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1749 - 1832
Born in Frankfurt am Main, Goethe studied law and philosophy in Leipzig and Strasbourg, becoming one of the leading members of the Sturm und Drang (‘Storm and Stress’) movement. His play Götz von Berlichingen (1773) and his epistolary novel, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (1774), though controversial, demonstrated the young writer’s unusual gifts, and in 1775 he was invited to become privy councillor at the court of the Duke of Weimar, who wanted to transform his small duchy into the intellectual center of Germany. Although Goethe had difficulties with the duke and his aristocratic rule, he remained in Weimar for the rest of his life and conceived some of his best works there, including Torquato Tasso (1790), Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister, 1795), Faust I (1808), Faust II (1832), Westöstlicher Diwan (West-Eastern Divan, 1819), and Dichtung und Wahrheit (Poetry and Truth, 1811-33). He had a great interest in fairy tales and wrote theree significant tales during his lifetime: “Der neue Paris” (“The New Paris,” 1763), “Das Märchen” (“The Fairy Tale,” 1785), and “Die neue Melusine” (“The New Melusine,” 1812).
Goethe was the first writer in German since Luther whose work commanded the attention of a European public. His great lyric poetry begins with his studies at Strasbourg in 1770 and continues unbroken until his death....Despite the high quality of his dramas, novels, and critical and scientific writings, it is, above all, by virtue of his Faust and his lyrics that he occupies the dominating place in German literature.