People have always had trouble pronouncing his name; if you don’t speak German it’s not at all obvious how you’re supposed to say it. A safe bet is to start with a hard G on Ger- and end with a -ter: Ger-ter. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe has often been seen as one of Europe’s big cultural heroes, comparable to the likes of Shakespeare, Dante, and Homer. During his life, Goethe’s admirers were impressed by his literary works, but more than any of his books, what impressed people at the time, was how he lived his life, the kind of person he was. We can pick up some vital lessons from him: 1. Stop being so romantic Goethe’s first proper job after law school was as an assistant at a national tribunal judging cases between the many minor German states that, at that time, made up the Holy Roman Empire. While he was working, Goethe fell in love with the fiance of one of his colleagues. He then committed a huge indiscretion and wrote up the love affair as an novel. He called it, “The Sorrows of Young Werther”. The central character, Werther, is a lightly disguised self-portrait. The book tells the story of how, Werther/Goethe falls in love with a young woman, Charlotte. It’s a very detailed description of all the tiny steps one takes on the road to infatuation: they danced together, at one point their feet accidentally touch under the table, they smile, they write each other flirtatious little notes; it makes being in love seem like the most romantic experience in life; Werther asks himself, “what is a life without romantic love? A magical lantern without a lamp”. This deeply charming novel was a best-seller across Europe for the next 25 years. Napoleon boasted he’d read it seven times. The story has a miserable ending: Charlotte doesn’t really love Werther and finally rejects him. In despair he kills himself. The tragic denouement shows Goethe beginning to see the limitations of the romantic view of life. Romantic love is deeply attractive but it causes us immense problems too. The core problem, as Goethe came to see it, is this: romantic love hopes to freeze a beautiful moment; it’s a summer’s evening after dinner; Werther is walking in the woods with his beloved; he wants it to be always like this so he feels they should get married, have a house together, have children; though, in reality marriage will be nothing at all like the lovely June night; There’ll be exhaustion, bills to pay, squabbles, and a sense of confinement. By comparison, with the extreme hopes of Romanticism, real love, as Goethe came to see, is always, necessarily, a terrible disappointment. That’s why Goethe gradually moved away from romanticism towards an ideology of love he termed “classicism” : marked by a degree of pessimism and acceptance of the troubles that afflict all couples over time, and of the need to abandon some of the heady hopes of the early days for the sake of tranquility and administrative competence. Goethe was a critic of romantic ideology, not because he was cold-hearted or lacking in imagination, but because he so deeply and intimately understood the attractions of romanticism and therefore its dangers. 2. Get a real job In April 1775, not long after his big success with Werther, Goethe got a job as a civil servant. Karl August, the Duke of Weimar, appointed him as his chief adviser and senior administrator to help run his country. Goethe continued in this employment for most of the rest of his life. His main jobs was Minister for Roads and as the overseer of the state-owned silver mining operation. It can sound like a strange move for a very successful creative figure, as if the winner of the Booker Prize became a civil servant; we just assume that art and literature are at odds with an enthusiasm for government administration. But Goethe didn’t see it that way; he felt that understanding administration would help him put big ideas into practice. Later in his life, instead of writing about how good it would be to have a national theater, he was able to establish one, and instead of just saying that cities should have green spaces, he was able to rev up the governmental machinery into action and actually create a model urban park. 3. Travel as therapy In September 1786, after 10 years in the Weimar civil service, when his 40th birthday was coming into view, Goethe got fed up with Germany: the cold, the bad food, and this was key for him, the lack of sex. So he went to Rome with a very classical idea of the point of travel: the outer journey was intended to support an inner journey towards maturity. He felt that there were parts of himself that could only be discovered in Italy. But, like many visitors to Rome, when he got there he felt a bit disappointed. In the famous book of poems he later wrote about his experience, the Roman Elegies; he describes how the great city seemed to be filled with lifeless ruins that were famous but didn’t actually mean anything to him; “Speak to me, you stones!”, he pleads. It’s a feeling many later visitors have had. Goethe realized that what he needed was not a more elaborate guidebook, but the right person to have an affair with; someone who would embody the spirit of the place he was in. In his poems he describes the woman he meets, whom he calls Faustina. They spend lazy afternoons in bed. She’s not a great intellectual, but she breathes the spirit of Rome; she tells him about her life, about the building she passes on her way to the market, the Pantheon, a Baroque church designed by Bernini, which she hadn’t even realized were famous; they were just the buildings that happened to be around when she was getting the milk and the aubergines. For Goethe, the point of travel isn’t relaxation or just taking a break from routine, he had a bigger goal in mind; the aim of travel is to go to a place where we can find a missing ingredient of our own maturity. 