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Happy birthday Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Robertson Davies

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    *iveral things about GoetheJWolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)* German poet, novelist, playwright, courtier, and natural philosopher, one of the greatest figures
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      *iveral things about GoetheJWolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)*

      German poet, novelist, playwright, courtier, and natural philosopher,
      one of the greatest figures in Western literature. In literature Goethe
      gained early fame with /The Sorrows of Young Werther/ (1774), but his
      most famous work is the poetic drama in two parts, FAUST. Like the
      famous character of this poem, Goethe was interested in alchemy. He also
      made important discoveries in connection with plant and animal life, and
      evolved a non-Newtonian and unorthodox theory of the character of light
      and color, which has influenced such abstract painters as Kandinsky and

      *Noble be man, **
      Helpful and good!
      For that alone
      Sets him apart
      From every other creature
      On earth. *
      (from /The Divine/, 1783)

      Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born in Frankfurt am Main, the first
      child of a lawyer Johann Caspar Goethe, and Katherine Elisabeth Textor,
      the daughter of the mayor of Frankfurt. Goethe had a comfortable
      childhood and he was greatly influenced by his mother, who encouraged
      his literary aspirations. After troubles at school, he received at home
      an exceptionally wide education. At the age of 16, Goethe began to study
      law at Leipzig University (1765-68), and he also studied drawing with
      Adam Oeser. An unhappy love affair inspired Goethe's first play, /The
      Lover's Caprice /(1767). After a period of illness, Goethe resumed his
      studies in Strasbourg (1770-71). Some biographers have speculated that
      Goethe had contracted syphilis - at least his relationships with women
      were years apart. Goethe practised law in Frankfurt (1771-72) and
      Wetzlar (1772). He contributed to /Frankfurter Gelehrte Anzeigen/
      (1772-73), and in 1774 he published his first novel, self-revelatory DIE
      LEIDEN DES JUNGEN WERTHERS (The Sorrows of Young Werther), in which he
      created the prototype of the Romantic hero. The novel, written in the
      form of a series of letters, depicted the hopeless affair of a young
      man, Werther, with the beautiful Charlotte. In the end the melancholic
      Werther romantically commits suicide, after one brief moment of
      happiness with Charlotte, when she lets him kiss her. Goethe's model was
      Charlotte Buff, the fiancée of his friend, whom he had met in Wetzlar in

      Goethe's youth was emotionally hectic to the point that he sometimes
      feared for his reason. He was recognized as a leading figure in the
      /Sturm und Drang/, which celebrated the energetic Promethean
      restlessness of spirit as opposed to the ideal of calm rationalism of
      the Enlightenment. Goethe's poem 'Prometheus', with its insistence that
      man must believe not in gods but in himself, might be seen as a motto
      for the whole movement. After a relaxing trip to Switzerland, Goethe
      made a decisive break with his past. In 1775 he was welcomed by Duke
      Karl August into the small court of Weimar, where he worked in several
      governmental offices. Occasionally he read aloud his texts to a selected
      group of persons - among them the Duke and the two Duchesses. To his
      disappointment a dog-trainer was also allowed to amuse in the court

      *"What you don't feel, you will not grasp by art, **
      Unless it wells out of your soul
      And with sheer pleasure takes control,
      Compelling every listener's heart.
      But sit - and sit, and patch and knead,
      Cook a ragout, reheat your hashes,
      Blow at the sparks and try to breed
      A fire out of piles of ashes!
      Children and apes may think it great,
      If that should titillate your gum,
      But from heart to heart you will never create.
      If from your heart it does not come." *
      (from /Faust I/)

      In Weimar Goethe did not have much time to publish fiction. He was a
      council member and member of the war commission, director of roads and
      services, and managed the financial affairs of the court. Also Goethe's
      scientific researches were wide. He discovered the human intermaxilarry
      bone (1784), and formulated a vertebral theory of the skull. His idea of
      /Urpflanze/, the archetypal forms after which all other plants are
      patterned, has similarities with Plato's theory of eternal and
      changeless Forms. In general, Goethe's metaphysics and organic view of
      nature showed the influence of Spinoza.

      During this period, his great love was Charlotte von Stein, an older
      married woman, but the relationship remained platonic. Eventually Goethe
      was released from day-to-day governmental duties to concentrate on
      writing, although he was still general supervisor for arts and sciences,
      and director of the court theatres. After Goethe's emotional dependence
      on Charlotte ended, he lived happily and unmarried with Christiane
      Vulpius, who became Goethe's mistress in 1789. In spite of public
      pressure, it was not until 1806 when they married.

