The greatest German writer Johann Wolfgang Goethe lived a long
life, filled with fruitful work in literature, science,
art and public life. Beginning to write poetry as a boy, he did not
stop writing until the last days. His
literary heritage is wide and diverse. He created a large
number of lyric poems, several novels and dramas,
works on natural science and art criticism.
The life and activities of Goethe were so long that it
can not be attributed to only one period of the history of literature. The beginning of
his work falls on the era of the Enlightenment, marked by a
strong criticism of all the foundations of the feudal serf
society. In England, courageous denouncers of injustice were the
writers of Swift, Fielding, Gold-Smith. In France, bright
thinkers Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau. In Germany, Goethe’s predecessor
was the writer-educator G. E. Lessing, the author of fables, comedies and dramas, a
philosopher, literary critic and aesthetic.
Germany in the era of Goethe’s life was not a single state. The country
suffered from fragmentation into countless petty duchies,
landgraves; formally they were all united in the Holy
Roman Empire of the German people, headed by the chosen
emperor, which was usually the Austrian king. But every
ruler of a small state ruled his possessions
own tyranny, oppressing peasants and townspeople. In the country
there were several free cities that submitted directly to the
emperor and had self-government. In such a free city of
Frankfurt am Main, Goethe was born into a family of wealthy townspeople.
His father was a lawyer, he himself raised the son of Wolfgang and his
younger sister Cornelia, hired good teachers for them and gave them a
At the age of sixteen, Goethe became a student at the University of Leipzig, but
did not finish it because of an illness that forced the young man to return to his
home. Upon recovery, he went to complete the education in
Strasbourg, where he received the title of Doctor of Law. If in Leipzig
teachers were the figures of the German Enlightenment Gotshed and
Gellert, then in Strasbourg Goethe met a young philosopher and
writer I. – G. Herder, who, six years older, had
a significant influence on the young writer.
The Enlightenment proceeded from the belief that the dissemination of knowledge and
ideas of reason would lead people to understand the injustice of the
feudal establishment and begin to change their lives. In particular, they
expected that advanced concepts would be mastered by rulers
who would become enlightened monarchs. But time passed, and the efforts of the
Then, among the supporters of the Enlightenment,
striving for real activity. In Germany, HERJAVR was one
of the first thinkers, imbued with rebellious and even
revolutionary sentiments. Subsequently, he fervently supported the
French bourgeois revolution. He was joined by some
young writers who also wanted rapid and decisive changes in the
social and political system. Among them were Goethe, Maximilian
Klinger, Jacob Lenz and several others. Klinger’s rebellious mood
was expressed in his play “The Storm and the Onslaught” (1776). Subsequently,
historians of literature gave all this period, the 1770’s the name of
“storm and onslaught.”
Goethe was twenty-four years old when he created the drama “Goetz von
Berlichingen, in which he depicted in bright colors the rebellious knight of the
sixteenth century who fought for justice: at twenty-five, Goethe
published the novel The Suffering of the Young Werther, which brought him world
fame, at the same time Goethe created wonderful lyric
poems that gave a whole new spirit to German poetry,
bringing it closer to the folk song
, but soon the writer was convinced that his rebelliousness was
unsuccessful. He expressed with great artistic force in his
works a protest against the miserable and unsightly German I
met the sympathy of progressive people, but everything
remained the same. It is enough to say that for those times even
literary fame could not bring a young writer at
least a minimum of security. The advocacy of the young
Goethe was not successful.
Suddenly he received an invitation from the young Duke of Saxe –
Weimar to visit the small capital of his small state.
In the autumn of 1776 Goethe came to Weimar, first a guest, and then
settled there for a long time.
The Duke Karl Augustus, who was seven years younger than Goethe, made him
his minister. The writer agreed to this, hoping at least in this
tiny state to ease the situation of the people. For ten years,
Goethe worked in the state arena and was convinced that small
improvements do not change the foundations of the unjust system. Then he refused
from this activity and, having sought permission from the duke, went to Italy
to study there art and continue his literary work.
