- Goethe was born into a middle-class family in Frankfurt am Main on 28 August 1749.
- Goethe’s father, Johann Caspar Goethe, lived with his family in a large house in Frankfurt.All children, with the exception of Johann Wolfgang and his sister, Cornelia Friederica Christiana, who was born in 1750, died at early ages.
- His father and private tutors gave Goethe lessons in all the common subjects of their time, especially languages.
- Although Goethe’s great passion was drawing, he quickly became interested in literature.He also took great pleasure in reading works on history and religion.
- Goethe studied law at Leipzig University from 1765 to 1768.In Leipzig, Goethe fell in love with Anna Katharina Schönkopf and wrote cheerful verses about her.
- In 1770, he anonymously released Annette, his first collection of poems. Goethe became severely ill in Frankfurt. In April 1770, Goethe left Frankfurt in order to finish his studies at the University of Strasbourg.
- At the end of August 1771, Goethe acquired the academic degree in Frankfurt and established a small legal practice.
- This prematurely terminated his career as a lawyer after only a few months. Goethe also pursued literary plans again.
- In 1774 he wrote the book which would bring him worldwide fame, The Sorrows of Young Werther. Despite the immense success of Werther, it did not bring Goethe much financial gain because copyright laws at the time were essentially nonexistent.
- In 1775, Goethe was invited, on the strength of his fame as the author of The Sorrows of Young Werther, to the court of Karl August, Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, who would become Grand Duke in 1815.
- Goethe thus went to live in Weimar, where he remained for the rest of his life and where, over the course of many years, he held a succession of offices, becoming the Duke’s friend and chief adviser.
- In 1782, when the chancellor of the Duchy’s Exchequer left his office, Goethe agreed to act in his place for two and a half years; this post virtually made him prime minister.
- Goethe’s journey to the Italian peninsula and Sicily from 1786 to 1788 was of great significance in his aesthetic and philosophical development.
- While in Southern Italy and Sicily, Goethe encountered, for the first time genuine Greek (as opposed to Roman) architecture.
- In 1806, Goethe was living in Weimar with his mistress Christiane Vulpius.
- In 1832, Goethe died in Weimar of apparent heart failure
- His works include: four novels; epic and lyric poetry; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour.
- In addition, numerous literary and scientific fragments, more than 10,000 letters, and nearly 3,000 drawings by him have survived. He is considered the greatest German literary figure of the modern era.
- Goethe’s first major scientific work, the Metamorphosis of Plants, was published after he returned from a 1788 tour of Italy. In 1791 he was made managing director of the theatre at Weimar.
- During this period Goethe published his second novel, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship; and, in 1808, the first part of his most celebrated drama, Faust.