THE boy, Goethe, was a precocious youngster. At the early age of eight he had already acquired some knowledge of Greek, Latin, French and Italian. He had likewise acquired from his mother the knack of story telling; and from a toy puppet show in his nursery his first interest in the stage.

Goethe's early education was somewhat irregular and informal, and already he was marked by that apparent feeling of superiority that stayed by him throughout his life. When he was about 16 he was sent to Leipzig, ostensibly to study law. He apparently studied more life than law and put in his time expressing his reactions through some form of writing. On at least two occasions, this form was dramatic.

Finally, in 1770 Goethe went to Strassburg, this time really intent on passing his preliminary examinations in law, and with the somewhat more frivolous ambition of learning to dance. Along with his study of law, he studied art, music, anatomy and chemistry. A strong friendship with the writer, Herder, was likewise no part of Goethe's experience at this time, a contact which was of considerable importance in these formative years.

In 1771 Goethe returned to Frankfurt, nominally to practice law, but he was soon deep in work on what was to be his first dramatic success, GŲtz von Berlichingen. While this was actually the story of a robber baron of the 16th century it really represented Goethe's youthful protest against the established order and his demand for intellectual freedom. Its success made its hitherto unknown author the literary leader of Germany.

Goethe's invitation in 1775 to the court of Duke Karl August at Weimar was a turning point in the literary life of Germany. He became manager of the Court Theater, and interested himself in various other activities, so that for a period of some ten years not much actual writing was done.

The writing of Faust, however, that best known of Goethe's works, extended over practically the whole of Goethe's literary life, a period of 57 years. It was finally finished when Goethe was 81. Faust is in reality a dramatic poem rather than a piece for the stage. While based on the same legend as Marlowe's Dr. Faustus, it far transcends both its legendary source and the English play. The latter is little more than a Morality illustrating the punishment of sin; Goethe's work is a drama of redemption.

Others of Goethe's works which have stood the test of time include: Clavigo, Egmont, Stella, Iphigenia in Tauris and Torquato Tasso.

The timeline of Goethe's life is as follows :

1749

Johann Wolfgang Goethe is born on August 28th in Frankfurt am Main.

His parents are the Imperial Councillor Johann Kaspar Goethe and the mayor's daughter Katharina Elisabeth Textor.

On August 29th Goethe is baptisized as Protestant.

1750

Birth of his sister Cornelia.

1755

At first he attends a public school, but he is being taught by private teachers in the family's home in the "Großer Hirschgraben" Street.

1759

During the War of Seven Years French troops occupy Frankfurt

In the Goethes' house the French city governor Royal Lieutenant Marquis Thornac erects his head quarters.

In this time (until 1763) young Goethe frequently visits the theater.

1765

According to his father's wishes Goethe takes up law studies at the University of Leipzig though He himself would have preferred the "Fine Arts" (Poetry and Rhetoric).

1766

He falls in love with Anna Katharina (Käthchen) Schönkopf, the daughter of a Leipzig hostel owner.

The joyful collection of poems "Annette" is written.

One of his poems is printed in the Frankfurt periodical "Die Sichtbaren" (The Visibles) without Goethe's ap-proval.

1768

His relation to Käthchen Schönkopf breaks up.

Psychic und physical breakdown of Goethes, serious lung disease.

"Leipziger Liederbuch": (Leipzig Songbook) ten poems to melodies composed by Bernhard Theodor Breitkopf.

1769

During his long and severe infection he is being nursed by Susanne Katharina von Klettenberg, a relative of his mother's, who introduces him to protestant piety and encourages his lecture of pansophic-alchimistic works in the neoplatonic tradition (Paracelsus, Basilius Valentinus, Georg v. Welling,....).

1770

He continues his law studies in Strasbourg. Attends lectures in history, political sciences, anatomy, surgery and chemistry.

Gets to know the five-year-older poet, philosoph und theologian Johann Gottfried Herder, Avantgardist of the STURM & DRANG era and has meets with him on a daily basis from September 1770 to April 1771.

