This new critical biography provides a complete picture of German novelist, playwright, and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Offering fresh, thought-provoking interpretations of all Goethe’s major works, including novels such as The Sorrows of Young Werther and The Elective Affinities, plays such as Egmont and Iphigenia in Tauris, and Goethe’s greatest work, Faust, Jeremy Adler also provides many original readings of Goethe’s poetry, beginning with the poems written in his early youth. Alongside Goethe’s work, Adler analyzes the incidents of his life, including his love affairs and his meetings with the luminaries of his age, such as Napoleon Bonaparte. Uniquely, Adler also shows how Goethe’s encyclopedic interest in literature, science, philosophy, law, and many other fields became important for a wide range of later scientists and thinkers. Among the figures he influenced were Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, Émile Durkheim and Susan Sontag. Goethe has often been called the last Renaissance man. This biography shows that Goethe was in fact the first of the moderns—a maker of modernity.