The Sorrows of Young Werther, Paperback
4 out of 5 (4 ratings)


A key work in the German 'Sturm und Drang' movement, Johann Goethe's autobiographical epistolary novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther" is a defining moment in early Romanticism, which has influenced writers from Mary Shelley to Thomas Mann.

This "Penguin Classics" edition is translated from with an introduction by Michael Hulse.

Visiting an idyllic German village, Werther, a sensitive young man, meets and falls in love with sweet-natured Charlotte.

Although he realises that she is to marry Albert, he is unable to subdue his passion and his infatuation torments him to the point of despair.

The first great 'confessional' novel, "The Sorrows of Young Werther" draws both on Goethe's own unrequited love for Charlotte Buff and on the death of his friend Karl Wilhelm Jerusalem.

The book was an immediate success, and a cult rapidly grew up around it, resulting in numerous imitations as well as violent criticism and suppression on the grounds of its apparent support of suicide.

Goethe's sensitive exploration of the mind of an artist at odds with society and ill-equipped to cope with life is now considered the first great tragic novel of European literature. This edition includes notes and an introduction by Michael Hulse, who explores the origins of the novel in the author's life and examines its impact on European culture.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832) was born in Frankfurt, Germany.

Although he directed the German State Theatre, dabbled in the occult and worked on scientific theories in evolutionary botany, Goethe is best remembered for his great works "The Sorrows of Young Werther" and "Faust", and his part in the 18th century 'Sturm and Drang' movement.

If you enjoyed "The Sorrows of Young Werther", you might like Stendhal's "Love", also published in "Penguin Classics".


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9780140445039



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Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.

Review by

I feel a little phoney writing a review for a classic. But anyway...I first read Werther when I was about seventeen and I have to say that it went completely over my head. Alas, I thought it was dull. I reread it recently and thought it was brilliant!Werther is a love and loss story. The odd thing about it is that the main protagonist (Werther) falls in and out of love with life, whilst the relationship with the love interest, Lotte, remains constant. The novel takes the form of a briefmarken, allowing the reader acquaint his or herself with Werther's ruminations (predominantly ethical and aesthetic), which become increasingly despairing as the novel progresses, and the development of his affections toward Lotte.Werther is a disaffected youth, lofty and sincere - a romantic - who struggles to come to terms with the rather uninspired world of petite-bourgeois aspirations and conventions he encounters throughout the novel. Goethe's depiction of Werther's descent from a loftly-minded pollyanna to a disaffected outsider is subtle, poignant and thought provoking.

Review by

I find it hard to properly review a book that says ‘classics’ on the cover so I’ll only add that I liked reading about the destructive nature of passionate, one-sided love. It’s a perfect remedy to love can conquer all writing when you can see the pain and violence that often goes hand in hand with love.

Review by

I've read this book being aware of the fact that immediately after it was published in 1774 a "Werther" crisis began.Suicidal acts,broken hearts,painting,dressing styles.Everything was pointing toward Goethe's novel.It was very exiting to go through a such harrowing love story written in a masterfully style.Like all other classical texts it made me anxious and eager to find out what the next page had to offer.I remember even crying out loud a couple of times so in my case it was by no means a boring lecture.I'd recommend this book to anyone who thinks loving is easy and "pink".Take a look at love from a other(probably disturbing) point of view.

Review by

I did not enjoy 'The Sorrows' as much as, I believe, the likes of Byron did. It is a romantic book, but so over-the-top by modern standards that I couldn't really get to grips with it very well. I'm just glad it didn't go on too long, or I might have struggled with a narrator obsessed with himself and with his passionate feelings.

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