The Sorrows of Young Werther

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Werther (drawing by Chodowiecki)
Lotte (drawing by Chodowiecki)
Werther and Lotte with their siblings (pencil and sepia drawing by Johann Daniel Donat)

The Sorrows of Young Werther is the original title of the letter form written by Johann Wolfgang Goethe , in which the young legal intern Werther reports on his unhappy love affair with Lotte , who is engaged to another man, up to his suicide . It was published in 1774 and, after the national success of the drama Götz von Berlichingen (1773), was Goethe's second great, now even European, success. Both works can be assigned to the literary movement of Sturm und Drang .

He wrote the letter novel within six weeks. The first edition appeared at the Leipzig Book Fair in September 1774 and immediately became a bestseller . In 1787, Goethe revised the novel, including the genitive-s in the title. The novel made Goethe famous overnight in Germany and is one of the most successful novels in literary history.

The plot of the novel is autobiographical insofar as Goethe here processed his platonic relationship with the already unofficially engaged Charlotte Buff in a literary way. The motive for the tragic outcome of this love , Werther's suicide, provided Goethe with the suicide of his friend Karl Wilhelm Jerusalem , legation secretary in Wetzlar . He fell in love with a married woman, Elisabeth Herdt, b. Egell (1741–1813), who remained inaccessible to him. Since 1768 she was the wife of Philipp Jakob Herdt (1735–1809), the secret secretary at the embassy of the Palatinate Principality of Palatinate-Lautern in Wetzlar. The literary figure of Lotte in the novel also bears traits of the black-eyed Maximiliane von La Roche , another acquaintance of the young Goethe from the time the novel was written. Despite such proximity of the novel to reality, Goethe's Werther remains a fictional, literarily composed text - neither mere self-expression nor a novel of the key .


The plot spans the period from May 4, 1771 to December 24, 1772.

The young Werther has left his hometown to settle an inheritance matter for his mother and at the same time leave an unhappy love story behind him. He first moved into a town, then moved to the neighboring idyllic village of “Wahlheim” ( Garbenheim ) and enjoyed strolling around in the great outdoors and repeatedly processing his impressions in small drawings. One day he meets the likeable bailiff S., a widower and father of nine children, who wants to invite him to his home. Werther, however, postponed the visit and soon forgot about it. On the way to a dance with other young people, the carriage company stops at the bailiff's house to pick up his daughter Lotte. Werther sees her, surrounded by her eight younger siblings, for whom she is cutting their supper from a loaf of bread, and is deeply impressed by this scene, but above all by the beautiful girl who has taken on the role of mother here. During the ball, the goal of the group excursion, Werther asks Lotte to dance the second counter dance with him - she promises him the third. When Lotte's friends notice the happy agreement that Lotte and Werther show while dancing, they remind Lotte of a certain Albert. When asked by Werther, Lotte explains to him that Albert is “a good person, to whom she is as good as engaged”. In the course of the evening a thunderstorm approaches. Werther and Lotte then look out of the window at the still rain-damp, refreshed nature. Two is the same poem to mind the ode spring celebration of Klopstock . Werther interprets this as an expression of their kinship and from now on increasingly seeks the closeness of Lotte.

When Lotte's fiancé, Albert, returns from a business trip, Werther's mood gradually changes. A triangular relationship emerges in which Lotte Werther initially appears as a "saint", in whose vicinity Werther feels no desire. In the beginning, Werther's relationship with Lotte is purely platonic in nature without any external compulsion. Albert and Werther first become friends and lead several discourses with one another, e.g. B. also about suicide or the "illness leading to death", melancholy . The difference between the two characters - Werther full of stormy emotions, Albert the level-headed traditionalist - becomes very clear. But when Werther notices that out of consideration for Albert, he must not give in to his strong feelings for Lotte, he hastily leaves the place without saying goodbye. The trigger for this is a very emotional conversation in which it becomes clear that Lotte promised her deceased mother on her deathbed to marry Albert (end of Book I).

Werther worked for an ambassador at court for a while. However, the pedantry of his superior and the narrow-minded narrowness of court etiquette make him realize that he can only play an outsider role in that society and cannot identify with it. When one day he was carefully complimented by Count C. from a noble group, because many guests were disturbed by the presence of Werther, a bourgeois, and when thereupon there was gossip about Werther's faux pas in public and also his new, somewhat similar Lotte Acquaintances, the "Fräulein von B.", gently tries to teach him that he is too cocky and not sufficiently aware of his civil status, he feels like "destroyed". After he had to find out shortly before that Lotte and Albert had married in the meantime without informing him beforehand and inviting him to the wedding, he finally asked to be released from the court, left and initially stayed with a prince who was particularly dear to him . He stayed there for only a few weeks, then went to his home town and finally returned to Wahlheim.

