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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Writer / Scientist

Born: 28 August 1749
Died: 22 March 1832
Birthplace: Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Best known as: The German dramatist known for Faust
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is one of the great figures in the history of German literature. Early in his career he studied law, and in 1775 he joined the court of Duke Charles Augustus. For ten years he was a high-ranking minister of the state of Weimar, while at the same time working on plays, poems, essays, novels and scientific studies. He first gained literary fame with the 1773 play Götz von Berlichingen and the 1774 novel Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers (The Sorrows of Young Werther), and in 1775 he began work on his masterpiece, Faust. In the story Faust sells his soul to Satan in exchange for power and knowledge. The first part was published in 1808 and the second part was published in 1832, by which time Goethe was at the end of a sensational literary career and an idol of the German Romantics. His other works include essays on botany and physiology, an autobiography, Dichtung und Wahrheit (Poetry and Truth, 1811-33), the prototypical Bildungsroman, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, 1796), the epic poem Hermann und Dorothea (1798) and the drama Torquato Tasso (1790).
Extra credit: Here's an audio file from the Goethe Society on how to pronounce his name.

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