4. Living Life to the Fullest One of the most striking things about Goethe is how much he did, how broad his horizons were, and how wide his interest came to be; He explored this particularly through his most famous work, Faust. Goethe worked on Faust all his life; the earliest sketches go back to his teens and he only decided he was done with it when he was in his early eighties. Faust comes in two parts and together the performance takes about 13 hours. Goethe himself never saw the whole thing and few people have ever since. Faust is a medieval academic and scholar, he’s very learned, but he doesn’t do very much. He’s unfulfilled in love, he hasn’t made any money, and he has no power. His knowledge is sterile, his life feels pointless, and he wishes he could die. But then he is visited by a devil, called Mephistopheles, who offers him boundless energy, good looks, and the ability to do whatever he wants. The question is: what will Faust want to do? The first danger for Faust is to just stay an academic who resists worldly impact; with the Devil’s help he could be the ultimate bookworm; he could get his hands on the oldest rarest manuscripts. But Faust gets weary of words and longs for action. Now the second danger is that he will use his new powers to gratify every sensual appetite; he might become just a pure hedonist. Faust goes some way down this path; he goes to a bar and gets everyone very drunk, he goes to huge orgy, but then he realizes that what he really seeks is beauty and love, and this leads him on from sex and alcohol. The third danger is that Faust will become a confident, but shallow political leader; but in a second part of the play, Faust pursues a grander purpose: eventually he organizes the development of a new country, somewhat reminiscent of the Dutch Republic, which at that time was the most enlightened and successful society in the world. Faust is a morality tale for all of us; he shows us both the pitfalls of life and how we might avoid them. Faust knows a great deal, but he resists being an academic; he love sex, but he doesn’t give way to debauchery; he likes power but he doesn’t use it for megalomania; he puts it to work in the service of noble ends. Faust’s career path is not unlike Goethe’s. Faust is essentially tracing for us a theory of how to live a full life: he’s very interested in ideas, but not a scholar; he visits Italy, but he doesn’t stay there; he goes back to work: he tries out administration and learns how to wield power, but once he’s mastered this side of himself he moves on. The Faustian idea is that in order to develop fully, we have to flirt with things that are quite dangerous, but hold on to a sense of higher purpose. 5. Science for Artsy People Goethe was the last European to do a certain kind of remarkable things: to write great novels and plays, and also to play a significant role in science. His interest ranged through geology, meteorology, physiology, and chemistry, and his most important work was in botany. In 1790 he produced a study: The Metamorphosis of Plants, and a book on optics and color, called The Theory of Colors, was published in 1810. Thereafter this combination of very significant work in the arts and in the sciences disappears from the European civilization. Goethe gives us some guidance as to why this has happened. He’s a hero for people of a more literary and artistic sensibility, who are attracted from a distance to the broad subject matter of science, but who find the details a bit less appealing. Goethe liked science that you can do yourself, by looking carefully at the world around you; for example, he did a lot of his research on plants in his own back garden in Weimar, he did a lot of his research on optics with candles and colored pieces of paper in his study; he liked the training this gave in asking oneself, “what do I actually see?” Goethe was very interested in the psychological aspect of our relationship to the sorts of things that science investigates: plants, light, stones; rather than exclude the issues of personal meaning, Goethe sees these essential to the proper and full investigation of nature. Goethe was worried by the direction that science was taking, which he particularly associated with the work of Isaac Newton. As Goethe saw it, the academic professional scientist wasn’t interested in a personal meaning of the things they were investigating, and thereby helped to kill the subject. As he aged, Goethe kept on working, and he kept on seeking love and sex; in his seventies, he fell in love with a woman called Ulkrike; his passion was unrequited. He died at his house in Weimar in 1832, aged 83. We have so much to learn from him; we don’t often hear people declaring a wish to be a little more like Goethe, but if we did, the world would definitely be a more vibrant and humane place.

