« I don’t believe we ever lose the supersitions of our race. We drink them in with our mother’s milk, and we may mock them but they are bred into our bones. »
— Knight Templar in Nathan the Wise
This is day four of our trip to Stratford and I just got back from seeing Nathan the Wise, a play written by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in a version by Edward Kemp and directed at Stratford by Birgit Schreyer Duarte.
I loved it. It is hard to believe that a man born in 1729 in Germany could have put his finger on the pulse of an issue now as it was in those days: the question of religion and issues arising as the main religions of the world attempt (or not attempt as it may well be) to coexist.
Without getting too much into the questions put by the play, Nathan, a Jewish man, returns home to Jerusalem and to his wife and daughter (a stepdaughter as it turns out), a Jerusalem ruled by a Muslim ruler, and to find that his ‘daughter’ had been saved from a burning home by a Knight Templar, a Christian, clearly an enemy.
According to the director, Birgit Schreyer Duarte:
« The play examines different degrees of tolerance, a significant idea among Lessing’s ideals of the Enlightenment. True tolerance, Lessing believed, is more than only letting the other person’s opinions, culture, and customs exist besides one’s own. It goes even further than accepting and respecting others as being equal to ourselves. »
In a seemingly very Shakespearean fashion, things happen in this play and bit by bit things unravel into an extremely complex way in which the characters all must learn and deal with almost impossibly difficult information about each other as the play continues toward dénouement. It is, in short, wild.
I am blown away. I am equally surprised since I feel that the entire play was clouded by the fact that the main character, Nathan, was played by a woman and I was seemingly unable to get beyond that fact and feel that the entire intentions of the play were marred by that fact. The actor playing the role of Nathan, Diane Flacks, did a fabulous job, but I could not get beyond her sex.
I need to keep thinking about this all.
After dinner at the Revival House restaurant, we went back to the Studio Theatre and saw Henry VIII. That was a wonderful experience, so two good plays in one day.