Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Though he lived in late eighteenth-century Germany, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a true Renaissance man whose influence touched not only
literature, poetry, and drama, but ranged into philosophy, theology, and science. Best known for his novels and poems, Goethe influenced a generation of philosophers and scientists and created some of Germany’s best-known works of literature. History has ranked Goethe alongside William Shakespeare, Homer, and Dante Alighieri: in the words of Napole´on I upon meeting the eminent poet, ‘‘There’s a man!’’
Law Degree and Attempts at Writing Goethe was educated at home by his father and private tutors, who taught him languages, drawing, dancing, riding, and other subjects. The theater would have a profound impact on Goethe, who was allowed free access to the performances of a French theatrical troupe when the French occupied Frankfurt during the Seven Years War (1756–1763). He began writing early, composing religious poems, a prose epic, and even his first novel, which was written in German, French, Italian, English, Latin, Greek, and Yiddish, by the time he was sixteen years old.
Though he was more interested in literature than law, Goethe obeyed his father’s wishes and began studying law in Leipzig in 1768. At this time, Goethe composed some of his early plays and poems. After going home in 1768 to recover from a serious illness, Goethe went to Strasbourg in 1770 to complete his law degree.
In Strasbourg, Goethe engrossed himself in reading, artistic discovery, and writing. There, he met Johann Gottfried Herder, a philosopher and poet who introduced him to new literary works, including the novels of English writers Laurence Sterne, Oliver Goldsmith, and Henry Fielding, that would prove influential in his later writing.
Doomed Love Affairs and the Sturm und Drang Sensation After returning to Frankfurt to practice law in 1771, Goethe also launched his writing career. In addition to his legal practice, he visited with literary friends, wrote book reviews, traveled in Germany and Switzerland, and fell in love three times. It was the falling in love that would have the greatest impact on his career as a writer. Each relationship ended in tragedy: his entanglement with Charlotte Buff ended when he discovered she was engaged to his friend; he then fell in love with a married woman; and his engagement to Anna Elisabeth Scho¨nemann was broken off in September 1775. However painful these attachments, they inspired a number of poems, and Goethe became a kind of center for the Sturm und Drang (‘‘Storm and Stress‘‘) artistic movement that was sweeping Germany.
Inspired by ancient poetry, the Sturm und Drang movement tried to establish new political, cultural, and literary forms for Germany as a replacement for the French neoclassical tradition that dominated much literature and culture. The German movement was characterized by extreme emotion, individual feeling, even irrationality—all responses to what was seen as the cold rationalism of French neoclassicism. The members of the German movement idolized writers like
William Shakespeare, whom Goethe celebrated as a poet of nature, writing an influential speech on Shakespeare’s birthday that would prove a major milestone for Shakespearean literary criticism. He began to imitate Shakespeare’s dramatic style in his own prose plays, focusing also on satire and poetic dramas. However, his most influential work of the period, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (The Sorrows of Young Werther), would be inspired by the doomed relationship with Charlotte Buff that almost drove Goethe to suicide. This novel in letters, which explores themes of love, philosophy, religion, and nature, established Goethe as an overnight celebrity. The impact of Werther on Goethe’s contemporaries is hard to overestimate: not only did ‘‘Werther fever’’ spread throughout Europe and Asia, but its sentimental tale of love and suicide encouraged a fad of melancholic, emotional romanticism.
The Weimar Years In 1775, Goethe received an invitation to join Duke Karl August, a young prince, in Weimar. Goethe, who was soon given a position of minister of state, would live there for the remainder of his life. He took on responsibility for the duchy’s economic welfare, concerning himself with horticulture, agriculture, and mining; however, his growing responsibilities proved an irritating distraction from his writing. At this time, Goethe entered into an intense friendship with Charlotte von Stein, the wealthy wife of a court official and the most intellectual of Goethe’s loves.
Though Goethe was a statesman and a writer, his interests extended to topics like alchemy, phrenology, botany, anatomy, and medicine. He made important discoveries in anatomy and even came up with an influential theory on plant metamorphosis. Overburdened by competing interests and responsibilities, Goethe fled to Italy in 1786, taking a journey that would turn out to be an act of artistic rebirth.
Italian Journey for Artistic Inspiration In Italy, Goethe kept a detailed diary for Charlotte von Stein. In it, he recorded his reflections and inspirations, from his observations of the customs of the people to his studies of painting, sculpture, botany, geology, and history. He revised three influential ‘‘classical’’ plays: Egmont; Iphige-nie auf Tauris; and Torquato Tasso. In these plays he drew on themes of conflicted love, intrigue, and mythology.
