Faust I


In Goethe's poem Faust, the dedication is similar to that of an elegy in its content, in stanza form. Goethe speaks to the characters of the drama, recounted as they awaken from the creative process, which gives the feeling that they took part in the making of it all. He mourns recent times, his youth, his first love and suffering and his lost companions from his time.

Prelude in the Theater

A theater director, a poet and a comedian (meant to be an actor), argue over the meaning and point of a successful theater piece. The director spoke out about the managerial decisions, the poet about the artistic aspects and the comedian, about the intent. There compromise was one of the most universal lines from Faust:

Thus striding through a narrow wooden house,
the whole circle of creation now,
and walk fast and thoughtfully as well
from heaven through the world to hell!

Prologue in Heaven

The Prologue in Heaven beings with the glorification of the works of God through three Archangels. Their positive attitudes are made fun of by Mephisto. Then what follows is a bet made between Mephisto and God, a bet which stems from that in the Old Testament. The bet falls on the subject of Doctor Faust, God's servant, who previously had only served him with complications. Mephisto bets that he can lead Faust off of his right path. God lets Mephisto believe that he can succeed. (Fine, go ahead and try!), he spoke, anticipating that Mephisto would lose: (Be ashamed when you find out, a good man in his darkest time, still has knowledge of his rightful path).

The Tragedy: the first part
Night- Faust, Earth Spirit, Wagner

The well studied Heinrich Faust, struggles with the point of studying science, and has looked far and wide to answer the question, what holds the world together. He has finished the sum of his many years of study realizing that, he can't really know anything!

To really understand the workings of things, he went through the works of Nostradamus, magic and called upon the Earth Spirit. He hoped that through this power from higher spheres, he could learn: You, who turns the world round, working spirit, how close I feel to you! but from each spirit he only felt the pain of his own mortality. Where is the call of the soul? Where is the breast, from which the world is created? Where are you Faust, the voice that sounds to me? A timid, slithering worm! So he parted from the Earth Spirit and Wagner followed.

Faust's studious apprentice, Famulus Wagner, is the type that is built off of book-knowledge, is optimistic, and believes all that he reads from scientists. (In the second part of Faust, he appears as professor and test tube genetic engineer, against the Faustian fanaticism. Through his workings, he creates a person, Homunculus, proving himself also to as a visionary.

Out of desperation, Faust decides that his last chance to cross over the threshold is to take his life by drinking poison, and at that moment, the Easter morning bells begin to ring, reminding him less of a Christian message but rather of happy childhood days, thus distracting him from his drink.

Before the gate- Easter walk

The next day, Easter Sunday, Faust takes a springtime walk with Wagner and mingles with the towns folk who are out walking. This opportunity shows Faust what a high esteem the common folk hold him in for his in medical efforts. They pass by townspeople, farmers, students, craftspeople, soldiers, civil servants and daughters. Through their conversations, various viewpoints and standpoints and generations are made clear.

Faust opens up to Wagner about his inner strife, between body and spirit, between earthly and heavenly ambition:

"Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast,
And each will wrestle for the mastery there,
The one has passion's craving crude for love,
And hugs a world where sweet the senses rage;
The other longs for pastures fair above,
Leaving the murk for lofty heritage." [1]

A strange black poodle follows them on their walk; Faust brings him home and lets him into his study.

The Study- Poodle scene: Faust, Mephisto

Faust translates the beginning of the Gospel of St. John. He struggles to understand the meaning of the greek word, Logos, and he tries the word: meanings, or powers, and decides on, deed: In the beginning was the deed.

By doing this, the poodle pacing around, became agitated.

By way of questioning and summoning up spells, the animal finally reveals himself to be the devil, Mephisto, ("Ah, so that was at the center of the poodle!" 1323), who is a part of the power that wants evil, works in the name of the good, and denies the spirit.

Study room- the devil's pact, closing scene

In the so-called Devil's Pact, Mephistopheles proposes to fulfill all of Faust's desires. Faust entrusts his soul to him, with the promise that he will in return receive life fulfillment and happiness. (Faust: If I say to the moment: / But stay, you are so beautiful! / Then you may clap me in fetters, / Then I will gladly go under!) (1699-1702).

Mephistopheles follows along hearing Faust's disappointment with his life of study, and plans to turn his banal life into something enjoyable: But we must manage that much better, /
Before life's pleasures from us flee
(1818-1819). Behind his back he continued: Humanity's most lofty power, /Reason and knowledge, /pray despise!...(1851).

