Synopsis by Eleanor Mannikka
This film picks up the story of how Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) came to write The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774), and then how the character Werther himself seemed to affect the life of his equally young, 25-year-old creator. After arriving in Frankfurt having just obtained his law degree, Goethe fell in love with Charlotte Buff, a 20-year-old woman who chose to marry a notary, Georg Christian Kestner. Goethe's suffering from his loss was channeled into the novel about young Werther, who like Goethe, not only loses his love but commits suicide in the bargain. That latter tragedy was inspired by the suicide of a friend of Goethe's, Karl Wilhelm Jerusalem, despondent because the woman he loved was married to another and any relationship between them was impossible. Goethe's novel soon became one of the most popular books of its time and set a model for future writers to follow. And as the character of Werther exorcised Goethe's own miseries over his first tragic love affair, the playwright, scientist, lawyer, and poet was ready for his next move to Weimar -- though he did not write very much for the next ten years. The last part of the documentary is a scene between Napoleon Bonaparte and Goethe, when the great French military strategist took time away from his campaigns to converse with the aging Goethe about the character of young Werther.