Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832).
Title of the Entire Work:
Faust. Title of Part 1:
Tragödie erster Teil (Faust: the First Part of the Tragedy). Title of Part 2:
Tragödie zweiter Teil (Faust: the Second Part of the Tragedy). Genre: Faust
is a both a play and an epic. Although Goethe classes the first and second
parts as tragedies, the work ends happily after Faust dies and goes to
Writing Format: Goethe
wrote most of Faust in verse, but some passages are in prose. The
verse uses various metric patterns and rhyme schemes.
section of Part 1, called a fragment, was published in 1790. Part 1 was
published in its entirety in 1808. A section of Part 2, also called a fragment,
was published in 1827. Part 2 was published in its entirety in 1832.
1 of Faust was first performed in 1829, and Part 2 was first performed
in 1854. The complete work was first performed in 1875 at Weimar.
action takes place in Heaven, on earth on the European continent, and in
The Lord Raphael, Michael, Gabriel:
Faust: Scholar, medical
doctor, and magician.
Wagner: Faust's assistant.
Called Gretchen): Young woman who attracts Faust.
man created by Wagner.
Emperor: Ruler of
a domain saved by Mephistopheles and Faust.
Helen of Troy: Mythological
figure of extraordinary beauty.
Euphorion: Son of
Faust and Helen of Troy.
Numerous Other Mythological
Figures Witches, Spirits, Soldiers,
Students Tavern Revelers
of the Book of Job .
one of his sources, Goethe used the Book of Job in the Old Testament of
the Bible. In Chapter I of that book, Satan challenges the Lord, boasting
that he can make Joban upright, pious, and
prosperous servant of Godreject the Lord.
The Lord then allows Satan to interfere in Jobs life in an attempt to
envenom him against the Lord. Over time, Job loses his possessions, his
children die, and he suffers ill health. However, he remains faithful to
the Lord (Yahweh). Eventually the Lord restores his possessions twofold
and gives him ten more children--seven sons and three daughters. Job lives
to a very old age.
of the Faust of History and Legend .
based his work in part on the life of Johann Georg Faust (1480-1540), a
magician,astrologer, and fortuneteller. Legends about him flourished, often
depicting him as evil. According to the Faustbuch, published in
1587, he traded his immortal soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge
and twenty-four years of pleasure. English playwright Christopher Marlowe
based a play, The Tragicall [Tragical] History of Dr. Faustus,
on the Faust legend. French composer Hector Berlioz wrote an opera, La
Damnation de Faust (The Damnation of Faust, based on it. Many
other literary and musical works also derived from the Faust legend.
of Homer and Other Writers .
only as writing models for Faust but also as sources of information
about mythological figures. In particular, the quest of Odysseus (Roman
name Ulysses) for knowledge and experience on his journey home parallels
Fausts quest on his journey to heaven. Goethe also based various scenes
and characters on Shakespearean models and also drew inspiration from such
epics as Virgil's Aeneid
Gabriel, Michael: The three archangels who are mentioned in the Bible.
Archangels rank eighth in the hierarchy of angels, which is as follows:
Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Principalities, Powers, Virtues,
Archangels, and Angels.
in Leipzig:Goethe frequented a Leipzig
tavern called Auerbach's.
In writing the witch scene, Goethe drew inspiration from Shakespeare's
in which witches tempt Macbeth to commit murder
of Troy: In Greek mythology, the incomparably beautiful wife of Menelaus,
a Greek king. Her abduction by a Trojan named Paris started the Trojan
War. For additional information on the Trojan War, see Homer's Iliad.
Walpurgis Night. According to German folklore, Walpurgis-nacht occurred
on April 30 on Brocken Mountain, a 3,747-foot granite mountain in the Harz
chain. Walpurgis derives from the name of a Roman Catholic saint,
Walburga, an English-born Benedictine nun who ministered in Germany in
the Eighth Century. After she died, some Germans mistakenly identified
her with Waldborg, a goddess of fertility.
and Helen: See number 4.
Site where Caesar defeated Pompey in 48 B.C. in a decisive battle
during the Roman Civil War
Mythological hero known for his feats of strength. He was the son of Zeus,
the king of the Olympian gods, and Alcmene, a human.
In Greek mythology, the world's greatest warrior. In the Trojan War, he
fought on the Greek side.
. . . human: Homunculus's search appears to symbolize the efforts of
alchemists to change common metals into gold, develop an elixir that confers
perpetual youth, and alter the substance of other ordinary things into
Philosopher who taught in ancient Athens.
Ancient Greek philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician.
. . . forms: This is an interesting foreshadowing
of Darwin's Theory of Evolution.
Ancient Greek city state known for its military prowess.
In Greek mythology, son of the inventor Daedalus. When escaping captivity
with wax wings made by his father, he flies too close to the sun and his
wings melt. He dies when he falls into the sea.
Salvation Through Striving
man is a fallen creature, redemption and salvation are his as long as he
continues to strive and grow. Throughout the epic, Faust slowly progresses.
