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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749-1832, German writer.

Goethe was one of the most versatile and influential writers of the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries, the greatest literary artist of Germany's classical period and a harbinger of much that would dominate the Romantic movement in his culture.

A major reason for his broad impact was his intellectual ambition. Goethe was enormously learned in many disciplines, leaving a major mark in scientific writing (on color and optics), poetry (including his famous "Erlkönig"), fiction (Wilhelm Miesters Lehrjahre, Die Wahlverwandtschaften [Elective Affinities], and Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers), drama (Torquato Tasso), and autobiography (Dichtung und Wahrheit).

Goethe's most famous work is Faust, a ten-act drama in two-parts centering the question of human destiny against a cosmic background. Written over a full half century, it stands as one of the monuments of world literature.