The Sorrows of Young Werther

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice
  • Date of entry: May-11-1999


Through a series of letters, the lover, Werther, narrates his story of finding love and losing it. The continuity of the piece is interrupted by the third person narrator to explicate certain segments of the tale and to describe the unsuccessful suitor's suicide.

Young Werther, an artist with independent means, meets and falls in love with a woman already betrothed. The letters he writes detail the development of his relationship with Lotte and eventually with her intended, Albert. As the date of Lotte's wedding approaches, Werther leaves the area and attempts to forget her by immersing himself in the work world.

Unsuccessful, he returns to the estate where Lotte and her new husband reside. Becoming increasingly more obsessed with the need to possess Lotte, he alienates his former friends and is banished from their presence. Suicide ideation appears on multiple occasions, and in his final agony of loss, Werther borrows Albert's pistols and kills himself.


Although appearing at times to be a bit silly, this eighteenth century romantic novel is remarkably poetic. The reader is reminded of the newly celebrated love poetry of Goethe's period, and with it, the glorification of suicide for love, or for love lost, embodied in so many works of the romantic period. Werther's obsession with Lotte is dramatically presented with language rich in personal reflection and sensuous descriptions of nature and of suffering.



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