His great thirst for knowledge begins to shift focus during the Margaret
(Gretchen) episode from earthly and selfish desires to spiritual and selfless
desires that ultimately attain for him the salvation of his immortal soul.
When the angels meet him in heaven, they receive a man who never ceased
to strive and, in so doing, found his way to God.
Quest for Knowledge
Homers Odysseus, Faust is willing to go on a perilous journey in pursuit
of knowledge. But he discovers that man can never attain a full understanding
of the mysteries of God and the universe. Man will always come up short
of his goal. However, his quest for understanding will take him higher
and higher on the ladder of truth and goodness.
Lack of Fulfillment
pleasures can never fully satisfy a human being. One of the condition's
of Faust's pact with Mephistopheles is that the latter allow him to experience
the deepest pleasures possible. But Faust's adventures into pleasure are
insufficient to content him. Even the restoration of Faust's youth with
the witch's magic fails in the end to bring Faust complete fulfillment.
Only God can bring the complete happiness a person desires.
wears many deceptive guises that make it appear desirable even though it
is ultimately ruinous. For example, when a student comes to learn from
Faust early in the play, Mephistophes--wearing the teacher's mantle--pretends
to be Faust and tempts the student into debauchery.
Life Is Worth Living
is worth living even though moments of despair can make it seem otherwise.
Climax . .......The
climax of a literary work can be defined as (1) the turning point at which
the conflict begins to resolve itself for better or worse, or as (2) the
final and most important event in a series of events. .......The
climax of Faust occurs, according to the first definition, when
the guilt-ridden Faust pities the imprisoned Margaret (Gretchen) and attempts
to rescue her. This episode represents a major turning point in his life
and foreshadows his ultimate salvation. .......According
to the second definition, the climax occurs when Faust finally realizes
his highest moment of happinessa moment that
Mephistopheles promised to give him from the beginning in return for Faust's
immortal soulbut Faust's moment of happiness
comes when he does good on behalf of humankind, not evil on behalf of his
own self-gratification. Consequently, the Lord accepts Faust into heaven.
the "Prologue in Heaven," Part 1, the dialogue between the Lord and Mephistopheles
foreshadows the ultimate redemption of Faust and his admission to heaven.
The key passage occurs after Mephistopheles bets the Lord that he can win
Faust's immortal soul. The Lord replies,
Enough! What thou hast asked
Turn off this spirit from
To trap him, let thy snares
And him, with thee, be downward
Then stand abashed, when
thou art forced to say:
A good man, through obscurest
Has still an instinct of
the one true way.
Quoted from a public-domain
translation of Faust by Bayard Taylor (1825-1878),
an American poet and critic.
The translation was published in Cleveland by the World Publishing Company.
story of Faust has given English and other languages a metaphor to describe
an agreement to engage in unethical or immoral activity in order to achieve
a goal. For example, a newscaster who agrees to slant the news against
a political candidate in return for a promotion from his boss "sells his
soul to the devil." He commits a Faustian act. A scientist who opposes
human cloning on moral grounds but conducts human-cloning experiments for
money also commits a Faustian act. A baseball player who takes steroids
to enhance his performance likewise commits a Faustian act.
Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines Faustian as follows: "of, relating
to, resembling, or suggesting Faust; especially: made or done for present
gain without regard for future cost or consequences."
Wolfgang von Goethe (approximate English pronunciation: YO hahn VOLF gahng
fon GER tuh) was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in 1749 and studied
law in Leipzig before turning to literature. He was the greatest German
writer of his age and is viewed today by many scholars as the greatest
German writer of all time. His output was enormous: He wrote poetry, novels,
plays, critical commentaries, and science works on optics and anatomy.
He studied law, philosophy, art, architecture, and the Greek myths. He
was a major figure in the Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) literary movement
characterized by a rejection of many classical literary conventions (in
particular the three classical unities adhered to strictly by French writers
but often ignored by William Shakespeare), by great passion and enthusiasm,
by disquiet and impatience, and by an exposition of folk themes. He deeply
admired the works of Shakespeare. Faust is Goethe's most famous
and most widely read work.
Questions and Essay Topics
1. Why does Goethe's Faust
remain timely and relevant in the modern world?
2. Why does God allow Mephistopheles
to tempt Faust?
3. Faust shares in common
with the rest of humankind an inborn desire to know as much as possible
about the material and spiritual worlds. When pursuing such knowledge,
does a person ever encounter boundaries that he or she must not cross?
In other words, are.there ethical and moral
considerations that limit the scope of a person's quest for knowledge?
4. Does Faust's remorse
at having wronged Margaret foreshadow any event Part II?
5. In Homer's Odyssey,
the central character, Odysseus (Roman name, Ulysses) is an archetype of
the wandering man seeking knowledge. In an essay, compare and contrast
the journeys of Odysseus and Faust, their curiosity, the temptations they
encounter, and the most important lesson they learn during their travels.