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The Sorrows of Young Werther

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Overview

One of the world's first best-sellers, this tragic masterpiece attained an instant and lasting success upon its 1774 publication. A sensitive exploration of the mind of a young artist, the tale addresses age-old questions--the meaning of love, of death, and the possibility of redemption--in the form of Werther's alternately joyful and despairing letters about his unrequited love. Goethe's portrayal of a character who struggles to reconcile his artistic sensibilities with the demands of the objective world proved ...
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Overview

One of the world's first best-sellers, this tragic masterpiece attained an instant and lasting success upon its 1774 publication. A sensitive exploration of the mind of a young artist, the tale addresses age-old questions--the meaning of love, of death, and the possibility of redemption--in the form of Werther's alternately joyful and despairing letters about his unrequited love. Goethe's portrayal of a character who struggles to reconcile his artistic sensibilities with the demands of the objective world proved tremendously influential to subsequent writers and continues to speak to modern readers.

Deeply felt poems by a poet with a singularly unique voice.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679729518
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/28/1990
  • Series: Vintage Books Series
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,365,452
  • Product dimensions: 5.13 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Nathan Haskell Dole (August 31, 1852 - May 9, 1935) was an American editor, translator, and author. He attended Phillips Academy, Andover, and graduated from Harvard University in 1874. He was a writer and journalist in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. He translated many works of Leo Tolstoy, and books of other Russians; novels of the Spaniard Armando Palacio Valdés (1886-90); a variety of works from the French and Italian.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 - 22 March 1832) was a German writer and statesman. 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.
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 as one of six "representative men" in his work of the same name, along with Plato, Napoleon, and William Shakespeare. 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 writings throughout the works of G. W. F. Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hermann Hesse, Thomas Mann, 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.

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Read an Excerpt

May 4, 1771

How glad I am to have come away! Dearest friend, what is the human heart! To leave you to whom I was so attached, from whom I was inseparable, and to be happy! I know you will forgive me. Did not fate seek out my other attachments just to trouble a heart like mine? Poor Leonore! And yet I was innocent. Could I help it that while I found her sister’s willful charms pleasantly diverting, a passion was forming in the poor girl’s heart? And yet—am I wholly innocent? Didn’t I nourish her feelings? Didn’t I make fun of those entirely genuine expressions of nature that so often made us laugh, as little to be laughed about as they were? Didn’t I— Oh, what is man, that he can grumble about himself! I will, dear friend, I promise you, change for the better, will no longer, as I have always done, chew on the cud of the little bit of unpleasantness that fate puts in our way; I will enjoy the present, and the past will be past for me. Of course you are right, my friend, people would have fewer pains if—God knows why they are made this way—their imaginations were not so busily engaged in recalling past trials rather than bearing an indifferent present.

Be so good as to tell my mother that I’m devoting myself wholeheartedly to her business and will send her news of it very soon. I have spoken to my aunt, and found that she is by no means the evil person we made her out to be at home. She is a cheerful, impetuous woman with an excellent heart. I explained to her my mother’s complaints about the part of the inheritance that has been withheld; she explained the reasons, causes, and the conditions under which she would be prepared to release it, and more than we were asking.—In short, I don’t want to write about it now; tell my mother that everything will turn out all right. And, dear friend, in this little transaction I have again discovered that misunderstandings and lethargy cause perhaps more confusion in the world than cunning and malice. At least, the last two are certainly more rare.

Otherwise I am quite happy here, the solitude in this paradisiacal region is a precious balm to my heart, and the youthful season in all its fullness warms my often shivering heart. Every tree, every hedge, is a bouquet of blossoms, and one would like to be a mayfly drifting about in the sea of heady aromas, able to find in it all one’s nourishment.

The town itself is unpleasant, but round about it an inexpressible natural beauty. This moved the late Count von M . . . to lay out his garden on one of the hills that intersect with the most appealing variety and form the loveliest valleys. The garden is simple, and you feel the moment you enter that its plan was not drawn up by some calculating gardener but by a feeling heart that sought its own enjoyment here. I have already wept many a tear for the deceased in the small, dilapidated summerhouse that was his favorite spot and is also mine. Soon I will be master of the garden: the gardener has taken a liking to me even in these few days, and he won’t be the worse off for it.