Wearing Faust's professor suit, Mephisto receives a new student. He speaks in a cynical and satirical manner, speaking out against the university as a whole and the closed-mindedness of particular faculty members.

The encounter with the student ends with the student's entry in his notebook: Eritis sicut Deus scientes bonum et malum (You will be like God and know, what good and evil is.(2047)). With that, Mephisto quoted the snake from the Bible, just before Adam and Eve were sent out of Paradise. [2] And in doing so, the scene closes with Mephisto's short monologue and these words: With all your likeness to God you'll sometimes tremble and quake!(2049) scoffing indirectly at Faust's striving towards a God-like image, (614) a repeat of the fall of man.

Auerbach's celler in Leipzig

Four drunken students in Auerbach's cellar try to lighten the mood with obscene jokes and vulgar songs. Mephisto brings Faust to the local pub to show him, how easily one can live. As strangers to the place, the locals corralling take interest in the visitors. By singing a mesmerizing song, Mephisto sees how to schmooze with the others, and as he magically materializes every wine wished for, the mood rises. Faust had enough from this rough crowd but Mephisto begged him for a bit of patience: give just a chance and I promise, honesty will be revealed. The wine suddenly turned to fire and the drunkards tried to get Mephisto with knives. Thanks to his magic, he escaped the danger and with Faust at his side, the two fled the scene. The students were in a state of shock, Tell me, did that really happen?(V. 2336)

Witch's Kitchen

Mephisto took Faust next, to a Witch's kitchen, where a magical drink was waiting, and having drunken it, he became young again and appeared attractive to any woman. Faust was at first reluctant to this Hocuspocus, but then gave in. Mephisto, getting flustered and making promises and in a fit of rage, also drank the potion. Before Faust's youthful potion set into effect, he gazed into a broken mirror and saw an image of a woman. "Oh Mephisto, take me flying to her right away," and Mephisto gave him the warning, "With this drink, you see with eyes of love, Helena in every woman".

In the Street- Meeting Gretchen

Faust asked Gretchen if he could accompany her. However she humbly rejected him from shyness and modesty. Faust is overcome by Gretchen's appearance and person: Here was something I had never before seen.

Faust threatens to break the pack with Mephisto, if he does not make her fall in love with him that same day. Mephisto, who had witnessed their interaction earlier, had no hope for the innocent girl. Faust retorted,"She is over 14 years old". Mephisto mooched Faust's lust by saying, "He speaks like a Frenchman!" and asked him for more patience and tact. For now, he will plant a gift for Gretchen, Faust himself, in her room. ...


Once Gretchen has returned home, she asks herself who that man was who had approached her on the street. Based on his stately appearance and bold stature, she took him to be a nobleman.

In Gretchen's absence, Mephisto placed Faust in her room, and left him there alone. Here, Faust feels the sweet pangs of love. He paints himself a picture of her simple life and is content imagining "innocence" in his arms, as well as a well-grounded girl. Here, I'd like to spend hours (V.2710), says Faust, lingering by her bed.

Suddenly Faust recognized his intrusion as sacrilege and is set off by his own approach: Poor Faust, I do not know you anymore! (V. 2720) Mephisto is warned of Gretchen's return and is in a hurry. He hides stollen jewelry in her closet and mocks Faust's concerns.

Gretchen comes back, undresses and sings a song from, The King in Thule. She finds the necklace and is puzzled over its whereabouts. Trying it on, she takes the precious jewelry out and poses with it before the mirror.

Out for a Stroll

Disgusted, Mephisto reported to Faust that Gretchen showed the jewlery to her mother, who took it to the priest. The jewelry was promptly taken over by the church and rewards in heaven were promised.

Mephisto ridiculed the ease in which the church takes in goods, without questioning their origin. At the same time he assured Faust that Gretchen, ... "Thinks on the jewelry day and night, and more so on who could have left it for her". Faust demands, without delay, a new, even more valuable gift. Mephisto decides to make Gretchen's neighbor an accomplice for this task.

The Neighbor's House

The neighbor, Marthe Schwerdtlein, is thinking about her lost husband, who left her high and dry. In his absence, she does not want to be untrue to him, however if he has died, she would like a confirmation.

Gretchen comes over and tells Marthe of her new jewelry. Marthe advises her to keep the jewelry a secret from her mother and only bring it over to Marthe's house.

Mephisto arrives with a message for Marthe: Your husband is dead and gives you his greetings. His body lies in a grave in Padua.