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100 thoughts on “LITERATURE – Goethe”

  1. Mattia Caporrella says:

    IS GOT

  2. Gliding Sparrowhawk says:

    I'm very sure that I will be able to glide in a short time with this channel 🙂

  3. Julian Lö says:

    In German Faust is essentially different to your version of him

  4. TacosWizardBeret says:

    Sounds so much like an age of empire farm

  5. DeadTownManifesto1985 says:

    He literally fucked his whole life. LOL

  6. practical intuition says:

    Lol. He got salty because he couldn't get the girl he wanted. This dude's entire legacy is based on his sexual frustrations! LOL. Is that it? It's that simple to find the inspiration to write a bestseller? He was a beta. Mhm. Yes he was.

  7. Iran Citizen says:

    Great personality, thanks for sharing.

  8. Maria Alexea says:

    "God help us — for art is long, and life so short."Goethe

  9. Peter Strianus says:

    Over us . A master.

  10. ayumi says:

    I see so many classical authors I admire mentioning and worshipping this guy, so I'm here to see what's up.

  11. ayumi says:

    I still reads him as Goa-th 🤣

  12. ayumi says:

    LOL I sympathize with him about the stones of Rome (this is why you need a guide when visiting the Forum)

  13. Melih Öztürk says:

    he fell in love with a 16 years old when he was 70. fuck him

  14. Luke Desobry says:

    It's very obvious you have not read neither Werther nor Faust

  15. The Revolutionary Leftist 21 says:

    Goethe: What is life without romantic love?

  16. Your neighborhood friend says:

    It's just Goat-a to keep it simple.

  17. Susanne Koch says:


  18. Bärbel Nitsche says:

    Great video !!! Thank you so much .

  19. Oscar Davis says:

    Where does this argument come from about Newton and the future of science? I like this direction of argument and would like to read more. Thanks

  20. Rabiya Kaleel says:

    Please upload fisherman poem in tamil

  21. Lanier Wen says:

    Germans are amazing sorry jews

  22. Robert Manders says:

    In univeristy my proffs kept refering to a guy named "Guhtuh". He was very much like this guy Goethe you discribe here. I read in many of the text books in the library about a guy named "Go-ith" He was really interesting too. I wondered if Guhtuh and Goith were aquainted with each other.,

  23. The Great P U McShadts says:

    Some people have gerters on their necks. They have to have them removed.

  24. Sindre says:

    Goethe was an Übermensch indeed. We can learn a lot from his way of life, as well as his works.

  25. WeedSuperMan says:

    1:50 pausing video to google denouement

  26. Spiritual Anarchist says:

    Goethe in two words.: Sex , & the Devil,,,,.

  27. Liz Xu says:

    I seek the life of Goethe and I am a woman. It can be done.

  28. Mohamed OULHAJ says:

    he ruined my dream to visit Rome

  29. VGO VGER says:

    Are there any great female philosophers?

  30. Mike Fuller says:

    He was actually nowhere near as intelligent as people make out!!

  31. Daniel Belous says:

    Faust is a fucking masterpiece. It is one of those rare literary works which speaks to you and elevates one to realms sublime.

  32. Casey Baker says:

    Isn’t this guy a genius?

  33. Yahushua Jahweh says:

    Early mgtow
    Jesus is King lsmorg

  34. Gazmend Doda says:

    Thank you for making my life easier, by treating us with your unbiased knowledge.

  35. Phuoc Loc Tran says:


  36. Leika Mikaru says:

    What do you mean he doesn't give in to Sex? He makes a young girl pregnant, vanishes for a 10 months while she kills her newborn child and returns to rescue her on the day of her execution only to leave her when things don't go his way. What part of that is even remotely sensible or responsible?

  37. KEZZAKILLA says:

    Me and this guy are related

  38. John Rathee says:

    2:57 is that a hand job?

  39. V- Latifi says:

    Thank you very much for all the work that you do!
    I have question thou
    Why do you hide his book "Westöstlicher Divan" where he praises the Prophet Muhammad and declares his love and commitement to Islaam. As we read that he sees Islaam as the only possible true religion.

  40. Joao Lima says:


  41. Beco Merulic says:


  42. Thomas Bingel says:

    Recommendable, but does Goethe a lot of injustice by being way too short and omitting too many things!

  43. Pieter Zandvliet says:

  44. Jacob Darling says:

    As a writer studying social work with an aim for eventually holding a local office I can relate to Goethe. I think I just found my “patron saint”

  45. Seraph909 says:


  46. Marc Padilla says:

    Though its down to earth,Goethe's philosophy is from a sheltered perspective and not willing to engage in harsh reality head on. Too optimistic.

  47. thenowchurch says:

    Goethe was a beast !

