The Sorrows of Young Werther

Werther, the protagonist and primary narrator of The Sorrows of Young Werther, is an amiable young man known for wearing a blue frock coat, buff waistcoat, and boots. He falls in love with Lotte and, when rebuked in his advances, he ultimately commits suicide. Werther is largely the author’s autobiographical creation, as Werther’s impressive education and erudition, as well as many of his experiences, are similar to Goethe’s. Like Goethe, Werther hails from a wealthy family and, after taking his degree, settles in a nearby town to begin his career. Prior to falling in love with Lotte, he proves himself a careful observer of the human condition, a good friend, and a skilled conversationalist. Werther’s narration takes the form of a series of letters: generally to his friend Wilhelm, occasionally to Lotte, and once to Albert. Through these letters, he shows the gradual decline of his promising youth as emotional obsession replaces rationality. In the work’s final moments, Werther’s narration is replaced by that of the Editor.

Werther Quotes in The Sorrows of Young Werther

The The Sorrows of Young Werther quotes below are all either spoken by Werther or refer to Werther. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of The Sorrows of Young Werther published in 1989.
Book One: May 4-13, 1771 Quotes

Poor Leonore! And yet I was innocent. Was it my fault that, while I was taking pleasure and amusement in the wilful charms of her sister, a passion was growing in that poor heart?

Related Characters: Werther (speaker), Wilhelm, Leonore
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

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Dear friend! do I need to tell you that you who have so often endured seeing me pass from sorrow to excessive joy, from sweet melancholy to destructive passion? And I am treating my poor heart like an ailing child; every whim is granted.

Related Characters: Werther (speaker), Wilhelm
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book One: May 15-22, 1771 Quotes

I well know we are not equal, nor can be; but…he who supposes he must keep his distance from what they call the rabble, to preserve the respect due to him, is as much to blame as a coward who hides from his enemy for fear of being beaten.

Related Characters: Werther (speaker), Wilhelm
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book One: May 26-30, 1771 Quotes

You ask why the torrent of genius so rarely pours forth, so rarely floods and thunders and overwhelms your astonished soul?—Because, dear friends, on either bank dwell the cool, respectable gentlemen…

Related Characters: Werther (speaker), Wilhelm
Related Symbols: Storms
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

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I shall now try to see her too as soon as possible, or rather, on second thoughts, I shall avoid doing so. It is better for me to see her with the eyes of her lover; perhaps she would not appear to my own eyes as she does now, and why should I ruin the beautiful image I have?

Related Characters: Werther (speaker), Wilhelm, Farmer Lad, Widow
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book One: June 16, 1771 Quotes

When I was younger there was nothing I loved better than novels. God knows how good it felt to be able to sit in some corner on a Sunday and share with my whole heart in Miss Jenny's happiness and sorrows. Nor do I deny that that kind of writing still has its charms for me. But since I so rarely come by a book, it has to be one that is quite to my taste. And I like that author best who shows me my own world, conditions such as I live in myself and a story that can engage my interest and heart as much as my own domestic life does.

Related Characters: Lotte (Charlotte S.) (speaker), Werther
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

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I was one of the most afraid myself, and in pretending to be brave, to stiffen the others' courage, I found my own courage

Related Characters: Lotte (Charlotte S.) (speaker), Werther
Related Symbols: Storms
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book One: June 19-July 6, 1771 Quotes

It is good that my heart can feel the simple and innocent pleasure a man knows when the cabbage he eats at table is one he grew himself; the pleasure he takes not only in eating the cabbage but in remembering all those good days, the fine morning he planted it, the mellow evenings he watered it and the delight he felt in its daily growth.

Related Characters: Werther (speaker), Wilhelm
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

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We don't know who planted that one. Some say it was one vicar and some say another. But the younger one over there is as old as my wife, fifty years old come October. Her father planted it in the morning and that same evening she was born.

Related Characters: Vicar of S. (speaker), Werther, Lotte (Charlotte S.)
Related Symbols: Trees
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book One: July 8-19, 1771 Quotes

My dear fellow, that is the uncertainty I am left in; and my consolation is that perhaps she did turn to look at me! Perhaps!

Related Characters: Werther (speaker), Lotte (Charlotte S.)
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

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No, I am not deceiving myself! …Yes, I can feel—and I know I may trust my own heart in this—Oh, dare I utter the words, those words that contain all heaven for me?—I can feel that she loves me!

Related Characters: Werther (speaker), Lotte (Charlotte S.), Wilhelm
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book One: July 19-August 12, 1771 Quotes

I have started on a portrait of Lotte three times, and three times I have failed disgracefully; which depresses me all the more since I could take a very good likeness not so long ago. So then I cut a silhouette profile of her, and that will have to do.

Related Characters: Werther (speaker), Lotte (Charlotte S.)
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

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I grind my teeth and mock my own misery…I go rambling in the woods, and if my walk takes me to Lotte's and I find Albert sitting in the summerhouse with her in the greenery, and I cannot bear it any more.