In the evening they can meet again in Marthe's garden where he will bring a death certificate and a second witness. Then he flatters Gretchen to make her ready for any suitors, describing the witness to be a fine journeyman, thatall the ladies fall for.

Mephisto flirts with Marthe, then pullsquickly back as she was a fresh widow, ready for his advances: She would hold him to be the devil himself by his word.

On the Street 

Faust inquires further about progress in his courtship with Gretchen. Mephisto hopes that Marthe will help, however Faust needs to testify to the death of her spouse. Faust says he will do this, if he can see the actual grave in Padua. Mephisto mocks Faust's double standard: Has this scientist not also made (false) statements about God, the world and man?- and now wants to know the truth of Marthe's husband's death? - and he soon will speak to Gretchen about eternal truth and love, that he could not find-?

Faust is angry at Mephisto's insinuation. After his own deep striving for truth, he receives nothing in return but devilish lying games and not being taken serious for his love for Gretchen which is deep and sustaining. Nevertheless, Faust agrees to Mephisto's ploy.

The Garden

At the arranged time, the pairs meet and along different sides of the path, Faust and Gretchen, and Mephisto and Marthe, walk through the garden. Mephisto must put forth efforts not to be talked into marriage.

Gretchen tells Faust of her busy daily work. Nevertheless, she is satisfied. The early death of her little sister and left a deep impression, leaving Gretchen to look after her ill mother.

Faust and Gretchen come closer to each other. She admits that already at their first meeting, she felt affection for him. He speaks to her of the possibility, To give oneself over completely to bliss/ To feel, eternity (V. 3191 f).

In the Garden Shed 

In the garden shed, Faust and Gretchen kiss. Mephisto disturbs them, telling Faust he must leave. Gretchen, stays back and asks herself, ashamed, what could a such a man like Faust find in me: such a poor, ignorant child. (V. 3215).

The Forest and a Cave

Faust took himself to the solitude of a forest cave and tanket the Earthspirit that all of his wishes had been fulfilled. Previously, he could only approach nature with the cool distance of a scientist, and now he could look directly into her deepest breast. Faust also laments over his growing dependence on the cynical Mephisto and his temptations. Promptly he appears and steps over Faust's enthusiasm, pointing out the dullness of nature (Here the doctor is back in his body!) and compares salvation to masturbation. In the meantime, Gretchen, is eagerly awaiting her lover.

Faust condemns Mephisto for disturbing his inner peace and his renewed sparked desires (and do not speak of the beautiful lady!), he cannot get the thoughts of longing for Gretchen from his mind. The seduction of the girl through hellish influences is already underway, and it is liked all the same, even if Gretchen would perish because of him. 

Gretchen's Room


At her spinnig wheel, Gretchen sits pondering over her loss of mental equilibrium: My peace is gone, my heart is heavy, I find it never and never more. When all of her thoughts are on Faust would be true, then she would kiss and hug him until she,  should vanish in his kisses.



Marthe's Garten – Gretchen's question

Gretchen feels that Faust is distanced from the church, and therefore poses for him, the "Gretchen question": So, tell me, how do you stand with religion? Reluctantly and elusively, Faust exclaims how unsatisfactory traditional religion seems. He does not bind his pantheism with fixed words like, "God" or "Believe": I have no name/ for it! Feeling is everything;/a name is sound and smoke/ to fog heavens glow. Gretchen accepts Faust's answer, but considers him not Christian.

In this context, Gretchen mentions her aversion to Mephisto, who instills in her fear. Upon parting Faust cries out, Ah, can I not have/ just one small hour of peace against your busom/ and push chest to chest and soul to soul ? He gives Gretchen a seemingly harmless, (although he will find later) deadly sleeping potion for her to give to her mother the next evening, so that he can come visit Gretchen, unbeknownced.

At the Fountain

While fetching water, Gretchen runs into Lizzy. Together, they meet someone they both know, Barbie, who is pregnant by her lover, who has left her. Lizzy shares none of Gretchen's compassion. Barbie has herself to blame, on the grounds of her own vanity and coquetry: Was it so dishonorable, not to be ashamed, to accept gifts from him...

Later, alone, Gretchen is uneasy, for earlier almost became a fallen maiden. Now she herself is a sinner: Yes, all of that which drove me, God! - was so good! ah, was so loving!

Outside the prison

Praying before a devotional statue, Gretchen calls upon Mater Dolorosa, to help her in her distress and rescue her from shame and death. For only she, Maria grieving for her crucified son, can understand Gretchen's suffering.

