He defends his master against insults from the landlord and does all he can to ease the major’s financial difficulties.


Franziska (fran-TSIHS-kah), Minna’s resourceful maid and confidante. She joins her mistress in the intrigue designed to mollify the major’s pride. In the process, she finds a husband for herself.

Sergeant Paul Werner

Sergeant Paul Werner (VEHR-nehr), Tellheim’s loyal sergeant. He places all of his resources at the disposal of the major, even offering to raise money by selling his farm. When the major’s problems finally are resolved, Werner becomes engaged to Franziska.

Lieutenant Riccault de la Marlinière

Lieutenant Riccault de la Marlinière (rih-KOHL duh lah mahr-lee-NYEHR), a mercenary and a gambler. Welcomed because he brings the news that Major Tellheim’s good name and commission will soon be restored, he proves to be a scoundrel who manages to gain sympathy and money from Minna for his illicit gambling enterprises.

The landlord

The landlord, a greedy, prying innkeeper. He dispossesses Tellheim and rents his room to Minna when the major falls behind in his rent.

Count von Bruchsal

Count von Bruchsal (BREWKH-zahl), Minna’s uncle, who controls her wealth. He arrives in time to give the reconciled lovers his blessing.

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