The Sorrows of Young Werther

Wilhelm Character Analysis

Wilhelm is Werther’s close friend. As Wilhelm lives far from Werther, their friendship occurs through letters—in fact, Werther’s letters to Wilhelm constitute the bulk of the book. Wilhelm never appears bodily in the text, and his responses to Werther’s letters are never printed, though Werther’s replies shed some light on their content. These clues show Wilhelm to be someone deeply concerned for Werther’s well-being, and they suggest that Wilhelm would act as a moderating force against the whirlwind of emotions Werther experiences if he were only present and able to do so. It is Wilhelm that assists Werther in finding employment with the Ambassador, and Wilhelm who constantly reminds Werther to find solace in his old hobbies of reading and drawing. When Werther is at his most desperate, Wilhelm intends to go to him, but Werther (who is already contemplating suicide) requests that he postpone the trip for a while.

Wilhelm Quotes in The Sorrows of Young Werther

The The Sorrows of Young Werther quotes below are all either spoken by Wilhelm or refer to Wilhelm. 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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Sorrows of Young Werther quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.LoLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupi

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Book One: July 8-19, 1771 Quotes

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Get the entire Sorrows of Young Werther LitChart as a printable PDF.
The sorrows of young werther.pdf.medium

Wilhelm Character Timeline in The Sorrows of Young Werther

The timeline below shows where the character Wilhelm appears in The Sorrows of Young Werther. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book One: May 4-13, 1771
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...someone he refers to as his “dear friend” (later, this character is revealed to be Wilhelm). The letter tells of Werther’s great joy to be away from home, despite being away... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...to enjoy, such as reading books and drawing. He playfully expresses concern about this to Wilhelm, yet he seems content in his new lackadaisical lifestyle. He loves simply wandering the countryside,... (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. It’s an idea... (full context)
Book One: May 15-22, 1771
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
...it nonetheless regrettable. As if to illustrate his goodwill towards the lower class, Werther tells Wilhelm about a servant girl whom he helped to carry water. (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 of high society are to be found... (full context)
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Werther recounts to Wilhelm his recent meeting with a young man known simply as V. V is a recent... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
Werther’s next letter to Wilhelm, dated May 22, opens with a long and philosophical treatise on the meaning of life.... (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
...the future. Society has too many rules that keep an artist from flourishing, he tells Wilhelm, although he knows that the other man won’t agree. While those rules might be good... (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... (full context)
Book One: June 16, 1771
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...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, he might already know why... (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 held a ball in... (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 them three days later. He begins with the simple fact that... (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... (full context)
Book One: July 8-19, 1771
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...remains uncertain that she did so in order to see him. His following letter to Wilhelm opens with a confession from Werther that he acts like an “oaf” at the mere... (full context)
Women Theme Icon
...same meagre budget. Lotte relates this story to Werther, who in turn relates it to Wilhelm. Werther is amazed at the way Old M. deceived himself about the household expenses. But,... (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 coming days’ letters. Lotte loves him; he is sure of... (full context)
Book One: July 19-August 12, 1771
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Wilhelm has offered to help Werther find a job with the ambassador. It’s not a suggestion... (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... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
...that things maybe aren’t as unbearable as he’s made them out to be. He tells Wilhelm that he could actually be living the best possible life if he weren’t thinking so... (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... (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 even his books... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
...the way he, Lotte, and Albert have. Nor is this fruit strictly symbolic: Werther tells Wilhelm that he has spent much of the summer sitting in the fruit trees of Lotte’s... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
...he can envision no other end to his misery than “the grave.” By September 3, Wilhelm has convinced Werther to leave Wahlheim to find employment with the ambassador. A week later,... (full context)
Book One: October 20, 1771-February 20, 1772
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
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 job, especially... (full context)
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...of her friendship with Werther, who is of a lower class. Werther writes angrily to Wilhelm about this, saying that even kings must take some guidance from those of the lower... (full context)
Book Two: March 15-May 25, 1772
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Upper Class and Lower Class Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...story is the workplace gossip of the day. Werther recounts all of this angrily to Wilhelm, whom he blasts for suggesting the job in the first place. (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
Suicide Theme Icon
...been mocking Werther ceaselessly ever since he left the Count’s home. Werther regrets (privately, to Wilhelm) that none of the aristocrats have mocked him to his face. If they were to... (full context)
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
As a result of his humiliation, Werther resigns from the court. He asks Wilhelm to let his mother know, though he hopes that she will not try to stop... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
...he relives the scenes of nature that he first encountered as a boy. He tells Wilhelm that he can’t understand the value of being able to repeat random, disconnected facts (such... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...care about Werther’s book-learning and not about his feelings. In response to this, Werther tells Wilhelm that anyone can know what he knows, but only he can feel the things 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
...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... (full context)
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
...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... (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 attached himself to Lotte... (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. Werther, however, responds that God cannot... (full context)
Book Two: Editorial Interlude
The Heart vs. The Mind Theme Icon
Self-Absorption of Youth Theme Icon
Suicide Theme Icon
...and comes close to jumping into them, ending his life. But, in a letter to Wilhelm the following day, he remarks that it was not yet his time. During the storm,... (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... (full context)