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The Sorrows of Young Werther

The Sorrows of Young Werther

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The Sorrows of Young Werther

ratings:
3/5 (1,327 ratings)
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154 pages
2 hours
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Released:
Apr 10, 2015
ISBN:
9786155565144
Format:
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Description

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German:, 28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German writer and polymath. His body of work includes epic and lyric poetry written in a variety of metres and styles; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour; and four novels. In addition, numerous literary and scientific fragments, more than 10,000 letters, and nearly 3,000 drawings by him are extant.


A literary celebrity by the age of 25, Goethe was ennobled by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Carl August in 1782 after first taking up residence there in November of 1775 following the success of his first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther. He was an early participant in the Sturm und Drang literary movement.


During his first ten years in Weimar, Goethe served as a member of the Duke's privy council, sat on the war and highway commissions, oversaw the reopening of silver mines in nearby Ilmenau, and implemented a series of administrative reforms at the University of Jena. He also contributed to the planning of Weimar's botanical park and the rebuilding of its Ducal Palace, which in 1998 were together designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


After returning from a tour of Italy in 1788, his first major scientific work, the Metamorphosis of Plants, was published. In 1791 he was made managing director of the theatre at Weimar, and in 1794 he began a friendship with the dramatist, historian, and philosopher Friedrich Schiller, whose plays he premiered until Schiller's death in 1805. During this period Goethe published his second novel, Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, the verse epic Hermann and Dorothea, and, in 1808, the first part of his most celebrated drama, Faust. His conversations and various common undertakings throughout the 1790s with Schiller, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Johann Gottfried Herder, Alexander von Humboldt, Wilhelm von Humboldt, and August and Friedrich Schlegel have, in later years, been collectively termed Weimar Classicism.


Arthur Schopenhauer cited Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship as one of the four greatest novels ever written and Ralph Waldo Emerson selected Goethe, along with Plato, Napoleon, and William Shakespeare, as one of six "representative men" in his work of the same name. Goethe's comments and observations form the basis of several biographical works, most notably Johann Peter Eckermann's Conversations with Goethe. There are frequent references to Goethe's various sayings and maxims throughout the course of Friedrich Nietzsche's work and there are numerous allusions to Goethe in the novels of Hermann Hesse and Thomas Mann as well as in the psychological writings of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Goethe's poems were set to music throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by a number of composers, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Charles Gounod, Richard Wagner, Hugo Wolf, and Gustav Mahler.

Publisher:
Released:
Apr 10, 2015
ISBN:
9786155565144
Format:
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The Sorrows of Young Werther - J. W. Von Goethe

The Sorrows of Young Werther

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J. W. Von Goethe

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ISBN: 978-615-5565-144

* * * *

The Sorrows of Young Werther

By

J. W. Von Goethe

Translated by R.D. Boylan

Edited by Nathen Haskell Dole

Table of Contents

The Sorrows of Young Werther

Preface to "Sorrows of Young Werther"

About the Author

Book I

Book II

Preface to Sorrows of Young Werther

I have carefully collected whatever I have been able to learn of the story of poor Werther, and here present it to you, knowing that you will thank me for it. To his spirit and character you cannot refuse your admiration and love: to his fate you will not deny your tears.

And thou, good soul, who sufferest the same distress as he endured once, draw comfort from his sorrows; and let this little book be thy friend, if, owing to fortune or through thine own fault, thou canst not find a dearer companion.


* * * *

About the Author

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German:, 28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German writer and polymath. His body of work includes epic and lyric poetry written in a variety of metres and styles; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour; and four novels. In addition, numerous literary and scientific fragments, more than 10,000 letters, and nearly 3,000 drawings by him are extant.

A literary celebrity by the age of 25, Goethe was ennobled by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Carl August in 1782 after first taking up residence there in November of 1775 following the success of his first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther. He was an early participant in the Sturm und Drang literary movement. During his first ten years in Weimar, Goethe served as a member of the Duke's privy council, sat on the war and highway commissions, oversaw the reopening of silver mines in nearby Ilmenau, and implemented a series of administrative reforms at the University of Jena. He also contributed to the planning of Weimar's botanical park and the rebuilding of its Ducal Palace, which in 1998 were together designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After returning from a tour of Italy in 1788, his first major scientific work, the Metamorphosis of Plants, was published. In 1791 he was made managing director of the theatre at Weimar, and in 1794 he began a friendship with the dramatist, historian, and philosopher Friedrich Schiller, whose plays he premiered until Schiller's death in 1805. During this period Goethe published his second novel, Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, the verse epic Hermann and Dorothea, and, in 1808, the first part of his most celebrated drama, Faust. His conversations and various common undertakings throughout the 1790s with Schiller, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Johann Gottfried Herder, Alexander von Humboldt, Wilhelm von Humboldt, and August and Friedrich Schlegel have, in later years, been collectively termed Weimar Classicism.

