[[caption-width-right:244:[[FamousLastWords Mehr Licht!]]]]

->''Das also war des Pudels Kern!''
->''So that was the poodle's core!'' - frequently quoted divorced of its context (Mephistopheles had disguised himself as a poodle)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is to German what [[Literature/TheDivineComedy Dante Alighieri]] is to Italian, Creator/WilliamShakespeare is to English, [[Literature/DonQuixote Miguel de Cervantes]] to Spanish or Creator/AlexanderPushkin to Russian: the most important author of his language. The quintessential UsefulNotes/DichterAndDenker.

For the benefit of English-speakers, his name is pronounced (roughly) "'''Yo'''-hawn '''Volf'''g'''uhng''' phone '''Gö'''tuh" -- not "Go-eth". Born in 1749 in Frankfurt am Main, Goethe rose to fame with the drama ''Theatre/GotzVonBerlichingen'' and the novel ''Literature/TheSorrowsOfYoungWerther''. Werther, the hero of the latter story, even was a role model for many young people of Goethe's time, many of them adopting his signature yellow waistcoat and his philosophy. This wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for the fact that the story ends with Werther's suicide. The oft-repeated claim that the book caused a suicide epidemic among young men lacks solid evidence, and is probably greatly exaggerated.

Despite being the author of such an unintentionally controversial book, Goethe soon made his career at the court of Weimar, where he was an important minister for the grand duke, and where he met Friedrich Schiller, the ''other'' most important [[UsefulNotes/DichterAndDenker German author]]; after an uneasy first meeting they quickly became HeterosexualLifePartners. Goethe got ennobled in Weimar [[TheVonTropeFamily (hence the ''von'' in his name)]] and most of his works were created there.

Unlike what one would expect from famous German writers at the time, Goethe was relaxed about including lots of rude and dirty jokes in his works. ''Götz von Berlichingen'', a biographical piece about a famous soldier, is known as the play in which the main character speaks the line ''"Tell him that he can lick my arse!"'' (Indeed, the subject of the play is said to have ''invented'' the insult - Goethe merely quoted him. Also note: "Lick my arse" is roughly equivalent to "kiss my ass" in English; it's the phrase [[Creator/WolfgangAmadeusMozart Mozart]] used in his [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leck_mich_im_Arsch famously and childishly rude canon in B-flat minor]], and Mozart actually jokes about Goethe in it.)

Although mostly known for his literary works, Goethe also [[RenaissanceMan dabbled in many fields of science]]. For example, he discovered the incisive bone, though others had discovered it independently before him. He studied botany extensively and declared "alles ist Blatt" (all is leaf). He also [[DidntThinkThisThrough disagreed with Newton's theory of colour]] and [[ShownTheirWork came up with his own]], and then could never figure out why [[CreatorsPet nobody agreed that it was his greatest work]].

Goethe also traveled to Italy. During his time, [[GermansLoveDavidHasselhoff Germans love]][[strike:[[GermansLoveDavidHasselhoff d]]]] [[GermansLoveDavidHasselhoff Italy]]! He became one of the most well-documented people of all time; he was so famous so early that nearly everyone who met him wrote about him in detail, loads of his correspondence has been preserved and practically every scrap he ever wrote has been published: the standard modern Hamburg Edition of his works runs to ''11,000 pages''.

Goethe died in 1832 in Weimar. His [[FamousLastWords last words]] were (allegedly), "More light!"

