Ten Interesting and Lesser Known Goethe Facts

johann wolfgang goethe facts tischbein

Johann von Goethe Facts | Who is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe?

Johann Wolfgang Goethe is one of the most famous German poets and universal geniuses ever who wrote literary masterpieces such as Faust or The Sorrows of Young Werther. Which are some interesting and lesser known Goethe facts?

  • Goethe was born on August 28, 1749, in Frankfurt (Main). Due to the fact that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, he almost died during his birth.
  • Next to his sister Cornelia, Goethe was the only survivor out of 7 children from his father Johann Caspar Goethe and his mother Catharina Elisabeth Goethe. Both his parents came from influential families. Goethe’s father was a lawyer and very prosperous.
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had a very close relationship to his sister Cornelia. Both were brought up in a very strict way. His father and several private teachers taught the siblings at home. The highly gifted youngster learned Latin, Greek, French, Italian, English, Hebrew, German, Italian and Spanish. Furthermore, he had to learn dancing, fencing, horseback riding, piano, and cello.
  • He started studying law at the age of 17. As the young man wanted to become a poet, he often avoided university and rather spent his time in bars and with girls. His father soon stopped supporting his son’s lifestyle and Goethe was always short of money.
  • The famous German poet was several times engaged and had many affairs. Nevertheless, he first married at the age of 57 his long-time girlfriend Christiane Vulpius. At that time, both already had a 17-year-old son together which was considered as a huge scandal.
  • Goethe’s first love was called Lotte. He handled the unhappy ending by writing down one of his most famous novels: The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774). The novel brought the young German poet worldwide fame – so much fame, that he started traveling under the pseudonymous Johann Philipp Möller.
  • The Sorrows of Young Werther was such a big hit, that blue jackets and yellow vests became the most trendy styling items in 1774. Later on, Goethe’s book got indexed. The reason: As the hero of the novel, many young men took their own lives. The phenomenon of such imitations is still known as the “Werther Effect”.
  • In 1776 Goethe became an aristocratic “von” due to his job as part of the supreme government of Duke Carl August in Weimar: they tried to avoid disputes with the nobility. Later on, Goethe was announced as the finance minister. He never found fulfillment in the civil servant job and always kept on writing.
  • In 1786, he set off to his famous trip to Italy and left his return date open. With this trick, the poet was able to lay down his duties and still continued receiving his salary. He returned to Weimar two years later. His travel novel awakened the longing for Bella Italia in the German people.
  • The last of ten Goethe facts: While being in Italy, Goethe – who also undertook many scientific studies during his lifetime – tried to find out, how plants are growing. His final realization: “Human beings (…) are the largest and most precise physical apparatus that can ever exist.” Later on, he even discovered a human jawbone, the intermaxillary bone which is also known as Goethe’s bone.

Famous Johann Wolfgang von Goethe poems: Erlkönig – Erlking (1782), Prometheur (1789), The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1797), West–Eastern Diwan (1819)

Other famous Goethe works: Faust (1808), Iphigenia in Tauris (1779), The Sorrow’s of Young Werther (1774), Götz von Berlichingen (1773)

Featured image (cropped): Goethe in the Roman CampagnaJohann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein (Wikimedia) – Public Domain
December 22, 2017
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