Related Characters: Werther (speaker), Lotte (Charlotte S.), Albert
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

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True, it is wrong to steal: but if a man goes thieving to save himself and his family from starvation, are we to pity him or punish him? Who will first cast a stone if a husband sacrifices his unfaithful wife and her worthless seducer in the heat of his righteous wrath? or if a girl abandons herself for one joyful hour to the irresistible pleasures of love?

Related Characters: Werther (speaker), Albert
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book One: October 20, 1771-February 20, 1772 Quotes

And this glittering misery, the tedium of these awful people cooped up together here! and their greed for rank, and the way they are forever watchful and alert for gain or precedence: the most wretched and abominable of passions, quite nakedly displayed.

Related Characters: Werther (speaker), Wilhelm
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

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But I was meaning to tell you of Miss von B. She has a great soul, which gazes straight at one from her blue eyes. Her rank is a burden and satisfies none of the wishes of her heart. She is longing to put all this brouhaha behind her, and we spend many an hour imagining country scenes of unadulterated bliss…

Related Characters: Werther (speaker), Lotte (Charlotte S.), Miss von B.
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

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Oh, it would drive me insane if she could forget—Albert, the very thought is hell.

Related Characters: Werther (speaker), Lotte (Charlotte S.), Albert
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book Two: June 11-November 3, 1772 Quotes

It cost me a wrench but in the end I decided not to wear the simple blue frock-coat I had on when I first danced with Lotte any more; it had become quite unpresentable. Still, I have had a new one made, exactly like the other, down to the collar and lapels, and the very same buff waistcoat and breeches as well.

Related Characters: Werther (speaker), Lotte (Charlotte S.)
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

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I have so much, and my feelings for her absorb it all; I have so much, and without her it is all nothing.

Related Characters: Werther (speaker), Lotte (Charlotte S.)
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book Two: December 20-21, 1772 Quotes

All of these reflections prompted a profound realization, albeit one which she was not consciously aware of, that her secret heart's desire was to keep him for herself, yet at the same time she reminded herself that she could not and might not keep him; her pure and beautiful nature, which at other times was so lighthearted and readily found a way out of predicaments, sensed the oppressive power of melancholy, banishing the prospect of happiness. Her heart was heavy, and her vision was clouded by sadness.

Related Characters: Editor (speaker), Werther, Lotte (Charlotte S.)
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

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Werther Character Timeline in The Sorrows of Young Werther

