- Goethe's Faust
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's "Faust" is a tragic play. It was published in two parts: " _de. Faust: der Tragödie erster Teil" (translated as: ') and " _de. Faust: der Tragödie zweiter Teil" ('). The play is a closet drama, meaning that it is meant to be read rather than performed. It is Goethe's most famous work and considered by many to be one of the greatest works of German literature. [cite book |title=The Greatest Books in the World: Interpretative Studies |last=Portor |first=Laura Spencer |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1917 |publisher=Chautauqua Press |location=Chautauqua, NY |isbn= |pages=p. 82 |url= ]
"Part One" was preliminarily completed by Goethe in
1806. The 1808publication was followed by the revised 1828– 1829edition, which was the last to be edited by Goethe himself. Prior to these appeared a partial printing in 1790of "Faust, a Fragment". The earliest forms of the work, known as the "Urfaust", were developed between 1772and 1775; however, the details of that development are no longer entirely clear.
Goethe finished writing "Faust Part Two" in
1832, the year of his death. In contrast to "Faust Part One", the focus here is no longer on the soulof Faust, which has been sold to the devil, but rather on social phenomenasuch as psychology, historyand politics. The second part formed the principal occupation of Goethe's last years and appeared only posthumously in 1832.
The principal characters of "Faust Part One" include::* "Heinrich Faust", a scholar, sometimes said to be based on the real life of
Johann Georg Faust, or on Jakob Bidermann's dramatized account of the "Legend of the Doctor of Paris," Cenodoxus:* " Mephistopheles", a Devil:* "Gretchen", Faust's love (short for Margaret; Goethe uses both forms) :* "Marthe", Gretchen’s neighbor :* "Valentin", Gretchen’s brother :* "Wagner", Faust's
"Faust Part One" is a complex story. It takes place in multiple settings, the first of which is
heaven. Mephistopheles makes a bet with God: he says that he can deflect God's favorite human being (Faust), who is striving to learn everything that can be known, away from righteous pursuits. The next scene takes place in Faust's study where Faust, despairing at the vanity of scientific, humanitarian and religious learning, turns to magic for the showering of infinite knowledge. He suspects, however, that his attempts are failing. Frustrated, he ponders suicide, but rejects it as he hears the echo of nearby Eastercelebrations begin. He goes for a walk with his assistant Wagner and is followed home by a stray poodle.
In Faust’s study, the poodle transforms into the devil (Mephistopheles). Faust makes an arrangement with the devil: the devil will do everything that Faust wants while he is here on earth, and in exchange Faust will serve the devil in
hell. Faust's arrangement is that if during the time while Mephistopheles is serving Faust, Faust is so pleased with anything the devil gives him that he wants to stay in that moment forever, he will die in that instant.
After the Devil wants Faust to sign the pact with blood, Faust complains that the devil does not trust Faust's word of honor. In the end, Mephisto wins the argument, and Faust signs the contract with a drop of his own blood. Faust has a few excursions and then meets Margaret (also known as Gretchen). He is attracted to her and with jewelry and help from a neighbor, Martha, the devil draws Gretchen into Faust's arms. Faust seduces Gretchen and they sleep together. Gretchen’s mother dies from a
sleeping potion, administered by Gretchen to obtain privacy so that Faust could visit her. Gretchen discovers she is pregnant. Gretchen’s brother condemns Faust, challenges him and falls dead at the hands of Faust and the devil. Gretchen drowns her illegitimate child and is convicted of the murder. Faust tries to save Gretchen from death by attempting to free her from prison. Finding that they cannot free her, Faust and the devil flee the dungeon, while voices from heaven announce that Gretchen shall be saved.
Rich in classical allusion, in "Faust Part Two", the romantic story of the first Faust is forgotten, and Faust wakes in a field of fairies to initiate a new cycle of adventures and purpose. The piece consists of five acts – relatively isolated episodes – each representing a different theme. Ultimately, Faust goes to heaven, for he loses only half of the bet. Angels, who arrive as messengers of divine mercy, declare at the end of Act V, "He who strives on and lives to strive/ Can earn redemption still" (V, 11936-7).
