Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Goethe

His body of work includes epic and lyric poetry written in a variety of metres and styles, prose and verse dramas; memoirs and an autobiography, as well as 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 exist. A literary celebrity by the age of 25, Goethe was ennobled by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Karl August in 1782 after first taking up residence there in November 1775 following the success of his first novel, “The Sorrows of Young Werther”.

From 1756 until 1758 he visited a public school. An instrumental role in Lutheran religious education included the reading of the Bible and Sunday service of the church. Goethe received a good education, studying art, music, fencing, horseback riding, German and universal literature, ancient and modern languages. Like ancient Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Italian, French and English. He had his first doubt in faith in 1755 during the earthquake in Lisbon, where: God has punished the innocent the same way as those guilty and hasn’t proven a fatherly attitude.

Goethe began an early love of literature, which he could find in his father’s vast library. He was fascinated by theater, for in his parental home, a puppet theater was giving an annually representation. During the occupation of Frankfurt by the French troops, he was often visiting the French Theatre. In 1763, he attended at a concert of young Mozart, who was only 7 years old by then. In 1765, he began to study law at the University of Leipzig, but he wasn’t too excited, but he finishes it in 1768.

Young Goethe enjoyed the freedom of life away from his parental home. He used to visit the Theatre or spend his evenings with friends at a beer house. In this period, Goethe had his first sentimental disillusionment in the love shared by Anna Katharina Schönkopf, that after two years, is jointly disbanded. This event he included in the comedy “Die Mitschuldigen”, written on his return home. He spent a year and a half recovering from the emotional disillusionment, when a friend of his mother, Susanne von Klettenberg, told him about Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine’s concept, a branch of the Protestant Church, and thus, Goethe began to deal with mysticism, alchemy and soul-searching.

In 1823, Goethe becomes ill of inflammation of the heart’s pericardium. After he recovered, he became more spiritual than before. In Karlsbad, old Goethe met young 19 years old, Ulrike von Levetzow, to which he proposes to her. But she rejects him, for which Goethe writes on his way home with disappointment the “Marienbader Elegy” (Elegy of Marienbad). With his last powers, he resumed work on the second part of Faust. He didn’t wrote anything, just dictated, thereby solving the correspondence and confessing his problems in long discussions to poet Johann Peter Eckermann, to whom he wrote.

During National Socialism, the Nazis didn’t talk much about Goethe. Goethe’s humanism, cosmopolitanism and his ideas of a man ideal educated by himself and completely independent didn’t fit with the Nazi ideology. Alfred Rosenberg, declared in his 1930 book “Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts” (The Myth of the 20th century), that Goethe couldn’t have been helpful for the period of fierce battle because he was a character who hated violence both in life and in lyrics.

In 1830, his son, August, dies in Rome. In the same year, he concluded his work on the second part of Faust. This was a work that he wrote in many years and became his most successful one. Formally, it was a piece for the stage, but actually it was barely able to play on it.Goethe tried to mix poetry with natural sciences, philosophy and politics. Practical activities and his encounters with other people are reflected in his poetic and literary works. His works of poetry were always based on concrete happenings. Goethe was fascinated by Kant’s epistemology theory.

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