In October relation to the Sessenheim priest's daughter Friederike Brion, manifest of his love is the so called Sesenheimer Lyrik of 1770/71. "Neue Lieder in Melodien gesetzt von B.T.Breitkopf", first printed anthology of Goethe's poems..

1771

On behalf of Herder Goethe collects Folk songs of the Alsace.

After being promoted to "licentitatus juris" he returns to Frankfurt, where he prepares for the profession of lawyer during the next years.

1772

Goethe writes editorials for the "Frankfurter Gelehrte Anzeigen" on the subjects of law, rhetorics und poetics.

He becomes a member of the Darmstadt Circle of Sensibles ("Gemeinschaft der Heiligen", à la Dead poets' society) his Pseudonym is "Der Wanderer".

Relation to the Novellist Sophie von La Roche and her daughter Maximiliane.

During his apprenticeship at the Reichskammergericht (Imperial Court of Justice) in Wetzlar, he gets to know Charlotte Buff .

The great hymns "Wanderers Sturmlied" and "Der Wanderer" are written.

1773

"Götz von Berlichingen", first versions of the play in five acts (prose) on the knight Götz von Berlichingen, whose powerful character stands in contrast to the weakness and hypocrisy of the present. Published by Goethe himself, it premiered April 14 1774 in Berlin.

1774

Goethe is a frequent visitor to the home of Maximiliane von La Roche who now is married but whom Goethe still feels very passionately for. Her husband and Goethe fight and argue.

The two hymns "Prometheus" and "Ganymed" are written.

He hikes along the Lahn River and the Rhine together with the Swiss author J.K. Lavater and the teacher J.B. Basedow.

The satire "Götter, Helden und Wieland" about the rationalist writer Christoph Martin Wieland is published as well as "Clavigo", a tragedy in five acts (Prosa) about mar-riage and faithfulness: the young writer Clavigo believes that the "duties of common men" do not apply to him, his adultery causes the death of his lover Marie and he is shot by her brother. Premiers August 23 in Hamburg.

"Die Leiden des jungen Werthers", ("The sorrows of young Werther") a novel written in monologue letters becomes a worldwide success, Goethe becomes famous and admired at once. The STURM & DRANG era has reached its apotheosis.

Goethe is visited by many personalities from Europe's nobility, among them the princes Karl August und Konstantin von Sachsen-Weimar.

1775

Engaged with the Frankfurt banker's daughter Lili Schönemann, engagement dissolved after half a year.
Journey to Switzerland.

Follows an invitation of the new Duke Karl August von Sachsen-Weimar (s.above) to visit Weimar.

"Erwin und Elmire. Ein Schauspiel mit Gesang", a musical play is created.

1776

Becomes close friend to Charlotte von Stein, wife of one of the Duke's ministers.

Moves home to Weimar into the "Gartenhaus am Stern", a gift from the Duke.

He is granted the Weimar citizenship and is appointed "Geheimer Legationsrat" with a seat and a vote in the state's highest office. Thus Goethe's living is secured, he receives regular payments. He has his friend Herder come to the Weimar court as well.

"Claudine von Villa Bella. Ein Schauspiel mit Gesang" ,a musical play is written.

"Stella. Ein Schauspiel f√ľr Liebende", play in five acts concerning a "threesome" relationship, evokes a scandal and is outlawed in Hamburg.

"Die Geschwister", a play in one act about alleged love between brother and sister is also written.

1777

Death of his sister Cornelia.

Trip into the Harz mountains.

1778

Journey to Potsdam and Berlin accompanied by Duke Karl August.

1779

Goethe is appointed Head of the Commission for War and Road Construction. Second trip to Switzerland in company of the duke.

"Iphigenie", first version (prose) of the play published in 1787 as "Ipigenie auf Tauris" taking up a theme of Greek mythology: Iphigenie, the daughter of King Agamemnon is in exile on Tauris as a temple priestess, she is saved by her brother Orest and brought back home.

