The 5 Best Quotes From Goethe

The 5 best quotes from Goethe

Some of the most beautiful quotes in German literature come from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. This great man of letters was not only a writer, but also a poet, dramaturge and scientist. His wisdom ranged from medicine to theology, from physics to poetry. Goethe never stopped learning and showing interest in the world. The existing contradictions are revealed in the movement of Sturm und Drang, which was a forerunner of literary romanticism and one of whose most famous representatives is Goethe.

Though Faust. A tragedy marked  the climax of his literary career, Goethe wrote many other works, including the controversial novel in letter form The Sorrows of Young Werthe r. The book was so successful that it sparked a wave of youth suicides – hence the term “Werther Effect”. The quotes that we present in this article come from several of his works.

The five best quotes from Goethe

What distinguishes Goethe’s works? A discomfort with modern society, allusions to witchcraft and the devil, as well as sentimental exaggeration. The quotes we want to share with you now today are full of wisdom and intelligence.

“There is no past that one can long for back, there is only an eternal new that is shaped from the expanded elements of the past, and the real longing must always be productive to create something new, better.”

For Goethe , the past had to remain a thing of the past. It wasn’t enough for him just not to think about her. Goethe himself fell into a deep depression because of the French Revolution. He couldn’t understand why the new strata of society should change, and still less why blood was shed because of it.

It only creates problems when we get stuck in the past. In this way we cannot appreciate the happiness of the present. Dark times may come, but until then we should enjoy what we have. 

A drawing depicting a pair from Goethe's pieces

“Nobody wants to become something, everyone wants to be something.”

Goethe mentions here that everyone wants to be confirmed and admired, but nobody thinks about themselves as a person. When people become famous and rich, they stop working on themselves. You stop and forget to make something of yourself – trapped in the rubble of your own vanity.

If we thought more about our becoming than our being, then perhaps the world would be a better place. It is a big mistake to sacrifice your potential in order to adapt. 

“A talent is formed in silence, a character in the flow of the world.”

It is ironic that a representative of the Strom von Sturm und Drang should say such a thing. Goethe had a rather impulsive personality. He was creative, curious, restless, and that’s why he triumphed. And he believed that solitude and moments of silence were necessary to develop intellectually.

We all need time for ourselves. In order to mature intellectually, there must be a balance between activity and rest. Otherwise we will not be able to achieve anything of value.

Painting by Goethe in the Camapagna

“If we only take people as they are, we make them worse; if we treat them as if they were what they should be, we bring them where they are to be taken. “

With this quote Goethe describes the legend of Pygmalion and Galatea. According to Greek legend, Pygmalion was a sculptor from Cyprus who created a sculpture based on his idea of ​​the ideal woman. He fell in love with his own sculpture and eventually Aphrodite, the goddess of love, had mercy and made the statue come to life.

This myth is the basis of the famous Pygmalion Effect: If you treat a person like a failure, no matter how talented they are, they will fail. On the other hand, if you encourage a person and increase their belief in themselves, then their own behavior will lead them to success.

“A big mistake: that you think yourself more than you are and value yourself less than you are worth.”

And again Goethe hits the nail on the head. People always believe that they are better than others, but the moment of truth reveals everything. Learning to love yourself is of the utmost importance, but do not cross the line to arrogance. 

No genius is so admired as a humble person who is not constantly seeking confirmation. However, someone who uses deception, exaggeration, and grandeur to impress others does not deserve our envy.

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