May 10

A wonderful cheerfulness has taken possession of my soul, like the sweet spring mornings I delight in with all my heart. I am alone and enjoying my life in this region, which is made for souls like mine. I am so happy, dear friend, so immersed in the feeling of quiet, calm existence, that my art suffers from it. I couldn’t draw now, not a line, but I have never been a greater painter than in these moments. When the dear valley mists around me and the high sun rests on the tops of the impenetrable darkness of my woods and only isolated rays steal into the inner sanctum as I lie in the high grass by the falling brook, and closer to the earth a thousand different blades of grass become astonishing to me; when I feel closer to my heart the teeming of the small world among the stems, the innumerable, unfathomable forms of the little worms, the tiny gnats, and feel the hovering presence of the Almighty who created us in His image, the breeze of the All-Loving One who hoveringly bears and preserves us in eternal bliss; my friend, when the world around me grows dim to my eyes, and world and sky rest entirely in my soul like the form of a beloved, then I often yearn and think: Oh, could you express this, could you breathe onto paper what lives in you so fully and warmly that it would become the mirror of your soul, as your soul is the mirror of infinite God!—My friend!—But it is destroying me, I am succumbing to the power of the gloriousness of these apparitions.

May 12

I don’t know whether deceiving spirits hover over this region or if it is the warm heavenly fantasy in my heart that makes everything around seem like paradise to me. Right outside the village is a well, a well to which I am spellbound like Melusine with her sisters.—You walk down a small hill and find yourself facing a vault from which some twenty steps go down to where the clearest water bubbles forth from marble rocks. The low wall above, which forms the surrounding enclosure, the high trees that shade the place all around, the coolness of the spot, it all has something enticing, something uncanny about it. Not a day passes without my sitting there for an hour. Girls come from the town and fetch water, the most harmless task and the most necessary, which in former times the daughters of kings would perform themselves. When I sit there the patriarchal idea comes so vividly to life around me, how they all, the elders, make acquaintance and court at the well, and how around the well and the springs benevolent spirits hover. Oh, whoever cannot feel that must never have refreshed himself in the well’s coolness after a strenuous walk on a summer day.

May 13

You ask whether you should send my books.—My friend, I beg you, for God’s sake, don’t bother me with them! I no longer want to be led on, cheered up, spurred on, my heart surges enough by itself; I need a lullaby, and that I have found in abundance in my Homer. How often do I lull my agitated blood to rest; for you have never seen anything so changeable, so restless as my heart. My friend, do I need to tell you that, you who have so often borne the burden of seeing me swing from grief to excess, and from sweet melancholy to ruinous passion? I treat my little heart like a sick child: whatever it wishes for is granted. Don’t spread this about; there are people who would hold it against me.

May 15

The ordinary people of the place already know and love me, especially the children. When at the beginning I first went to join them, asking them amiably about this and that, some thought I was trying to make fun of them and told me off quite rudely. I didn’t let it bother me, but felt most vividly something I have often noted: people of some standing will always remain at a chilly distance from the common people, as if they thought they would demean themselves by approaching them; and then there are flighty people and nasty jokers who seem to lower themselves in order to flaunt their own high spirits before the poor.

Of course I know that we are not all equal, nor can be; but I am of the opinion that he who thinks it necessary to distance himself from the so-called rabble in order to preserve respect is just as blameworthy as a coward who hides from his enemy because he fears defeat.

Recently I went to the well and found a young servant girl, who had placed her jug on the lowest step and was looking around for some friend to come help her lift it up onto her head. I climbed down and looked at her.—Shall I help you, my girl? I said.—She blushed all red.—Oh no, sir!—she said. With no fuss.—She arranged the ring on her head, and I helped her. She thanked me and climbed up.

May 17

I have made all sorts of acquaintances, company I have not found. I don’t know what it is about me that attracts people; so many like and attach themselves to me, and it pains me when our paths coincide for only a short stretch. If you ask what people are like here, I have to say: like everywhere! The human race is a monotonous thing. Most people work most of the time in order to live, and the little freedom they have left over frightens them so, that they will do anything to get rid of it. Oh, the regimentation of mankind!

But a quite good sort of people! When I sometimes forget myself, sometimes enjoy with them pleasures that people are still allowed, joking around a table with good company in frankness and good fellowship, taking a long walk, arranging a dance at the proper time, and such things, it has a quite favorable effect on me; but I must avoid thinking that so many other energies that I must carefully conceal still lie within me, all decaying unused. Oh, it so constricts the heart.—And yet, to be misunderstood is the fate of people like us.

