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Encyclopedia > The Sorrows of Young Werther
The Sorrows of Young Werther
Author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Original title Die Leiden des jungen Werthers
Country Wetzlar
Language German
Genre(s) Epistolary novel
Publication date 1774

The Sorrows of Young Werther (originally published as Die Leiden des jungen Werthers) is an epistolary and loosely autobiographical novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, first published in 1774. A major scene prominently features Goethe's own German translation of a portion of James Macpherson's Ossian cycle of poems, which were originally presented as translations of ancient works, and were later found to have been written by Macpherson.  , IPA: , (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German polymath. ... For other uses, see Country (disambiguation). ... Wetzlar is a town in the German federal state (Bundesland) of Hesse, capital of the Lahn-Dill district. ... Titlepage of Aphra Behns Love-Letters (1684) An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. ... A publisher is a person or entity which engages in the act of publishing. ... See also: 1773 in literature, other events of 1774, 1775 in literature, list of years in literature. ... “ISBN” redirects here. ... Titlepage of Aphra Behns Love-Letters (1684) An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. ... For music albums named Autobiography, see Greek eauton = self, bios = life and graphein = write) is a form of biography, the writing of a life story. ... A novel (from French nouvelle Italian novella, new) is an extended, generally fictional narrative, typically in prose. ...  , IPA: , (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German polymath. ... Chesma Column in Tsarskoe Selo, commemorating the end of the Russo-Turkish War. ... James Macpherson (October 27, 1736–February 17, 1796), was a Scottish poet, known as the translator of the Ossian cycle of poems (also known as the Oisín cycle). ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Oisín. ...

Werther was an important novel of the Sturm und Drang movement in German literature. It was one of Goethe's few works in the movement before he, with Friedrich von Schiller, began the Weimar Classicism movement. It also influenced Romantic literature that followed. Sturm und Drang (literally: storm and stress) was a Germany literary movement that developed during the latter half of the 18th century. ... German literature comprises those literary texts originating within Germany proper and written in the German language. ... Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (November 10, 1759 - May 9, 1805), usually known as Friedrich Schiller, was a German poet, philosopher, historian, and dramatist. ... Weimar Classicism is, as many historians and scholars argue, a disputed literary movement that took place in Germany and Continental Europe. ... Wanderer above the sea of fog by Caspar David Friedrich Romanticism is an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in 18th century Western Europe, during the Industrial Revolution. ...

The book made Goethe become one of the first true literary celebrities. Towards the end of his life, a trip to Weimar and a personal visit was crucial in any young man's tour of Europe. For other uses, see Weimar (disambiguation). ...


Plot summary

The majority of The Sorrows of Young Werther is presented as a collection of letters written by Werther, a young artist of a highly sensitive and passionate temperament, and sent to his friend Wilhelm. In these letters, Werther gives a very intimate account of his stay in the fictional village of Wahlheim (based on the town of Garbenheim, near Wetzlar). He is enchanted by the simple ways of the peasants there. He meets and falls instantly in love with Lotte, a beautiful young girl who is taking care of her siblings following the death of their mother. Lotte is, however, already engaged to a man named Albert, who is in fact 11 years her senior. Wetzlar is a town in the German federal state (Bundesland) of Hesse, capital of the Lahn-Dill district. ...

Despite the pain this causes Werther, he spends the next few months cultivating a close friendship with both of them. His pain eventually becomes so great that he is forced to leave and go to Weimar. While he is away, he makes the acquaintance of Fräulein von B. He suffers a great embarrassment, he forgetfully visits a friend on the day when the entire aristocratic set normally meets there. He returns to Wahlheim after this, where he suffers more than he did before, partially because Lotte and Albert are now married. Every day serves as a torturous reminder that Lotte will never be able to requite his love. Out of pity for her friend and respect for her husband, Lotte comes to the decision that Werther must not visit her so frequently. He visits her one final time, and there, both overcome with emotion after Werther's recitation of a portion of Ossian, they kiss.