  48. Michal Kunz says:


  49. Marc Giancola says:

    Women haven't contributed anything to this world if so very little 1% out of 100 men that built this world invented everything music arts sciences women haven't done s*** they just ride on the backs of men foolish man you do anything to get that pussy wake up. F*** them then get rid of them don't get married whatever you do don't have kids whatever you do first off you lose your freedom then you lose your money don't let these whores of today get over on you and get an easy life because of you I guess you're so stupid you let pussy be the boss of your life don't be a fool

  50. armin farhani says:

    Audio is terrible.

  51. Shima Samantha says:

    How about African Philosophers
    Or anyother Black scholars. I love this channel

  52. Jordan Crago says:

    This idea that after the heady first stage of a romantic relationship all is lost to tedium and tolerance is just not true to experience. I am in a long-term, cohabiting relationship and while it is less fiery than it used to be and we do have the occasional trouble it is nevertheless happy, loving, sexy, and deeply satisfying. My parents have been together for nearly thirty years but you would think they're two teenagers in love. The anti-romance dogma that this channel and so many people champion is the result, so it seems to me, of past disappointments and pain. Scratch any cynic, it was once said, and you'll find a disappointed idealist. There's a wonderful article on called 'Endless love' which I enjoin you to read.

  53. Thomas Meta says:


  54. CODENAME: NUMB says:

    Goethe > Faust

  55. K Rel says:

    I feel like this short description of Goethe explains my inights and personality to a T. Im interested in science as a spiritual and personal endeavor but i find most academic science to be narrow minded in its scope and many people do it just as a career without any sense of incorperating it into their lives or looking at a deeper potential meaning. Id say at large society has lost any sort of romantic sensibility towards life and its become more detached and psychopathic which ultimately makes people either stupid or depressed as coping mechanisms to the horrifying reality that our society is deliberately and carefully structured to make us feel lesser by the elite.

  56. TheXxXsmileXxX abc says:

    Romantik and Klassik as literature periods and influences in Goethes life have nothing to do/ or not that much with actual love. the video is also wrong about his books but someone else commented on that already

  57. vihung van says:

    Always be romantic, remember to remember to be romantic

  58. vihung van says:

    Yes, what’s life without romance

  59. Zhonguoria says:


  60. mark hughes says:

    A mordant rejoinder to Goethe’s desire that science is best when personal and amateur and not coldly professional may be found in the fact that the Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald was built where his back garden in Weimar used to be. The dictator was much influenced by the ideas of Darwin and by the subtitle made to the Origin of Species.

  61. Lluc Sala says:

    My girlfriend broke with me recently. I just started to read Goethe to put my mind away of this bad situation that you suffer when you feel abandoned. I had the luck to find him, Goethe described my entire relationship and made me see what my emprisoned mind could not see. I started to read him because of another book of Stefan Zweig where Goethe was an incredible infulence for him. I wish I had read him before, I would have dodged all this suffering and made less mistakes by looking at my relationship as goethe look's at it.

    Right now I'm not sure if I should try to rescue our relationship with this new perspective or just accept my new condition and be stronger by suffering more. Is a hard decision and I'm not sure about what to do. Any considerations are welcome but I think that the rescue of this relationship could end up being more tragical than the tragic it is right now. Anyways, I understand that this is completly irrelevant for everyone here.

    Thanks for the video, I'm looking forward to read more of him as it is a huge writer and influence for me.

  62. Leigh Foulkes says:

    "The Sorrows of Young Werther" isn't just some sad love story but as much a story about middle class wanting to become part of the upper class.Well, at least it was to me. a young middle class gent falls for a married or soon to be married (it has been awhile since I read it) upper class women. She loves him but duty calls her to marry or stay with said rich snob.

  63. V R says:

    Which and whose is the painting at 10:03?

  64. Jerry Shunk says:

    That review of Faust was a pathetic leftist knuckleball !!!

  65. Gregory Edgerton says:

    I think that say, were I to be banished to an island, to live-out eternity – and to never have anything whatsoever save one. Literature. Because like my own sentence on the tiny island,

  66. Scott Laux says:

    Goethe was much like Benjamin Franklin. I 💝 them both.

  67. oscar6418 says:

    None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free ..Goethe

  68. mark hughes says:

    Historical note – the Faust legend grew out of memory of the personality of Simon Magus – Jesus’ at first great friend and later great adversary.

  69. fifthof says:

    I got bored after a minute.

  70. Luka Đukić says:

    Can you do Herman Hesse?