Upon his return to Weimar in 1788, Goethe experienced several life changes. He was relieved of all of his official duties aside from association with the court theater and libraries, and his relationship with Charlotte von Stein came to an end. Around this time, he entered into a relationship with Christiane Vulpius, a woman who would become his wife and bear him several children, of whom only one, Julius August Walther, would survive. The uneducated Vulpius was looked down upon by Goethe’s courtly friends, who cruelly referred to her as Goethe’s ‘‘fatter half.’’
Unconcerned by public opinion, Goethe continued to study and write, though his literary output in the 1790s was sparse compared to that of his earlier years. After his Italian journey, Goethe was increasingly interested in classicism, writing his Roman Elegies during this time. These poems, which show a German traveler finding gradual acceptance into a Roman world of history, art, and classical poetry, were considered scandalous upon publication, but are now considered among the generation’s greatest love poems.
Friendship with Schiller and Major Literary Achievements During this time, Goethe formed one of the most influential relationships of his life: a friendship with Friedrich von Schiller, a poet and Sturm und Drang contemporary. After a rocky initial acquaintance, the pair formed a mutually supportive relationship, producing literary journals and helping forge a classical German literature. Hailed by key figures in Germany’s growing Romantic movement, Goethe continued to produce poems, plays, satire, and ballads.
Goethe’s next accomplishments would profoundly affect world literature: his novel William Meister’s Apprenticeship is considered a classic Bildungsroman (a novel that focuses on the protagonist’s growth from childhood to maturity). However, Wilhelm Meister was not Goethe’s only accomplishment during the 1790s: He rewrote and completed his dramatic poem Faust between the 1790s and 1808. The work, which tells of the legendary Dr. Faust’s deal with the devil, would prove immensely popular and influential, inspiring countless works of music, theater, and literature. The play can be seen as a commentary on the pitfalls of the Industrial Revolution, a period of rapid modernization in agriculture, industry, and transportation that started in Europe in the late eighteenth century. Dr. Faust represents modern man’s thirst for dominion over nature. But nature, Goethe warns, has a power not fully understood by men, even geniuses like Faust, and mankind tinkers with nature at its peril.
A Meeting with Napoleon Around this time, Goethe’s friend Schiller died, and France’s emperor Napoleon and his army were marching from victory to victory across Europe. One such victory was at the Battle of Jena in 1806, which took place just twelve miles from Goethe’s home in Weimer. The French sacked Weimar, but Goethe’s home was spared because of Napoleon’s admiration of Goethe’s work. The feeling was mutual, apparently. Goethe kept a bust of Napoleon prominently on display in his study. The two famously met in 1808 and briefly discussed literature.
Pages: 1 2
Please do not pass this sample essay as your own, otherwise you will be accused of plagiarism. Our writers can write any custom essay for you!
Faust: An Elemental Romantic Work Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's work Faust was an elemental romantic work. Faust, the main character of Faust, was similar to Prometheus or Napoleon, one Who ventured for power to rule the world. For example in Goethe's Faust, the Proud condition of human nature can be seen by the way Faust was willing to sell His Influence Of British Romanticism On British Literature Characterized by freedom of the mind and an idealistic view of human nature, Romanticism slowly crept out of Neoclassicism to become one of the most influential periods of British literature. It is the emergence of this new literary period called Romanticism that stirred an interest in those who were hungry for a new form of French Literature in the Age of Reason The Age of Reason, or the Enlightenment, was a period in France during the 1700's following the classical age. Within this time, philosophers placed the emphasis on reason as the best method for learning. It explored issues in education, law philosophy, and politics. It attacked tyranny, social injustice, superstition, and ignorance. This time produced advances Have you read the latest Salman Rushdie? However well-read, one always feels ill-read. There are familiar ways of dealing with nervousness on the subject. 'Have you read the latest Salman Rushdie?' someone asks. 'I know it', one replies, without specifying whether that means 'I've scrutinized the text from cover to cover and could go head-to-head with Magnus Magnusson' or (more likely) 'I've Goethe in faust and shelley in frankenstein Goethe in Faust and Shelley in Frankenstein: Still the Wretched Fools They Were Before
Goethe in Faust and Shelley in Frankenstein, wrap their stories around Two men whose mental and physical actions parallel one another. Both stories Deal with characters, who strive to be the übermensch in their world. In Faust, The striving fellow, Faust,