Werther had realized even before this incident that one of them--Lotte, Albert, or Werther himself--must die. Unable to hurt anyone else, Werther sees no other choice but to take his own life. After composing a farewell letter (to be found after he commits suicide), he writes to Albert asking for two pistols, under a pretense that he is going hunting. Lotte receives the request with great emotion and sends the pistols, despite understanding what he will do with them. Werther then shoots himself, but he lasts long enough for those who love him to assemble by his side. A Christian funeral is denied to him.

Inspiration and Parallels

As Goethe mentioned in the first version of his Römische Elegien, his "youthful sufferings" played a part in the creation of the novel. Having concluded his law studies in the spring 1772, Goethe found himself working for the Imperial Chamber of the Holy Roman Empire in Wetzlar . He befriended the secretary Karl Wilhelm Jerusalem and, on June 9, 1772, they attended a ball where Goethe was introduced to the 19-year old Charlotte Buff and her older fiancé, Johann Christian Kestner. Goethe is said to have instantly fallen in love with Charlotte. Goethe pursued Charlotte and the relationship varied between friendship and rejection. Charlotte was honest with Goethe and told him there was no hope of an affair. (She later married Kestner and their son was August Kestner.) On September 11 Goethe left without saying goodbye. This page is a candidate to be copied to Wikisource. ... The extent of the Holy Roman Empire around 1630, superimposed over modern European state borders Capital None Language(s) Latin, German, many others Religion Roman Catholicism Government Monarchy Emperor  - 962–967 Otto I  - 973–983 Otto II  - 996–1002 Otto III  - 1014– 1024 Henry II  - 1027–1039 Conrad II  - 1046... Wetzlar is a town in the German federal state (Bundesland) of Hesse, capital of the Lahn-Dill district. ... June 9 is the 160th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (161st in leap years), with 205 days remaining. ... Year 1772 was a leap year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... August Kestner Georg Christian August Kestner (28 November 1777 in Hanover; 5 March 1853 in Rome) was a German diplomat and art collector. ... is the 254th day of the year (255th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...

The parallels between this incident and the novel are evident. Charlotte Buff, like her counterpart in the novel, was the daughter of a widowed official and had many siblings. Goethe, like Werther, often found it difficult to complete work. Both Goethe and Werther celebrated their birthdays on August 28 and both left Charlotte on September 10. However, the novel also depicts a number of events that have close parallels to the life of Goethe's friend Jerusalem who, like Werther, committed suicide. Goethe was told that the motive for the deed was unrequited love for another man's wife. Jerusalem had also gone on long moonlight walks that reflected his sad mood and had also borrowed pistols to carry out his suicide. is the 240th day of the year (241st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 253rd day of the year (254th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...

Effect on Goethe

Goethe distanced himself from The Sorrows of Young Werther in his later years. He regretted his fame and making his youthful love of Charlotte Buff public knowledge. He wrote Werther at the age of twenty-four and yet, most of his visitors in his old age had read only this book of his and knew him mainly only from this work, despite his many others. The following is a list of the major publications of Johann Wolfgang Goethe. ...

Goethe described his distaste for the book, writing that even if Werther had been a brother he had killed, he could not have been more haunted by the vengeful ghost. Nevertheless, Goethe acknowledged the great personal and emotional impact that The Sorrows of Young Werther could exert on those forlorn young lovers who discovered it. In 1821, he commented to his secretary, "It must be bad, if not everybody was to have a time in his life, when he felt as though Werther had been written exclusively for him."

Cultural Impact

The Sorrows of Young Werther was Goethe's first major success, turning him from an unknown into a celebrated author practically overnight. Napoleon Bonaparte considered it one of the great works of European literature, thinking so highly of it that as a youth, he wrote a soliloquy in Goethe's style, and that as an adult carried Werther with him on most of his campaigns. It also started the phenomenon known as the "Werther-Fieber" ("Werther Fever"): Young men throughout Europe began to dress in the clothing described for Werther in the novel. It also led to some of the first known examples of copycat suicide; supposedly more than 2,000 readers committed suicide. Bonaparte as general Napoleon Bonaparte ( 15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a general of the French Revolution and was the ruler of France as First Consul (Premier Consul) of the French Republic from November 11, 1799 to May 18, 1804, then as Emperor of the French (Empereur des... For other uses, see Europe (disambiguation). ... A copycat suicide is defined as a duplication or copycat of another suicide that the person attempting suicide knows about either from local knowledge or due to accounts or depictions of the original suicide on television and in other media. ...

