GRE General Test: RC-397499 GRE Reading Comprehension

Unlike the carefully weighted and planned compositions of Dante, Goethe’s writings have always the sense of immediacy and enthusiasm. He was a constant experimenter with life, with ideas, and with forms of writing. For the same reason, his works seldom have the qualities of finish or formal beauty which distinguishes the masterpieces of Dante and Virgil. He came to love the beauties of classicism but these were never an essential part of his make-up. Instead, the urgency of the moment, the spirit of the thing, guided his pen. As a result, nearly all his works have serious flaws of structure, of inconsistencies, of excesses and redundancies and extraneities.

In the large sense, Goethe represents the fullest development of the romanticists. It has been argued that he should not be so designated because he so clearly matured and outgrew the kind of romanticism exhibited by Wordsworth, Shelly, and Keats. Shelly and Keats died young; Wordsworth lived narrowly and abandoned his early attitudes. In contrast, Goethe lived abundantly and developed his faith in the spirit, his understanding of nature and human nature, and his reliance on feelings as man’s essential motivating force. The result was an all-encompassing vision of reality and a philosophy of life broader and deeper than the partial visions and attitudes of other romanticists. Yet the spirit of youthfulness, the impatience with close reasoning or "logic-chopping," and the continued faith in nature remained his to the end, together with an occasional waywardness and impulsiveness and a disregard of artistic or logical propriety which savor strongly of romantic individualism. Since so many twentieth-century thoughts and attitudes are similarly based on the stimulus of the Romantic Movement, Goethe stands as particularly the poet of modern times as Dante stood for medieval times and as Shakespeare for the Renaissance.
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