      In 1786-88 Goethe made a journey to Italy. "In Rome I have found myself
      for the first time," he wrote. He drew statues and ruins, collected
      antique and botanical samples, and was shocked by the primitive power of
      an ancient Greek temple - Renaissance art did not interest him. The
      journey ended Goethe's celibacy and inspired his play IPHIGENIE AUF
      TAURIS, and RÖMISHE ELEGIEN, sensuous poems relating partly to
      Christiane. The ancient monuments he saw in Italy significantly
      influenced his growing commitment to a classical view of art. "Three
      things are to be looked to in a building," Goethe later wrote in
      /Elective Affinities /(1808), "that it stands on the right spot; that it
      be securely founded; that it be successfully executed."

      In the 1790s Goethe contributed to Friedrich von Schiller
      <http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/schiller.htm>´s journal /Die Horen/,
      published WILHELM MEISTERS LEHRJAHRE (Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship)
      in 1795-96, and continued his writings on the ideals of arts and
      literature in his own journal /Propyläen/. Wilhelm Meister's story had
      preoccupied the author for many years. Wilhelm, disillusioned by love,
      starts actively to seek out other values, and becomes an actor and
      playwright. Whereas Werther's life ended in despair, Meister has a more
      optimistic spirit. At the end he says: "... I know I have attained a
      happiness which I have not deserved, and which I would not change with
      anything in life." Wim Wenders and Peter Handke made in 1974 a
      modernized film adaptation of the book, /Wrong Movement/, in which
      Meister's journey has a sad, lonely note. "If only politics and poetry
      could be united," he says to his friend Laertes, who answers: "That
      would be the end of longing and the end of the world."

      During the French Revolution Goethe reported in letters – sometimes
      written in the middle of cannon fire – to his family his inconveniences,
      complaining that he was forced to leave his home and dear garden after
      the French army attacked Prussia. He also saw killings and looted
      villages. Although Goethe supported freedom and progress, he wanted to
      preserve the bourgeois or his artistic-individualistic way of life.
      However, the majority of the German intelligentsia greeted with
      enthusiasm the goals of the revolution, including Kant, Schiller, and
      Friedrich Schlegel.

      /Faust/ is an alchemical drama from beginning to end, claims C.G. Jung.
      Goethe worked for most of his life on this masterwork. He started to
      compose /Faust/ about the age of twenty-three, and finished the second
      part in 1832, just before his death. The original figure in the Faust
      legend was Gregorius Faustus (or Gregorius Sabellicus, Faustus Junior,
      c1480-1510/1), a seeker of forbidden knowledge. His true identity is not
      known, but he claimed to be an astrologer, expert in magic, and an
      alchemist. This legend attracted Christopher Marlowe
      <http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/marlowe.htm>, who offered in his play a
      psychological study of the battle between good and evil. Marlowe's drama
      ends with the protagonist's damnation. Goethe's story created a new
      persona for the Devil - Mephistopheles was a gentleman, who had adopted
      the manners of a courtier. Faust's lust for knowledge is limitless and
      he makes a contract with Mephistopheles: he will die at the moment he
      declares himself satisfied, if he should exclaim, "Stay, thou art so
      fair." When Werther believed that his passion for beauty is fulfilled in
      afterlife, Faust wants to enjoy his highest moment in this life.

      In the first part, published in 1808, Faust seduces and loses Margaret
      (in German, Margarete, or its diminutive, Gretchen), an innocent girl,
      who is condemned to death for murdering her illegitimate child by Faust.
      When she asks Faust, "Do you believe in God?", he answers: "Does not the
      heaven vault above? / Is the earth not firmly based down here? / And do
      not, friendly, / Eternal stars arise? / Do we not look into each other's
      eyes, / And all in you is surging, / To your head and heart, / And
      weaves in timeless mystery, / Unseeable, yet seen, around you?"