The "Werther Fever" was watched with concern by the authorities and fellow authors. One of the latter, Friedrich Nicolai, decided to create a satiric - and more happy - ending called Die Freuden des jungen Werthers ("The Joys of Young Werther"), in which Albert, having realized what Werther is up to, had loaded chicken blood into the pistol, thereby foiling Werther's suicide, and happily concedes Lotte to him. And after some initial difficulties, Werther sheds his passionate youthful side and reintegrates himself into society as a respectable citizen. Christoph Friedrich Nicolai (18 March 1733 - 11 January 1811) was a German writer and bookseller. ...

However, Goethe was not pleased with this version and started a literary war with Nicolai (which lasted all his life) by writing a poem titled "Nicolai auf Werthers Grabe" in which Nicolai defecates on Werther's grave, thus desecrating the memory of Werther from which Goethe had distanced himself in the meantime (as he had from the Sturm und Drang). This was continued in his collection of short and critical poems, the Xenies, and his play Faust. Xenies (Greek: Ξενιές), older form: Manolas is a Greek village located 54 km southwest of Patras and about 50 km northeast of Pyrgos. ... Front cover of Faust, Leipzig 1832 Johann Wolfgang von Goethes Faust is a tragic play and the best known version of the Faust story. ...

Alternative versions and other appearances

  • The statistician Karl Pearson's first book was "The New Werther".
  • Thomas Mann's 1939 novel Lotte in Weimar recounts a fictional reunion between Goethe and the object of his youthful passion Charlotte Kestner, an unrequited love that inspired the tale of Young Werther.
  • An episode of History Bites features this book, with Bob Bainborough portraying Goethe.
  • Ulrich Plenzdorf, a GDR poet, wrote a novel and a play called Die neuen Leiden des jungen W. ("The New Sorrows of Young W."). It has been called a modern-day Werther.

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley (30 August 1797 – 1 February 1851) was an English romantic/gothic novelist and the author of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. ... This article is about the 1818 novel. ... A portmanteau (IPA pronunciation: RP, US) is a word or morpheme that fuses two or more words or word parts to give a combined or loaded meaning. ... Mestrius Plutarchus (Greek: Πλούταρχος; 46 - 127), better known in English as Plutarch, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist. ... Plutarchs Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans is a series of biographies of famous men, arranged in tandem to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings. ... For other persons named John Milton, see John Milton (disambiguation). ... Title page of the first edition (1667) Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton. ... Karl Pearson FRS (March 27, 1857 – April 27, 1936) established the discipline of mathematical statistics. ... 1892 (MDCCCXCII) was a leap year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... Werther is an opera in four acts by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Édouard Blau, based on the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe. ... Jules Massenet Jules (Émile Frédéric) Massenet (May 12, 1842 – August 13, 1912) was a French composer. ... William Makepeace Thackeray (July 18, 1811 – December 24, 1863) was a British novelist of the 19th century. ... Sorrows of Werther is a satirical poem by William Makepeace Thackeray written in response to the enormous success of Johann Wolfgang von Goethes novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. ... A bildungsroman (IPA: /, German: novel of personal development) is a novelistic form which concentrates on the spiritual, moral, psychological, or social development and growth of the protagonist usually from childhood to maturity. ... Paul Thomas Mann (June 6, 1875 – August 12, 1955) was a German novelist, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and often ironic epic novels and mid-length stories, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and intellectual. ... Year 1939 (MCMXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Thomas Manns novel, Lotte in Weimar: The Beloved Returns, or otherwise known by Lotte in Weimar or The Beloved Returns, is a story written in the shadow of the one of the most famous German authors in history, Goethe; Thomas Mann developed the narrative almost as a response to... History Bites was a television series on the History Television network that ran from 1998-2003. ... Ulrich Plenzdorf (born October 26, 1934 in Berlin, Germany, died August 9, 2007, near Berlin) was a German author and dramatist. ... Disambiguation Page Global Depositary Receipt East Germany ... Die neuen Leiden des jungen W. (The new Sorrows of Young W.) is an analytic collage-style novel (montage novel) and play by Ulrich Plenzdorf. ...


