, Research Paper
Unrequited Love and Gestures of Consecration
Young Werther searched for meaning in everything around him, yearning in his relentless love for Lotte. It was not a mistake that a copy of Emilia Galotti was found by Werther?s deathbed, this text?s content mirrors much of Werther?s ?sorrows.? Werther idolized and pined over Lotte as Prince Hettore Gonzaga did Emilia Galotti. Both male characters sought to relinquish his hopeless passion by attempting to win over the woman that they loved in a desperate manner, and whom lost their loves in one form or another. Both Lotte and Emilia represent the Romantic ideal for women, who were both concerned with keeping their womanly virtues in tact due to an influence from a male figure in their lives. In both stories, death played an important role where it acted as an ultimate gesture of consecration for the beloved.
Young Werther originally set out on his travels to seek solitude in nature. However, after meeting Charlotte Lotte, it seemed as though Werther?s agenda totally changed. Werther fell in love with Lotte at first sight. Werther vocalized his passion in the letters that he sent to his dear friend Wilhelm, where his adoration for Lotte would grow as time passed. ?An angel! -Rot! – Every man says this about his beloved, does he not? And yet I am unable to tell you how, and why, she is perfection itself; suffice to say that she has captivated me utterly.? (Goethe, pg.36) Werther immediately placed Lotte on a pedestal, claiming she exemplified ultimate perfection, and described Lotte with the same vigor and emotion that he did nature. Before Werther became acquainted with Lotte, his goal was to simply live in the happy solitariness of nature, but this undying love for Lotte overtook Werther?s intentions and consumed him.
From the moment that Werther met Lotte, he was entranced by her every move, and immediately could not give credence to the fact that Lotte was bound to another. When Werther asked who Albert was, Lotte told him that he was the man to whom she was engaged. ?Now this was no news to me? yet none the less, it was utterly new to me as I had not yet connected the thought with her, who had come in so short a time to mean so much to me.? (Goethe, pg.41) Lotte represented everything thing that was pure and benevolent to Werther, much like the role that nature once took in Werther?s life. Instead of expressing his love of nature in his paintings and writing, he began to paint portraits of Lotte, and wrote consistently to Wilhelm about Lotte. Werther?s imaginative powers were primarily ?weakened? by Lotte?s presence in his heart, and ultimately totally ?deserted? him. ?I can no longer pray except to her; my imagination beholds no figure but hers; and I see the things of the world about me only in relation to her.? (Goethe, 68) Werther recognized his obsession and felt like his ?growing passion? would ?overthrow his contemplative composure and destroy him.? (Goethe, 62) Werther, contemplating his demise, decided that his only option was to leave Walheim to escape his obsession with Lotte, and asked Albert to secure a post with an ambassador for him.
Werther kept himself busy during the time that he was away, but when he did not find the peace for which he had hoped, he decided to return to Walheim to be with Lotte. Werther?s first meeting with Lotte sent him unto a state of despair. Although Albert and Lotte commiserated with Werther, they suggested that Werther should visit the house less often. It can be inferred that Lotte?s rejection of Werther was fueled by Albert?s disapproval.
?One thing is certain: that she was quite determined to do everything to remove Werther from her presence? Yet during this period she was under increased pressure to be firm; her husband maintained a complete silence concerning the relationship, and so she felt she needed to prove by her actions her feelings were worthy of her husband?s respect.? (Goethe, 114)
Lotte ultimately felt that she had to prove her devotion and innocence to her husband, the primary male figure in her life, by distancing herself from Werther. It was at this point that Werther felt that he could no longer bear the sorrows of being without Lotte and no longer intended to live. One night when Albert was away, Werther went to Lotte?s home. Werther was irritated and broken-hearted, and Lotte was clearly frightened by his behavior. After Werther seized Lotte in a wild embrace, she ran away and locked herself in her room. It was at this point that Werther would not see Lotte again. Werther, the lover has attempted to seize his beloved, but was interrupted by Lotte?s desire to be true to her husband, the primary male figure in her life. The next day, Werther sent a servant to Albert and asked for a loan of his pistols for an ?unexpected journey.? This journey that Werther intended to take was one of death, which seemed like the only escape from his relentless love and admiration for Lotte. Werther then decided to commit the ultimate act of devotion for Lotte, he would kill himself to preserve her in his mind, and to sanctify his love for her. With the shot of pistol, Werther wounded himself so severely that he would die the next day, a copy of Emilia Galotti was found open on his desk. Werther?s suicide was the ultimate gesture of consecration for Lotte, bringing this Romantic tragedy to an end.