      In the philosophical second part Faust marries Helen of Troy and starts
      to create an ideal community. Harold Bloom has said in /The Western
      Canon /(1994),/ /that the monstrously complex poem is a "scandalous
      pleasure for the exuberant reader, but it is also a trap, a
      Maphistophelean abyss in which you will never touch bottom." Without
      knowing that his plans have failed, the blind Faust is finally
      satisfied. However, Mephistopheles loses his victory, when angels take
      Faust to heaven. -* Faust versions:* Gotthold Lessing's (1729-1781) lost
      play /Faust/, /Don Juan/Don Giovanni/ (perhaps best known from the Opera
      by Lorenzo Ponte and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart), Oscar Wilde
      <http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/owilde.htm>'s novel /The Picture of Dorian
      Gray/, Dorothy L. Sayers <http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/dlsayers.htm>'s
      play /The Devil to Pay/ (1939), Thomas Mann
      <http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/tmann.htm>'s novel /Doctor Faustus /(1947).
      - *Film adaptations: *1909, dir. by Edwin S. Porter; 1911, Bill Bumper's
      Bargain, starring Francis X. Bushman, Harry Cashman, Dolores Cassinelli;
      1922, dir. by Gérard Bourgeois; 1926, dir. by F.W. Murnau, starring
      Gösta Ekman, Emil Jannings, Camilla Horn; 1941, All That Money Can Buy ,
      dir. by William Dieterle, based on Stephen Vincent Benét
      <http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/sbenet.htm> work; 1948, La Leggenda di
      Faust, dir. by Carmine Gallone, starring Italo Tajo, Nelly Corradi, Gino
      Mattera; 1949, La Beauté du Diable, dir by René Clair; 1957, Faustina,
      dir. by José Luis Sáenz de Heredia, starring María Félix, Juan de Landa;
      1960, dir. by Peter Gorski, starring Will Quadflieg, Gustaf Gründgens,
      Ella Büchi; 1964, Mi alma por un amor, dir. by Rafael Baledón, starring
      Enrique Guzmán, Angélica María, Manolo Muñoz; 1970, Genius, dir. by
      Gregory J. Markopoulos; 1988, dir. by Dieter Dorn, starring Helmut
      Griem, Romuald Pekny, Sunnyi Melles; 1994, dir. by Jan Svankmajer,
      starring Petr Cepek; 2002, 666 - Traue keinem, mit dem Du schläfst!,
      dir. by Rainer Matsutani, starring Jan Josef Liefers, Armin Rohde -
      *Opera*: Gounod's /Faust/ (1859), Buïto's /Mefistotele /(1866),
      Berlioz's /La Damnation de Faust/ (1893), Busoni's /Doktor Faust /(1925)
      - *Animation: *1994, dir.by Jan Svankmaijer.

      From 1791 to 1817 Goethe was the director of the court theatres. He
      advised Duke Carl August on mining and Jena University, which for a
      short time attracted the most prominent figures in German philosophy,
      including Hegel and Fichte. In 1812 Goethe met the famous composer
      Ludwig van Beethoven in Teplitz. Beethoven had admired Goethe already in
      his youth, although he considered Goethe's attitude toward the nobility
      too servile. Beethoven composed several music pieces based on the
      author's texts, among them /Egmont/. Franz Schubert's (1797-1828) first
      /Lieder/ masterpiece, 'Gretchen am Spinnrade', took the words from
      /Faust/, but Goethe did not much appreciate Schubert's musical

      Goethe remained creative during his last period. He edited/ Kunst and
      Altertum/ (1816-32) and /Zur Naturwissenschaft/ (1817-24), wrote his
      autobiography, /Poetry and Truth/ (1811-1833), and completed the novel
      WILHELM MEISTERS WANDERJAHRE (1821-9). Interested in visual arts
      throughout his life, Goethe wrote a large volume on the theory of color,
      which he considered one of his major achievements. In ZUR FARBENLEHRE
      (1810) Goethe rejected mathematical approach in the treatment of color,
      and argued that light, shade and color are associated with the emotional
      experience – "every color produces a distinct impression on the mind,
      and thus addresses at once the eye and feelings".

      At the age of 74 Goethe fell in love with the 19-year old Ulrike von
      Levetzow. He followed her with high hopes from Marienbad to Karlsbad,
      and then returned disappointed to Weimar. There he wrote/ The Marienbad/
      elegy, the most personal poem of his later years. Goethe died in Weimar
      on March 22, 1832. He and Schiller, who died over a quarter of a century
      earlier, are buried together, in a mausoleum in the ducal cemetery. The
      Goethe House and Schiller House stand in the town, and the two statues
      of these literary giants are outside the National Theatre.


      It's the birthday of the novelist and playwright *Robertson Davies
      (books by this author
      born in Thamesville, Ontario (1913). In the 1930s, he was a successful
      Shakespearean actor in London, until 1939, when all of the city's
      theaters closed down because of the war. Davies decided to return to
      Canada and look for a new job. At the encouragement of his father, he
      took over the family newspaper. The stories that he covered — sex
      scandals, murders, children locked in basements — eventually inspired
      him to write novels. He said, "I have been among people who would make
      your hair stand on end. And this is where I find the stuff I put in my

      He's best known for his /Deptford Trilogy/, /Fifth Business/ (1970),
      /The Manticore/ (1972), and /World of Wonders/ (1975), which revolve
      around a boy from small-town Ontario, who grows up to become involved
      with magicians, millionaires, and modern-day saints.
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