Arthur Schopenhauer cited Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship as one of the four greatest novels ever written and Ralph Waldo Emerson selected Goethe, along with Plato, Napoleon, and William Shakespeare, as one of six representative men in his work of the same name. Goethe's comments and observations form the basis of several biographical works, most notably Johann Peter Eckermann's Conversations with Goethe. There are frequent references to Goethe's various sayings and maxims throughout the course of Friedrich Nietzsche's work and there are numerous allusions to Goethe in the novels of Hermann Hesse and Thomas Mann as well as in the psychological writings of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Goethe's poems were set to music throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by a number of composers, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Charles Gounod, Richard Wagner, Hugo Wolf, and Gustav Mahler.

Biography

Early life

Goethe's father, Johann Caspar Goethe, lived with his family in a large house in Frankfurt, then an Imperial Free City of the Holy Roman Empire. Though he had studied law in Leipzig and had been appointed Imperial Councillor, he was not involved in the city's official affairs. 38-year-old Johann Caspar married Goethe's mother, Catharina Elizabeth Textor, the daughter of the mayor of Frankfurt Johann Wolfgang Textor and his wife Anna Margaretha Lindheimer, when she was 17 at Frankfurt on 20 August 1748. All their children, except for Goethe and his sister, Cornelia Friederike Christiana, who was born in 1750, died at early ages.

His father and private tutors gave Goethe lessons in all the common subjects of their time, especially languages (Latin, Greek, French, Italian, English and Hebrew). Goethe also received lessons in dancing, riding and fencing. Johann Caspar, feeling frustrated in his own ambitions, was determined that his children should have all those advantages that he had not.

Goethe had a persistent dislike of the Roman Catholic Church, and characterized its history as a hotchpotch of fallacy and violence (Mischmasch von Irrtum und Gewalt). His great passion was drawing. Goethe quickly became interested in literature; Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock and Homer were among his early favourites. He had a lively devotion to theatre as well and was greatly fascinated by puppet shows that were annually arranged in his home; a familiar theme in Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship.

He also took great pleasure in reading from the great works about history and religion. He writes about this period:

I had from childhood the singular habit of always learning by heart the beginnings of books, and the divisions of a work, first of the five books of Moses, and then of the 'Aeneid' and Ovid's 'Metamorphoses'. . . If an ever busy imagination, of which that tale may bear witness, led me hither and thither, if the medley of fable and history, mythology and religion, threatened to bewilder me, I readily fled to those oriental regions, plunged into the first books of Moses, and there, amid the scattered shepherd tribes, found myself at once in the greatest solitude and the greatest society.

Goethe became acquainted with Frankfurt actors. Around early literary attempts, he was infatuated with Gretchen, who would later reappear in his Faust and the adventures with whom he would concisely describe in Dichtung und Wahrheit. He adored Charitas Meixner (July 27, 1750 - December 31, 1773), a wealthy Worms trader's daughter and friend of his sister, who would later marry the merchant G. F. Schuler.

Legal career

Anna Katharina (Käthchen) Schönkopf

Goethe studied law in Leipzig from 1765 to 1768. He detested learning age-old judicial rules by heart, preferring instead to attend the poetry lessons of Christian Fürchtegott Gellert. In Leipzig, Goethe fell in love with Anna Katharina Schönkopf and wrote cheerful verses about her in the Rococo genre. In 1770, he anonymously released Annette, his first collection of poems. His uncritical admiration for many contemporary poets vanished as he became interested in Lessing and Wieland. Already at this time, Goethe wrote a good deal, but he threw away nearly all of these works, except for the comedy Die Mitschuldigen. The restaurant Auerbachs Keller and its legend of Faust's 1525 barrel ride impressed him so much that Auerbachs Keller became the only real place in his closet drama Faust Part One. As his studies did not progress, Goethe was forced to return to Frankfurt at the close of August 1768.

In Frankfurt, Goethe became severely ill. During the year and a half that followed, because of several relapses, the relationship with his father worsened. During convalescence, Goethe was nursed by his mother and sister. In April 1770, Goethe left Frankfurt in order to finish his studies in Strasbourg.

In Alsace, Goethe blossomed. No other landscape has he described as affectionately as the warm, wide Rhine area. In Strasbourg, Goethe met Johann Gottfried Herder. The two became close friends, and crucially to Goethe's intellectual development, it was Herder who kindled his interest in Shakespeare, Ossian and in the notion of Volkspoesie (folk poetry). On October 14, 1772 he held a gathering in his parental home in honour of the first German Shakespeare Day. His first acquaintance with Shakespeare's works is described as his personal awakening in literature.