Werther soon begins again to visit Lotte regularly. Lotte unconsciously flirts with Werther's feelings again and again, e.g. B. by letting her canary peck at her lips first and then at his, thus igniting Werther's passion. Because the latter refuses her offer to "enjoy the bliss of a true friendship " and because they are already being talked about in the village, Lotte feels harassed and asks Werther, also at Albert's request, to wait four days and she first to meet again for Christmas.

When Werther nevertheless visits Lotte in Albert's absence before the end of this period and reads her poems ( Die Gesänge von Selma ) from his Ossian translation , the two are overwhelmed by their feelings, as was the case with the Klopstock scene. But as soon as Werther begins to passionately hug and kiss Lotte and thus question the purely platonic character of the relationship, she tears herself confused, escapes and locks herself in the next room. In order not to endanger Lotte's honor and marriage any further, Werther decides not to bother her any further and to take his own life. In a last letter to Lotte, Werther expresses his confidence that he will see Lotte again in a different life. At midnight before Christmas Eve, he shoots himself in the head at his desk with a pistol borrowed from Albert. The next morning he is found mortally wounded. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's civil tragedy Emilia Galotti lies open on his desk. At around twelve noon he succumbs to his serious injury. A Christian burial is not possible for suicides (end of the second book).


Goethe chose the form of the letter novel , which is only replaced towards the end of the second part by comments from the fictional "editor". Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Julie ou la Nouvelle Héloïse had proven thirteen years earlier what a special effect could be achieved with the publication of a seemingly authentic exchange of love letters . That Goethe not only knew this book, but even identified himself with his hero Saint-Preux, is shown when he writes, looking back at the time in Wetzlar: And so one mean day took on the next, and all seemed to be festive days; the whole calendar should have been printed in red. Whoever remembers what was prophesied by the happy-unhappy friend of the New Heloise will understand me : And sitting at the feet of his beloved, he will break hemp, and he will wish to break hemp, today, tomorrow and the day after, yes, his whole life. The formula “today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, yes, a whole life” is taken from the decisive letter in the Neue Heloise , through which the protagonist is dissuaded from his suicide plan.

The first edition of the novel appeared anonymously and began with a brief introduction by an "editor". That this was just as much an author's fiction as the following letters themselves could not be recognized by the readers of this edition. Rather, such a device suggested that the letters were genuine documents addressed (with three exceptions) to Werther's best friend Wilhelm. The reader inevitably takes on this role: he becomes a confidante of intimate feelings that a seemingly authentic letter writer reveals to the person closest to him.

The fact that the fictitious publisher repeatedly speaks up reinforces the idea that the letters are actually real. In contrast to Werther's always emotional language, the editor's tone is sympathetic, but consistently objective. The latter is particularly emphasized by the otherwise unusual footnotes in a novel, in which the publisher encrypts place and person names, supposedly to protect people who actually exist.

Change of narrative attitudes

If the novel itself is written as a letter novel in first- person narrative form, both the foreword and the section The editor to the reader are characterized by the authorial narrative attitude . This trick is necessary on the one hand for practical considerations - for example, Werther cannot describe his own death in a letter, but on the other hand it is also to reinforce the tension aspect at the end. By constantly changing between interspersed documents allegedly found after death and the commentary by the omniscient narrator, the drama of the events in this final section increases noticeably. See also: Typological model of narrative situations .


The suffering of young Werther is considered to be the key novel of Sturm und Drang . It developed into "the first bestseller in German literature", was translated into numerous languages ​​and was one of the factors that triggered the so-called reading addiction . Even Goethe could not have foreseen that his book would be a global success. Later he wrote in his autobiography Poetry and Truth : "The effect of this little book was great, even tremendous, and excellent because it hit exactly the right time."

Controversies about Werther as a type, his worldview and Goethe's intended effect

The novel has generated extremely emotional reactions from both critics and supporters since its publication.

18th century

Many contemporary bourgeois readers found Werther to be a disruptor of marital peace, a rebel and free spirit who contradicted their moral and religious values. They also accused the book of seducing young people to commit suicide, and believed themselves to be confirmed by the "wave of suicide" that began after its publication. Recent studies confirm almost a dozen such suicides. Rüdiger Safranski describes the suicides in his book "Goethe - Artwork of Life" as a rumor that has persisted since the work was published.

The same criticism came mainly from the church and from some contemporary poets . The conservative theologian Lavater, for example, described Werther as "unchristian" and "against all decency". The Hamburg pastor Goeze fought hardest against the book: it was "our religion to the shame and all unsteady readers to the ruin". In some regions (e.g. in Saxony, Denmark or the Habsburg Empire), the book was even banned because of its alleged glorification of suicide. Goethe protested against such allegations and argued that, through his own survival, he himself was the best example of the fact that one must write one's grief from the heart, but this leaves the question open as to why the publication of what was written from the heart in order to process the grief because is important.