1781

Mineralogical studies and lectures about human anatomy at the "Freien Zeichen-Schule" (Liberal School of Drawing) in Weimar.

1782

Goethe is conferred a title of nobility ("von Goethe"!) by Emperor Joseph II.

Death of his father.

Moves to a house at the "Frauenplan" in Weimar, which remains his home until his demise.

Is promoted to senior officer in the Internal Revenue Service.

The ballad "Erlkönig" is written.

1783

Joins the "Illuminatenorden" (Secret Society à la Freemasons).

Second trip into the Harz.

1784

Goethe discovers a inter-jaw bone of the human skull.

Third Harz-journey.

1785

Scientific studies.

First stay at the Karlsbad spa (Bohemia).

1786

First journey to Italy: From Karlsbad to Rome. In Rome he is in contact with a circle of German artists. Literary theory dates this journey as the beginning of the KLASSIK era of German literature, being evoked by the impression of Roman and Greek sculpture, architecture and literature.

1787

Carnival in Rome. Pursues geological and botanical studies in Naples and Sicily. Ascends Mount Vesuv, returns to Rome.

"Iphigenie auf Tauris", verse version of the 1779 play, first drama of the German Klassik.

1788

Returns to Weimar. Breaks up with Charlotte von Stein. Lives together with Christiane Vulpius.

First contact to Friedrich Schiller, whom he helps to get at tenure as a professor for history at Jena University.

"Egmont", tragedy in five acts about Count Egmont who fights for Dutch indepen-dence and is executed by the Spanish in 1568.

1790

Second italian journey to Venice where his "Venetianischen Epigramme" are written.

"Torquato Tasso", play in five acts. The Italian poet Torquato Tasso (1544-95) serves as an example to illustrate the conflicts between creative men and society. Reality drives Tasso to despair but he finds consolation in his works.

"Faust. Ein Fragment", fragment of a drama (Urfaust was already conceived in 1774).

1792

Takes part in a campaign against the French Revolutionary troops together with the duke.

1793

Accompanies the duke following his wish to the siege of Mainz, where a jacobinian republic had been installed with the aid of French revolutionaries.

"Der B√ľrgergeneral", comedy in one act. Critique of the French Revolution.

1794

Begin of the friendship with Friedrich Schiller after a discussion on the observation and description of nation and how to hold apart idea and experience.

1795

Second journey to Karlsbad.

"Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre", novel depicting the ideal of the Klassik: Forming the individual as a member of society. Published in four volumes.

"Römische Elegien", Circle of poems imitating in terms of form and content the antique elegies. Their central theme is love - Amor = Roma.

1797

Several meetings with Friedrich von Schlegel who defines the aesthetic of the Klassik.

Third trip to Switzerland. Heads the ducal libraries of Jena and Weimar .

"Musen-Almanach f√ľr das Jahr 1798" anthology published by Schiller including many ballads written in a "competition of poets" between Goethe and Schiller, i.e. "Der Zauberlehrling" (The Sorcerer's apprentice).

1798

The first volume of "Propyläen. Eine periodische Schrift" a literary periodical edited by Goethe is published by Cotta, Leipzig. In combination with Schiller's literary magazine "Die Horen" it becomes the most important means for prolifer-ating the ideals of the so called WEIMARER KLASSIK.

1799

Schiller moves to Weimar.

HOCHKLASSIK, the apotheosis of the Klassik era commences.

Goethe and Schiller meet every forthnight at Goethe's.

1805

Schiller dies.

"Winckelmann und sein Jahrhundert. In Briefen und Aufsätzen herausgege-ben von Goethe" a collection of articles of the archeologist and art historianl Johann Joachim Winckelmann, who had defined the aesthetic ideal of the German Klassik.

1806

Marries Christiane Vulpius.

During several visits at a Jena librarian's Goethe's fatherly affection towards the librarian's eighteen year old foster daughter Minna Herzlieb changes to passionate love. She probably is the real-life version of Ottilie in the novel "Die Wahlver-wandtschaften" (1809)

1808

Death of his mother.

