Johann von Goethe
Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005


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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe—German Poet and Novelist

(1749-1832) August 28, 1749, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, 12:00 Noon, LMT. Died, Weimar, March 22, 1832

(Source: his autobiography, in which he writes, “born mid-day when the clock struck 12:00”) (Ascendant Scorpio with Saturn conjunct Scorpio from H12; Pluto also in Scorpio, H1: MC, Virgo, with Sun in Virgo conjunct the MC and Venus also in Virgo; Moon and Jupiter in Pisces; Mercury in Leo; Mars in Capricorn; Uranus in Aquarius; Neptune in Capricorn)

Germany's most famous writer; a great literary genius of imagination and versatility, unsurpassed as a poet. Lawyer in 1771; first published in 1773; famous by the age of 25. Took sixty years to complete Faust. (1749-1832)


A clever man commits no minor blunders. (Saturn in Scorpio conjunct Scorpio Ascendant)

A correct answer is like an affectionate kiss.

A creation of importance can only be produced when its author isolates himself, it is a child of solitude. (Pluto in Scorpio in 1st house)

A man's manners are a mirror in which he shows his portrait. (Venus in Virgo in 10th house)

A noble person attracts noble people, and knows how to hold on to them.

A person hears only what they understand.

A person places themselves on a level with the ones they praise.

A purpose you impart is no longer your own.

A really great talent finds its happiness in execution.

A useless life is an early death.

Age merely shows what children we remain.

Alas! sorrow from happiness is oft evolved. (Moon in Pisces)

All intelligent thoughts have already been thought; what is necessary is only to try to think them again.

All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own.

All theory, dear friend, is gray, but the golden tree of life springs ever green.

All things are only transitory.

An unused life is an early death.

As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.

Be above it! Make the world serve your purpose, but do not serve it. (Sun conjunct MC)

Be generous with kindly words, especially about those who are absent.

Beauty is a manifestation of secret natural laws, which otherwise would have been hidden from us forever.

Beauty is everywhere a welcome guest.

Being brilliant is no great feat if you respect nothing.

Certain defects are necessary for the existence of individuality.

Certain flaws are necessary for the whole. It would seem strange if old friends lacked certain quirks.

Character develops itself in the stream of life.

Character is formed in the stormy billows of the world.

Character, in great and little things, means carrying through what you feel able to do.

Common sense is the genius of humanity.

Correction does much, but encouragement does more.

Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.

Death is a commingling of eternity with time; in the death of a good man, eternity is seen looking through time.

Deeply earnest and thoughtful people stand on shaky footing with the public. (Virgo Sun in 10th house opposition Pisces Moon)

Destiny grants us our wishes, but in its own way, in order to give us something beyond our wishes. (Saturn in Scorpio conjunct Ascendant)

Devote each day to the object then in time and every evening will find something done.

Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead, is watchword of the wise. (Chiron in 11th house)

Do not give in too much to feelings. A overly sensitive heart is an unhappy possession on this shaky earth. (Moon in Pisces)

Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.

Every author in some way portrays himself in his works, even if it be against his will.

Every person above the ordinary has a certain mission that they are called to fulfill. (Scorpio Ascendant)

Every spoken word arouses our self-will.

Every step of life shows much caution is required.

Everybody wants to be somebody; nobody wants to grow.

Everything in the world may be endured except continual prosperity.

Few people have the imagination for reality.

First and last, what is demanded of genius is love of truth.

For a man to achieve all that is demanded of him he must regard himself as greater than he is.

For just when ideas fail, a word comes in to save the situation. (Mercury in Leo in 9th house)

Fresh activity is the only means of overcoming adversity. (Mars in Capricorn)

Girls we love for what they are; young men for what they promise to be.

Happiness is a ball after which we run wherever it rolls, and we push it with our feet when it stops.

Hatred is active, and envy passive dislike; there is but one step from envy to hate.

Hatred is something peculiar. You will always find it strongest and most violent where there is the lowest degree of culture.

He is dead in this world who has no belief in another. (Neptune in Cancer in 9th house)

He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home. (Moon & Jupiter in 4th house)

He only earns his freedom and his life Who takes them every day by storm. (Uranus square Scorpio)

He who does not think much of himself is much more esteemed than he imagines.

He who enjoys doing and enjoys what he has done is happy. (Mars in Capricorn trine Sun)

He who has a task to perform must know how to take sides, or he is quite unworthy of it.

He who is plenteously provided for from within, needs but little from without.

I call architecture frozen music.

I can tell you, honest friend, what to believe: believe life; it teaches better than book or orator.

I do not know myself, and God forbid that I should.

I think that I am better than the people who are trying to reform me.

I will listen to anyone's convictions, but pray keep your doubts to yourself.

If a man or woman is born ten years sooner or later, their whole aspect and performance shall be different.

If a man writes a book, let him set down only what he knows. I have guesses enough of my own.

If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses.

If God had wanted me otherwise, He would have created me otherwise.

If I love you, what does that matter to you!

If I say to the moment: 'Stay now! You are so beautiful'!

If you modestly enjoy your fame you are not unworthy to rank with the holy.

If you start to think of your physical and moral condition, you usually find that you are sick.

If you wish to know the mind of a man, listen to his words. (Mercury in 9th house)

Ignorant men raise questions that wise men answered a thousand years ago.

In art the best is good enough.

In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm... in the real world all rests on perseverance.

