The Sorrows of Young Werther Goethe's Sturm und Drang

In many critic's point of view, the magnus opus of Goethe is the tragedy Faust (the first version was published in 1790). But the literary work that in a higher degree reflected the spirit of Romanticism was the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (Die Leiden des jungen Werthers) published in 1774. This famous book what still today continues to act as a quintessential love story that ends tragically was an enormous international success in Goethe’s own lifetime and made him a highly celebrated writer.

In the center of The Sorrows of Young Werther is a touchy love story between Werther and Charlotte. Werthers infatuation are matched by almost mutual feelings from his bellowed girl, but the reality–as in Rome and Juliet–has the last word: Charlotte who happens to be engaged with another man must obey the laws of convention and abandons Werther. Unable to live with the circumstances, Werther eventually takes his own life. Werther’s suicide would have a morbid impact on some of the young readers: it led to other following his example. The numbers of suicides after reading The Sorrows of Young Werther may have been exaggerated, but the book was in fact banned in some countries due to the death it thought to have caused.1

One of the reason that the book got such a response from the contemporary audience was probably that Werther embodied the ideas of Romanticism by how he negated rationalism in behalf of the dictation from heart. He has also been called the first romantic outsider, described by Colin Wilson in The Outsider as "the type of the high, idealistic young poet, pale, but manly."2

Although a veritable status as a classic, The Sorrows of Young Werther, has become somewhat behind the times in the way love is declared from one to another. The vividly gestures and the expressions will probably pass for something exaggerated and theatrical for many modern readers. And yet, maybe partly just because the blown up feelings, it stands as a symbol for the way love between two people are manifested in the style of romanticism.

The author

One of the leading figures associated to Sturm und Drang was the literary universal genius Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). Goethe, one of the greatest German writers of all time, excelled over wide areas–drama, poetry and prose.

< Romanticism

Notes

1. Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sorrows_of_Young_Werther
2. The Outsider. Colin Wilson. 2001, p. 48