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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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 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: 9780988537002
  • Publisher: RiverRun Select
  • Publication date: 10/31/2012
  • Pages: 186
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

Nathan Haskell Dole (August 31, 1852 - May 9, 1935) was an American editor, translator, and author.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 - 22 March 1832) was a German writer and statesman.

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The Sorrows of Young Werther


By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 2015 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-0783-2


CHAPTER 1

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 a genial balm to my mind, and the young spring cheers with its bounteous promises my oftentimes misgiving heart. Every tree, every bush, is full of flowers; and one might wish himself transformed into a butterfly, to float about in this ocean of perfume, and find his whole existence in it.

The town itself is disagreeable; but then, all around, you find an inexpressible beauty of nature. This induced the late Count M to lay out a garden on one of the sloping hills which here intersect each other with the most charming variety, and form the most lovely valleys. The garden is simple; and it is easy to perceive, even upon your first entrance, that the plan was not designed by a scientific gardener, but by a man who wished to give himself up here to the enjoyment of his own sensitive heart. Many a tear have I already shed to the memory of its departed master in a summer-house which is now reduced to ruins, but was his favourite resort, and now is mine. I shall soon be master of the place. The gardener has become attached to me within the last few days, and he will lose nothing thereby.


MAY 10.

A wonderful serenity has taken possession of my entire soul, like these sweet mornings of spring which I enjoy with my whole heart. I am alone, and feel the charm of existence in this spot, which was created for the bliss of souls like mine. I am so happy, my dear friend, so absorbed in the exquisite sense of mere tranquil existence, that I neglect my talents. I should be incapable of drawing a single stroke at the present moment; and yet I feel that I never was a greater artist than now. When, while the lovely valley teems with vapour around me, and the meridian sun strikes the upper surface of the impenetrable foliage of my trees, and but a few stray gleams steal into the inner sanctuary, I throw myself down among the tall grass by the trickling stream; and, as I lie close to the earth, a thousand unknown plants are noticed by me; when I hear the buzz of the little world among the stalks, and grow familiar with the countless indescribable forms of the insects and flies, then I feel the presence of the Almighty, who formed us in his own image, and the breath of that universal love which bears and sustains us, as it floats around us in an eternity of bliss; and then, my friend, when darkness overspreads my eyes, and heaven and earth seem to dwell in my soul and absorb its power, like the form of a beloved mistress, then I often think with longing, Oh, would I could describe these conceptions, could impress upon paper all that is living so full and warm within me, that it might be the mirror of my soul, as my soul is the mirror of the infinite God! O my friend—but it is too much for my strength—I sink under the weight of the splendour of these visions!


MAY 12.

I know not whether some deceitful spirits haunt this spot, or whether it be the warm, celestial fancy in my own heart which makes everything around me seem like paradise. In front of the house is a fountain—a fountain to which I am bound by a charm like Melusina and her sisters. Descending a gentle slope, you come to an arch, where, some twenty steps lower down, water of the clearest crystal gushes from the marble rock. The narrow wall which encloses it above, the tall trees which encircle the spot, and the coolness of the place itself—everything imparts a pleasant but sublime impression. Not a day passes on which I do not spend an hour there. The young maidens come from the town to fetch water—innocent and necessary employment, and formerly the occupation of the daughters of kings. As I take my rest there, the idea of the old patriarchal life is awakened around me. I see them, our old ancestors, how they formed their friendships and contracted alliances at the fountain-side; and I feel how fountains and streams were guarded by beneficent spirits. He who is a stranger to these sensations has never really enjoyed cool repose at the side of a fountain after the fatigue of a weary summer day.


MAY 13.

You ask if you shall send me books. My dear friend, I beseech you, for the love of God, relieve me from such a yoke! I need no more to be guided, agitated, heated. My heart ferments sufficiently of itself. I want strains to lull me, and I find them to perfection in my Homer. Often do I strive to allay the burning fever of my blood; and you have never witnessed anything so unsteady, so uncertain, as my heart. But need I confess this to you, my dear friend, who have so often endured the anguish of witnessing my sudden transitions from sorrow to immoderate joy, and from sweet melancholy to violent passions? I treat my poor heart like a sick child, and gratify its every fancy. Do not mention this again: there are people who would censure me for it.


MAY 15.

The common people of the place know me already, and love me, particularly the children. When at first I associated with them, and inquired in a friendly tone about their various trifles, some fancied that I wished to ridicule them, and turned from me in exceeding ill-humour. I did not allow that circumstance to grieve me; I only felt most keenly what I have often before observed. Persons who can claim a certain rank keep themselves coldly aloof from the common people, as though they feared to lose their importance by the contact; whilst wanton idlers, and such as are prone to bad joking, affect to descend to their level, only to make the poor people feel their impertinence all the more keenly.

I know very well that we are not all equal, nor can be so; but it is my opinion that he who avoids the common people, in order not to lose their respect, is as much to blame as a coward who hides himself from his enemy because he fears defeat.

The other day I went to the fountain, and found a young servant-girl, who had set her pitcher on the lowest step, and looked around to see if one of her companions was approaching to place it on her head. I ran down, and looked at her. "Shall I help you, pretty lass?" said I. She blushed deeply. "Oh, sir!" she exclaimed. "No ceremony!" I replied. She adjusted her head-gear, and I helped her. She thanked me, and ascended the steps.


MAY 17.