A tiny sample of Goethe's works:

* "Heidenröslein" ("Rosebud on the Heath")
* "[[Literature/TheErlKing Erlkönig]]" ("Erl-King" or "The Alder King") -- A creepy ballad about TheFairFolk. Also an allegory on the dangers of ignorance and fear.
* ''Römische Elegien'' (''Roman Elegies'') -- A collection of poems celebrating the sensuality of Italian culture in general and [[SpicyLatina Italian women in particular]], inspired by Goethe's famous trip to Italy in his mid-thirties. It's been speculated that Goethe might have been a virgin when he went to Italy, since although he'd once believed in VirginPower, by the time he was in his 30s he was [[NatureAbhorsAVirgin beginning to think again]], and as soon as he left chilly Germany for warm Italy he quickly [[SexAsRiteOfPassage made up for lost time]]. The ''Elegies'' include some of the sexiest love poems ever written, belying Goethe's reputation in the English-speaking world for being a bit stuffy and Olympian.
* ''Venezianische Epigramme'' (''Venetian Epigrams'') -- A collection of witty epigrams inspired by Goethe's time in Venice, something of a Sequel to the ''Elegies''. They range over a variety of subjects in a mood of cheerful cynicism and are sometimes [[HotterAndSexier amazingly filthy and very funny]] often in [[BiTheWay unexpected ways]]; characteristically, Goethe wrote whatever came into his head but was careful not to publish the really filthy ones.
* ''Xenien'' (''The Xenia'') -- A collection of epigrams about art and culture, usually satirical, written in collaboration with Friedrich Schiller.
* "[[SorcerersApprenticePlot Der Zauberlehrling]]" ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice") -- Non-German speakers might know this story better with [[Disney/{{Fantasia}} Mickey Mouse as the apprentice]].
* ''West-östlicher Diwan'' (''The West-Eastern Divan'') -- Collection of poems in imitation of ancient Persian Muslim poetry, especially the 14th century poet [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hafez Hafez]].
* [[Literature/TheGhostOfPhilinnion "Die Braut von Korinth" ("The Bride of Corinth")]] -- a ballad, adapting a ghost story from UsefulNotes/AncientGreece.

* ''Theatre/GotzVonBerlichingen'' -- A historical fiction drama (a "historical drama" it's not), giving the real-life Götz a [[HistoricalHeroUpgrade historical character upgrade]].
* ''Iphigenie auf Tauris'' -- A {{remake}} of Creator/{{Euripides}}' play ''Iphigenia among the Taurians''.
* ''Egmont''
* ''Torquato Tasso''
* The ''Theatre/{{Faust}}'' duology, consisting of:
** ''Theatre/FaustFirstPartOfTheTragedy'': The origin of the page quote and often considered THE most important work in the German language ever. Probably the most quoted book in the German language (or slightly behind the bible) - some of its phrases have been quoted so often people don't even know where they are from.
** ''Theatre/FaustSecondPartOfTheTragedy'': Depending on who you ask, a late-in-coming cash-in sequel, a send-up of aficionados and critics of the first part, or actually a worthy successor.

[[AC:Epic]][[note]]And by epic, we mean "narrative prose"[[/note]]
* ''[[Literature/TheSorrowsOfYoungWerther Die Leiden des Jungen Werther]]'' (''The Sorrows of Young Werther'') -- [[http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=228 For the reasons mentioned above, later in his life, Goethe considered this one as an]] OldShame.
** It was also the focus of some SERIOUSLY MisaimedFandom, as young people all over Europe actually started killing themselves, in imitation of Werther. This was the first known instance of copycat-suicides, and therefore The Werther Effect bears his name.
* ''Reineke Fuchs'' (''Reynard the Fox'') -- a cycle of {{Beast Fable}}s.
* ''Die Wahlverwandtschaften'' (''Elective Affinities'') -- Ostensibly a novel about a married couple who invite two friends, a mature man and a much younger woman, to come and stay on their estate, but one of the most persistently mysterious and enduring novels in German. The title refers to a theory from chemistry about how certain elements are attracted to each other.
* ''Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre'' (''Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship'') and its {{sequel}} ''Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre'' (''Wilhelm Meister's Journeyman Years'') -- considered to be the first proper ''bildungsroman'', or "novel of education".
* ''Aus Meinem Leben: Dichtung und Wahrheit'' (''From My Life: Poetry and Truth'') -- Goethe's [[{{Biography}} autobiography]].