However, in the second edition of 1775 he put a motto in front of the first and second parts, the second ending as follows: “Be a man and don't follow me.” And the suicide of his 17-year-old good friend Christiane von Laßberg in January 1778, four years after the publication of the Werther, brought Goethe into great emotional distress, especially since the dead woman is said to have had a copy of the novel in her pocket. Johann Wilke (1998) ascribes to this experience that Goethe actually revised the Werther. In the new version, published in 1787, he distanced himself more from the hero and thus made the suicide model less attractive.

Lessing, whose play was Emilia Galotti Werther's last reading, was also affected :

“But if such a warm product is not supposed to cause more harm than good: don't you think that it should have a little cold closing speech? A few hints afterwards, how Werther came to such an adventurous character; like another youth to whom nature has given a similar disposition to preserve himself for it. For such a man would easily take poetic beauty for moral beauty and believe that he must have been good who preoccupies our interest so much. And surely he wasn't. [...] So, dear Göthe, a little chapter to close; and the more cynical, the better! "

- Gotthold Ephraim Lessing : Letter to the literary historian Johann Joachim Eschenburg , October 26, 1774

The author replied to the Bishop of Derry , Lord Bristol, who also accused Goethe of seducing suicide:

"And now you want to hold a writer accountable and condemn a work which, misunderstood by some limited minds, has freed the world from at most a dozen fools and good-for-nothing who could do nothing better than the faint remnant of their little light blow out completely! "

- Johann Wolfgang Goethe : Conversation on March 17, 1830 with Friedrich Soret and Friedrich Wilhelm Riemer. Goethe reports on his meeting with Lord Bristol in June 1797.
Wilhelm Amberg : Lecture from Goethe's "Werther" , 1870

However, the vast majority of readers were enthusiastic supporters of the novel. A real Werther fever broke out, especially among the young people , which made the protagonist a cult figure, whose blue tailcoat with brass buttons, yellow waistcoat, brown booties and round felt hat were imitated as Werther fashion. There was the famous Werther cup and even an Eau de Werther . Scenes from “Werther's Sorrows” (portrayed by Daniel Chodowiecki , for example ) adorned tea and coffee pots, biscuit bowls and tea caddies.

Understandably, the novel found supporters among those who believed they were in a similar situation to Werther and sought understanding and consolation for their own suffering in the small volume. This is also the aim of the fictitious editor's reference in the prologue of the letter novel:

“What I have been able to find about the story of poor Werther, I have diligently collected, and present it to you here, and know that you will thank me. You cannot deny his spirit and character your admiration and love and his fate your tears. And you, dear soul, who just feel the urge like him, draw consolation from his suffering, and let the little book be your friend if, out of fate or your own fault, you cannot find any closer! "

Further documents on contemporary effects

“[A] novel, which has no other purpose than to wipe the shameful of the suicide of a young witch [...] and to pretend this black act as an act of heroism [...]. What youth can read such a curse-worthy script without keeping a plague ulcer from it in his soul, which will certainly break open in its own time. And no censorship prevents the printing of such baits by Satan? [...] Eternal God! what times did you let us experience! "

- Johann Melchior Goeze : Voluntary contributions to the Hamburg news from the realm of erudition, 1775

“You think it [the novel] is a subtle defense of suicide? This reminds me as if one were trying to pass Homer's Iliad off as a subtle encouragement to anger, strife, and hostility. [...] The portrayal of such intense passions would be dangerous for the audience? [...] So let's examine the morality of this novel, not the moral end, but the moral impact that the life of this novel can and should have on the hearts of the audience. […] It is precisely in this that Werther's merit is that he acquainted us with passions and feelings that everyone feels darkly in himself, but which he does not know how to name. That is the merit of every poet. "

- Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz : Letters about the morality of the sufferings of young Werther, written in 1775

“A book is being sold here which bears the title, Leiden des Junge Werther , etc. This book is an apology and recommendation for suicide; [...] so the theol. Faculty found it necessary to ensure that this writing was suppressed: at that time itzo the examples of suicide were becoming more frequent. [...] "

- Johann August Ernesti : Prohibition on behalf of the Theological Faculty in Leipzig, January 28, 1775

“Here, however, it is not a question of cold moral discussions, but rather of showing the probability of how a reasonable and otherwise worthy man can be brought to such a step. […] In a long series of letters we can see through its character according to all its small determinations so that we accompany it ourselves to the edge of the abyss. [...] Justifying and not justifying an individual suicide, but only making it an object of compassion, showing in its example that an overly soft heart and a fiery imagination are often very pernicious gifts, does not mean writing an apology for suicide. "

- Christoph Martin Wieland : Review. In: Der Teutsche Merkur, Weimar, 1774, December, pp. 241-243

"The most beautiful place in the 'Werther' is the one where he shoots the rabbit foot."