It is better to be deceived by one's friends than to deceive them.

It is in self-limitation that a master first shows himself. (Saturn conjunct Ascendant)

It is not doing the thing we like to do, but liking the thing we have to do, that makes life blessed.

It is the strange fate of man, that even in the greatest of evils the fear of the worst continues to haunt him.

It seems to never occur to fools that merit and good fortune are closely united.

Know thyself? If I knew myself I would run away.

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.

Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.

Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.

Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes.

Life is the childhood of our immortality.

Live dangerously and you live right.

Love and desire are the spirit's wings to great deeds.

Love can do much, but duty more.

Love does not dominate; it cultivates.

Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.

Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is. (Neptune in 9th house)

Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it, and others do just the same with their time.

Mastery passes often for egotism.

Men show their character in nothing more clearly than what they think laughable.

My poor head is in such a whirl, my mind is all in bits.

Mysteries are not necessarily miracles.

Nature knows no pause in progress and development, and attaches her curse on all inaction.

No one has ever learned fully to know themselves.

No one would talk much in society if they knew how often they misunderstood others.

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

Nothing is more fearful than imagination without taste.

Nothing is more terrible than to see ignorance in action.

Nothing is to be rated higher than the value of the day.

Objects in pictures should so be arranged as by their very position to tell their own story.

On all the peaks lies peace.

One always has time enough, if one will apply it well.

One can be instructed in society, one is inspired only in solitude.

One must ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste.

Passions are vices or virtues to their highest powers.

Personality is everything in art and poetry.

Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will, it is always interesting. (Scorpio Ascendant)

Precaution is better than cure.

Science arose from poetry... when times change the two can meet again on a higher level as friends.

Self-knowledge comes from knowing other men. (Venus in 10th house)

Sowing is not as difficult as reaping.

Strike the dog dead, it's but a critic!

Superstition is the poetry of life.

Talent develops in quiet places, character in the full current of human life.

Talents are best nurtured in solitude. Character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.

Talk well of the absent whenever you have the opportunity.

The artist alone sees spirits. But after he has told of their appearing to him, everybody sees them.

The best government is that which teaches us to govern ourselves.

The biggest problem with every art is by the use of appearance to create a loftier reality.

The Christian religion, though scattered and abroad will in the end gather itself together at the foot of the cross.

The coward only threatens when he is safe.

The credit of advancing science has always been due to individuals and never to the age.

The decline of literature indicates the decline of a nation.

The deed is everything, the glory is naught.

The formation of one's character ought to be everyone's chief aim.

The hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes. (Virgo Sun)

The human mind will not be confined to any limits. (Uranus in 3rd house square Saturn)

The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything.

The little man is still a man.

The man who occupies the first place seldom plays the principal part.

The man with insight enough to admit his limitations comes nearest to perfection.

The mediator of the inexpressible is the work of art.

The most happy man is he who knows how to bring into relation the end and beginning of his life.

The people who are absent are the ideal; those who are present seem to be quite commonplace.

The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it.

The right man is the one who seizes the moment.

The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone.

The unnatural, that too is natural.

The world remains ever the same.

There is a courtesy of the heart; it is allied to love. From its springs the purest courtesy in the outward behavior.

There is nothing in the world more shameful than establishing one's self on lies and fables.

There is nothing more frightful than imagination without taste.

Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one's thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.

Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than looking.

This is the highest wisdom that I own; freedom and life are earned by those alone who conquer them each day anew.

Those who hope for no other life are dead even for this.

Three may keep counsel, if two are away.

To appreciate the noble is a gain which can never be torn from us.

To create something you must be something.

To hard necessity ones will and fancy must conform.

To rule is easy, to govern difficult.

To the person with a firm purpose all men and things are servants.

To witness two lovers is a spectacle for the gods.

Unlike grown ups, children have little need to deceive themselves.

Upon the creatures we have made, we are, ourselves, at last, dependent.

We are never deceived; we deceive ourselves.

We are never further from what we wish than when we believe that we have what we wished for.

We can always redeem the man who aspires and strives.

We can't form our children on our own concepts; we must take them and love them as God gives them to us.

We cannot fashion our children after our desires, we must have them and love them as God has given them to us.

We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.

We don't get to know people when they come to us; we must go to them to find out what they are like.

We know accurately only when we know little, with knowledge doubt increases.

What by a straight path cannot be reached by crooked ways is never won.

What I possess I would gladly retain. Change amuses the mind, yet scarcely profits.

What is important in life is life, and not the result of life.

What is my life if I am no longer useful to others. (Virgo Sun)

What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.

What life half gives a man, posterity gives entirely.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

Whatever you cannot understand, you cannot possess.

When ideas fail, words come in very handy.

Who is the most sensible person? The one who finds what is to their own advantage in all that happens to them.

Who is the wisest man? He who neither knows or wishes for anything else than what happens.

Whoever wishes to keep a secret must hide the fact that he possesses one.

Wisdom is found only in truth.

Wood burns because it has the proper stuff in it; and a man becomes famous because he has the proper stuff in him.

Error is acceptable as long as we are young; but one must not drag it along into old age.


Johann Wolfgang Goethe Born 28 August 1749 Frankfurt, Germany Died 22 March 1832 Weimar, Germany Johann Wolfgang Goethe (help•info), IPA: [gø?t?], later von Goethe, (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German polymath: he was a poet, novelist, dramatist, humanist, scientist, theorist, painter, and for ten years chief minister of state for the duchy of Weimar.