Alas, that the friend of my youth is gone! Alas that I ever knew her!—I would say you are a fool, you seek what is not to be found here below; but I had her, I felt that heart, that great soul in whose presence I felt myself to be more than I was because I was everything I could be. Good God! Was there a single power of my soul unused? Could I not unfold before her all the miraculous feeling with which my heart embraces nature? Was not our relation an eternal weaving of the finest feelings, the sharpest sallies, whose variations even to mischievousness were all marked by the stamp of genius? And now!—Alas, the years she was ahead of me led her earlier to the grave. I will never forget her, never forget her steady mind and divine patience.

A few days ago I made the acquaintance of young V . . . , a frank youth with a pleasantly formed face. He has just come from academies, doesn’t think of himself as wise, but still believes he knows more than other people. He was also studious, as I gather from everything he said; in short, he knows a good deal. When he heard that I sketched a lot and knew Greek (two meteors in this region), he turned to me and displayed quite a bit of knowledge, from Batteaux to Wood, from de Piles to Winckelmann, and assured me that he had read Sulzer’s Theory, the first part, all the way through, and that he owned a manuscript of Heynen on the study of Greece and Rome. I left it at that.

From the Hardcover edition.

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First Chapter

May 4, 1771

How glad I am to have come away! Dearest friend, what is the human heart! To leave you to whom I was so attached, from whom I was inseparable, and to be happy! I know you will forgive me. Did not fate seek out my other attachments just to trouble a heart like mine? Poor Leonore! And yet I was innocent. Could I help it that while I found her sister's willful charms pleasantly diverting, a passion was forming in the poor girl's heart? And yet—am I wholly innocent? Didn't I nourish her feelings? Didn't I make fun of those entirely genuine expressions of nature that so often made us laugh, as little to be laughed about as they were? Didn't I— Oh, what is man, that he can grumble about himself! I will, dear friend, I promise you, change for the better, will no longer, as I have always done, chew on the cud of the little bit of unpleasantness that fate puts in our way; I will enjoy the present, and the past will be past for me. Of course you are right, my friend, people would have fewer pains if—God knows why they are made this way—their imaginations were not so busily engaged in recalling past trials rather than bearing an indifferent present.

Be so good as to tell my mother that I'm devoting myself wholeheartedly to her business and will send her news of it very soon. I have spoken to my aunt, and found that she is by no means the evil person we made her out to be at home. She is a cheerful, impetuous woman with an excellent heart. I explained to her my mother's complaints about the part of the inheritance that has been withheld; she explained the reasons, causes, and the conditions under which she would be prepared to release it,and more than we were asking.—In short, I don't want to write about it now; tell my mother that everything will turn out all right. And, dear friend, in this little transaction I have again discovered that misunderstandings and lethargy cause perhaps more confusion in the world than cunning and malice. At least, the last two are certainly more rare.

Otherwise I am quite happy here, the solitude in this paradisiacal region is a precious balm to my heart, and the youthful season in all its fullness warms my often shivering heart. Every tree, every hedge, is a bouquet of blossoms, and one would like to be a mayfly drifting about in the sea of heady aromas, able to find in it all one's nourishment.

The town itself is unpleasant, but round about it an inexpressible natural beauty. This moved the late Count von M . . . to lay out his garden on one of the hills that intersect with the most appealing variety and form the loveliest valleys. The garden is simple, and you feel the moment you enter that its plan was not drawn up by some calculating gardener but by a feeling heart that sought its own enjoyment here. I have already wept many a tear for the deceased in the small, dilapidated summerhouse that was his favorite spot and is also mine. Soon I will be master of the garden: the gardener has taken a liking to me even in these few days, and he won't be the worse off for it.

May 10

A wonderful cheerfulness has taken possession of my soul, like the sweet spring mornings I delight in with all my heart. I am alone and enjoying my life in this region, which is made for souls like mine. I am so happy, dear friend, so immersed in the feeling of quiet, calm existence, that my art suffers from it. I couldn't draw now, not a line, but I have never been a greater painter than in these moments. When the dear valley mists around me and the high sun rests on the tops of the impenetrable darkness of my woods and only isolated rays steal into the inner sanctum as I lie in the high grass by the falling brook, and closer to the earth a thousand different blades of grass become astonishing to me; when I feel closer to my heart the teeming of the small world among the stems, the innumerable, unfathomable forms of the little worms, the tiny gnats, and feel the hovering presence of the Almighty who created us in His image, the breeze of the All-Loving One who hoveringly bears and preserves us in eternal bliss; my friend, when the world around me grows dim to my eyes, and world and sky rest entirely in my soul like the form of a beloved, then I often yearn and think: Oh, could you express this, could you breathe onto paper what lives in you so fully and warmly that it would become the mirror of your soul, as your soul is the mirror of infinite God!—My friend!—But it is destroying me, I am succumbing to the power of the gloriousness of these apparitions.