At the end of August 1771, Goethe acquired the academic degree of the Lizenziat (Licentia docendi) in Frankfurt and established a small legal practice. Although in his academic work he had expressed the ambition to make jurisprudence progressively more humane, his inexperience led him to proceed too vigorously in his first cases, and he was reprimanded and lost further ones. This prematurely terminated his career as a lawyer after only a few months. At this time, Goethe was acquainted with the court of Darmstadt, where his inventiveness was praised. From this milieu came Johann Georg Schlosser (who was later to become his brother-in-law) and Johann Heinrich Merck. Goethe also pursued literary plans again; this time, his father did not have anything against it, and even helped. Goethe obtained a copy of the biography of a noble highwayman from the German Peasants' War. In a couple of weeks the biography was reworked into a colourful drama. Entitled Götz von Berlichingen, the work went directly to the heart of Goethe's contemporaries.

Goethe could not subsist on being one of the editors of a literary periodical (published by Schlosser and Merck). In May 1772 he once more began the practice of law at Wetzlar. In 1774 he wrote the book which would bring him worldwide fame, The Sorrows of Young Werther. The outer shape of the work's plot is widely taken over from what Goethe experienced during his Wetzlar time with Charlotte Buff (1753–1828) and her fiancé, Johann Christian Kestner (1741–1800), as well as from the suicide of the author's friend Karl Wilhelm Jerusalem (1747–1772); in it, Goethe made a desperate passion of what was in reality a hearty and relaxed friendship. Despite the immense success of Werther, it did not bring Goethe much financial gain because copyright laws at the time were essentially nonexistent. (In later years Goethe would bypass this problem by periodically authorizing new, revised editions of his Complete Works.)

* * * *

Book I

MAY 4.

How happy I am that I am gone! My dear friend, what a thing is the heart of man! To leave you, from whom I have been inseparable, whom I love so dearly, and yet to feel happy! I know you will forgive me. Have not other attachments been specially appointed by fate to torment a head like mine? Poor Leonora! and yet I was not to blame. Was it my fault, that, whilst the peculiar charms of her sister afforded me an agreeable entertainment, a passion for me was engendered in her feeble heart? And yet am I wholly blameless? Did I not encourage her emotions? Did I not feel charmed at those truly genuine expressions of nature, which, though but little mirthful in reality, so often amused us? Did I not—but oh! what is man, that he dares so to accuse himself? My dear friend I promise you I will improve; I will no longer, as has ever been my habit, continue to ruminate on every petty vexation which fortune may dispense; I will enjoy the present, and the past shall be for me the past. No doubt you are right, my best of friends, there would be far less suffering amongst mankind, if men—and God knows why they are so fashioned—did not employ their imaginations so assiduously in recalling the memory of past sorrow, instead of bearing their present lot with equanimity. Be kind enough to inform my mother that I shall attend to her business to the best of my ability, and shall give her the earliest information about it. I have seen my aunt, and find that she is very far from being the disagreeable person our friends allege her to be. She is a lively, cheerful woman, with the best of hearts. I explained to her my mother's wrongs with regard to that part of her portion which has been withheld from her. She told me the motives and reasons of her own conduct, and the terms on which she is willing to give up the whole, and to do more than we have asked. In short, I cannot write further upon this subject at present; only assure my mother that all will go on well. And I have again observed, my dear friend, in this trifling affair, that misunderstandings and neglect occasion more mischief in the world than even malice and wickedness. At all events, the two latter are of less frequent occurrence.

In other respects I am very well off here. Solitude in this terrestrial paradise is

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What people think about The Sorrows of Young Werther

3.0
1327 ratings / 42 Reviews
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  • (4/5)
    Yes, such is the frailty of man, that even there, where he has the greatest consciousness of his own being, where he makes the strongest and most forcible impression, even in the memory, in the heart of his beloved, there also he must perish,—vanish,—and that quickly.

    It is often difficult to parse someone becoming unhinged in an epistolary novel. It is at the point of dissolution that the reader is forced to accept that the ongoing narrative is actually what someone in such straits would be able to emote through writing. I give Goethe a pass, he was Goethe after all. The next great German would hug a horse and he didn't write many letters, those he did he signed The Crucified.