Goethe was one of the key figures of German literature and the movement of Weimar Classicism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries; this movement coincides with Enlightenment, Sentimentality ("Empfindsamkeit"), Sturm und Drang, and Romanticism. The author of Faust and Theory of Colours, he inspired Darwin[citation needed] with his independent discovery of the human intermaxillary jaw bones and focus on evolutionary ideas. Goethe's influence spread across Europe, and for the next century his works were a primary source of inspiration in music, drama, poetry, and philosophy. He is widely considered to be one of the most important thinkers in Western culture, and is often cited as one of history's greatest geniuses.[1]

Contents [hide] 1 Life 1.1 Early life (1749–1765) 1.1.1 Leipzig (1765-1768) 1.1.2 Frankfurt/Strasbourg (1768-1770) 1.1.3 Frankfurt and Darmstadt (1771) 1.2 Professional and later life (1772-1832) 1.2.1 Later life 1.2.2 Siege of Weimar 2 Works 2.1 Key works 2.2 Eroticism 3 Historical importance 3.1 Influence 4 Notes and references 5 See also 6 External links

Johann Caspar and private teachers gave Goethe lessons in all common subjects, especially languages (Latin, Greek, French, English and Hebrew). Goethe also took lessons in dancing, riding, and fencing. He had a persistent dislike of the church, and characterized its history as a "hotchpotch of mistakes and violence" {Mischmasch von Irrtum und Gewalt). His great passion was drawing. Goethe quickly became interested in literature; Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock and Homer were among his early favourites. He had a lively devotion to theatre as well, and was greatly fascinated by puppet shows that were annually arranged in his home –- a familiar theme in Wilhelm Meister.

Leipzig (1765-1768) Goethe studied law in Leipzig from 1765 to 1768. Learning age-old judicial rules by heart was something he strongly detested. He preferred to attend the poetry lessons of Christian Fürchtegott Gellert. In Leipzig, Goethe fell in love with Käthchen Schönkopf and wrote cheerful verses about her in the Rococo genre. In 1770, he anonymously released Annette, his first collection of poems. His uncritical admiration for many contemporary poets vanished as he became interested in Lessing and Wieland. Already at this time, Goethe wrote very much – he threw away nearly all of these works, except for the comedy Die Mitschuldigen. The restaurant Auerbachs Keller and its legend of Faust's 1525 barrel ride impressed him so much that Auerbachs Keller became the only real place in his drama Faust Part One. Because his study did not advance, Goethe was forced to return to Frankfurt at the end of August 1768.

Frankfurt/Strasbourg (1768-1770) In Frankfurt, Goethe became severely ill. During the year and a half which followed, because of several relapses, the relationship with his father worsened. During convalescence, Goethe was nursed by his mother and sister. Bored in bed, he wrote an impudent crime comedy. In April 1770, his father lost his patience; Goethe left Frankfurt in order to finish his studies in Strasbourg.

In Alsace, Goethe blossomed. No other landscape has he described as affectionately as the warm, wide Rhine area. In Strasbourg, Goethe met Johann Gottfried Herder, who happened to be in town on the occasion of an eye operation. The two became close friends, and crucially to Goethe's intellectual development, it was Herder who kindled his interest in Shakespeare, Ossian, and in the notion of Volkspoesie (folk poetry). On a trip to the village Sesenheim, Goethe fell in love with Friederike Brion. But after a couple of weeks, he ended the relationship. Several of his poems, like Willkommen und Abschied, Sesenheimer Lieder and Heideröslein, originate from this time.

Despite being based on own ideas, his legal thesis was published uncensored. Shortly after, he was offered a career in the French government. Goethe rejected – he did not want to commit himself, but to remain an "original genius".

Frankfurt and Darmstadt (1771) At the end of August 1771, Goethe was certified as licensee in Frankfurt. He wanted to make the jurisdiction progressively more humane. In his first cases, he proceeded too vigorously, was reprimanded and lost the passion. This prematurely terminated his career as a lawyer after only a few months. At this time, Goethe was acquainted with the court of Darmstadt, where his inventiveness was praised. From this milieu came Johann Georg Schlosser (who was later to become his brother-in-law) and Johann Heinrich Merck. Goethe also pursued literary plans again; this time, his father did not have anything against it, and even helped. Goethe got hands on the biography of a noble highwayman from the Peasants' War. In a couple of weeks, the biography was converted into a colourful picture book. The work, called "Götz von Berlichingen", went straight to the heart of his contemporaries.

Professional and later life (1772-1832) This section is a stub. You can help by expanding it.

Goethe. Painting by Josef Stieler, 1828.Goethe could not subsist on being one of the editors of a literary periodical (published by Schlosser and Merck). In May 1772, he once more began the practice of law at Wetzlar. At the invitation of Carl August, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, he went, in 1775, to live in Weimar where he held a succession of political offices, even becoming the Duke's chief adviser.

