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The Sorrows of Young Werther (German: Die Leiden des jungen Werthers) is an epistolary and loosely autobiographical novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, first published in 1774; a revised edition of the novel was published in 1787. Werther was an important novel of the Sturm und Drang period in German literature, and influenced the later Romantic literary movement.
Finished in six weeks of intensive writing during January–March 1774, its publication instantly made the 24-year-old Goethe one of the first international literary celebrities. Of all his works, this book was the most known to the general public. Towards the end of Goethe's life, a personal visit to Weimar became crucial to any young man's tour of Europe.
The majority of The Sorrows of Young Werther is presented as a collection of letters written by Werther, a young artist of highly sensitive and passionate temperament, and sent to his friend William.
In these letters, Werther gives a very intimate account of his stay in the fictional village of Wahlheim (based on the town of Garbenheim, near Wetzlar). He is enchanted by the simple ways of the peasants there. He meets Lotte, a beautiful young girl who is taking care of her siblings following the death of their mother. Despite knowing beforehand that Lotte is already engaged to a man named Albert who is 11 years her senior, Werther falls in love with her.
Although this causes Werther great pain, he spends the next few months cultivating a close friendship with both of them. His pain eventually becomes so great that he is forced to leave and go to Weimar. While he is away, he makes the acquaintance of Fräulein von B. He suffers a great embarrassment when he forgetfully visits a friend and has to face the normal weekly gathering of the entire aristocratic set. He returns to Wahlheim after this, where he suffers more than he did before, partially because Lotte and Albert are now married. Every day serves as a torturous reminder that Lotte will never be able to requite his love. Out of pity for her friend and respect for her husband, Lotte comes to the decision that Werther must not visit her so frequently. He visits her one final time, and they are both overcome with emotion after Werther's recitation of a portion of "Ossian".