May 12

I don't know whether deceiving spirits hover over this region or if it is the warm heavenly fantasy in my heart that makes everything around seem like paradise to me. Right outside the village is a well, a well to which I am spellbound like Melusine with her sisters.—You walk down a small hill and find yourself facing a vault from which some twenty steps go down to where the clearest water bubbles forth from marble rocks. The low wall above, which forms the surrounding enclosure, the high trees that shade the place all around, the coolness of the spot, it all has something enticing, something uncanny about it. Not a day passes without my sitting there for an hour. Girls come from the town and fetch water, the most harmless task and the most necessary, which in former times the daughters of kings would perform themselves. When I sit there the patriarchal idea comes so vividly to life around me, how they all, the elders, make acquaintance and court at the well, and how around the well and the springs benevolent spirits hover. Oh, whoever cannot feel that must never have refreshed himself in the well's coolness after a strenuous walk on a summer day.

May 13

You ask whether you should send my books.—My friend, I beg you, for God's sake, don't bother me with them! I no longer want to be led on, cheered up, spurred on, my heart surges enough by itself; I need a lullaby, and that I have found in abundance in my Homer. How often do I lull my agitated blood to rest; for you have never seen anything so changeable, so restless as my heart. My friend, do I need to tell you that, you who have so often borne the burden of seeing me swing from grief to excess, and from sweet melancholy to ruinous passion? I treat my little heart like a sick child: whatever it wishes for is granted. Don't spread this about; there are people who would hold it against me.

May 15

The ordinary people of the place already know and love me, especially the children. When at the beginning I first went to join them, asking them amiably about this and that, some thought I was trying to make fun of them and told me off quite rudely. I didn't let it bother me, but felt most vividly something I have often noted: people of some standing will always remain at a chilly distance from the common people, as if they thought they would demean themselves by approaching them; and then there are flighty people and nasty jokers who seem to lower themselves in order to flaunt their own high spirits before the poor.

Of course I know that we are not all equal, nor can be; but I am of the opinion that he who thinks it necessary to distance himself from the so-called rabble in order to preserve respect is just as blameworthy as a coward who hides from his enemy because he fears defeat.

Recently I went to the well and found a young servant girl, who had placed her jug on the lowest step and was looking around for some friend to come help her lift it up onto her head. I climbed down and looked at her.—Shall I help you, my girl? I said.—She blushed all red.—Oh no, sir!—she said. With no fuss.—She arranged the ring on her head, and I helped her. She thanked me and climbed up.

May 17

I have made all sorts of acquaintances, company I have not found. I don't know what it is about me that attracts people; so many like and attach themselves to me, and it pains me when our paths coincide for only a short stretch. If you ask what people are like here, I have to say: like everywhere! The human race is a monotonous thing. Most people work most of the time in order to live, and the little freedom they have left over frightens them so, that they will do anything to get rid of it. Oh, the regimentation of mankind!

But a quite good sort of people! When I sometimes forget myself, sometimes enjoy with them pleasures that people are still allowed, joking around a table with good company in frankness and good fellowship, taking a long walk, arranging a dance at the proper time, and such things, it has a quite favorable effect on me; but I must avoid thinking that so many other energies that I must carefully conceal still lie within me, all decaying unused. Oh, it so constricts the heart.—And yet, to be misunderstood is the fate of people like us.

Alas, that the friend of my youth is gone! Alas that I ever knew her!—I would say you are a fool, you seek what is not to be found here below; but I had her, I felt that heart, that great soul in whose presence I felt myself to be more than I was because I was everything I could be. Good God! Was there a single power of my soul unused? Could I not unfold before her all the miraculous feeling with which my heart embraces nature? Was not our relation an eternal weaving of the finest feelings, the sharpest sallies, whose variations even to mischievousness were all marked by the stamp of genius? And now!—Alas, the years she was ahead of me led her earlier to the grave. I will never forget her, never forget her steady mind and divine patience.

