Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (August 28, 1749 – Mairch 22, 1832) wis a German writer, poet, novelist, and playwright. He also wirked as an actor, administrator, scientist, geologist, botanist an philosopher. He influenced mony 19t century writers an thinkers. His contributions tae science include his wirk in botany an his Theory o Colours. Famous lines frae his books are eften quoted, an some o his phrases have become pairt o the German leid. His poems were set tae music bi componers like Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, an Strauss. Critics an scholars say his poems are only guid in German, because that is the leid he wrote them in. His plays are not eften performed ootside Germany, an maist o his scientific wirk now seems auld-fashioned.
Table o contents
Goethe wis born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. His faither wis well-eddicatit an very strict. His mother wis only eighteen when he wis born. When Goethe wis a young boy, he began tae write stories an plays for his friends. In his youth, he learned Greek, Latin an French. He studied law in Leipzig frae 1765 tae 1768. He also wrote some letters that are seen as beautiful, an that showed his promise as a writer. He continued his studies in Strasbourg frae 1770 tae 1771. He joined other young men who wanted tae change the way that Germans were writin. He thought that fowk like Johann Christoph Gottsched were too strict aboot writin poetry. Instead o the ideas o the Enlightenment, he wanted poets tae be creative an make their own rules.
Ane man who had mony new ideas wis a poet named Johann Gottfried von Herder. Herder liked the plays o Shakespeare (which he had learned in German) as well as folk poetry. These ideas were excitin for Goethe, an he helped Herder tae collect folk poetry. Baith men believed that poetry should always come frae the heart, an that it should be based on the poet’s experiences instead an auld-fashioned idea o what a guid poem should be. Some o Goethe's best known poems were written durin this time, like Heidenröslein, Der König in Thule, an Erlkönig.
Goethe fell in love wi several women durin his lifetime. Durin the early period o his life, he wis in love wi a girl named Friederike Brion, the daughter o a pastor. Several o his poems are inspired bi her. He felt extremely sad when they split up. The feelin o desertion bi a lover is a lot o Goethe’s wirks. They are aw based on his own experience. His disappointment in love inspired him when writin aboot Werther in Die Leiden des jungen Werthers an Gretchen in his great play Faust. His poems also show his ideas aboot science an filosofie.
Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (The Sufferings o Young Werther) is a beuk written in the form o letters. Werther is a young man who falls passionately in love wi a girl called Lotte who is married to someone else. Werther kills himself in the end. The beuk wis very successful aw ower Europe. Fowk talked aboot “Werther fever.” Mony young men who were disappointed in love copied Werther an killed themselves.
Goethe’s maist famous wirk is a very long play called Faust. He spent maist o his life wirkin at it. He wis writin the first version o Faust at this time. Based on a legendary character, it tells o a man called Faust who is tired of studyin an wants tae have the greatest possible happiness. The devil (called Mephistopheles in the play) tells Faust he can help him to do this, but that in the end Faust must give him his soul an go wi him tae hell. Faust uses magic in the hope that it will tell him everything aboot life.
Along wi writin, Goethe wis developin a career in law. In 1772, he spent fower months in Wetzlar at the Imperial Law Courts. Here he made new friends, includin a young girl who wis already engaged tae someone else.
Middle Period: Arrival in Weimar until death o Schiller (1775-1805)
Goethe had been well-educated an wis guid at organizin an gettin on wi important fowk. For eleven years he worked at the court o Weimar for a young Duke called Karl August. He became a memmer an later the preses o the Duke’s cabinet. He had tae organize road-buildin projects, an look efter pairks an building. He studied geologie, mineralogie, botany an anatomy. He fell in love wi a woman called Charlotte von Stein who wis married an had several children. He wrote love letters tae her, an she inspired him tae write mony poems. At this time he felt that a man’s task in life wis tae be useful. The heroes o his beuks at this time were eften ordinary fowk instead o geniuses.