His first Qur'an studies of 1771/1772 and the later ones are in the Goethe and Schiller-Archive in Weimar. Goethe read the German translation of Qur'an by J. v. Hammer (possibly as well the more prosaic English translation of G. Sale) aloud in front of members of the Duke's family in Weimar and their guests. Being witnesses, Schiller and his wife reported about the reading. [2] Goethe's positive attitude towards Islam goes far beyond anyone in Germany before. On 24 February 1816, he wrote, "The poet [Goethe]... does not refuse the suspicion that he himself is a Muslim."[3]

Later life He was ennobled in 1782. His journey to the Italian peninsula from 1786 to 1788 was of great significance for his later aesthetical and philosophical development, as was his admission in 1782 that he was "a decided non-Christian".[4] His diaries of this period form the basis of the non-fiction Italian Journey. In the autumn of 1792, Goethe took part in the battle of Valmy against revolutionary France, assisting Duke Carl August of Saxe-Weimar during the failed invasion of France. In 1794 Friedrich Schiller wrote to Goethe offering friendship, which lasted until the former's death in 1805; they had previously had a wary acquaintance since 1788. In 1806, he married Christiane Vulpius. By 1820, he was on friendly terms with Kaspar Maria von Sternberg. From 1794, he devoted himself chiefly to literature and after a life of immense productivity, died while in Weimar, in 1832.

Siege of Weimar In 1806, Goethe was living in Weimar with his mistress Christiane Vulpius, the sister of Christian A. Vulpius, and their son August. On October 13, Napoleon's army invaded the town. The French "spoon guards", the least-disciplined soldiers, occupied Goethe's house.

The 'spoon guards' had broken in, they had drunk wine, made a great uproar and called for the master of the house. Goethe's secretary Riemer reports: 'Although already undressed and wearing only his wide nightgown … he descended the stairs towards them and inquired what they wanted from him … . His dignified figure, commanding respect, and his spiritual mien seemed to impress even them.' But it was not to last long. Late at night they burst into his bedroom with drawn bayonets. Goethe was petrified, Christiane raised a lot of noise and even tangled with them, other people who had taken refuge in Goethe's house rushed in, and so the marauders eventually withdrew again. It was Christiane who commanded and organized the defense of the house on the Frauenplan. The barricading of the kitchen and the cellar against the wild pillaging soldiery was her work. Goethe noted in his diary: "Fires, rapine, a frightful night … Preservation of the house through steadfastness and luck." The luck was Goethe's, the steadfastness was displayed by Christiane.

—Schopenhauer and the Wild Years of Philosophy, Ch. 5

The next day, Goethe legitimized their relationship by marrying Christiane in a quiet marriage service at the court chapel.

Works Main article: List of works by Johann Wolfgang Goethe Walk of Ideas (Germany) - built in 2006 to commemorate Johannes Gutenberg's invention, c. 1445, of movable printing type.The most important of Goethe's works produced before he went to Weimar were his tragedy Götz von Berlichingen (1773), which was the first work to bring him fame, and the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774), which gained him enormous popularity as a writer in the Sturm und Drang movement. During the years at Weimar before he met Schiller he began Wilhelm Meister, wrote the dramas Iphigenie auf Tauris (Iphigenia in Tauris), Egmont, Torquato Tasso, and Reineke Fuchs.

To the period of his friendship with Schiller belong the continuation of Wilhelm Meister, the idyll of Hermann and Dorothea, and the Roman Elegies. In the last period, between Schiller's death, in 1805, and his own, appeared Faust, Elective Affinities, his pseudo-autobiographical Aus meinem Leben: Dichtung und Wahrheit (From my Life: Poetry and Truth), his Italian Journey, much scientific work, and a series of treatises on German art. His writings were immediately influential in literary and artistic circles.

In addition to his literary work, Goethe also contributed significant work to the sciences. In biology, his theory of plant metamorphosis stipulated that all plant formation stems from a modification of the leaf; during his Italian journey (1786-1788), in July 1787, he writes as the first indication of this idea:

“ Furthermore I must confess to you that I have nearly discovered the secret of plant generation and structure, and that it is the simplest thing imaginable.... Namely it had become apparent to me that in the plant organ which we ordinarily call the leaf a true Proteaus is concealed, who can hide and reveal himself in all sorts of configurations. From top to bottom a plant is all leaf, united so inseparably with the future bud that one cannot be imagined without the other. ”

He is credited with the discovery of the intermaxillary bone in humans, during 1784; however, Broussonet (1779) and Vicq d'Azyr (1780) had identified the same structure several years earlier.[6]

Although it was never well received by scientists due to its apparent conflict with Newton's theory of light, against which Goethe fulminated, Goethe considered his Theory of Colours to be his most important work. Although much of his position within this field is often blurred by misconceptions among both his detractors and eulogizers,[7] based upon his experiments with prismatic colors Goethe characterized color as arising from the dynamic interplay of darkness and light, and standing between their polar qualities:

“ ...they maintained that shade is a part of light. It sounds absurd when I express it; but so it is: for they said that colours, which are shadow and the result of shade, are light itself, or, which amounts to the same thing, are the beams of light, broken now in one way, now in another.[8] ”

He also regarded light's physical nature, physiological effects (including the afterimages induced in the eye), and psychological effects as interrelated phenomena. In the twentieth century, Goethe's Theory of Colours influenced the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's Remarks on Colour, Werner Heisenberg and Max Planck have indicated the accuracy and suggestiveness of many of Goethe's scientific statements, and it has had a tremendous impact in other fields.[7]

Key works Statues of Goethe and Schiller, Weimar.The following list of key works may give a sense of the scope of the impact his work had on his and modern times.