The timeline below shows where the character Werther appears in The Sorrows of Young Werther. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Foreword
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
The foreword to The Sorrows of Young Werther is written by the book’s fictional editor. In it, he or she claims to have... (full context)
Book One: May 4-13, 1771
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
The text proper opens with a letter from Werther to someone he refers to as his “dear friend” (later, this character is revealed to... (full context)
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
That home is a rural area outside of a small town. Werther dislikes the town proper, but quickly falls in love with the rural area around it.... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
All of the beauty around him ends up distracting Werther from things he used to enjoy, such as reading books and drawing. He playfully expresses... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
The next letter opens with Werther responding to Wilhelm, who has asked if he ought to forward Werther’s books to him.... (full context)
Book One: May 15-22, 1771
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
Moving away from descriptions of nature, Werther now turns to his encounters with the people of his new home. They are of... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
Class remains on Werther’s mind in his next letter to Wilhelm, which opens with another lament: that no members... (full context)
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Werther recounts to Wilhelm his recent meeting with a young man known simply as V. V... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
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Werther’s next letter to Wilhelm, dated May 22, opens with a long and philosophical treatise on... (full context)
Book One: May 26-30, 1771
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
As though the previous conversation had never taken place, Werther begins a new letter describing the picturesque town of Wahlheim, which exists about an hour... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Having sent Wilhelm two rather lengthy and heady letters, Werther begins his next letter by chiding himself. He’s forgotten to recount a story about two... (full context)
Women Theme Icon
In his next letter, Werther introduces the Farmer Lad, a young servant who has fallen helplessly in love with his... (full context)
Book One: June 16, 1771
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
A gap of more than two weeks occurs between letters and Werther is forced to beg Wilhelm’s forgiveness. He suggests, though, that if Wilhelm were truly thinking,... (full context)
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Having calmed somewhat, Werther proceeds to tell Wilhelm of his meeting with Lotte. Some of his newfound friends had... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Werther does, however, recall the books that Lotte mentions reading to her aunt. Like Werther, Lotte... (full context)
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Once at the dance, Werther struggles to keep his eyes off Lotte. Soon, Lotte and Werther arrange to dance the... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
At this point a storm, which had threatened in the distance since Lotte and Werther first met, finally breaks, forcing the countryside ball to move indoors. Dancing is no longer... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Soon after, the party breaks up and Werther finds himself alone with Lotte. She confesses that she instigated the game because she was... (full context)
Book One: June 19-July 6, 1771
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Werther has apparently sent the first portion of his memories to Wilhelm, and he resumes writing... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
The memories of the party being amply described, Werther now returns to his previous philosophical attitude. He once again expounds on the virtues of... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
In his next letter to Wilhelm, Werther discusses Lotte’s habit of visiting the sick and dying. Recently she and Werther have been... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
During this visit, Lotte and Werther also meet Friederike, the Vicar’s daughter, and her beau Mr. Schmidt. The two couples go... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Following this, Werther returns immediately to the subject of children. He remembers a time when one of Lotte’s... (full context)
Book One: July 8-19, 1771
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
“What a child one is!” opens the next of Werther’s letters, but Werther is mocking himself with these words (rather than discussing Lotte’s siblings). He... (full context)
Women Theme Icon
...his next wife to operate on the same meagre budget. Lotte relates this story to Werther, who in turn relates it to Wilhelm. Werther is amazed at the way Old M.... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Werther is not, however, deceiving himself about Lotte, he assures Wilhelm over the course of the... (full context)
Book One: July 19-August 12, 1771
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
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Wilhelm has offered to help Werther find a job with the ambassador. It’s not a suggestion for which Werther has much... (full context)
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
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Finally, Albert arrives, and, in a fit, Werther resolves to leave. He likes Albert well enough, and Albert seems to like him (which... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
Wilhelm reminds Werther that this fate was inevitable—after all, he knew that Lotte was engaged before he fell... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
In considering possible “ways around the problem,” Werther decides that things maybe aren’t as unbearable as he’s made them out to be. He... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
Directly after making this declaration, Werther describes a debate that he and Albert have recently engaged in on the topic of... (full context)
Book One: August 15-September 10, 1771
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
In his next letter to Wilhelm, Werther remarks that Lotte’s siblings, who once preferred Lotte’s method of slicing bread, have come to... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
Some three days pass and Werther finds himself meditating on the state of nature in Wahlheim, returning often to the “thick... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
Several days later, Werther confesses to Wilhelm that whatever comfort nature once provided him is completely gone now, and... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
August 28 is Werther’s birthday, and Lotte and Albert give him a pocket-edition of Homer that he can easily... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
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Two days later, however, Werther declares that he can envision no other end to his misery than “the grave.” By... (full context)
Book One: October 20, 1771-February 20, 1772
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Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
Some ten days later, Werther writes Wilhelm to inform him that he’s begun work for the ambassador. It’s a difficult... (full context)
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By the end of November, Werther has made a friend out of Count C. The Count’s education and warmth impress Werther,... (full context)
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
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Another friend that Werther has made in his new position is Miss von B. This friendship, however, causes Werther... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
On the 20th of January, Werther finds himself in a small country inn, weathering a storm. He decides to write to... (full context)
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
A full month later, on February 20, Werther again writes back to Wahlheim. This time he writes to congratulate Albert on his marriage... (full context)
Book Two: March 15-May 25, 1772
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
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Werther attends dinner at Count C.’s house and the two find themselves absorbed in after-dinner conversation.... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
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The next day, Werther meets Miss von B. on the street. She tells him, with tears in her eyes,... (full context)
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
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As a result of his humiliation, Werther resigns from the court. He asks Wilhelm to let his mother know, though he hopes... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
En route to the hunting lodge, Werther stops by the town where he was born. There he relives the scenes of nature... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
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At the hunting lodge, Werther finds himself out of sorts. The Prince’s friends aren’t exactly what he expected, and he... (full context)
Book Two: June 11-November 3, 1772
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
Once back at Wahlheim, Werther imagines what things would be like if Lotte were his wife. She would be happier,... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
In his next letter, Werther notes that the trees have begun changing to their fall colors. It’s a change he... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Later, Werther finds that the walnut trees so beloved by the Vicar of S. have been cut... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Book Two: November 8-December 6, 1772
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Lotte chides Werther for drinking too much, and Wilhelm suggests that his friend should seek comfort in God.... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
In late November, Werther stumbles upon Heinrich, a man searching for wildflowers to give to his sweetheart. Werther reminds... (full context)
Book Two: Editorial Interlude
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
Shortly after the episode with Heinrich, a lack of correspondence from Werther forces the editor to interject into the story. The remaining story, the editor says, will... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
...his replacement would marry the widow, the lad murders the other man. On hearing this, Werther rushes first to the scene, where the lad confesses his act, then to the officer... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
Walking home from the scene, Albert advises Lotte that she needs to see less of Werther and that Werther’s too-friendly behavior towards her needs to change. Their situation has become a... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
On December 11, a raging storm tears through Wahlheim, flooding the valley there. Werther watches the floodwaters from above and comes close to jumping into them, ending his life.... (full context)
Book Two: December 20-21, 1772
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
Wilhelm offers to take Werther in, saying that it would be better for him to leave Wahlheim. Werther agrees to... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
During this time, the editor suggests, Lotte walks a fine line between pushing Werther away and trying not to hurt him. She asks him to come to her home... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
The following day, Werther writes his suicide note. He addresses it to Lotte. One of the three must go,... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
Meanwhile, the editor says, Lotte has realized how painful separating from Werther will be. She tries to imagine him with another woman, perhaps one of her friends,... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
Flustered, Lotte suggests that Werther pass the time by reading aloud from his own translations of Ossian. He does so,... (full context)
Book Two: December 21-22
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
That night, Werther writes to Albert, requesting to borrow Albert’s pistols for a journey he’s planning to undertake.... (full context)