Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is probably the most famous German writer. He has often been called “the last true polymath to walk the earth”. Although he was not born there, he spent most of his life in Weimar in the former East Germany. Write a brief research paper in English (500 words), make sure to include the following information:
Which other talents did he possess that earned him the name polymath? Where and when did he die?
Name three of his most important novels.
Use sites you find on the Internet and remember to include a WORKS CITED section so that your teacher
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born in August 28, 1749, Frankfurt. He was not an aristocrat but raised in a middle class family. Goethe grew up close to art and literature, at age 8 he wrote a poem; at 13 he first published his very own collection of poetry. He studied law in college and opened up his own office as told by his father, but his interest was already leaned toward literature world. Since then he gathered around with other writers, focus on more variety of books, and study poetries and dramas. In 1772, Goethe stays at Wetzlar and met Johann Kestner. Kestner had a finace named Charlotte Buff, Goethe fell in love with her at the first sight and secretly admires her. After coming back to Frankfurt, he hears a news saying that one of his friend died in situation similar to his. With his experience and the story of his friend, he writes ‘The Sorrow of Young Werther’ which became popular with its publication. Goethe became famous at early twenties.
In 1775, Goethe leaves Frankfurt and goes to what became his second hometown, Weimer. In this small dukedom with population about 6,000, he gains trust of Duke Carl August. Carl August gave Goethe several official positions in his court and Goethe became his chief adviser. Although he was very successful in his career, his anxiety that arose with his thirst for art and literature was getting bigger every day. Even his relationships with Charlotte von Stein, his lover, and contemporary intellectual Hether did not satisfy his thirst. Finally, he left Weimer, where he stayed for ten years and wander around. In 1786, Goethe travels around Italy for three years, he visits Rome, sees and experience new things. In 1788, he comes back to Weimer. His experience at Italy was indeed revolutionary and set a turning point in Goethe’s career.
Beautiful art pieces he has seen at Italy influenced Goethe to become a Classicist, however he lost his old friends who could not understand changed Goethe. But luckily he met Schiller, who was another great figure in German literature. They sometimes worked together, influenced together, and inspired each other. During these years, pieces like Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, Iphigenie auf Tauris, Egmont, Torquato Tasso, and Reineke Fuchs came out. But in 1805, Schiller died of age 48. This shocked Goethe, but overall he lived a peaceful life from 1809 to his death with his artistic fervent at its peak. Faust, Elective Affinities, the West-Eastern, From My Life: Poetry and Truth, all came out during this period.
Goethe not only was a guru in literary world but also he was an expert in science, religious studies, and politics, which gained him the name polymath. He was deeply involved in natural science and showed interest in morphology and color theory. Some of his works include, Metamorphosis of Plants and Theory of Colours. Also, being born in Lutheran family and having experience serving Duke Carl August made him influential in those areas as well. In March 22nd, 1832 in Weimer, he died at age of 83. During his 80 years of life he published quantity amount of poems, dramas, novels, and so on. His works had both depth and width and this significantly elevated German literature which were known to be underdeveloped at the time. He is still regarded as a great literary guru to these days and will be remembered forever.
C.D. Merriman, Literature Network: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. http://www.online- literature.com/goethe/ 2012 December 13.
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