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Werther had a love for Charlotte

Such as words could never utter;

Would you know how first he met her?

She was cutting bread and butter...



Charlotte, having seen his body

Borne before her on a shutter,

Like a well-conducted person

Went on cutting bread and butter.
William Makepeace Thackeray, Sorrows of Werther

The Sorrows of Young Werther (Die Leiden des jungen Werthers) is a 1774 novel (revised in 1787) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe about an emotional young man named Werther who falls madly in love with an young woman named Lotte, who is engaged to someone else. Werther gradually becomes more emotional and less mentally stable...

The novel was very popular in its day, for what were probably the wrong reasons. It was later adapted into a popular opera (written 1887, first performed 1892) by the French composer Jules Massenet. Note that some of these tropes seem like they should be in YMMV, but even Goethe straight-out said that most of them applied; he was horrified, for example, that people were killing themselves in imitation of Werther.

Tropes used in The Sorrows of Young Werther include:


  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Almost certainly averted by Werther.
  • Chekhov's Gun: With a literal gun.
  • Creator Backlash: Goethe's Faust is in part an attack on philosophical trends associated with the Werther fandom.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Sorry Werther, no Lotte for you!
  • Downer Ending: Due to the protagonist killing himself because of Unrequited Love.
  • Epistolary Novel: Takes the form of letters by Werther to his friend Wilhelm.
  • Fan Dumb: In the words of Werther: "I need fans like these the way I need a hole in the head!"
    • But no, seriously, people killed themselves in imitation/emulation of Werther.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Many 18th-century readers admired Werther. An alarming number admired him so much that they committed suicide too.
  • Moral Guardians: Authorities were concerned over the "Werther effect" in which people started committing suicides based on the novel.
  • Multiple Endings: Friedrich Nicolai, an author, wrote an alternate ending to the novel called The Joys of Young Werther in which Werther's suicide is foiled, Lotte chooses him over Albert, and Werther eventually becomes a productive member of society. Goethe was not happy.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Lotte's fiancé Albert has typical Enlightenment attitudes. Werther is very Romantic, although the Romantic movement barely existed yet when the book was written.
  • Scrapbook Story: Mostly, it's letters from Werther to his unnamed friend, but near the end, as Werther's mental state starts to deteriorate, an 'editor' steps in to clarify a few points.
  • Unbuilt Trope: The nascent Romantic movement in literature arguably received its greatest impetus out of the aforementioned Misaimed Fandom.
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