The short epistolary novel, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, or The Sorrows of Young Werther, published in 1774, recounts an unhappy love affair that ends in suicide. Goethe admitted that he "shot his hero to save himself". The novel remains in print in dozens of languages and is frequently referred to in the context of a young hero, who becomes disillusioned with society and by his irreconcilable love for a young woman. The fact that it ended with the protagonist's suicide and funeral—a funeral which "no clergyman attended"—made the book deeply controversial upon its (anonymous) publication, for it seemed to condone suicide. One would have expected a clergyman to attend the funeral service and condemn an act considered to be sinful by Christian doctrine. Epistolary novels were common during this time, letter-writing being people's primary mode of communication. What set Goethe's book apart from other such novels was its expression of unbridled longing for a joy beyond possibility, its sense of defiant rebellion against authority, and, above all, its total subjectivity—qualities that pointed the way toward the Romantic movement.

The next work, his epic closet drama Faust, was to be completed in stages, and only published in its entirety after his death. The first part was published in 1808 and created a sensation. The first operatic version, by Spohr, appeared in 1814, and was subsequently the inspiration for operas by Gounod, Boito, and Busoni, as well as symphonies by Liszt, Wagner, and Mahler. Faust became the ur-myth of many figures in the 19th century. Later, a facet of its plot, i.e., of selling one's soul to the devil for power over the physical world, took on increasing literary importance and became a view of the victory of technology and of industrialism, along with its dubious human expenses. On occasion, the play is still staged in Germany and other parts around the world.

Goethe's poetic work served as a model for an entire movement in German poetry termed Innerlichkeit ("introversion") and represented by, for example, Heine. Goethe's words inspired a number of compositions by, among others, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Berlioz, and Wolf. Perhaps the single most influential piece is "Mignon's Song" which opens with one of the most famous lines in German poetry, an allusion to Italy: "Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn?" ("Do you know the land where the lemons bloom?").

Goethe in the Roman Campagna (1786) by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein. Oil on canvas, 164 x 206 cm. Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt.He is also widely quoted. Epigrams such as "Against criticism a man can neither protest nor defend himself; he must act in spite of it, and then it will gradually yield to him", "Divide and rule, a sound motto; unite and lead, a better one", and "Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must", are still in usage or are paraphrased. Lines from Faust, such as "Das also war des Pudels Kern", "Das ist der Weisheit letzter Schluss", or "Grau ist alle Theorie" have entered everyday German usage. Although a doubtful success of Goethe in this field, the famous line from the drama Götz von Berlichingen ("Er kann mich im Arsche lecken": "He can lick my arse") has become a vulgar idiom in many languages, and shows Goethe's deep cultural impact extending across social, national, and linguistic borders. It may be taken as another measure of Goethe's fame that other well-known quotations, such as Hippocrates' "Art is long, life is short", which is also found in his Wilhelm Meister, is usually forgotten to be originally associated with Hippocrates. (In the final chapter of Book VII in Wilhelm Meister, Goethe quotes Hippocrates, but inverts it. In the original, Hippocrates wrote that life is long and art is short.)

Eroticism Many of Goethe's works depict homoerotic and generally erotic occurrences, such as in Wilhelm Meister, Faust, Götz von Berlichingen, the Roman Elegies, and the Venetian Epigrams, though these have often been explained away or ignored. This is partly due to how some in the past and to this day view sexuality and its nuances. For example, in 1999, Karl Hugo Pruys' book The Tiger's Tender Touch: The Erotic Life of Goethe caused national controversy in Germany when it formalized the possibility of Goethe's homosexuality, tentatively deduced from Goethe's writings, for mainstream debate. In actuality, however, the perennial sexual portraitures and allusions in his work may in fact stem from one of the many effects of his profoundly eye-opening sojourn in Italy, where men, who shunned the prevalence of women's venereal diseases and unconscionable conditions, embraced homosexuality as a solution that was not widely imitated outside of Italy. Whatever the case, Goethe clearly saw sexuality, in general, as a topic that merited poetical and artistic depiction which went against the thought of his time, when the very private nature of sexuality was rigorously enforced, and makes him appear much more modern and—in the terms of Weimar Classicism—Greek than he is typically thought to be.[9]

Historical importance It is very difficult to overstate the importance of Goethe on the 19th century. In many respects, he was the originator of—or at least the first to cogently express—many ideas which would later become familiar. Goethe produced volumes of poetry, essays, criticism, and scientific work, including a theory of optics and early work on evolution and linguistics. He was fascinated by minerals and early mineralogy (the mineral goethite is named for him). His non-fiction writings, most of which are philosophic and aphoristic in nature, spurred on the development of many philosophers, such as G.W.F. Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ernst Cassirer, Rudolf Steiner, and others, and of various literary movements, such as romanticism. He embodied many of the contending strands in art over the next century: his work could be lushly emotional, and rigorously formal, brief and epigrammatic, and epic. He would argue that classicism was the means to controlling art, and that romanticism was a sickness, even as he penned poetry rich in memorable images, and rewrote the formal rules of German poetry.

His poetry was set to music by almost every major Austrian and German composer from Mozart to Mahler, and his influence would spread to French drama and opera as well. Beethoven declared that a "Faust" Symphony would be the greatest thing for Art. Liszt and Mahler both created symphonies in whole or in large part inspired by this seminal work which would give the 19th century one of its most paradigmatic figures: Doctor Faustus. The Faust tragedy/drama, often called "Das Drama der Deutschen" (the drama of Germans), written in two parts published decades apart, would stand as his most characteristic and famous artistic creation.

