Synopses & Reviews
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was a German writer. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, literature, theology, humanism, and science. His Magnum Opus, lauded as one of the peaks of world literature, is the two-part dramatic poem Faust: A Tragedy. He 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. His scientific text Theory of Colours influenced Darwin with its focus on plant morphology. His influence on German philosophy is virtually immeasurable, having major impact especially on the generation of Hegel and Schelling, although Goethe himself expressly and decidedly refrained from practicing philosophy in the rarefied sense. His other well-known literary works include his numerous poems, the Bildungsroman Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship and the epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther.
A major new translation of one of the greatest dramatic-poetic works in all of German literature
A magnificent drama shaped by themes of redemption and salvation, Faust is the magnum opus of Goethe, "the last true polymath to walk the earth" (George Eliot). As his journey continues, Faust follows Mephistopheles through ancient Greek mythology. Deeply smitten by the incomparably beautiful Helen of Troy, Faust marries Helen, embodying for Goethe his "imaginative longing to join poetically the Romantic medievalism of the Germanic West to the classical genius of the Greeks." Faust, Part II even includes eerie premonitions of such modern phenomena as inflation and the creation of life by scientific synthesis.
About the Author
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
was born in Frankfurt-on-Main in 1749. He studied at Leipzig, where he showed interest in the occult, and at Strassburg, where Herder introduced him to Shakespeare’s works and to folk poetry. He produced some essays and lyrical verse, and at twenty-two wrote Götz von Berlichingen
, a play which brought him national fame and established him in the current Sturm und Drang movement. This was followed by the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther
in 1774, which was an even greater success.
Goethe began work on Faust, and Egmont, another tragedy before being invited to join the government of Weimar. His interest in the classical world led him to leave suddenly for Italy in 1786 and the Italian Journey recounts his travels there. Iphigenia in Tauris and Torquato Tasso, classical dramas, were written at this time. Returning to Weimar, Goethe started the second part of Faust, encouraged by Schiller. In 1806 he married Christiane Vulpius. During this late period he finished his series of Wilhelm Master books and wrote many other works, including The Oriental Divan (1819). He also directed the State Theatre and worked on scientific theories in evolutionary botany, anatomy and color. Goethe completed Faust in 1832, just before he died.
A. S. Byatt, novelist, short-story writer, and critic, is the author of many books, including Possession, winner of the Man Booker Prize.