- Georg Christoph Lichtenberg : Sudelbuch F, 1776-1779

19th century

Napoleon asked the author Goethe, whom he admired, to visit him in 1808 during the Erfurt Prince Congress and confessed to him that he had read Werther seven times and always carried it with him. He found the unhappy love very moving, but society was portrayed too negatively.

In 1834, Ludwig Tieck asserted in his work The Old Book and the Journey into the Blue that Werther would be classified as a petty, sentimental Philistine in the 1830s, if he were a contemporary, “who defends neither state, humanity, freedom nor Could inspire nature, but who lives and dies only to a poor love. "

In his religious-philosophical treatise The Illness to Death , published in 1849, Søren Kierkegaard ties in with Goethe's Werther, recognizable by the title of the treatise . For Kierkegaard too, despair is an "illness leading to death". Kierkegaard criticizes that Werther's suicide should be seen as the flight of an unbeliever from reality. Werther is not a believer and makes it too easy for himself when, like a spoiled child, he sees God as a “dear father” who will fulfill his wish for forgiveness.

20th and 21st centuries

Gerhard Storz characterized Werther in 1953 as a “poet without work, who […] turns his life into poetry and thus confuses being and image” and whose life is destroyed because he does not describe the “creation of the world from nothing”, which characterizes the poet, Parable "understand.

In 1980 Leo Kreutzer, at the time Professor of Modern German Literature and Language at the University of Hanover , warns against getting caught up in the “widespread German teacher question”, “how Werther could have been saved”: “Art figures cannot be helped unless it is aesthetic, ”emphasizes Kreutzer. His reasoning is: “In contrast to 'life', the story saved in the novel knows no moral alternatives.” Like his “younger brother”, Torquato Tasso , Werther is a figure with “thoughts without measure and order”, whose fate is it is to fail with "relaxed men" like Albert (or Antonio in "Torquato Tasso").

In the “Yearbook of Psychoanalysis 1996”, Walfried Linden describes the figure Werther as a “ pre-psychotic personality”. Werther is an " infantile personality who is not ready to take responsibility for what they do". Werther is a narcissist who feels empty inside and tries in vain to fill this narcissistic emptiness through work or through Lotte's love. In 2007, Gerhard Oberlin provided a comprehensive diagnosis of Werther's psyche: The “Werther” disease model comprises a number of features that suggest that narcissistic symptoms are represented. In addition to feelings of guilt and inferiority, these include existential fear, lack of drive, restlessness, mood swings, loss of reality, the urge to idealize, an unrealizable urge for creativity, melancholy , megalomania , extreme vulnerability, psychosis and ( euphoric ) suicidal tendencies. This psychopathological explanatory model is linked to the possible interpretation suggested by Arata Takeda that Werther, as it were in quasiutistic self- reflection , only maintains a spiritual correspondence with his friend Wilhelm: It is possible that Werther's letters are “never really sent and only those of him in spirit to reach the conjured Wilhelm, who in turn only answers him in writing in spirit ”.

In 2002, Marcel Reich-Ranicki declared Goethe's Werther to be one of those novels that every educated German-speaking person should have read by including it in his " Canon " series. According to Jürgen Busche , the novel is also something special, because a man writes about a spurned love from the perspective of a man, something that did not exist before. This only happened again with Heinrich von Kleist . Richard David Precht, on the other hand, rates the novel as “unbelievable kitsch ”, as “lying social romanticism”, “extinct topic.” He counts the novel as “useless school knowledge”. As early as 1998, Hans-Dieter Gelfert denied that the language and manner of representation of Goethe's Werther were “kitschy”: the novel was “one of the most soulful poems and yet not kitsch”. In 2005, Jörg Löffler took a more differentiated look at the question of the authenticity of the thoughts and feelings described by Werther in the kitsch accusation : On the one hand, Werther attaches great importance to the fact that people are "natural" and not just offer their fellow human beings staging . On the other hand, the "key word" scene in Goethe's novel occurs surprisingly often when describing Werther's own thoughts and feelings. "Like a perfect director of his own 'natural theater', Werther literally stages everything that affects him emotionally". The text "creates for its hero incessantly (until the bitter end) an oscillating ' pathos ' of 'fear' and 'delight'."

Werther was included in the ZEIT library of 100 books and also in the ZEIT student library .