Goethe was also a cultural force, and by researching folk traditions, he created many of the norms for celebrating Christmas, and argued that the organic nature of the land moulded the people and their customs—an argument that has recurred ever since, including recently in the work of Jared Diamond. He argued that laws could not be created by pure rationalism, since geography and history shaped habits and patterns. This stood in sharp contrast to the prevailing Enlightenment view that reason was sufficient to create well-ordered societies and good laws.

Influence Goethe's influence was dramatic because he understood that there was a transition in European sensibilities, an increasing focus on sense, the indescribable, and the emotional. This is not to say that he was emotionalistic or excessive; on the contrary, he lauded personal restraint and felt that excess was a disease: "There is nothing worse than imagination without taste". He argued in his scientific works that a "formative impulse", which he said is operative in every organism, causes an organism to form itself according to its own distinct laws, and therefore rational laws or fiats could not be imposed at all from a higher, transcendent sphere; this placed him in direct opposition to those who attempted to form "enlightened" monarchies based on "rational" laws by, for example, Joseph II of Austria or, the subsequent Emperor of the French, Napoleon I. A quotation from his Scientific Studies will suffice:

We conceive of the individual animal as a small world, existing for its own sake, by its own means. Every creature is its own reason to be. All its parts have a direct effect on one another, a relationship to one another, thereby constantly renewing the circle of life; thus we are justified in considering every animal physiologically perfect. Viewed from within, no part of the animal is a useless or arbitrary product of the formative impulse (as so often thought). Externally, some parts may seem useless because the inner coherence of the animal nature has given them this form without regard to outer circumstance. Thus...[not] the question, What are they for? but rather, Where do they come from?

—Suhrkamp ed., vol 12, p. 121; trans. Douglas Miller, Scientific Studies

This change would later become the basis for 19th century thought—organic rather than geometrical, evolving rather than created, and based on sensibility and intuition, rather than on imposed order, culminating in, as he said, a "living quality" wherein the subject and object are dissolved together in a poise of inquiry. Consequently, he embraced neither teleological nor deterministic views of growth within every organism. Instead, the world as a whole grows through continual, external, and internal strife. Moreover, he did not embrace the mechanistic views that contemporaneous science subsumed during his time, and therewith he denied rationality's superiority as the sole interpretation of reality. Furthermore, he declared that all knowledge is related to humanity through its functional value alone and that knowledge presupposes a perspectival quality. He also stated that the fundamental nature of the world is aesthetic.

His views make him, along with Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and Ludwig van Beethoven, a figure in two worlds: on one hand, devoted to the sense of taste, order, and finely crafted detail, which is the hallmark of the artistic sense of the Age of Reason and the neo-classicistic period of architecture; on the other, seeking a personal, intuitive, and personalized form of expression and polity, firmly supporting the idea of self-regulating and organic systems. Thinkers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson would take up many similar ideas in the 1800s. His ideas on evolution would frame the question which Darwin and Wallace would approach within the scientific paradigm.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749 -1832) A Biography

Johann Wolfgang Goethe is one of the most important German authors of all times. This page's intention is to provide the most extensive overview of Goethe's life and works on the Net in English language. Join us in celebrating his 250th birthday !!! 1749 Johann Wolfgang Goethe is born August 28th in Frankfurt am Main. His parents are the Imperial Councillor Johann Kaspar Goethe and the mayor's daughter Katharina Elisabeth Textor a Frankfurt patrician. At August 29th Goethe is baptisized as Protestant.

1750 Birth of his sister Cornelia.

1755 At first he attends a public school, but he is being taught by private teachers in the family's home in the "Großer Hirschgraben" Street. 1759 During the War of Seven Years french troops occupy Frankfurt; in the Goethes' house the french city governor Royal Lieutenant Marquis Thornac erects his head quarters. In this time (until 1763) young Goethe frequently visits the theater. 1765 According to his father's wishes Goethe takes up law studies at the University of Leipzig. He himself would have preferred the "Fine Arts" (Poetry and Rhetoric).

1766 He falls in love with Anna Katharina (Käthchen) Schönkopf, the daughter of a Leipzig hostel owner. The joyful collection of poems "Annette" is written. One of his poems is printed in the Frankfurt periodical "Die Sichtbaren" (The Visibles) without Goethe's approval. 1768 His relation to Käthchen Schönkopf breaks up. Psychic und physical breakdown of Goethes, serious lung disease. "Leipziger Liederbuch": (Leipzig Songbook) ten poems to melodies composed by Bernhard Theodor Breitkopf. Returns to Frankfurt.

1769 During his long and severe infection he is being nursed by Susanne Katharina von Klettenberg, a relative of his mother's, who introduces him to protestant piety and encourages his lecture of pansophic-alchimistic works in the neoplatonic tradition (Paracelsus, Basilius Valentinus, Georg v. Welling,....).

1770 He continues his law studies in Strasbourg. Attends lectures in history, political sciences, anatomy, surgery and chemistry. Gets to know the five-year-older poet, philosoph und theologian Johann Gottfried Herder, Avantgardist of the STURM & DRANG era and has meets with him on a daily basis from September 1770 to April 1771. In October relation to the Sessenheim priest's daughter Friederike Brion, manifest of his love is the so called Sesenheimer Lyrik of 1770/71. "Neue Lieder in Melodien gesetzt von B.T.Breitkopf", first printed anthology of Goethe's poems..

