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The Sorrows of Young Werther


The Sorrows of Young Werther


Upon its publication in 1774, The Sorrows of Young Werther gained an instant following. European readers were captivated by the rapturous musings of Werther, Goethe's romantic protagonist whose extreme passion leads to self-destruction.

Public fascination gave rise to a fanatical copycat culture, in which men dressed in Werther's signature outfit, women wore "Eau de Werther", and at least one person committed suicide with a copy of Young Werther in her pocket.

Visiting an idyllic German village, Werther, a sensitive, romantic young man, meets and falls in love with sweet-natured Lotte. Although Lotte is to marry Albert, Werther cannot subdue his passion for her, and his infatuation torments him to the point of despair.

Goethe's sensitive exploration of the mind of a young artist at odds with society is now considered the first great tragic novel of European literature.

The novel consists of letters written by Werther to his best friend, supplemented by passages written by an ‘editor’.

He confesses that he might bear some responsibility for leading on a girl he didn’t care for, and ends by killing himself with a pistol borrowed from the husband of the woman he loves but can’t have.


JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE (1749–1832) was a German writer and statesman. A literary celebrity by the age of 25 following the success of his first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, his body of work includes epic and lyric poetry written in a variety of styles; prose and verse dramas; an autobiography and four novels. In addition, numerous literary and scientific fragments, more than 10,000 letters, and nearly 3,000 drawings by him still exist.


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