On the Street, outside Gretchen's door

Gretchen's brother Valentin, a soldier and once proud of his sister's virtue, learns of her misconduct. He is afraid of the shame that will fall upon his family. In front of his parents' home, he awaits for the approaching tempter. He will not get away with his life.

Faust and Mephisto make plans to steal the church treasury. Faust hopes to find a necklace as a gift for Gretchen. Meanwhile Mephisto asks Gretchen, through a song, to spend another night with Faust.

Valentin comes out and smashes Mephisto's zither while he sings. Spurred by Mephisto and with his assistance, Faust fights with Valentin. As the latter's hand paralyzed, I believe, the devil fights! What's that? My hand is my lame!, Faust uses Mephisto's prompt, get him!, and takes the opportunity and stabs Gretchen's brother. Faust and Mephisto flee out of the town, from the threatening track of blood.

Gretchen standing before the dying Valentin, is startled by the hurrying citizens, who accuse her of demoralization. He predicts that his sister will find her end as a whore. Martha warns him not to sin in death and he counters her remark with bitter criticisms, calling her a vicious, pandering wife. He dies by Gretchen's fault, but, as a soldier and brave.

At the Church

Gretchen attends a church service. An evil spirit reminds her of the evidence of her guilt she now bears for the death of her mother and brother, the lost days of her childlike innocence, and then confirms that Gretchen is pregnant.

As the chorus of the hymn Dies Irae plays, anticipating the final judgment, Gretchen faints.

Walpurga's Night

"A little wishful thievery, a little ramming about. So spooked me, by all the members, the magnificent Walpurgisnacht." Engraving by W. Jury by Johann Heinrich Ramberg (1829)

Faust is lured by Mephisto to go to the witch's dance, Walpurgis Night, on Blocksberg. They fall into a whirlwind, a swarm of witches, who ride up to the mountain top, where the devil holds court. Faust wants to go to the summit: There is where the bulk of evil flows, As much as there are riddles Mephisto has to solve. He is however persuaded to instead attend a witch celebration. Mephisto acts as Faust's matchmaker. Soon, both are singing and dancing with two lewd witches.

Faust breaks the dance off, as his partner a red mouse, jumps out of his mouth and an image of a pale, beautiful child appears, which reminds him of Gretchen, who is carrying a red clockwork around her neck (foreshadowing Gretchen's execution). To distract Faust from this Magic Picture, Mephisto leads him to a hill where a play is about to be performed.

Walpurgisnacht Dream

The Walpurgis Night Dream is play carried out on Blocksberg about the golden wedding of the fairy king Oberon, and Titania, a "play within a play," with many contemporary allusions (written before 1808).

Gloomy day, field 

Several months later, Gretchen (as the viewer learns later) has drowned her newborn child in her despair, and has been sentenced to death and now awaits execution. Faust accuses Mephisto of concealing the development of things by distracted him with the excesses of Walpurgisnacht. Mephisto mocks Faust's reaction as typical of a man who indeed was involving himself with diabolical powers, but cannot bear the consequences: Want to fly away, are you not sure of this deception? Are we dragging you down, or are you dragging us?

Faust asks Mephistopheles to save Gretchen. This reminds him of his own responsibility: Who was it who lead her to fall into ruin? Me or you? 
Despite the severe punishment that awaits him in the city, to pay for Valentin's death, Faust demands to be taken to Gretchen in the dungeon. Mephisto explains, although he could lull the guards and make a magic horse appear for their escape, Faust must free Gretchen himself.

Night, an open field 
Faust and Mephisto, on black horses, go to free Gretchen. . They will pass the raven stone, i.e. the place of execution. Faust observes floating figures, sprinkling and consecrating. Mephisto calls it witchcraft.

Dungeon-Gretchen's salvation
"I am Thine, Father! Save me! Your angel! Your holy flock, you layered around to protect me! Heinrich! I dread you." Gretchen pleas to God, Mephisto takes Faust with him: Lithograph by Wilhelm Hensel as specified by Prince Radziwill (1835)

Faust enters the dungeon. Confused and tormented by guilt, Gretchen takes him at first to be her executioner. When she finally recognizes him, she vacillates between love and fear of being drawn deeper into spiritual ruin. Faust wants to persuade her to escape, but she refuses: From here is a bed of eternal peace and no further steps. She sees Mephisto emerge from behind Faust and is frightened and pleas to God: God, my savior ! I give myself to you! 
Mephisto urges Faust to leave the prison: She is saved, he says, and a voice from above confirms Gretchen's redemption: Saved. Mephisto and Faust flee.