1771 On behalf of Herder Goethe collects Folk songs of the Alsace. After being promoted to "licentitatus juris" he returns to Frankfurt, where he pre pares for the profession of lawyer during the next years.

1772 Goethe writes editorials for the "Frankfurter Gelehrte Anzeigen" on the subjects of law, rhetorics und poetics. He becomes a member of the Darmstadt Circle of Sensibles ("Gemeinschaft der Heiligen", à la Dead poets' society) his Pseudonym is "Der Wanderer". Relation to the Novellist Sophie von La Roche and her daughter Maximiliane. During his apprenticeship at the Reichskammergericht (Imperial Court of Justice) in Wetzlar, he gets to know Charlotte Buff . (see also "Werther" ) The great hymns "Wanderers Sturmlied" and "Der Wanderer" are written.

1773 "Götz von Berlichingen", first versions of the play in five acts (prose) on the knight Götz von Berlichingen, whose powerful character stands in contrast to the weakness and hypocrisy of the present. Published by Goethe himself, it premiered April 14 1774 in Berlin; first play of the STURM & DRANG period.

1774 Goethe is a frequent visitor to the home of Maximiliane von La Roche who now is married but whom Goethe still feels very passionately for. Her husband and Goethe fight and argue.The two hymns "Prometheus" and "Ganymed" are written. He hikes along the Lahn River and the Rhine together with the Swiss author J.K. Lavater and the teacher J.B. Basedow. The satire "Götter, Helden und Wieland" about the rationalist writer Christoph Martin Wieland is published as well as "Clavigo", a tragedy in five acts (Prosa) about mar-riage and faithfulness: the young writer Clavigo believes that the "duties of common men" do not apply to him, his adultery causes the death of his lover Marie and he is shot by her brother. Premiers August 23 in Hamburg. "Die Leiden des jungen Werthers", ("The sorrows of young Werther") a novel written in monologue letters becomes a worldwide success, Goethe becomes famous and admired at once. The STURM & DRANG era has reached its apotheosis. Goethe is visited by many personalities from Europe's nobility, among them the princes Karl August und Konstantin von Sachsen-Weimar.

1775 Engaged with the Frankfurt banker's daughter Lili Schönemann, engagement dis-solved after half a year. Journey to Switzerland. Follows an invitation of the new Duke Karl August von Sachsen-Weimar (s.above) to visit Weimar. "Erwin und Elmire. Ein Schauspiel mit Gesang" , musical play.

1776 Becomes close friend to Charlotte von Stein, wife of one of the Duke's ministers. Moves home to Weimar into the "Gartenhaus am Stern", a gift from the Duke. He is granted the Weimar citizenship and is appointed "Geheimer Legationsrat" with a seat and avote in the state's highest office. Thus Goethe's living is secured, he receives regular payments. He has his friend Herder come to the Weimar court as well. "Claudine von Villa Bella. Ein Schauspiel mit Gesang" , musical play. "Stella. Ein Schauspiel für Liebende", play in five acts concerning a "threesome" relationship, evokes a scandal and is outlawed in Hamburg. "Die Geschwister", a play in one act about alleged love between brother and sister.

1777 Death of his sister Cornelia. Trip into the Harz mountains.

1778 Journey to Potsdam and Berlin accompanied by Duke Karl August.

1779 Goethe is appointed Head of the Commission for War and Road Construction. Second trip to Switzerland in company of the duke. "Iphigenie", first version (prose) of the play published in1787 as "Ipigenie auf Tauris" taking up a theme of Greek mythology: Iphigenie, the daughter of King Agamemnon is in exile on Tauris as a temple priestess, she is saved by her brother Orest and brought back home.

1781 Mineralogical studies and lectures about human anatomy at the "Freien Zeichen-Schule" (Liberal School of Drawing) in Weimar. 1782 Goethe is conferred a title of nobility ("von Goethe"!) by Emperor Joseph II. Death of his father. Moves to a house at the "Frauenplan" in Weimar, which remains his home until his demise. Is promoted to senior officer in the Internal Revenue Service. The ballad "Erlkönig" is written.

1783 Joins the "Illuminatenorden" (Secret Society à la Freemasons). Second trip into the Harz.

1784 Goethe discovers a inter-jaw bone of the human skull. Third Harz-journey.

1785 Scientific studies. First stay at the Karlsbad spa (Bohemia).

1786 First journey to Italy: From Karlsbad to Rome. In Rome he is in contact with a circle of German artists. Literary theory dates this journey as the beginning of the KLASSIK era of Ger-man literature, being evoked by the impression of Roman and Greek sculpture, architecture and literature.

1787 Carnival in Rome. Geological and botanical studies in Naples and Sicily. Ascends Mount Vesuv, returns to Rome. "Iphigenie auf Tauris", verse version of the 1779 play, first drama of the German Klassik.

1788 Returns to Weimar. Breaks up with Charlotte von Stein. Lives together with Christiane Vulpius. First contact to Friedrich Schiller, whom he helps to get at tenure as a profes-sor for history at Jena University. "Egmont", tragedy in five acts about Count Egmont who fights for Dutch independence and is executed by the Spanish in 1568.