    This was a cautionary tale. Like the Quixote--we learn that reading too many books softens the faculties. One then shouldn't woo women already engaged. Or at least accept the inevitable. I liked the interlude towards the end with the recitation of poetry. Romanticism is shorn of its ideals and forced to kneel in all-too-human failure.
  • (3/5)
    Goethe's "The Sorrows of Young Werther" certainly has all the underpinnings of novels from the Romantic period -- unrequited love and plenty of rapture about the natural world.In this epistolary novel, Werther falls in love with Charlotte, a young woman who is already engaged to another man. He makes an attempt to befriend the couple after their marriage with disastrous results.I can understand why it made such a sensation when it was published in the 1770's. The pining away for Charlotte got a bit much by the end so I wouldn't say I really enjoyed this book, but I didn't hate it either.
  • (1/5)
    I read this book because I enjoy the poetic language of Goethe. I could barely finish this particular book though. This story is a good example of why men rarely make good friends for women. I've experienced this behavior so much from men, including threats of suicide as a method of manipulation, that I felt disgusted reading the book. If there was poetic language in this book, and there probably was, I was so distracted by the stereotypical bad behavior of the male protagonist that I missed it.
  • (5/5)
    The quintessential romantic novel, it could easily be mistaken for a handbook on how to express your most intimate feelings as far as the things of the heart are concerned. However it's the superlative skills of the author that really counts: that Goethe is considered one of the greatest writers that ever lived come as no surprise after a few pages of this marvel. To read and reread forever.
  • (2/5)
    Interessant als historisch document dat de opgeklopte overgevoeligheid van de Romantiekers illustreert, maar absoluut ongeloofwaardig en literair maar matig genietbaar.
  • (3/5)
    Werther is a sensitive and passionate youung artist who ventures to the countryside to practice his art. Unfortunately for him, he is destined to meet a young lady and fall in love. This is unfortunate because she has already been claimed by a worthy gentleman and the issues grow as Werther's passions begin to consume him and possibly descend into obsession. He attempts to assuage this passion by moving away and following the familial urgings to go into a true working arena in the government, but as he tires of the quotidian dealings and unnecessary drama, Werther is drawn back to the countryside where is love resides with her now husband. I'm surprisingly willing to make a bold statement about the themes that reside in this novel. Normally I swish back and forth and ease into such things, but here I go...This book is undeniably about passion. No specific emotion involved, because there is the base level, the level at which I believe Werther sadly exists, that is not anger or lust or anything of the sort, but rather a seething cauldron of emotional turbulence. [Which, as I type, brings back to mind the chapter on psychoanalytic criticism from class...] It is the burning inner sensation that drives him from one world to another, easily slipping through mindsets. Styled as an epistolary novel, Werther allows a singular look into the young man's violent mood swings revolving around his dealings with this turbulence and Lotte, his angel of perfection. We see his attitude shifting through the degrees of love and obsession, jealousy, acceptance and hatred. Something odd about the novel, however, is that is is not purely the letters written by Werther to his friend [Wilhelm most of the time, but also to Lotte]. Towards the end, the unnamed narrator, who has gathered the letters and apparently taken time to assemble them, feels the need to step in and explain the last few days [or is it weeks? I have trouble following the space of the time...] of the book, in which Werther's mind was too turbulent to properly share, and then ***SPOILERS*** of course, when he kills himself, there are few ways to acceptably demonstrate this in written form. All in all, the book provided more than a few lovely quotes and sentiments that I took care to jot down. Werther being a poet, he frequently allowed himself to wax poetical, as it were, and crafted some beautiful thoughts. It's not a particularly dificult read, but a little bogging when he waxes for a while, and even more so when we read through his translation of a writer--as supplied by the Narrator. It's not a favorite, and probably not a second-read for quite some time, but not bad. Not bad at all for a famous author.
  • (4/5)
    This novella was the work that first established the reputation of the great German author, though he repudiated it in later life. It is a book of two halves. In the first half Werther reflects philosophically about the nature of beauty in the countryside he visits and envies the certainties in the lives of the peasant families he meets. His love for Charlotte here seems an innocent and healthy one, despite her being engaged to Albert. In the second part, however, his unrequited passion grows into an obsession that eventually destroys him, distorting his healthy outlook on the world. As Charlotte perceptively observes, "Why must you love me, me only, who belong to another? I fear, I much fear, that it is only the impossibility of possessing me which makes your desire for me so strong.” This second part lacked the simplicity and beauty of the first half and was harder to read. Werther is an unattractive character by the end and I am afraid his suicide evoked little sympathy in me. This short book was a key point in the development of European literature in the 1770s.
  • (4/5)
