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The Sorrows of Young Werther

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The purpose of this papers it to give general information about the author, Wolfgang von Goethe, and introduce as well as analyze the main character of one of his most influential works: The Sorrows of Young Werther. The protagonist of this series of confessional letters, Werther, is in fact a tragic figure who committed suicide as a result of his loneliness and critical approach to society, as well as his obsession for a woman, Lotte, whom he could not eventually conquest. Wolfgang von Goethe was a German poet, as well as dramatist, novelist, and scientist who lived between 1749 and 1832. Goethe's poetry expresses a modern, and revolutionary view of humanity's relationship to nature, history, and society; his plays and novels reflect a deep understanding of human individuality. According to the 19th-century English critic Matthew Arnold, Goethe must be considered not only “the manifest centre of German literature” but also one of the most multitalented figures in the entire world of literature. Goethe was born on August 28, 1749, in Frankfurt am Main, as a son of a government official. From 1765 to 1768 he studied law at Leipzig; there he first developed an interest in literature and painting and became acquainted with the dramatic works of his contemporaries Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Their influence and his own connection to the daughter of a wine merchant at whose tavern he dined are reflected in his earliest poetry and in his first dramatic works. These early plays included a one-act comedy in verse, Die Laune des Verliebten (The Lover's Caprice, 1767), and a tragedy in verse, Die Mitschuldigen (The Fellow-Culprits, 1768). Goethe's health broke down in Leipzig and he returned to Frankfurt, where, during his recuperation, he studied occult philosophy, astrology, and alchemy. Through the influence of a friend of his mother, Susanne Katharina von Klettenberg, who was a member of the Lutheran reform movement known as Pietism, Goethe gained some insight into religious mysticism. From 1770 to 1771 he was in Strasbourg to continue his study of law; in addition, he took up the study of music, art, anatomy, and chemistry. He lived according to the ideal expressed in Faust: never to be satisfied with what one is, but to strive incessantly to learn, to improve, to accomplish. His writings clearly show his development from youthful rebellion to the search for emotional restraint, objectivity, beauty, and the ideal human personality. The two parts of Faust, moreover, have often been considered representative of the prevailing tendencies of German literature; the first part contains many elements of the literary movement known as Romanticism, and the second represents the classicism most admired by Goethe. When initially began writing The Sorrows of Young Werther Goethe intended for it to be a play, however at the beginning of July 1774 his work came to an end, in a form of a short novel in a series of confessional letters, as Werther in many areas, in fact, reflected Goethe himself, and his relationship with a woman named Charlotte, that like in the novel, was married to his friend Christian.3 Werther represents, on one hand the individual whose intelligence and artistic mind isolate him from the rest of the society. His sensitivity to beauty and nature generally separate him from getting himself involved with the townspeople in the story. For example his disrespect of the Prince’s superficial knowledge of art, demonstrates that he cannot tolerate anyone who does not share his artistic insight. Furthermore, Werther does not find in the story an equal or a superior to himself. Even Lotte, the woman he loved, did not have the power to help him with his obsessions and desires. Other than his artistic abilities Werther had some psychological problems, which also seem to affect his ability to interact with others. A class difference plays another role in Werther’s isolation. He is placed in fact between the lower and higher classes, making it more difficult to find his place in the social status. His middle-class status first accompanied him in town where the lower classes fear he is trying to patronize them due to their level. Another factor that increases his sense of isolation and bitterness was his forced exit from a gathering of social elites during his residence with the ambassador. The bitterness about the division of classes is the main reason for Werther’s rough social critique. He is apposed to every social class, from the aristocracy to the simple farmer. A clear example is in Werther’s description of Count C’s social gathering:” Then in came the most gracious Lad von S., with her spouse and in passing they gave me looks and twitched their nostrils in their usual, oh-so-aristocratic way: and, since I cannot abide his breed, I was about to take my leave”(81). It is clear, therefore, that Werther resents anyone

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