Fiction > Harvard Classics > Gotthold Ephraim Lessing > Minna von Barnhelm
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781).  Minna von Barnhelm.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act V
Scene V

  Min.  (speaking as she comes out, as if not aware of the Major’s presence). The carriage is at the door, Franziska, is it not? My fan!
  Maj. T.  (advancing to her). Where are you going, Madam?  2
  Min.  (with forced coldness). I am going out, Major. I guess why you have given yourself the trouble of coming back: to return me my ring.—Very well, Major von Tellheim, have the goodness to give it to Franziska.—Franziska, take the ring from major von Tellheim!—I have no time to lose.  (Is going.)  3
  Maj. T.  (stepping before her). Madam! Ah! what have I heard? I was unworthy of such love.  4
  Min.  So, Franziska, you have—  5
  Fran.  Told him all.  6
  Maj. T.  Do not be angry with me, Madam. I am no deceiver. You have, on my account, lost much in the eyes of the world, but not in mine. In my eyes you have gained beyond measure by this loss. It was too sudden. You feared it might make an unfavourable impression on me; at first you wished to hide it from me. I do not complain of this mistrust. It arose from the desire to retain my affection. That desire is my pride. You found me in distress; and you did not wish to add distress to distress. You could not divine how far your distress would raise me above any thoughts of my own.  7
  Min.  That is all very well, Major, but it is now over. I have released you from your engagement; you have, by taking back the ring—  8
  Maj. T.  Consented to nothing! On the contrary, I now consider myself bound more firmly than ever. You are mine, Minna, mine for ever. (Takes off the ring.) Here, take it for the second time—the pledge of my fidelity.  9
  Min.  I take that ring again! That ring?  10
  Maj. T.  Yes, dearest Minna, yes.  11
  Min.  What are you asking me? that ring?  12
  Maj. T.  You received it for the first time from my hand, when our positions were similar and the circumstances propitious. They are no longer propitious, but are again similar. Equality is always the strongest tie of love. Permit me, dearest Minna!  (seizes her hand to put on the ring.)  13
  Min.  What! by force, Major! No, there is no power in the world which shall compel me to take back that ring! Do you think that I am in want of a ring? Oh! you may see (pointing to her ring) that I have another here which is in no way inferior to yours.  14
  Fran.  (aside). Well, if he does not see it now!  15
  Maj. T.  (letting fall her hand). What is this? I see Fräulein von Barnhelm, but I do not hear her.—You are pretending.—Pardon me, that I use your own words.  16
  Min.  (in her natural tone). Did those words offend you, Major?  17
  Maj. T.  They grieved me much.  18
  Min.  (affected). They were not meant to do that, Tellheim. Forgive me, Tellheim.  19
  Maj. T.  Ah! that friendly tone tells me you are yourself again, Minna: that you still love me.  20
  Fran.  (exclaims). The joke would soon have gone a little too far.  21
  Min.  (in a commanding tone). Franziska, you will not interfere in our affairs, I beg.  22
  Fran.  (aside, in a surprised tone). Not enough yet!  23
  Min.  Yes, sir, it would only be womanish vanity in me to pretend to be cold and scornful. No! Never! You deserve to find me as sincere as yourself. I do love you still, Tellheim, I love you still; but notwithstanding—  24
  Maj. T.  No more, dearest Minna, no more!  (Seizes her hand again, to put on the ring.)  25
  Min.  (drawing back her hand). Notwithstanding, so much the more am I determined that that shall never be,—never!—Of what are you thinking, Major?—I thought your own distress was sufficient. You must remain here; you must obtain by obstinacy—no better phrase occurs to me at the moment—the most perfect satisfaction, obtain it by obstinacy…. And that even though the utmost distress should waste you away before the eyes of your calumniators—  26
  Maj. T.  So I thought, so I said, when I knew not what I thought or said. Chagrin and stifling rage had enveloped my whole soul; love itself, in the full blaze of happiness, could not illumine it. But it has sent its daughter, Pity, more familiar with gloomy misfortune, and she has dispelled the cloud, and opened again all the avenues of my soul to sensations of tenderness. The impulse of self-preservation awakes, when I have something more precious than myself to support, and to support through my own exertions. Do not let the word “pity” offend you. From the innocent cause of our distress we may hear the term without humiliation. I am this cause; through me, Minna, have you lost friends and relations, fortune and country. Through me, in me, must you find them all again, or I shall have the destruction of the most lovely of her sex upon my soul. Let me not think of a future in which I must detest myself.—No, nothing shall detain me here longer. From this moment I will oppose nothing but contempt to the injustice which I suffer. Is this country the world? Does the sun rise here alone? Where can I not go? In what service shall I be refused? And should I be obliged to seek it in the most distant clime, only follow me with confidence, dearest Minna—we shall want for nothing. I have a friend who will assist me with pleasure.  27


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