    I had somehow mentally classified Goethe as "difficult to read classics" and had avoided him thus far. But somehow when I saw this charming little volume at my beloved bookstore's "going out of business" sale, I couldn't resist it.And it was charming. And not difficult to read at all. Told mostly in letters, and letters only from Young Werther, we get none of the replies at all -- we get not only a one-sided but a "how I want to represent myself to my friend" side of a young man's descent into romantic obsession with a woman he cannot have. Part of what makes it so fascinating is how many chances and choices he had along the way -- to realize this path would never make him happy, could only end in misery, to choose to go somewhere else, give himself a chance to love someone else. But at the same time, making those different choices would make him a different person. So do any of us really have any choice at all?
  • (5/5)
    I didn't love this - until the end, when it becomes amazing. Advice: don't read this translation, get a newer one. And read Trilling's Sincerity and Authenticity.
  • (4/5)
    For being written in 1774, this German novella is a timeless classic. It is often described as a romance or tragic love story, but I'd have to disagree with that description. What I experienced was a case study in severe depression and angst, not "love." But that's just semantics. Goethe wrote the book as a series of letters from Werther to his friend Wilhelm. Werther finds himself "in love" (obsessed) with a girl, Charlotte, who is engaged to another man, Albert. He is consumed with complex and extreme emotions, loneliness, frustration, and constant thoughts of death. The majority of the time, he comes across as overly dramatic and extremely whiny, and the reader finds herself wishing that he would just "get a grip." Forshadowing of the climax begins on the first page and continues frequently throughout the text. Even though Werther comes across as pathological, anyone who has ever experienced a broken heart or a situation of unrequited love will be able to relate to his experience. This is one of the must read fictional masterpieces, but be warned that it is very dark and very disturbing and probably isn't a good choice post break-up.
  • (5/5)
    This is one of the best tales of unrequited love I've ever readTruly a masterpiece and often overlooked
  • (4/5)
    To our cynical, post-modern sensibilities, Werther may well come across as an arrogant, pompous and misguided young fool who is likely displaying the symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, anybody with a passing interest in the Romantic movement should read this seminal novel. Given the bland, aseptic world we live in, perhaps we need a few messy, idealistic characters like the protagonist.
  • (4/5)
    This is of course a great classic, which had a profound impact on the culture of its time. Sometimes, I truly appreciate great classics, for themselves as works of art, not just as for artifacts of culture. But sometimes, I can't make the breakthrough and get really involved with a work -- I observe it, rather than experience it. "The Sorrows of Young Werther", for me, was such a book. I am glad I finally read it (I have certainly read enough about it, over the years) but I won't do so again. Perhaps if I read German, or perhaps if I were a third as old as I am ----- .
  • (4/5)
    I expected to dismiss this book, having read others' reviews in advance. Goethe himself often wished it forgotten after he wrote it, when it still haunted his legacy. Maybe he felt embarrassed by the biographical aspect and his own youthful foolishness. He was too hard on himself. It may be easy to deride Werther's sorrows and weakness, but Goethe did a fine job of capturing youth's irrational passions. There's a reason why it's so hard for adults to relate to teenagers, and I think this classic sums it up perfectly.Werther has to start high before he can fall, and he begins very high. His adoration of a pastoral scene is enough to trigger tears of happiness in him, demonstrating how commanded he is by emotional highs and lows. A storm is brewing - literally, as he is about to meet Charlotte for the first time. At first he is merely an admirer, desirous of her company but not overly wounded that she is engaged to Albert. He is still full enough of life that he can argue with Albert that moroseness is a sin: extreme dramatic irony on a re-read. But gradually admiration turns to obsession, as he begins to idealize his love and then encounters hardships with his attempt at a career, doubled by the impending marriage of Charlotte and Albert becoming fact. After that it's a swift slide to the bottom.Interesting arguments surface. Werther compares a wounded heart to dying of a disease; that there can only be so much pain before one's endurance is overcome, no matter how determined the mindset. Here he clearly ranks emotion above reason as the force which commands him. With this imbalance locked in, no appeal can save him. At this point the reader's loathing is liable to be set in as well. Just snap out of it! Accept what is, and move on! It's compounded by Werther being directionless and possibly too proud and lazy for his own good. He lives off his mother's allowance, and how old is he? Clearly I'm thinking like a parent, or at least a mature adult. To understand this character, I need to cast my mind further back.Can I never recall admiration for an unobtainable girl that led beyond reason? It would be a cold, hard life I've led if I could not. In youth our passions command us. We can hear and speak reason, but only within the context of values largely determined by our feelings. Urgency comes from desiring the company of an ideal vision of the opposite sex, unaware how much we are projecting onto the nearest target and value accordingly beyond what reason dictates. Puppy love transgresses into puppy idolization, to the detriment of the worshiper and the worshiped. I choose to pity Werther out of sympathy, but only up to the point where he contemplates suicide. That state is only obtainable by the sustaining of blind romantic notion far beyond anything I achieved. It is a reality that some are not so lucky. To deride Werther is to deride all youth who give way to irrational despair. Understand him, and you may perceive a life to be saved.