The novel influenced both form and content of many other novels. Some of them, so-called Wertheriads, also refer directly to Goethe's Werther:

Christoph Friedrich Nicolai with joy wrote an attack on those who saw Goethe's work as a justification for suicide . In Nicolai's work, Werther wins Charlotte and becomes a fortunate landowner who enjoys a rich crowd of children - which in turn prompted Goethe to start a literary war against Nicolai with the biting poem Nicolai on Werther's grave and with several related allusions in the Xenia .

In Thomas Mann's Goethe novel Lotte in Weimar (published 1939) the heroine Charlotte Buff describes the shy young Goethe as a parasite of her happiness with her fiancé and later husband Johann [Georg] Christian Kestner. Goethe is a third person who comes from outside and who “puts the cuckoo's egg of his feelings in a made nest”, infatuated with other people's betrothal.

In 1999 Bernd Kessens wrote the novel Danced Love Flamenco . A large part of the plot is moved to post-fascist Spain, where the protagonist falls in love with a local.

The novel Zwei hinterm Limes by Peter Untucht , published in 2002 and mainly set in Wetzlar , makes multiple references in terms of content and form (including letter character, chronology, choice of names) to both valuable material and - no less ironically - to Goethe's stay in the City.

Book illustrations

The Berlin engraver Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki was the most important contemporary illustrator of key events in Werther.

performing Arts

Jules Massenet processed the material in the Werther Opera , which premiered on February 16, 1892 at the Vienna State Opera .

In 1912 Arnold Mendelssohn published three settings of text excerpts in his Three Madrigals based on the words of young Werther (opus 47).

Ulrich Plenzdorf processed Werther in The New Sorrows of Young W. into a play that was staged in Halle in 1972 and relocated the plot to the present of the GDR; the prose version of the play was also a success outside of the GDR.

In 1983/84 Hans-Jürgen von Bose composed the opera Die Leiden des Junge Werther (lyrical scenes in two parts and an intermezzo), which was premiered in April 1986 in Schwetzingen (Hamburg State Opera).

Jürgen Eick shifted the material in his drama Fireheart - The Latest Sorrows of Young W. to 2007. The world premiere took place on February 2, 2007 on the Neue Bühne Senftenberg .

Ines Eck dramatized Werther from Lotte's point of view, Werther says Lotte , production in Freiburg im Breisgau, guest performance DNT Weimar, radio broadcast on MDR / HR.


The following films were made about The Sorrows of Young Werther :


  • On the mini album My heart goes bang! (2012) the suffering is presented in a rap version by the Cologne a cappella group Wise Guys under the title Werther .
  • In the song Kitsch , the group “ Die Toten Hosen ” sings : “ I read Goethe's Werther and feel so heavy. / Kitsch, kitsch, kitsch, kitsch / […] True love is all I want. / But what comes out of me is all just kitsch. "
  • The Japanese-South Korean group Lotte is named after Lotte in Werther.

Werther effect

The imitations of the Werther figure in real life, which were shown in suicide attempts and suicides, sparked a discussion about the effects of the media that is still going on today. Since the 1970s, psychology has been dealing with the phenomenon of “medially mediated imitation suicides”; it is known as the Werther Effect.



