Publication Date



In this paper, I examine two poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Totentanz” and “Erlkönig.” Specifically, I want to understand the figure of death, as it appears in these two poems. I also want to reconcile the poetic texts to the life of Goethe. It is evident the lives of writers are wrapped up in their work; therefore, I want to understand Goethe’s perspective on death as he portrays the figure of death in his poems. In Goethe’s poem “Totentanz,” he portrays death as a skeletal figure that has risen from the dead. Goethe, however, did not only have fear for physical death, but, as demonstrated in “Erlkönig,” he also feared death in life, or a life wasted.