Shakespeare and Goethe on Love: from Despair to Hope

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d1aa14db4924d949a686fc1e0caf650a Werther and Lotte

“She had a wildness in her eyes and into it I plunged.”

Goethe, “Sorrows of Young Werther”

In January 1778 Christel von Lassberg drowned herself in the river Ilm, the reason most probably being unrequited love. A copy of Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther was found in her pocket. Goethe was distraught. He had written the book to purge himself of a period of suffering that a failed romance had cost him. He did achieve his catharsis but a lot of his reading public went “Werther-mad” after the book was published:

“In scores of literary, plastic, and musical forms Werther’s life was extended in Europe and America and even into China (where a porcelain factory reproduced him on tea-sets for the European market). Men dressed like him, in blue coat, buff-yellow waistcoat and knee-breeches, women wore a perfume called ‘Eau de Werther’.”

(from the Introduction by David…

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