  • The Sorrows of Young Werther - ISBN 0-8129-6990-1
Translated by Burton Pike. 2004 Modern Library (Random House, Inc.)
  • The Sorrows of Young Werther - ISBN 0-14-044503-X
Translated by Michael Hulse. 1989 The Penguin Classics Library Complete Collection (Penguin Books Ltd.)
  • The Sorrows of Young Werther - ISBN 0-486-42455-3
Translated by Thomas Carlyle and R. Dillon Boylan. Originally published 1902 C.T. Brainard Publishing Company. Reissued 2002 Dover Thrift Editions (Dover Publications, Inc.)
  • The Sorrows of Young Werther - ISBN 0-679-72951-8
Translated by Elizabeth Mayer and Louise Bogan. Poems translated and foreword by W.H. Auden. Also contains Novelle. Originally published 1971 Random House, Inc.. Reissued June 1990 by Vintage Books as a Vintage Classics Edition.
  • The Sufferings of Young Werther - ISBN 0-393-09880-X
Translated by Harry Steinhauer. New York: W.W.Norton & Company, 1970

Burton Pike is professor emeritus of comparative literature at the CUNY Graduate Center. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... // Random House is a publishing house based in New York City. ... Photograph of Michael Hulse, from Salt Publishing Michael Hulse (born 1955) is an English translator, critic, and poet. ... The Penguin Classics Library Complete Collection was the complete collection of books published by Penguin classics, a division of Penguin Books as of 2005. ... It has been suggested that Penguin Modern Poets, Penguin Great Ideas be merged into this article or section. ... The most familiar view of Carlyle is as the bearded sage with a penetrating gaze. ... Dover Publications is a book publisher founded in 1941. ... Christopher Isherwood and W.H. Auden, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1939 Wystan Hugh Auden (February 21, 1907–September 29, 1973) was an English poet. ... // Random House is a publishing house based in New York City. ... Random House is a publishing division of the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann based in New York City. ... “NY” redirects here. ...

See also

 , IPA: , (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German polymath. ... Titlepage of Aphra Behns Love-Letters (1684) An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. ...


Auden, Wystan Hugh (1971), Foreword, Toronto, Canada: Random House, Inc. Christopher Isherwood and W.H. Auden, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1939 Wystan Hugh Auden (February 21, 1907–September 29, 1973) was an English poet. ... // Random House is a publishing house based in New York City. ...

Phillips, Mary Elizabeth (1895). A Handbook of German Literature. George Bell and Sons. Retrieved on 2007-03-16. Year 2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the AD/CE era. ... March 16 is the 75th day of the year (76th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...

Wilkinson, William Cleaver (1887). Classic German Course in English. Chautauqua Press. Retrieved on 2007-03-16. Year 2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the AD/CE era. ... March 16 is the 75th day of the year (76th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...

Herold, J. Christopher (1963). The Age of Napoleon. American Heritage Inc.

External links

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  Results from FactBites:
The Sorrows of Young Werther | WERTHER'sWORLD (3390 words)
Werther rejects all of Albert's arguments and passionately defends the right to suicide, which he deems to be an expansion of natural death.
Werther defends this crime because he is able to empathize with the accused murderer.
Werther does not confine himself to mere contemplation of nature and a description of what he sees, but perceives his feelings to be reflected by nature.
Chautauqua Opera - Werther (203 words)
The opera is based on Goethe's semi-autobiographical The Sorrows of Young Werther (pronounced VARE-TARE), a novel which started a wave of "Werther Fever" throughout Europe when it was published in 1774.
Young men dressed just as the tragic poet was described in the novel and there followed a wave of copycat suicides.
Werther will be a season highlight and a Chautauqua Opera event not to be missed.
  More results at FactBites »



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