On June 11, after a little more than a month at the Prince’s lodge, Werther decides to leave. The Prince, he tells Wilhelm, is too wrapped up in intellectual concerns and has grown boring. Furthermore, Werther has decided that he is a wanderer at heart. Nevertheless, it takes him a week to leave. Initially, he suggests that he might go to visit a series of nearby mines. However, he ultimately confesses that he intends to return to Wahlheim and Lotte.
Werther styling himself as someone born to wander is, of course, laughable. He left Wahlheim because he feared that he would kill himself otherwise. Once away from the town, however, he used the first possible excuse to return to it. As nothing has changed there, it’s arguable that Werther accepts his suicide in this moment.
Once back at Wahlheim, Werther imagines what things would be like if Lotte were his wife. She would be happier, he is sure: Albert lacks Werther’s emotional sensitivity, after all, and doesn’t share as deep a bond with Lotte. By the end of the following month, Werther begins to wonder what would happen if Albert were simply to die. He struggles to imagine how Lotte can love Albert, and at the same time he struggles to find happiness in the places where he and Lotte once spent time. Returning to Wahlheim, he tells Wilhelm, feels like a ghost returning to the castle where it once lived, only to find the place in ruins.
Goethe was an avid fan of Shakespeare, and Werther’s imaginings here echo Shakespeare’s character Hamlet. Like Werther, Hamlet faces a traumatic event and becomes trapped inside his own head thinking about it. He becomes so obsessed with “what-ifs” that he can’t act on anything. Furthering this parallel, Hamlet’s father—the King of Denmark—returns to his castle after death (as a ghost) to find his kingdom in disarray.
In his next letter, Werther notes that the trees have begun changing to their fall colors. It’s a change he sees happening in himself, as well. He asks Wilhelm if he remembers the story of the farmer lad. While Werther was away working for the ambassador, the lad’s obsession with the widow continued to grow. Eventually he tried to rape her, resulting in his termination. The community, too, turned its back on the lad as a result of his actions. In the meantime, the widow has hired a new servant. In his letter to Wilhelm, Werther expresses his sadness for the boy’s fate and his deep admiration of the lad’s love for the widow. He compares it to his own love for Lotte.
Werther is beginning to lose his grip on the real world in a way that is meant to be at once obvious and shocking to readers (who, up until now, have probably been fond of Werther and his kindness). When Werther sides with the farmer lad’s attempted rape, however, it becomes easy to fear for Lotte and to feel for the position Albert is placed in. But, since Werther sees the parallels between himself and the lad, one can at least hope that the story will help him avoid the same end.
Later, Werther finds that the walnut trees so beloved by the Vicar of S. have been cut down by order of the Vicar’s wife. He reports that the whole village is upset by this development and predicts that the Vicar’s wife will soon regret her actions.
Because Werther saw the trees as a kind of memento of his time with Lotte, their destruction makes it as if those times he spent with her had never occurred.
In his next letters, spanning from October 10 to November 3, Werther speaks often to Wilhelm of his increasing melancholy. He recognizes the way that he has attached himself to Lotte is no different than the way a child might reach out for a treat, but he sees no reason why he shouldn’t be allowed to be happy. Nothing, he claims, gives him joy anymore, and he hasn’t even the energy to cry about it.