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Johann Wolfgang Goethe
(1749 -1832)

A Biography

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
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.
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.

Now this should satisfy your curiosity about Goethe, shouldn't it ...?
Those who can't get enough of Goethe are advised to surf these LINKS  !!!

WERTHER'sWORLD:  A report on "The Sorrows of Young Werther"
WERTHER'sWORLD - Sturm & Drang: an introduction .
Wikipedia article on Goethe

Goethes Works Online - Gutenberg-Project Uni Hamburg

"The Sorrows of Young Werther" - The complete novel on the web! (German)

Goethe Society Weimar e.V.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - Life and Works

Goethe Institut - Home Page

"I dolori del giovane Werther" - Werther in Italienisch


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Johann Wolfgang Goethe - A biography
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Last revision: 02/25/2000
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