During a congress of monarchs in Erfurt Goethe meets with Napoleon Bonaparte, a fan of his, who asks Goethe to move to Paris.

"Faust. Der Tragödie erster Teil". The fate of Faust, an enquiring genius, is de-picted as part of a superhuman deal between god and Mephistopheles, the em-bodiment of evil, the negative principle. Goethe's masterpiece.

1809

"Die Wahlverwandschaften", novel, transferring the features of chemical elements to the relationship of two couples.

1811

"Aus meinem Leben. Dichtung und Wahrheit", autobiography, published in four parts (1811, 1812, 1814, 1831 and posthumous 1833).

1812/14

Meets Ludwig van Beethoven several times, begins correspondence with the writer Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué (endures until 1828).

First journey to the rivers Rhine, Main and Neckar: the Boisserée-Collection of medieval art at Heidelberg leaves a deep impression.

1815

Second trip to Rhine, Main and Neckar: together with the Prussian reformer Karl von und zum Stein Goethe visits the unfinished Dom of Cologne and the Wallraf-Collection of art. Meets the Grimms, the artist family Brentano and the Frankfurt patrician and art lover Städel

Goethe is appointed minister.

"Shakespeare und kein Ende", essay on the reception of the Bard's works in Germany.

1816

His wife Christiane dies.

"Italiänische Reise", autobiographical work on his Italian journey 1786-88, published in two volumes as a sequel to his autobiography bearing the title "Aus meinem Leben. Zweiter Abteilung Erster und Zweiter Teil".

1821

Studies Indian literature.

Travels to Marienbad (Bohemia): there he meets Amalie von Levetzow and her three daughters, among them the 18 year old Ulrike, who, Goethe (who now is 72 years old!!!) proposes a marriage; after first having it thought to be a joke, she then refuses.

"Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre oder Die Entsagenden", novel, an "odysee of learning": Wilhelm becomes a surgeon and finds his place as individual in society.

1825

Franz Schubert sends Goethe a musical version of Goethe's poems "An Schwager Kronos", "An Mignon" and "Ganymed", Goethe leaves it unanswered.

He is awarded a honorary Ph.D by the Jena University Law School.

1828

Duke Karl August dies.

"Briefwechsel zwischen Schiller und Goethe in den Jahren 1794 bis 1805", the correspondence between Goethe and Schiller is published by Goethe, dedicated to King Ludwig I. of Bavaria. Central subject is the conception of a comprehensive artistic theory.

1829

First complete performance of "Faust. Der Tragödie erster Teil" at the Braunschweig National Theater.

1830

Goethe's son August dies in Rome.

Goethe suffers from a lung disease and is severely weakened.

1831

He brings "Faust (Zweiter Teil)" to an end, seals the manuscript and orders it to be published after his death.

He authorizes his secretary Eckermann to publish his estate.

1832

Goethe dies March 22 in Weimar and is buried in the ducal tomb.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
oil painting by Heinrich Kolbe
1822-1826
(Goethe-Museum Dusseldorf).


Charlotte (Lotte) Buff.
Pastel drawing
Goethe fell in love with her in Weltzar in 1772 before discovering that she was engaged to his friend Johann Georg Christian Kestner.


Title page of the novel that made Goethe famous - Liepzig, in te Weygandschen Buchhandlung.


Duke Karl August
of Sachsen-Weimar
He invited Goethe to Weimar in 1775
Drawing by Johann Heinrich Lips.


Goethe at age 30.
oil painting by G. Oswald May.
(Stuttgart: Kroener, 1965).


Christiane Vulpius
Goethe's mistress in 1788 and his wife in 1806
pastel drawing by F. Bury (1800).


Goethe at age 77
Pastel drawing
Ludwig Sebbers (1965).


The cottage and footpath where Goethe used to sit and write.


Goethe's house in Weimar.


A copy of Goethe's handwriting.