Title page of first edition
|Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
|Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre
|Bildungsroman, philosophical novel
|Johann Friedrich Unger (Berlin)
|Wilhelm Meister's Theatrical Calling (Wilhelm Meisters theatralische Sendung) (1777–1785)
|Wilhelm Meister's Journeyman Years (Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre) (1821–1829)
The eponymous hero undergoes a journey of self-realization. The story centers upon Wilhelm's attempt to escape what he views as the empty life of a bourgeois businessman. After a failed romance with the theater, Wilhelm commits himself to the mysterious Tower Society.
1 When the young actress Mariane arrives home after the show, she finds a white negligee, a gift of her absent lover, the wealthy businessman Norberg. In her heart, however, Mariane loves Wilhelm. He appears and welcomes his mistress in a stormy mood. Old Barbara is not satisfied. Barbara wants her beautiful mistress to stick with the rich Norberg.
2 William's father complains that frequent visits to the theater by his son are a waste of time. Mariane, whose father is a minister, panics at the news that her mother is coming. Barbara is chosen to take Wilhelm to the local pub and keep him there until Mrs. Gruber departs. As the evening drags on, Mariane's mom decides to spend the night.
3 When Mme. Melina accuses Mr. Melina of boring his visiting niece Schanzi, Roper decides to introduce Karen to Wilhelm. Meanwhile, Wilhelm is involved in organizing a birthday celebration for Barbara, so when Roper suggests to Wilhelm that he would like him to take his niece out, Wilhelm refuses.
4 Wilhelm narrates that he had seen a puppet show as a child. When Wilhelm brings home a puppy, Barbara and Mariane remind him that landlord Melina doesn't allow pets on the premises. While the three try to hide the puppy from Mr. Melina, Wilhelm fails in several attempts to give the little pooch away.
5 Jaffe, a large chap, approaches their table to make a rude play for Mariane. His size intimidates Wilhelm. The situation becomes more embarrassing for Wilhelm when the Melinas drop in and Melina, in ill-tempered mood from a toothache, puts Jeff in his place. But Wilhelm feels he may have acted cowardly by avoiding a fight.
6 William talks to Mariane and Barbara about his childhood, the dolls and the theater. Barbara and Mariane, believing a burglar has stolen their rent money frantically try to avoid landlord Melina until they can replace it. After Wilhelm and Barbara find their apartment door unlocked and the cash missing, Mariane arrives and insists that she left the envelope containing the rent money on a shelf.