Efter a time he realized that aw his wirk on governmental duties were not givin him time for his writin, so he went tae Italy for 18 months. He loved the landscape an made lots of sketches, an he read the auncient poets an beuks on the history o airt. He wrote a play in rhyme called Iphigenie auf Tauris which combines the beauty o Classicism wi great poetry.
When he returned frae Italy he settled once more in Weimar. He visited Italy a seicont time. He became great friends wi the famous poet an playwright Friedrich Schiller. The twa men talked aboot mony o their ideas an helped ane another bi offering criticism o their wirks. He wrote short wirks such as Hermann und Dorothea which is aboot life in a smaa German toun at the time o the French Revolution.
Twa wirks o the greatest importance wirks occupied him at this time. Ane is the novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. This is an example o what is called in German a “Bildungsroman” which means something like “Education novel”. It means a novel which shows a person growin up an developing his character an learnin aboot the warld. This beuk wis a very important influence on the 19t century Romantic novel an on aw German autobiographical novels ever since. Goethe spent mony years wirkin on this beuk.
The seicont wirk o enormous importance wis his play Faust. He made changes tae the original version, puttin aw the smaa bits together into ane great play. Schiller gave him advice while he wis writin it. Faust enters intae a pact wi the devil, Mephistopheles who promises him aw his soul can wish for: fine living, gold, women an honour. He signs the pact wi his blood.
Later life (1805-1832)
Napoleon wis fichtin wars aw ower Europe at this time. Germany, which wis still made up o lots o smaa kintras, wis an enemy o Fraunce. Goethe always thought o Napoleon as a hero. His ideas aboot politics were still based on 18t century ideas. He hated war an so he did not take pairt in politics but concentrated on science an literature. He wrote a beuk called Die Wahlverwandtschaften (Elective Affinities) which is aboot a divorce problem. Some o his scientific ideas are uised in the story as he talks aboot the way that twa chemical compounds can break up an form new unions. He compares this tae the fowk in his story. His poems in Westöstlicher Divan are some o his greatest. He uises ideas frae Persie an ether Eastren kintras together wi ideas frae the West. It has a lot o parables aboot human life.
Mony interesting things that Goethe said were written down in a beuk bi his friend Eckermann, who published them in a beuk called Conversations wi Goethe. Goethe also wrote aboot his own life in his autobiography which he called Dichtung und Wahrheit (Poetry an Truth). The beuk tells us aboot his youth up tae the time o his arrival in Weimar. It is in fower pairts. The fourth pairt wis published efter his daith. He chose the title tae show that he wis tellin us the truth aboot his life, but that he had changed the order o some events tae make it intae a poetic beuk.
Goethe wrote a sequel (a pairt which follows on) tae Wilhelm Meister called Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre (The Years o Wilhelm Meister’s Wanderings). It consists o several sections which are like separate stories. They tell us aboot Wilhelm Meister’s relationship wi society an how he has tae change his ways tae fit in wi ether fowk.
Goethe’s Faust had made him the greatest person in European literature. At the end o his life he finished a seicont pairt o Faust. It is quite hard tae read, an is more o a long poem than a dramatic play. It talks o his ideas aboot allegory, science an filosofie.
Goethe died in Weimar on March 22, 1832. He had startit as a great Classical writer o the 18t century an finished as a young Romantic o the 19t century. No ane else had such a big influence on airt an literature o that time.
- Götz von Berlichingen mit der eisernen Hand, 1773
- Prometheus, 1774
- Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, 1774
- Iphigenie auf Tauris, 1779
- Torquato Tasso, 1780 - 1790
- Römische Elegien, 1788-90
- Venezianische Epigramme, 1790
- Faust. Ein Fragment, 1790
- Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, 1795/96
- Faust. Eine Tragödie, 1808
- Theory of colours, 1810
- West-östlicher Divan, 1819
- Faust II, 1833
- Works by Johann Wolfgang Goethe at Zeno.org (German)