Level 3

The Sorrows of Young Werther

Werther is a young man who is dissatisfied with his life.

But Werther feels trapped by the expectations of his family and society. He longs for a simpler life, and he wants to be closer to the natural world.​

He aspires to be an artist. Although this job cannot pay his bills, it fits his character and rich imagination. ​

In the spring of 1771, Werther travels to the countryside, then to Walheim.​

There, he meets Charlotte, a beautiful and kind-hearted woman who is caring for her siblings after their mother’s death.

Werther is immediately drawn to Charlotte and falls madly in love with her.

He wants to spend all his time with her. He visits her everyday and befriends her siblings. ​

However, he soon learns that she is engaged to someone else – a successful businessman named Albert.​

Werther cannot help but love Charlotte, even though he knows that she cannot love him back. His love for Charlotte consumes him, and he becomes more and more depressed.

His infatuation becomes an obsession. He can only think about Charlotte. ​

He tries to distract himself with his work and hobbies, but nothing seems to help. Eventually, he starts having suicidal thoughts.

Werther wants to break out of the vicious cycle. He moves to another city to take a position as an attaché to an ambassador.

However, he quickly resigns from his position after failing to fit in with the court’s social norms. His ideology does not fit the one of court, where the worth of a person depends on his status, and not his accomplishments. It disgusts him.

He returns to Walheim, where he continues to be tormented by his love for Charlotte. His feelings stay strong, even after he receives the news that Charlotte and Albert married in February 1772.

Werther becomes mentally unstable. One day, he argues with Albert. After that, Albert wants Charlotte to stop talking to Werther. ​

She then has to confront her complicated feelings towards Werther.

To comply with Albert’s wish, she tells Werther he can only visit when invited. However, Werther does not respect Charlotte’s wish. He visits her while Albert is not there. Charlotte does not want to be alone with Werther, and so she invites some friends. In the meantime, she proposes that Werther reads the poem he translated.

Its sad tone resonates with Charlotte and Werther and with their love affair that can never happen. Werther and Charlotte kiss, but it only makes things worse. Now, Werther knows that he was not wrong about Charlotte’s feelings towards him.

He cannot bear the thought of Charlotte being with Albert, and he decides to commit suicide.

Werther writes goodbye letters to his friend Wilhelm, to Charlotte and to Albert. In his letters, he says that he is going to kill himself, and he asks Albert to take care of Charlotte. He tells Charlotte that he loves her.

Werther then shoots himself with a gun he has borrowed from Albert. His body is found the next day by his servant.

The news of Werther’s suicide shocks and dismays his friends and family. Charlotte is deeply saddened by Werther’s death.

The Sorrows of Young Werther is a cautionary tale about the dangers of obsession and the importance of finding happiness in one’s own life. It is a reminder that love can be both beautiful and destructive. It is a story that has resonated with readers for centuries, and it continues to be relevant today.