1786-1788 – the time spent by Goethe in Italy – meant the beginning of a
new period in his life and work. Goethe finished a number of
earlier works in Italy. Already moving to Weimar meant the
writer’s refusal of hopes for a revolutionary reconstruction of life. Realizing
that in Germany there were no conditions for this, he, however, did not
fold his hands. He believed that...
creating works that would open people’s eyes to the
contradictions of life, and would excite in them the desire for other, better
conditions of existence. In particular, Goethe came to the idea that for
spiritual development of the people, aesthetic
upbringing is of great importance. He is imbued with the desire to create works
that express the idea of beauty – and the harmony of life. An example of such
beauty for him served as classical antiquity – the spiritual and
artistic culture of ancient Greece and Rome.
In this endeavor, Goethe was supported by another great German writer
Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805). He also moved to the Weimar
Duchy, he became friends with Goethe and they worked out a program of
aesthetic education of the people. The general direction of the writings of these
writers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. was called
Goethe and Schiller believed that through the aesthetic education of the
people it would be possible to stir up the Germans’ striving for freedom. This, of
course, was an idealistic illusion. Raising the sense of beauty
can not change social conditions. But it can not be said that the idea of
both great writers was completely barren. They created a number of
works that enriched not only German but all the world
After the return from Italy, the dramas Goethe “Iphigenia in
Tauris” (1788), “Egmont” (1789), “Torquato Tasso” (1790), the poems
“Reineke-Lis” (1794) and “Herman and Dorothea” (1797), novel “The Years of
Wilhelm Meister ‘s Teaching ” (1795-1796).
The richness of ideas and artistic perfection win Goethe during
his lifetime universal recognition. He expresses in his works the ideas of
humanism, creates images of heroes, embodying the human ideals of
goodness, courage, love, beauty.
In the years when these works appeared,
a bourgeois revolution took place in France, the most decisive period of
which falls on 1789-1794. Although the ideals of freedom, equality and
brotherhood were close to Goethe, he was negative about the
revolutionary terror of the Jacobins, directed against the former
ruling class. Goethe advocated a peaceful
reformatory way of transforming society.
In the years of intimacy with Schiller, Goethe, at the insistence of his friend, began to
complete the work begun in the years of “storm and onslaught.” That was the
first part of “Faust”. It appeared in print in 1808. The
lyrical stream of the writer’s work has not dried up. He continued to
create verses of all kinds. Upon his return from Italy, he published
The Roman Elegies (1791), written in the spirit of ancient, predominantly
Roman poets. During the years of friendship with Schiller, he wrote a number of ballads (this
genre of poetry attracted Goethe already in his youth). Now there is a
book of lyrics “West-Eastern Sofa” (1819), rich in motifs of
In later years, Goethe created novels “Electoral Affinity” (1809) and
“The Wanderings of Wilhelm Meister” (1829), and also wrote a number of
autobiographical works: “From my life., Poetry and Truth”
(1814-1824), “The Italian Journey” (1816-1817), “Campaign in
France” and “Siege” Mainz “(1822).
However, the main fruit of the last years of Goethe’s life was the completion of
Faust. From 1825 to 1831, the poet worked on the second part of “Faust,”
bequeathed to publish it after his death, which was done in
Even in such a brief and cursory review you can see the truly gigantic
work of the great poet. With his works, Goethe laid the foundations of
new German literature.
Goethe is a humanist writer who expressed in his works the idea of the
constant development and improvement of a person who is steadily
striving to cognize the world, mastering his riches, serving the
good of mankind.
At the same time, the artist is far from the idea that life is already perfect. He
penetrated deeply into reality, saw the contradictions of society and the
complexity of human characters and destinies. Life appears in the
works of Goethe in all its beauty, in all its richness, but
it is full of drama, struggle, difficulties.
The images of people created by Goethe are diverse. He brilliantly drew
heroes who courageously fought against various forms of evil, but
also showed the people of the weak who turned out to be incapable
to resist unfavorable living conditions. Between these two
extremes, Goethe created other images, and as a thinker and
writer he was especially worried about the problem of educating people for the
struggle of life. Goethe believed in man’s ability to overcome
obstacles. His own life is a great example of constant
work and struggle for human ideals.
As an artist, Goethe is extremely versatile. He has
realistic, romantic, classical,
symbolic works. But whatever artistic methods he
uses, Goethe’s goal of creativity is to understand the essence of
life, to reveal its deep contradictions. The vivid vitality of his
works affects all forms of creativity Goethe. Even when he
resorts to complex symbols and allegories, their profound meaning
lies in revealing the phenomena taking place in the real world.
Creativity Goethe – one of the highest phenomena of world literature. It
is included in the treasury of the artistic values of mankind.