  • (2/5)
    Soo, I know this is part of a historical period, and it's very representative of a literary movement and yada yada yada. But seriously, dude - man up already. And I mean this in a very non-sexist way.
  • (4/5)
    What a thing is the heart of man!- Goethe, The Sorrows of Young WertherIn The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe opens a window into the soul of his young protagonist, allowing the reader to witness first hand his tragic destiny. Young Werther suffers from a hopeless love for the enchanting Charlotte who is engaged to an older man. In a series of letters to his friend Wilhelm, Werther reveals the depths of his anguish. The Sorrows of Young Werther is a beautifully told tale of the interior of a human heart in conflict.First published in 1774, Goethe's epistolary novel has many of the hallmarks of literary romanticism: unattainable love, a passionate and sensitive protagonist, feelings bared open to the world, and a deep appreciation for nature. In his book The Novel 100, Daniel Burt calls The Sorrows of Young Werther "One of the defining works of European Romanticism."Werther is a young artist who moves to the village of Walheim where he meets the lovely Charlotte, daughter of the local judge. Charlotte's mother has died, leaving her to care for her brothers and sisters, and Werther becomes enamored of her, despite knowing that she is engaged to Albert, a man eleven years her senior. As he spends more time with Charlotte and Albert, Werther's love for Charlotte increases, and so does his torment at knowing she is unattainable. The letters Werther writes to his friend Wilhelm express both the intensity of his love and the pain it causes him.Goethe's novel is beautifully written and groundbreaking in its portrayal of a human soul. German literary scholar Karl Viëtor writes about the novel's significance:Among European novels Werther is the first in which an inward life, a spiritual process and nothing else, is represented, and hence it is the first psychological novel....The scene is the soul of the hero. All events and figures are regarded only in the light of the significance they have for Werther's emotion.One thing that stands out in the novel is the likability of all of its characters. This is a novel with no clear antagonist, no evil villain. Not only is Charlotte beautiful, but she is also kind, charming, and generous. Albert is a good man who loves Charlotte. Werther himself is a passionate, sensitive young man whose feelings for Charlotte are pure and innocent. And yet there is conflict in the novel. The reader feels it almost from the very first page. What should Werther do about his passionate feelings for Charlotte? Ignore them? Act on them? Suppress them and move on? What should Charlotte do, and Albert?These questions raise even deeper questions and invite the reader to reflect on his or her own beliefs about love and passion. What is love, and where does it come from? What is the role of emotion in relationships and what is the role of intellect?The Sorrows of Young Werther is well worth a read, not only for its beautiful prose, but also for its attempt to grapple with issues of love and passion.
  • (5/5)
    Amazing book about a platonic love that can't be lived by the force of destiny.
  • (5/5)
    This book is spectacular. The prose of Goethe is stunning and the depth of emotion is amazing. Do not read this book if you are in a melancholy mood; it will intensify those emotions and may pull you from melancholy to despair. Despite that negativity it is a stellar exploration of human love, affection, friendship and emotion.
  • (1/5)
    Wow. I do not even know where to start with this.Yes, there are spoilers. Beware!Werther is, in so many words, a stalker. Mourning the death of a young woman (girlfriend? arranged match?), he falls for an engaged woman, Charlotte. He stays at her house as invited, ingratiates himself to her father (a family friend?) and young siblings. Her mother is deceased, she has no female guidance.She marries. He hangs about. Her husband tolerates him. Makes polite upper-class efforts to get him to go away.She tries to get him to not come around.He comes around anyway.A man in the area kills a rival for a woman's affection. Werther actively defends him.Werther admits that he has considered murdering Charlotte's husband, because he just knows he and Charlotte are perfect for each other. At least he knows this is the wrong course of action.He doesn't, which is the only good thing about this book.I very rarely give a book one star. Especially if I have read the whole thing, I will quit a book if it is that bad. But this is a 1001 books list book, not long, and not difficult. Just infuriating. How can we be feeling for this sort of man, still?! I feel no sympathy for him. I feel sympathy for the murdered man and the poor woman caught in the middle. I feel sympathy for Charlotte, caught in something she doesn't want to be part of. I feel for her husband, Albert, who wants Werther gone but is so trapped by upper class mores that he can effectively do little. But sympathy for Werther? No.
  • (4/5)
    Werther was one of the first cult novels in European history, arguably the book that put the novel solidly in place as the dominant literary form for the next couple of centuries. It was condemned by the older generation, provoked a new trend in men's fashion, was blamed for a wave of teenage suicides, and generally had all the attributes we now attach to fads like Pokemon Go and self-driving cars...It's probably a book you need to read in your teens. Re-reading it in later life, it's difficult to feel much sympathy for Werther, who insists on falling in love with a young woman who is already engaged to someone else, makes a nuisance of himself by stalking her, and then makes everyone's life even more miserable by killing himself. In the final pages of the novel, he acts like a tenor in the last act of an opera - every time you think he's finished and is about to pull the trigger, he steps back and adds a couple more paragraphs to his already voluminous suicide note. "Enough already!", readers have been wanting to shout for the last two centuries. It's an exasperating and profoundly foolish book in many ways, but it also has some very beautiful passages, so not a complete waste of time, but it's definitely best-read when you're in the mood for the love-lorn.