Title page of the first print

Secondary literature

  • Martin Andree: When texts kill. About Werther, media effects and media violence . Fink, Paderborn 2006, ISBN 978-3-7705-4316-8 .
  • Rüdiger Bernhardt : Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: The sufferings of the young Werther (= King Explanations: Text analysis and interpretation , Volume 79). C. Bange Verlag , Hollfeld 2011, ISBN 978-3-8044-1900-1 .
  • Andreas Blödorn: Reading as a fever attack - empathy as a model of (tension) tension. With a new “diagnosis” of the “suffering of young Werther”. In: Ingo Irsigler, Christoph Jürgensen, Daniela Langer (eds.): Between text and reader. Studies on the concept, history and function of literary tension. edition text + kritik, Munich 2008, pp. 165–188, ISBN 978-3-88377-915-7 .
  • Alois Brandl : The recording of Goethe's youthful works in England. Werther. Goethe-Jahrbuch , Volume 3 (1882), pp. 27–36: Digitized
  • Reinhard Breymayer: Prelate Oetinger's nephew Eberhard Christoph v. Oetinger […] - was his wife, who is related to Goethe, Charlotte, b. v. Barckhaus, a role model for Werther's "Fräulein von B .."? Tübingen: Heck, 2009, ISBN 978-3-924249-49-6 (with extensive references).
  • Horst Flaschka: Goethe's "Werther". Work contextual description and analysis . Munich, 1987.
  • Dirk Grathoff: The plow, the nut trees and the farm boy. Nature in the thematic structure of the Werther novel. In: Goethe-Jahrbuch 102 (1985), pp. 184-198.
  • Karl Hotz (Ed.): Goethe's "Werther" as a model for critical reading. Reception history materials . Stuttgart, 1974.
  • Klaus Hübner: Everyday Life in Literary Work. A study of the sociology of literature on Goethe's “Werther” . Heidelberg, 1982.
  • Georg Jäger: The effect of value. A reception aesthetic model case. In: Walter Müller-Seidel (Ed.): Historicity in Linguistics and Literature Studies. Lectures and reports from the Stuttgart German Studies Conference 1972 . Munich 1974, pp. 389-409.
  • Gerhard Kölsch: Illustrations for Goethe's "Werther", booklet for the exhibition "Graphics of the Goethe era", Aschaffenburg Castle Museum 1999.
  • Victor Lange: Language as a narrative form in Goethe's Werther. In: Form change. Festschrift for Paul Böckmann. ed. v. Walter Müller-Seidel. Hamburg 1964, pp. 261-272.
  • Katja Mellmann: The book as a friend - the friend as a testimony. On the emergence of a new paradigm for literary reception and personal relationships, with a hypothesis on the first reception of Goethe's “Werther”. In: Hans-Edwin Friedrich, Fotis Jannidis, Marianne Willems (eds.): Bürgerlichkeit in the 18th century (studies and texts on the social history of literature 105). Tübingen 2006, pp. 201–241.
  • Norbert Miller: Goethe's "Werther" and the letter novel. In: ders., The sensitive narrator. Investigations at the beginning of novels in the 18th century. Munich 1968, pp. 138-214.
  • Klaus Müller-Salget: On the structure of Goethe's Werther. In: Journal for German Philology 100 (1981), pp. 527-544.
  • Barbara Neymeyr : Intertextual Transformations: Goethe's “Werther”, Büchner's “Lenz” and Hauptmann's “Apostle” as a productive area of ​​tension. Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 2012. ISBN 978-3-8253-6044-3 .
  • Karl N. Renner: "Let the little book be your friend". Goethe's novel “The Sorrows of Young Werther” and the dietetics of the Enlightenment. In: On the social history of German literature from the Enlightenment to the turn of the century, ed. v. Günther Häntzschel, Tübingen 1985, pp. 1-20.
  • Kurt Rothmann (Ed.): Explanations and documents. Johann Wolfgang Goethe, "The Sorrows of Young Werther". Stuttgart 1971.
  • Klaus Scherpe : Werther and Werther Effect. On the syndrome of the bourgeois social order in the 18th century , Bad Homburg 1970.
  • Thomas Horré: Werther novel and Werther figure in the German prose of the Wilhelminian age: Variations on a theme by JW Goethe . (Saarbrücker Hochschulschriften, Vol. 28). Röhrig, St. Ingbert 1997.
  • Katrin Seele: Goethe's poetic poetics: On the meaning of poetry in the sufferings of young Werther, in Torquato Tasso and in Wilhelm Meister's apprenticeship years , Würzburg 2004.