It seems quite interesting that Werther chose to read Emilia Galotti before he committed suicide. It can be deduced that this text was particularly close to Werther?s heart. The core elements of the Romantic tragedy are in place in this play and coincide with many of the themes in Werther?s experience. In Emilia Galotti, Prince Hettore Gonzaga, once in love with Countess Orsina, unhappily feel in love with Emilia Galotti after seeing a portrait of her. Just as Werther fell in love with Lotte, the prince fell in love with Emilia at first sight. The fact that the prince fell in love with a portrait also connects the two story lines, for Werther painted portraits of Lotte. Additionally, the idea of falling in love with a portrait suggests some sort of feminine ideal. While speaking about Emilia to Marinelli, the Prince finds out that Emilia is engaged to Count Appiani. Just as Werther could not accept the fact that Lotte was engaged to another man, the prince feels an utter sense of desperation and urgency. ?What?s wrong with me? Well now, I love her; I worship her. For all I care, you can all know it!? (Lessing, 14)
Marinelli proposed that the Prince should send Count Appiani on a mission, so that he could confront Emilia alone and eventually have her for himself. The prince would take advantage of the absence of Appiani and pursued her during mass. After the prince confronted Emilia, she frantically went back to her mother and reported what had transpired. ?Oh, if lonely loud thunder had kept me from hearing more! It spoke of beauty, of love- if it did even that- would decide its unhappiness forever. It implored me- I had to hear all of this.? (Lessing, 25) The prince was totally captivated with Emilia, he dreamed of having her as his own, and motivated by lechery, he comprised a plan to abduct her and to kill Count Appiani. If Werther had his way, there is no question that he did not have a conscious or unconscious wish that Albert would go away and never return. When Appiani rejected the prince?s proposal to send him away on his wedding day, he died at the hands of the prince?s men.
Just as Lotte loved another and did not know how to deal with Werther?s love, Emilia was extremely distraught over her predicament with the prince. Werther related to the Prince?s love for Emilia, as well as the characteristics that made Emilia so attractive to the prince. Although there are many similarities between Emilia and Lotte, Emilia was depicted as being a weaker creature. These two women can be considered to be the representation of the Romantic ideal for women. Both women had the qualities of intelligence and innocence, sought protection from a principal male figure, were educated, and were of middle class to upper class background. The prince successfully abducted Emilia on the charade that she is being rescued from bandits. During this time, Countess Orsina, enraged, tells Odoardo of the prince?s guilt, and gives him a dagger. It is with this dagger that Emilia is later killed by. Countess Orsina?s jealousy can be compared to Werther?s overwhelming jealousy of Albert. Odoardo is finally able to see his daughter, and to protect her innocence, he stabs Emilia and presents her body to the prurient prince and gives himself up to the authorities. As Emilia dies, she utters, ?broken a rose before the storm robbed it of its petals.? (Lessing, 81) Again, this reference to ?a rose? suggests that the Romantic ideal for women was one of purity of heart and temperance.
Although Emilia died by her father?s hand, her death can be looked upon as a moral suicide. Just as Emilia felt death was the only escape from the net she was enmeshed in, Werther felt death was the only escape from the web he had created for himself with his ceaseless love for Lotte. While Werther and Emilia take on different roles in the stories, where one is the lover, and the other is the beloved, death is the only feasible solution to each of their plights. While both the prince and Werther sought to win over the women that they loved in dynamic manners, both were futile enfin. Both Emilia and Lotte took action to protect their womanly virtues in the eyes of the principal male figure in their lives (Odoardo and Albert respectively.) It seems quite appropriate that Werther had a copy of Emilia Galotti on his deathbed, for the presence of overlapping themes between the two scenarios is unequivocal.
1.Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim. Emilia Galotti. New York: German Book Center, N.A., INC, 1979.
2.von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang. The Sorrows of Young Werther. London: Penguin Books, 1989.