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Goethe was a German genius who became far more than just the lawyer he started out as.

Goethe is arguably best known for his literature including his 1806 play Faust.

He grew up in a home full of law books. In his autobiography, he writes of bookcases filled with books on "elegant ... Roman jurisprudence" and his father's "collection of juridical treatises". As a child, Goethe acquainted himself with the "Corpus Juris ... in which I soon became completely versed".

As his father before him (Johann Caspar Goethe), was trained in law at Leipzig University and, later, at Strasburg, following the classic model, mostly memorization, something Goethe loathed.

But he persevered despite a serious illness in 1769.

He was licensed as a lawyer in Frankfurt in 1771 even though "no inner tendency urged me to such topics".

In the result, his legal career was intermittent at best. Goethe's passion was dramatic works of fiction.

The law directories show that he was licensed once again in Wetzlar and there, had an appearance , as lawyer, before the great German court, the Imperial Chamber.

In 1772 the success of his works of fiction such as The Sorrows of Young Werther brought him a commission to the German court and he moved to Weimar, where he spent the remainder of his life, eventually becoming a senior political adviser and a judge to support the time he spent as a writer.

Johann von GoetheAn acquaintance of Ludwig van Beethoven, he also dabbled in the sciences actually making a number of medical discoveries.

He once said:

"The best of all governments is that which teaches us to govern ourselves."

On the art of trial, he said:

"One man's word is no man's word. We should quietly hear both sides."

He was against abolishing the death penalty in his community in a vote where his ballot could of made the difference.

Goethe traveled to Italy and upon his return, joining the German army to repel a French invasion of Germany. He married in 1806 and had a son, Karl.

For centuries Geothe’s works were heavily censured for their violent or deviant sexual content. For example, in Faust, Goethe has the Devil sign a contract and then rape a young girl.

REFERENCES:

  • Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, The Autobiography of Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe  - Dichtung und Wahrheit (New York: Horizon Press, 1969), a 1848 translation by John Oxenford.
  • Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, Faust at www.gutenberg.org/files/14591/14591-8.txt