The Sorrows of Werther, Faust

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Date: 1776 1808 1939

Region: Europe

Subject: Religious Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Literature

Artist: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)


Confronting Bodies: The Danish Lutheran authorities, Prussian state, Franco's Spain

Dates of Action: 1776, 1808, 1939

Location: Denmark, Prussia, Spain

Description of Artwork: The Sorrows of Werther (1774): Passion of Werther for a girl safely out of reach. The novel reflect the fatal effects of a predilection for absolutes, whether in love, art, society or the realm of thought. Faust (1790): Dramatic poem in two parts. Part I (1808) sets out its hero's (Faust) despair, his pact with Mephistopheles, and his love for Gretchen. Part II (1832) covers Faust's life at court, the winning of Helen of Troy and Faust's purification and salvation.


The Incident: 1776, Denmark: The Sorrows of Werther was prohibited under strict censorship exercised by the Lutheran authorities. 1808, Berlin, Prussia: The State authorities suppressed the production of Faust, until certain "dangerous passages" concerning freedom were deleted. 1939, Spain: Franco purged the libraries of the works of "such disgraceful writers" as Goethe.

Results of Incident: Both books were then, and now are, widely read.

Source: Banned Books 387 B.C. to 1978 A.D., by Anne Lyon Haight, and Chandler B. Grannis, R.R. Bowker Co, 1978.