A few days ago I made the acquaintance of young V . . . , a frank youth with a pleasantly formed face. He has just come from academies, doesn't think of himself as wise, but still believes he knows more than other people. He was also studious, as I gather from everything he said; in short, he knows a good deal. When he heard that I sketched a lot and knew Greek (two meteors in this region), he turned to me and displayed quite a bit of knowledge, from Batteaux to Wood, from de Piles to Winckelmann, and assured me that he had read Sulzer's Theory, the first part, all the way through, and that he owned a manuscript of Heynen on the study of Greece and Rome. I left it at that.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 20 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2004

    One Of the Best

    J.W. Von Goethe's the sorrows of young werther is a prime example of classic romantic poetry. Anyone with compassion or Passion of any kind will certainly enjoy this piece.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Beautiful, touching... sorrowful...

    Anyone with a heart will love Werther. I did not(could not)put down the book, once I began reading it. Some moments are so thrilling and others so heart breaking... I hope more people could discover and enjoy this story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2006

    Life Changing

    I don't even know where to start. This book is so well written that you no longer feel like a reader but a part of Werther. All the way through the book I felt as Goethe intendended me too. This was an amezing experience... I walked around for two days hardly saying a word after I finished it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2002

    the ignominy that comes with indomitable passion

    When Werther meets Lotte, she is already unattainable, so readers will never know if his drive came from its intangibility. Yet, Goethe feeds the idea that Werther's life became Lotte because he finally found 'something to live for.' When a lover possesses both, it can only be excitingly dangerous, and unshakeable. Expectations have screwed up everyone's lives at one time or another; only here, I believe the passionate Romantic can not be ultimately understood unless the reader has also felt that the sun only shines when a certain someone is around. So, wrestle and escape it all with Kawika.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Obsessive Love

    I went into this book knowing virtually nothing about it. I remembered a vague reference to it from reading Frankenstein last year (the monster discovers and reads this book and relates strongly to Werther) but beyond that, and the general "sorrow" of the central character, I hopped in blind.

    The book is written in epistolary style with each letter being sent from Werther to his friend Wilhelm (a couple of the letters seemed addressed to his brother as well?). We never read any responses written to Werther but can sometimes infer the reactions from Wilhelm. Still, the core of the story is told in Werther's letters themselves.

    Because of the epistolary style, the narrative is a little 'jumpy' as it skips over time in between letters.sometimes a day or two, sometimes weeks or more. Some of the letters are very lengthy and pour out large segments of plot and action. Others are very short segments of exclamation or emotion. Sometimes even the longer letters don't advance the "plot" so much as provide insight into the thoughts and emotions of Werther.
    The presentation of love versus obsession is very interesting here and is very well done. You get a very good sense of the turmoil that Werther's going through.of the pain he's feeling as well as the desire he has but cannot fulfill. After reading the book, I looked up some info on it and found that it is actually fairly autobiographical. Apparently Goethe fell in love with his own Lotte who refused him and married another. He was obsessed for some time and found it hard to work or concentrate. There was a quote I read where Goethe indicates that he actually used Werther (and particularly the ending) to save himself [Goethe].

    The story itself is intriguing though not particularly entrancing. It's really the presentation of the mental anguish of Werther that makes this noteworthy to me. Getting into his head and participating in the psychology of obsessive love was really interesting. A lot of his language was actually very romantic and, had it been spent on someone more receptive, could have been very powerful in enhancing a romantic relationship. Parts of the read were a bit slow, but overall, it was a good read.

    ****
    4.5 out of 5 stars

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    beautifully tragic

    The Sorrows of Young Werther is a beautiful piece of tragic literature. It's written mostly as a series of letters from Werther to his friend Wilhelm detailing his love of Lotte and how that leads to his eventual suicide.

    Right from the get go Werther knows of the impending marriage between Lotte and Albert but he can't control his emotions and the love he feels for Lotte. And when he meets Albert, who is a genuinely nice guy, he can't help but like him. The letters go from being full of excitement and elation at the beginning of his acquaintance with Lotte to slowly turning very dark as Werther slips further and further into depression. Deep depression. In fact, his emotions go to such extremes throughout the book, I'd say poor Werther is manic depressive with his thoughts of suicide and murder. He says towards the end of the book, "One of us three must go, so let it be me!" He's had thoughts of killing Albert and even Lotte herself but can't bring himself to harm either of them. So he takes himself out of the equation in hopes that Lotte and Albert can live happily ever after.