Available on the internet

Web links

Commons : The Sorrows of Young Werther  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. David E. Welbery: A New History of German Literature . Ed .: David E. Welbery. 1st edition. Berlin University Press, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-940432-12-4 , pp. 498 .
  2. Leis, Mario: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Young Werther's sufferings . Reclam, Stuttgart 2002.
  3. Goethe fell in love with Charlotte when he was an intern at the Imperial Court of Justice in Wetzlar from May to September 1772 .
  4. This can already be seen from the fact that Goethe, in contrast to Werther, survived his crisis.
  5. Jürgen Link: Johann Wolfgang Goethe: The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) ( Memento from September 28, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  6. In reality he corresponds to Henrich Adam Buff (1711–1795), b. in Steinbach near Gießen, bailiff of the German House of Wetzlar, widower of Magdalena Ernestina, b. Feyler (1731–1771), father of 16 children, of whom 12 were still alive in 1772.
  7. With full first name and abbreviated family name Charlotte S .; the "S." was apparently inspired by the middle name of "Charlotte Sophia" Henriette [Buff].
  8. In reality, the extremely intelligent Electoral Hanoverian Legation Secretary Johann [Georg] Christian Kestner is Charlotte Buff's unofficial fiancé . However, Goethe sometimes assigned different character traits to the literary figure "Albert", pedantry and philistine philistine philistineism, which Kestner rightly protested to Goethe. The name "Albert" therefore, which has not been taken into account so far, perhaps also refers to the rather moderately talented lawyer compared to his famous father (the Reich Chamber Court Assessor Johann Ulrich Reich Baron von Cramer, who died on June 18, 1772 in Wetzlar; * Ulm 1706) Johann Albrecht ("Albert") David Reichsfreiherrn von Cramer (1745–1811), who on November 7, 1772, shortly after Wilhelm Jerusalem's death, married his cousin Juliane Hein (1752–1826), a friend of Charlotte Buffs. See Reinhard Breymayer (a): Prelate Oetinger's nephew […]. 2nd edition Heck, Tübingen 2010, p. 33 f. 52; (b): Goethe, Oetinger and no end […]. Heck, Dußlingen 2012, p. 49 f .: "Detailed note on the name 'Albert' in Goethe's Werther novel."
  9. Reclam edition, 2001, p. 28
  10. This literary figure corresponds in reality to Johann Maria Rudolf Waldbott ["messenger of violence"] Reichsgraf von und zu Bassenheim (1731–1805), 1763–1777 the Catholic of the two Reich Chamber Presidents. On him, see Breymayer: Prälat Oetingers Neffe (2010), p. 50. 74 f. 103. 111. 116. The name “C.” in Goethe is explained by the usual abbreviation of the French word “comte” for “count”.
  11. To Charlotte von Barckhaus called von Wiesenhütten (1756–1823), who, according to Johann Jakob von Willemers, wrote to Goethe himself in a letter on December 1, 1824, was the historical model for the "Fräulein von B .." [as aristocratic 'second Lotte' ] represents, cf. Reinhard Breymayer: (a) Prelate Oetinger's nephew […]. 2nd Edition. Heck, Tübingen 2010; (b) Goethe, Oetinger and no end. Charlotte Edle von Oetinger, born von Barckhaus-Wiesenhütten as Werther "Fräulein von B.".
    A portrait of Charlotte Edler von Oetingers - cf. the reproduction of the pastel made by Johann Friedrich Dryander around 1791 by Neil Jeffares at the Internet address [1] , p. 2, column 3 (accessed August 28, 2015) - is similar to another of the many portraits by Charlotte Kestner - cf. the reproduction of the pastel made by Johann Heinrich Schröder in 1782 by Neil Jeffares at the Internet address [2] ( accessed September 12, 2015), p. 13, column 2, according to line 3 of the text.
    An undemanding reproduction of the above-mentioned portrait in the article Charlotte can be called up quickly Buff of the Polish internet encyclopedia Wikipedia | Wolna encyklopedia at the Internet address Charlotte Buff (Polish WP). The resemblance to portraits supports Willemer's statement, adopted by Breymayer, that Goethe linked the two female figures to historical reality in parallelizing them.
  12. Poetry and Truth, Book 12
  13. Neue Heloise, third part, 22nd letter. Compare with Anke Engelhardt: On Goethe's reception of Rousseau's "Nouvelle Héloïse", discussed here ( MS Word ; 31 kB)
  14. Metzler Literaturlexikon, Stuttgart 2007, p. 338, Art. Ich-Roman
  15. Metzler Literaturlexikon, p. 56, Art. Authoritative narration
  16. Werner Fuld: The book of forbidden books. Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-86971-043-3 , p. 149.
  17. Compare the suggested interpretation in Social History of Literature (Example 1).
  18. In order to document the phenomenon also known as Werther fever, parodies, imitations, pamphlets and translations in numerous languages ​​are exhibited today in Wetzlar in the so-called Lotte House , the former home of Charlotte Buff, in addition to a valuable first edition of Werther .
  19. Rüdiger Safranski, 1945-: Goethe Artwork of Life; Biography . Frankfurt, M, ISBN 978-3-596-19838-2 .
  20. ^ Fuld, p. 149.
  21. The ban took place in 1776 by the Danish chancellery after they had obtained a damning report from the theological faculty. Øystein Rian: Hvorfor was det ikke nordmennene som forlot Frederik 6.? (Norsk) Historisk Tidskrift 93 (2014) pp. 9–33,23. Footnote 63.
