Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 130
Nathan the Wise is a 1779 play by the German playwright Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Set in medieval Jerusalem, the play is an appeal to religious tolerance.
The play's titular character, Nathan, is a wise, ethical, and generous Jewish man. The sultan Saladin the Great, ruler of Egypt and Syria, is another major character in the play. Conrad von Stauffen, a Templar knight, is the play's third principal character. The relationship between these three characters—a Jew, a Muslim, and a Christian—is the central element of the play.
The play's other major characters include Nathan's adopted Christian daughter, Recha; her attendant, Daja; the patriarch Athanosios; the friar Bonafides; Saladin's treasurer, the Sufi al-Hafi; Saladin's sister Sittah; and a number of supporting characters, including the Courier, Emir Mansor, various slaves, and others.