    The Sorrows of Young Werther is beautifully written but very sad. It's heartbreaking to read as poor Werther's euphoric happiness slides slowly to despair. He says a couple of days after his first introduction to Lotte, "My days are as happy as any God sets aside for his saints; and, whatever the future may have in store for me, I cannot claim I have not enjoyed the pleasures in life, the very purest of pleasures."

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  • Posted September 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Simply Inspired

    The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Goethe is a book I must have been side-stepping for years. It seems like someone I know would have recommended it to me at some point as a "you need to read this... it's so you" suggestion. But alas, I'm left to wonder where this story has been all my life.

    The basics: Boy meets Girl. Boy can't have Girl. Boy kills Self. Sure, I'm over-simplifying a bit, but that's the basic gist. As with all truly touching books, the plot is fairly basic at its core and the details are therefore allowed to emerge to the forefront and push you along in a tremendously heart-breaking way. (complete review at whatrefuge.blogspot)

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  • Posted August 8, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Goethe is an excellent author from the Romantic Age of literature.

    I heard about this book after taking a Literature and Science class at college in which two of the assigned books were Elective Affinities by Goethe and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Honestly, I was a little disappointed with The Sorrows of Young Werther after reading the two aforementioned books and hearing so many positives about Werther. I admit that Romanticism is not my favorite style, although I do consider Frankenstein to be one of my favorite books. Frankly, Werther is a bit of a "drama king" for me, and his overreactions seemed silly and overdramatized, especially when he was criticized about his work. Even so, Goethe is an excellent writer and Werther is a classic from the Romantic Age. It's also interesting to see why the monster in Frankenstein got so worked up after reading this book. Overall, it's an interesting book and worth a read, especially considering the price, length, and writing style. It's an intellectually stimulating read as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2002

    The Sorrow of Loving Too Much

    I always find it sad that more people do not read Goethe for pleasure alone. Yes, he was a 'scholarly' writer but his works, although profound, are written in an easily understandable style. I think too many people have been needlessly scared off by Goethe's monumental intelligence and his philosophy. This is too bad. His books revolve around themes that are universal, subjects to which all of us can relate: romantic love, nature, God, beauty. Eighteenth-century German literature was propelled by a revolution in romanticism, and writers such as Goethe celebrated their most cherished ideals in as ornate and eloquent a manner as possible. While the tendency of American and British writers to ignore the sublime and the romantic in favor of stark realism does have its place, that does not mean that the sublime and the romantic should be casually tossed aside. The Sorrows of Young Werther is not Goethe at this best (you need to read Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship for that) but it the best introduction to Goethe anyone could find and a lovely novella in its own right. The Sorrows of Young Werther opens more amazingly than any book I have ever read and it is not overstating things a bit to say that Goethe gives us something profound and beautiful on each and every page. The Sorrows of Young Werther is comprised, for the most part, of letters written by a hopelessly romantic young man named Werther to a friend named Wilhelm. These letters not only detail Werther's doomed love for the beautiful Charlotte, they also contain the most beautiful meditations on just about everything important in life: love, beauty, nature, philosophy, art, religion. In Werther, Goethe clearly shows us the problems inherent in loving and idealizing something a bit too much. I think many readers will have a problem with the character of Werther. He is simply too romantic to be real. And then there will be those who will wonder how a man who is capable of uttering the most gorgeous and flowing words about beauty, art and nature can fall so hopelessly in love with one woman that he seems to forget all else that he holds dear. Well, Werther, in the best romantic tradition, has invested all the emotion he feels for art, beauty, religion, etc. in Charlotte. Once readers realize this, I think the ending of this novella will make sense to them. Yes, Werther is an extreme but once you come to understand him, he does make perfect sense. As I said, this isn't Goethe at this best or his most sublime or even, believe it not, his most romantic, but this is certainly the best place to begin if you are just beginning your study of this monumental author or of German romanticism in general.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2001

    A Classic for the Ages

    Goethe strove for universality in understanding and affirmation, amenability to experience of whatever kind, reckless realism, reverence for everything factual. A spirit thus emancipated stands in the midst of the universe with a joyful and trusting fatalism, in the faith that only what is separate and individual may be rejected, that in the totality everything is redeemed and affirmed-he no longer denies...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2000

    Tragic romance then, mentally disturbed now.

    Being a history major in college I found the book interesting, but I was more interested in Werther's fascination with nature than with Lotte. His unique ability to notice the beauty and truth of nature made the book more interesting. It's not a very good read I often found myself zoning off and had to reread a few sentences just to find I didn't miss anything.

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