  22. In the later editions from Goethe's lifetime these two title stanzas are no longer included. Since most of the modern Werther editions follow the prints from 1774 and 1787, they often do not contain these motto or only in a hidden place. It is usually easier to find them in the editions of Goethe's poems: "Every young man longs to love like this ..."
  23. ^ Johann Wilke: Completely guilty of suicide? Coping with grief and guilt through Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Psychotherapy, Psychosomatics, Medical Psychology , Volume 48, Issue 3–4 / March-April 1998, pp. 139–141
    Mentioned in: Elmar Etzersdorfer, Gernot Sonneck: Suicide prevention by influencing media reports , psychotherapy, CIP-Medien, Munich, 4th year 1999, vol. 4, issue 2, pp. 199–205 Etzersdorfer.pdf (link not available) ; PDF; 57 kB
  24. Kurt Rothmann (Ed.): Johann Wolfgang Goethe, The sufferings of young Werther. Explanations and documents (=  universal library . No. 8113 ). Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 1971, p. 136-137 .
  25. ^ Woldemar Freiherr von Biedermann (ed.), Goethe's Conversations. 10 volumes. Leipzig 1889-1896, especially Volume 7, pp. 270-273, software version in the series: Digital Library , "Volume" 10: Johann Wolfgang Goethe: Letters - Diaries - Conversations. ISBN 978-3-89853-410-9
  26. See: Archive link ( Memento from October 24, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  27. Kurt Rothmann (Ed.): Johann Wolfgang Goethe, The sufferings of young Werther. Explanations and documents (=  universal library . No. 8113 ). Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 1971, p. 127 .
  28. Source is missing!
  29. Gerhard Sauder: Commentary on The Sorrows of Young Werther. In: Johann Wolfgang Goethe: All works according to the epochs of his work. Munich edition. Edited by Karl Richter in collaboration with Herbert G. Göpfert, Norbert Miller and Gerhard Sauder. Volume 1.2: The young Goethe. 1757-1775 (2). Edited by Gerhard Sauder. Munich, Vienna 1987, p. 786.
  30. Kurt Rothmann (Ed.): Johann Wolfgang Goethe, The sufferings of young Werther. Explanations and documents (=  universal library . No. 8113 ). Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 1971, p. 123 .
  31. ^ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg: Writings and letters . Edited by Wolfgang Promies, 3 volumes, Carl Hanser, Munich 1967 ff., Especially Volume 1, p. 531 No. F 516
  32. Napoleon is said to have used this opportunity to point out to Goethe a psychological error in Werther and to document his precise knowledge of the text through a comprehensive analysis.
  33. Cf. Rüdiger Safranski : Goethe and Schiller. Story of a friendship. Munich 2009, p. 21.
  34. Ludwig Tieck: The old book and the journey into the blue . In: Writings in twelve volumes. Vol. 11: Writings 1834-1836. Edited by Uwe Schweikert u. a., Frankfurt a. M. 1988, p. 733
  35. ^ Victor A. Schmitz: Goethe in the Danish Romanticism . In: ders .: Danish poets in their encounter with German classical and romantic periods . Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 1974, p. 115
  36. Gerhard Storz: Goethe Vigils or Attempts in Art to Understand Poetry . Klett, Stuttgart 1953, pp. 40f.
  37. Leo Kreutzer: Snow without measure and order. About “Torquato Tasso, Werther and the Phantom Society . In: ders .: Mein Gott Goethe. Essays . Rowohlt, Reinbek 1980, p. 22 f. ISBN 3-499-25136-1 "
  38. Walfried Linden: Two souls live, alas! in my chest, ... The split in Goethe as a narcissistic phenomenon . In: Yearbook of Psychoanalysis 1996 , pp. 195–216
  39. Gerhard Oberlin : Goethe, Schiller and the Unconscious. A literary psychological study . Psychosozial-Verlag, Giessen 2007, p. 69
  40. Arata Takeda: The Invention of the Other. On the genesis of the fictional editor in the 18th century epistolary novel . Würzburg, Königshausen & Neumann 2008, p. 88.
  41. The Literary Quartet, Volume 77 (December 14, 2001)
  42. Richard David Precht on the German education system: Pensioners should go - “Werther” has to go . Star online . November 23, 2011
  43. Hans-Dieter Gelfert: In the garden of art. Attempt at an empirical aesthetic . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1998, p. 85
  44. ^ Jörg Löffler: Acting metaphors. Werther's natural theater . In: ders .: illegibility. Melancholy and writing in Goethe . Erich Schmidt Verlag, Berlin 2005, pp. 60–76
  45. Anna Christina Schütz: Character images and projection figures. Chodowieckis Kupfer, Goethe's Werther and the theory of representation in the Enlightenment. Göttingen 2019.
  46. Die Toten Hosen: Kitsch (lyrics)
  47. Charlotte Louise Ernestine Edle von Oetinger, born von Barckhaus called von Wiesenhütten, born. Frankfurt am Main October 9, 1756, died at Gut Schönhof near Bockenheim September 1, 1823, third cousin and friend ('Amasia') of Goethe. See also Reinhard Breymayer: Goethe, [Friedrich Christoph] Oetinger and no end. Charlotte Edle von Oetinger, née von Barckhaus-Wiesenhütten, as Werther "Fräulein von B .." . Noûs-Verlag Thomas Leon Heck, Dußlingen 2012. [Confirmation of the role model function for the “Fräulein von B ..” in the Wertherroman; Reference to the later, apparently in Dec. 1775 / Jan. 1776, rejected admirer Heinrich Julius von Lindau as "Werther in a tunic", who sought death as "cannon fodder" on the British side in the American War of Independence in 1776, that is, attempted a passive suicide via a self-chosen "ascension command".]
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on April 10, 2005 .