1790 Second italian journey to Venice where his "Venetianischen Epigramme" are written. "Torquato Tasso", play in five acts. The italian poet Torquato Tasso (1544-95) serves as an example to illustrate the conflicts between creative men and society. Reality drives Tasso to despair but he finds consolation in his works. "Faust. Ein Fragment", fragment of a drama (Urfaust was already conceived in 1774).

1792 Takes part in a campaign against the French Revolutionary troops together with the duke.

1793 Accompanies the duke following his wish to the siege of Mainz, where a jacobinian republic had been installed with the aid of French revolutionaries. "Der Bürgergeneral", comedy in one act. Critique of the French Revolution.

1794 Begin of the friendship with Friedrich Schiller after a discussion on the observation and description of nation and how to hold apart idea and experience.

1795 Second journey to Karlsbad. "Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre", novel depicting the ideal of the Klassik: Forming the individual as a member of society. Published in four volumes. "Römische Elegien", Circle of poems imitating in terms of form and content the antique elegies. Their central theme is love - Amor = Roma.

1797 Several meetings with Friedrich von Schlegel who defines the aesthetic of the Klassik. Third trip to Switzerland. Heads the ducal libraries of Jena and Weimar . "Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1798" anthology published by Schiller including many ballads written in a "competition of poets" between Goethe and Schiller, i.e. "Der Zauberlehrling" (The Sorcerer's apprentice).

1798 The first volume of "Propyläen. Eine periodische Schrift" a literary periodical edited by Goethe is published by Cotta, Leipzig. In combination with Schiller's literary magazine "Die Horen" it becomes the most important means for proliferating the ideals of the so called WEIMARER KLASSIK.

1799 Schiller moves to Weimar. HOCHKLASSIK, the apotheosis of the Klassik era commences. Goethe and Schiller meet every forthnight at Goethe's.

1805 Schiller dies. "Winckelmann und sein Jahrhundert. In Briefen und Aufsätzen herausgege-ben von Goethe" a collection of articles of the archeologist and art historianl Johann Joachim Winckelmann, who had defined the aesthetic ideal of the German Klassik.

1806 Marries Christiane Vulpius. During several visits at a Jena librarian's Goethe's fatherly affection towards the librarian's eighteen year old foster daughter Minna Herzlieb changes to passionate love. She probably is the real-life version of Ottilie in the novel "Die Wahlverwandtschaften" (1809)

1808 Death of his mother. During a congress of monarchs in Erfurt Goethe meets with Napoleon Bonaparte, a fan of his, who asks Goethe to move to Paris.

"Faust. Der Tragödie erster Teil". The fate of Faust, an enquiring genius, is depicted as part of a superhuman deal between god and Mephistopheles, the em-bodiment of evil, the negative principle. Goethe's masterpiece.

1809 "Die Wahlverwandschaften", novel, transferring the features of chemical elements to the relationship of two couples.

1811 "Aus meinem Leben. Dichtung und Wahrheit", autobiography, published in four parts (1811, 1812, 1814, 1831 and posthumous 1833) 1812/14 Meets Ludwig van Beethoven several times, begins correspondence with the writer Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué (endures until 1828). First journey to the rivers Rhine, Main and Neckar: the Boisserée-Collection of medieval art at Heidelberg leaves a deep impression. 1815 Second trip to Rhine, Main and Neckar: together with the Prussian reformer Karl von und zum Stein Goethe visits the unfinished Dom of Cologne and the Wallraf-Collection of art; meets the Grimms, the artist family Brentano and the Frankfurt patrician and art lover Städel; Goethe is appointed minister. "Shakespeare und kein Ende", essay on the reception of the Bard's works in Germany. 1816 His wife Christiane dies. "Italiänische Reise", autobiographical work on his Italian journey 1786-88, published in two volumes as a sequel to his autobiography bearing the title "Aus meinem Leben. Zweiter Abteilung Erster und Zweiter Teil". 1819 Honorary member of the "Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde" (Society for early German history) founded by Freiherr von und zum Stein. In the following time Goethe supports this society with several articles for the collection "Monumenta Germaniae". "West-östlicher Divan", circle of poems under the impression of persian-islamic literature.

1821 Studies Indian literature. Travels to Marienbad (Bohemia): there he meets Amalie von Levetzow and her three daughters, among them the 18 year old Ulrike, who, Goethe (who now is 72 years old!!!) proposes a marriage; after first having it thought to be a joke, she then refuses. "Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre oder Die Entsagenden", novel, an "odysee of learning": Wilhelm becomes a surgeon and finds his place as individual in society.

1825 Franz Schubert sends Goethe a musical version of Goethe's poems "An Schwager Kronos", "An Mignon" and "Ganymed", Goethe leaves it unanswered. He is awarded a honorary Ph.D by the Jena University Law School.

1828 Duke Karl August dies. "Briefwechsel zwischen Schiller und Goethe in den Jahren 1794 bis 1805", the correspondence between Goethe and Schiller is published by Goethe, dedicated to King Ludwig I. of Bavaria. Central subject is the conception of a comprehen-sive artistic theory.

1829 First complete performance of "Faust. Der Tragödie erster Teil" at the Braunschweig Nationaltheater.

1830 Goethe's son August dies in Rom. Goethe suffers from a lung disease and is severely weakened.

1831 He brings "Faust (Zweiter Teil)" to an end, seals the manuscript and orders it to be published after his death. He authorizes his secretary Eckermann to publish his estate. 1832 Goethe dies March 22 in Weimar and is buried in the ducal tomb.


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