Iphigenie auf Tauris, Torquato Tasso, and the imagery of character

Michael J. White*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Whether it is in the notion of ‘Bildung’ or the daemonic, the reflective engagement with the self lies at the heart of what makes Goethe compelling for modern readers. This article traces the language and imagery of one notion of self-realization, moral character, in Iphigenie auf Tauris and Torquato Tasso. It identifies recurrent metaphors associated with character in eighteenth and nineteenth century theoretical and popular texts, such as stability, independence, influence, and limitation or focus. It demonstrates how this imagery of character informs the inner logic of the plays, structures the relationships between the individual characters, and how, through it, the dramas can be seen as offering literary reflections on character as a concept. Character emerges as a modern ideal, difficult to achieve yet realistic, worthy of admiration, yet universal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-111
Number of pages17
JournalPublications of the English Goethe Society
Issue number2
Early online date14 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023


  • Iphigenie auf Tauris
  • Torquato Tasso
  • Character
  • Independence
  • Influence
  • Limitation


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