I have made all sorts of acquaintances, but have as yet found no society. I know not what attraction I possess for the people, so many of them like me, and attach themselves to me; and then I feel sorry when the road we pursue together goes only a short distance. If you inquire what the people are like here, I must answer, "The same as everywhere." The human race is but a monotonous affair. Most of them labour the greater part of their time for mere subsistence; and the scanty portion of freedom which remains to them so troubles them that they use every exertion to get rid of it. Oh, the destiny of man!

But they are a right good sort of people. If I occasionally forget myself, and take part in the innocent pleasures which are not yet forbidden to the peasantry, and enjoy myself, for instance, with genuine freedom and sincerity, round a well-covered table, or arrange an excursion or a dance opportunely, and so forth, all this produces a good effect upon my disposition; only I must forget that there lie dormant within me so many other qualities which moulder uselessly, and which I am obliged to keep carefully concealed. Ah! this thought affects my spirits fearfully. And yet to be misunderstood is the fate of the like of us.

Alas, that the friend of my youth is gone! Alas, that I ever knew her! I might say to myself, "You are a dreamer to seek what is not to be found here below." But she has been mine. I have possessed that heart, that noble soul, in whose presence I seemed to be more than I really was, because I was all that I could be. Good heavens! did then a single power of my soul remain unexercised? In her presence could I not display, to its full extent, that mysterious feeling with which my heart embraces nature? Was not our intercourse a perpetual web of the finest emotions, of the keenest wit, the varieties of which, even in their very eccentricity, bore the stamp of genius? Alas! the few years by which she was my senior brought her to the grave before me. Never can I forget her firm mind or her heavenly patience.

A few days ago I met a certain young V—, a frank, open fellow, with a most pleasing countenance. He has just left the university, does not deem himself overwise, but believes he knows more than other people. He has worked hard, as I can perceive from many circumstances, and, in short, possesses a large stock of information. When he heard that I am drawing a good deal, and that I know Greek (two wonderful things for this part of the country), he came to see me, and displayed his whole store of learning, from Batteaux to Wood, from De Piles to Winkelmann; he assured me he had read through the first part of Sultzer's theory, and also possessed a manuscript of Heyne's work on the study of the antique. I allowed it all to pass.

I have become acquainted, also, with a very worthy person, the district judge, a frank and open-hearted man. I am told it is a most delightful thing to see him in the midst of his children, of whom he has nine. His eldest daughter especially is highly spoken of. He has invited me to go and see him, and I intend to do so on the first opportunity. He lives at one of the royal hunting-lodges, which can be reached from here in an hour and a half by walking, and which he obtained leave to inhabit after the loss of his wife, as it is so painful to him to reside in town and at the court.

There have also come in my way a few other originals of a questionable sort, who are in all respects undesirable, and most intolerable in their demonstration of friendship. Goodbye. This letter will please you; it is quite historical.


MAY 22.

That the life of man is but a dream, many a man has surmised heretofore; and I, too, am everywhere pursued by this feeling. When I consider the narrow limits within which our active and inquiring faculties are confined; when I see how all our energies are wasted in providing for mere necessities, which again have no further end than to prolong a wretched existence; and then that all our satisfaction concerning certain subjects of investigation ends in nothing better than a passive resignation, whilst we amuse ourselves painting our prison-walls with bright figures and brilliant landscapes—when I consider all this, Wilhelm, I am silent. I examine my own being, and find there a world, but a world rather of imagination and dim desires, than of distinctness and living power. Then everything swims before my senses, and I smile and dream while pursuing my way through the world.

All learned professors and doctors are agreed that children do not comprehend the cause of their desires; but that the grown-up should wander about this earth like children, without knowing whence they come, or whither they go, influenced as little by fixed motives, but guided like them by biscuits, sugar-plums, and the rod—this is what nobody is willing to acknowledge; and yet I think it is palpable.

I know what you will say in reply; for I am ready to admit that they are happiest, who, like children, amuse themselves with their playthings, dress and undress their dolls, and attentively watch the cupboard, where mamma has locked up her sweet things, and, when at last they get a delicious morsel, eat it greedily, and exclaim, "More!" These are certainly happy beings; but others also are objects of envy, who dignify their paltry employments, and sometimes even their passions, with pompous titles, representing them to mankind as gigantic achievements performed for their welfare and glory. But the man who humbly acknowledges the vanity of all this, who observes with what pleasure the thriving citizen converts his little garden into a paradise, and how patiently even the poor man pursues his weary way under his burden, and how all wish equally to behold the light of the sun a little longer—yes, such a man is at peace, and creates his own world within himself; and he is also happy, because he is a man. And then, however limited his sphere, he still preserves in his bosom the sweet feeling of liberty, and knows that he can quit his prison whenever he likes.


MAY 26.

You know of old my ways of settling anywhere, of selecting a little cottage in some cozy spot, and of putting up in it with every inconvenience. Here, too, I have discovered such a snug, comfortable place, which possesses peculiar charms for me.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Copyright © 2015 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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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
( 22 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 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.

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  • Posted April 11, 2015

    Before I was halfway through this book I had already connected w

    Before I was halfway through this book I had already connected with it on a deep level. I didn’t know what was going to happen in the end but I knew Goethe was telling my story and the opposite of my story at the same time. Ten years later I published my first novel, The Sorrows of Young Mike, which is a parody of this great tale. I can only be grateful to Goethe and encourage everyone to read The Sorrows of Young Werther. Also, if you like it enough or even if you hate it — you should check out my parody.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2015

    Fantastic example of romanticism

    Excellent book, Goethe is a master. Definitely worth studyig to understand the romanticism of the period, even though Goethe later disowned the book. Highly recommended.

    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

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  • Posted November 17, 2009

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    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."

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2009

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    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)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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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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