  • (5/5)
    Call me slightly vengeful, but I enjoyed a male character on the other side of coin in romance. I generally avoid romance novels, but if a story line is psychologically intriguing, unpredictable for me, I will stick with it to the end. Enjoyed very much, even though the tragic end was spoiled by some reviews I read approx two months ago.
  • (3/5)
    I couldn't quite bring myself to enjoy this short tragedy by Goethe. It wasn't even 200 pages, but it took me longer than I had been expecting to get through it.It is the story of a young man in 1700's Germany named Werther. He falls in love with a young woman named Lotte, but she is already engaged to another man. Even after she is married, Werther continues to love her, and they form a friendship, which is both heavenly and torturous to the despairing Werther. The main thing that I disliked here was that I just wanted Werther to grow up and get over it. Reading the paragraph above, I must admit it is relatively sad, but really now. It doesn't even sound like the plot of a tragedy, just perhaps an unfortunate sub-plot. Werther sees negativity in everything, and is constantly wishing he was dead and dwelling on suicide and weeping over his letters / journal. I have to admit that sometimes, the idea of a tragic, heartbroken man braving the sorrows of life can be appealing in some strange way. But rather than suffer in silence and gather his strength, Werther suffers loudly and wants everyone to know it. Rather than gathering strength from his ordeals, he lets them weaken him into a weepy fool. I couldn't like him or feel any sympathy for him.This book would have been utterly atrocious if not for Goethe's skillful brilliance. He is, of course, one of the greatest writers of all time, and even in a book I can't particularly say I liked, he still manages to write beautifully and evocatively. His prose is majestically awe inspiring at times, though it does tend to ramble on a bit and sometimes wander and become pointless. I noticed while looking for quotes to collect here that I found plenty of gorgeous paragraphs, but couldn't seem to spot a single sentence or short phrase that caught my eye. And I'm not writing down a whole paragraph on my bookmark.I wasn't familiar with the story of "Sorrows of Young Werther" at all coming into it, and as I tend to start imagining possible directions a book could go as I'm reading it, it somehow became set in my mind that Werther should become a poet.Goethe's beautiful writing is here attributed to his character, since the book is Werther narrating in the form of letters he is writing. So the man's letters prove he can write, and I can certainly imagine him turning his sorrows into great material. He even loves poetry, and is a fan of Ossian (who is mentioned quite a few times). Just a thought.I couldn't say I liked this book, despite the author.
  • (2/5)
    Nope. Life is too short. Next!
  • (3/5)
    I did not enjoy 'The Sorrows' as much as, I believe, the likes of Byron did. It is a romantic book, but so over-the-top by modern standards that I couldn't really get to grips with it very well. I'm just glad it didn't go on too long, or I might have struggled with a narrator obsessed with himself and with his passionate feelings.
  • (4/5)
    Summary:Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther is not so much a tale of love and romance, as it is a chronicle of mental health; specifically, it seems, Goethe is tackling the idea of depression and even (though the term would not have existed then) bi-polar depression. Werther spends his days feeling everything in extremes. When he is happy in something, even something seemingly miniscule, he is overjoyed by it. His “cup overfloweth” and he radiates a sun-like magnitude of warmth and well-being to everyone around him. When he is saddened by something (or someone), he is inconsolable. Each disappointment pushes him nearer and nearer to the edge, of which Werther himself seems to be aware and almost welcoming. The crux of Werther’s Joys and Sorrows is, of course, a woman – a love which cannot be reconciled. Ultimately, each encounter with Werther’s love-interest, Lotte, becomes more detrimental to Werther’s fragile state-of-mind and, with one final visit (one which Lotte had expressly forbidden), Werther reaches his limit. The Good:Though this has been criticized by some, I appreciate the epistolary structure of this novel. I also like that to each of Werther’s letters, a response must be guessed or imagined, because none of the letters Werther received are included. I have a difficult time deciding why I like that we only get access to Werther’s side of the conversation but, I think, it is because – really – no other character has much to do with what is going on inside Werther’s head. In fact, even Lotte, the reason Werther “sacrifices” himself in the end, is only an excuse for the sacrifice and not the actual, root cause of Werther’s sorrow. Also, something I found particularly irksome throughout the first half of the novel, but which ultimately I find pleasing, is the lack of any type of characterization, even for those characters who play a larger role, such as Lotte and her husband Albert. At first, I found it difficult to engage with the novel because of this but, upon reflection, I realize the necessity. After all, this novel is about Werther’s state of mind, so the development of any other character would largely detract from the work’s purpose. In addition to this distraction, one must also realize that Werther