  71. nozecone says:

    "Romantic Love" and "Romanticism" are NOT the same thing. Romantic Love is a tradition going back to Medieval times; Romanticism is an artistic and cultural movement that appeared in the later 18th century and took off in the 19th century. Romanticism incorporated Romantic Love, you could say, but it is a far broader ideology, so to speak.

  72. Venraef says:

    10:10 someone actually posed and drew THAT?

  73. Dominique Echevarria Echevarria says:


  74. Marko Pavicevic says:

    beta orbiter

  75. carlos dumbratzen says:

    There is a german comedian, Olaf Schubert, he could teach you how to pronounce Goethe.
    In an audiobook "olaf Schubert packt ein", there is an old swedish guy from Thüringen and he is not able to pronounce O correctly and instead pronounces it like you would oe/ö.
    Another way to explain how to pronounce it is to look at for example "burn". Ö is like the sound between b and n without the r sound

  76. Lillina Blue says:

    One of the best writers ever.

  77. Doruk Efe Gökmen says:

    It is striking that even such a purposeful portrayal of Goethe as an exemplary individual leaves one underwhelmed, given his fame and glory.

    His alleged teaching on how one should live is empty and uninspiring. The objection he brought to the scientific method is weakly constructed: one needs to remember no further than how his irrefutable arguments regarding optics became utterly irrelevant over the course of time. The truth is, a superficial exploration does not deserve a discovery of value beyond cosmetic, and even Goethe could not escape from demonstrating that.

    But I guess, who were wise and intelligent enough to prolong a wealth of reputation that exceeds their legacy cannot afford an honest criticism by the mortals. They must be content with mere admiration, may it be independent of their deeds!

  78. Consuelo Palutis says:

    You sped up the tempo of the voice and it became anxious and unenjoyable. It took the ease of listening away. Why did you do that?

  79. Gibbyace says:

    Dies while getting a blowjob

  80. Newton says:

    Your videos are amazing! Do a Jim Morrison one plz lmao it’ll be so epic

  81. Youtube says:

    I watched this trying to figure out why he is so gamous. Still seems like a regular dude to me.

  82. Meycia says:

    Goethe = humane? He certainly had a cruel side as well – considering the way he treated some of his women.

  83. Kiki Subotinova says:

    '' 2. Get a real job ''

    me: chuckles

  84. Greenish KaZoo says:

    "administrative competence" – why be in love when you can get your shit together :') lol

  85. Arezo Rasa says:


  86. enter a name here says:

    Goethe’s ideas were taking to literal by the modern world. Everyone does too much of everything and they live an Empty life. Soke fuck too many people. Some work too much. Some not enough. And on and on.

  87. Leonardo Datore says:

    This is easily the best channel on Youtube.

    Academic, intellectual, and virtuous. Quality that is highly lacking in other forms of media.

  88. Laura Veapi says:

    Goeth"e" = Dant"e" ….end the same way for the correct pronunciation 😉

  89. JRTG says:

    Before there was ever a Candace Bushnell, there was Goethe

  90. Johnny Panic says:

    Πολύ ωραίο βίντεο. Θα ήταν ευχής έργον να υποτιτλίσετε και άλλα από αυτή τη σειρά.

  91. Jack Grace says:

    He wins the self-actualization big dick contest of human history.

  92. saccio유키 says:

    what the actual fuck why this made me kinda fall in love with this sir. wtf

  93. cowlark2000 says:

    Wow! I’ve never seen Alain be so wrong before

  94. Angela Kindness says:

    Goethe: "Mehr Licht" ( more light ) *dies*

  95. Brandon Obaza says:

    "Forsooth! He serves you after strange devices.
    No Earthly meat or drink the fool suffices.
    His spirit's ferment far aspireth,
    Half conscious of his frenzied, crazed unrest.
    The fairest stars from Heaven he requireth,
    On Earth, the highest raptures and the best.
    Yet all the near and far that he desireth,
    Fails to subdue the tumult of his breast."

    Can't read that line without a long pause for painful introspection.

  96. Peace IsGood says:

    His middle name is fucking Wolfgang.

  97. Bulaşıkcı Aranır says:

    Ahmeeet göte çakart

  98. Emirhan Aksar says:

    Beyaz futbol

  99. Aodhan O'Donnell says:

    School of life's tepid interpretation of Faust I thought it had the weight of the macabre not a morality tale

  100. idratherdie says:

    Please don't pronounce Goethe's name like this person pronounces it thank you

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