The German poet, dramatist, novelist, and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), who embraced many fields of human endeavor, ranks as the greatest of all German poets. Of all modern men of genius, Goethe is the most universal.
In 1773 Goethe provided the Sturm und Drang movement with its first major drama, Götz von Berlichingen, and in 1774 with its first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, an extraordinarily popular work in its time, in which he created the prototype of the Romantic hero. The dominant figure of the German Classicist-Romantic period, and for many still the most influential of all German writers, Goethe was often referred to as the last Renaissance man. He successfully cultivated a multitude of extraordinary talents, while his works, especially Faust and his novels, expressed and helped shape modern individualism. He brought radical subjectivity to German poetry and expressed a modern view of history: history revealed in the exceptional individual. Goethe also wrote extensively on botany, color theory, and other scientific topics. In his late years he was celebrated as a sage and visited by world luminaries. The greatest figure of German Romanticism, he is regarded as a giant of world literature.