is a rather arrogant, self-centered person, who is not very concerned about anybody else (even Lotte, when it comes down to it). Werther is entirely engrossed in his own pleasures, his own happiness, and his own despairs; thus, to focus even for a moment on anyone else’s personality or achievements would decrease the importance that Goethe had been placing on Werther’s own self-involvement. The Bad:The novel closes by introducing a rather omniscient “Narrator,” who is not to be mistaken for Goethe’s narrator (this can also be a bit tricky throughout the novel, when “narrator comments” are footnoted). The Narrator seems to be viewing things from the outside, to be evaluating Werther’s life and letters as a bystander, a researcher; however, he does also seem to have some connection to the characters, some insight into their emotions and actions. Does this make him unreliable? Perhaps. I also find the act of introducing a portion of the book as belonging to the Narrator, and including that Narrator suddenly into the plot-line not just unreliable but also distracting. While having the Narrator there to explain some of Werther’s actions and emotions, to guide the reader through Werther’s final days, rather than have Werther write them in letters per usual (and this may have seemed more appropriate to Werther as, when one is ending one’s life, does one really write a letter about all the actions he is taking, all the steps covered, tasks completed? ) is probably necessary, I found it a harsh break from the rest of the novel and, at the point where I would most liked to have been connecting with the main character, I felt most separated. I did also find the many pages devoted to Ossian’s poem (Werther reading the translation to Lotte) indulgent and unnecessary. Finally, though I understand and partially agree with the under-development of the other characters, I also believe this could have been a rich novel and a gripping story, equally honest to mental torment as this novel, had the plot and characters been more flushed out. Final Verdict: 3.5/5.0It is difficult for me not to give this novel a better rating, because I know I am supposed to love it. Still, I found faults, the main problem being that I could not really connect with the story because the majority of its format was guarded, and the final chapter was such a break from the rest that I felt displaced when I could have begun to surrender. The Sorrows of Young Werther did have its positives, though. I appreciated the subject matter, especially coming from an author in the late-1700s. Goethe seemed truly concerned with mental disturbances and depression; he was taking the disease seriously and not just allowing his character to be played off as “having passions.” Goethe, I think, understood that Werther’s “lost love” Lotte was not the true reason for his final descent and, for the close reader, this point comes across loud and clear. What was Goethe experiencing, I wonder, which allowed him or induced him to write this novel?
  • (5/5)
    One of those classics that actually deserves the name. A brilliant psychological meditation.
  • (4/5)
    I feel a little phoney writing a review for a classic. But anyway...I first read Werther when I was about seventeen and I have to say that it went completely over my head. Alas, I thought it was dull. I reread it recently and thought it was brilliant!Werther is a love and loss story. The odd thing about it is that the main protagonist (Werther) falls in and out of love with life, whilst the relationship with the love interest, Lotte, remains constant. The novel takes the form of a briefmarken, allowing the reader acquaint his or herself with Werther's ruminations (predominantly ethical and aesthetic), which become increasingly despairing as the novel progresses, and the development of his affections toward Lotte.Werther is a disaffected youth, lofty and sincere - a romantic - who struggles to come to terms with the rather uninspired world of petite-bourgeois aspirations and conventions he encounters throughout the novel. Goethe's depiction of Werther's descent from a loftly-minded pollyanna to a disaffected outsider is subtle, poignant and thought provoking.
  • (5/5)
    1149 The Sufferings of Young Werther, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (read 9 Jan 1972) The translator, Harry Steinhauer, admits he has toned down much which'd strike the modern reader as maudlin--so I wonder if I'd prefer an older translation. But this translation sounds great to me. It is a novel in the form of letters, dated May 4, 1771, to Dec. 20, 1772. I was struck by Werther's discovery of Ossian: "What a world it is into which the glorious poet leads me! To wander over the heath, with the tempestuous winds roaring about you, carrying the spirits of your ancestors in steaming mists by the half light of the moon. To hear the dying groans of the spirits issue from their caves in the mountains, amid the roar of the brook in the forest, and the lamentations of the maiden, grieving her life away by the moss-covered, grass-over-grown stones on the tomb of her lover, nobly slain in battle...." To the question 'Why has Werther survived?' the answer is suggested: "it is incomparably superior to all its progeny. Despite its passages of intolerable sentimentality, it is richly endowed in its structure, psychological penetration, its fresh, vigorous imagery and diction..."
  • (2/5)
    This book was OK, therefore not the most memorable and favourite book of mine, but for the sake of general knowledge worth of reading. I was somehow expecting more from Goethe, maybe more drama and action so to speak and this book kinda left me cold. Can't help but give the book only two stars.
  • (4/5)
    I find it hard to properly review a book that says ‘classics’ on the cover so I’ll only add that I liked reading about the destructive nature of passionate, one-sided love. It’s a perfect remedy to love can conquer all writing when you can see the pain and violence that often goes hand in hand with love.