Relationship between the parts
Throughout "Part One", Faust remains unsatisfied; the ultimate conclusion of the tragedy and the outcome of the wagers are only revealed in "Faust Part Two". The first part represents the "small world" and takes place in Faust's own local, temporal milieu. In contrast, "Part Two" takes place in the "wide world" or "macrocosmos".
The story of
Faustinspired a great deal of literature, music and illustration. Myriad diverse and often conflicting interpretations have been made of "Faust Part Two" ( Jungian, Freudian, sociological, alchemical, Masonic, literary and classical to name but a few). [See E.A. Bucchianeri, "Faust: My Soul be Damned for the World." Vol. 2]
Although today many of the classical and Central European themes may be hard for the modern reader to grasp, the work remains a resonant parable on scientific learning and religion, passion and seduction, independence and love, as well as other subjects. In poetic terms, Goethe places science and power in the context of a morally-interested metaphysics. Faust is a scientific empiricist who is forced to confront questions of good and evil, God and the devil, sexuality and mortality.
In the fourth book of his main work,
Schopenhauerpraised Goethe’s portrayal of Gretchen and her suffering. In Schopenhauer’s consideration of salvation from suffering, he cited this section of "Faust" as exemplifying one of the ways to sanctity.
The German language has itself been influenced by Goethe's Faust, particularly by the first part. One example of this is the phrase "des Pudels Kern", which means the real nature or deeper meaning of something (that was not evident before). The literal translation of "des Pudels Kern" is "the core of the poodle", and it originates from Faust's exclamation upon seeing the poodle (which followed him home) turn into Mephistopheles. Another instance originates in the scene wherein Gretchen asks Faust if he is religious. In German, the word "Gretchenfrage" (literally "Gretchen question") refers to a question of utmost importance.
May 24, 1819: Premiere of selected scenes. Castle Monbijou, Berlin.
January 29, 1829: Premiere of the complete "Part One". Braunschweig.
*1938: World premiere of both parts, unabridged, at the "Goetheanum" in
Hamburgperformance: Directed by Peter Gorski, and produced by Gustaf Gründgens(who also played Mephistopheles), with Will Quadflieg(Faust), Ella Büchi (Gretchen), Elisabeth Flickenschildt (Martha), Max Eckard (Valentin), Eduard Marks (Wagner), Uwe Friedrichsen (Student). The film of this performance was very successful.
October 26, 2006: Teatro Comunale of Modena, Italy: Directed by Eimuntas Nekrošius; complete playing length (with intervals): 4½ hours.
* 2003 of Ingmar Thilo; with Antonios Safralis (Faust), Raphaela Zick (Mephisto), Ulrike Dostal (Helena), Max Friedmann (Lynceus), and others.
* 2005 Michael Thalheimer at Deutsches Theater with a.o. Ingo Hülsmann, Sven Lehmann, Nina Hoss and Inge Keller
* The second section of Mahler's Symphony No. 8 is a cantata for the last scene in part II of Goethe's Faust.
*July 22–23, 2000: The
Expo 2000 Hanoverperformance: Directed by Peter Stein; both parts in their complete version, with Bruno Ganzand Christian Nickel (the young and the old Faust), Johann Adam Oest (Mephistopheles), Dorothée Hartinger, Corinna Kirchhoff and Elke Petri. Complete playing length (with intervals): 21 hours.
Much of the content of this article is translated from the equivalent German-language wikipedia article (retrieved
November 6, 2005). The German articles Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Gustaf Gründgens, and Knittelvers were also referred to. The following references are cited by the German-language Faust I:
* H. Arens "Kommentar zu Goethes Faust I". Heidelberg 1982, Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, ISBN 3-533-03184-5
* A. Schöne "Faust. Kommentare". Enthalten in: Goethe "Faust". Frankfurt am Main 1994, Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, ISBN 3-618-60270-7
* U. Gaier "Faust-Dichtungen. Kommentar I". Enthalten in: Johann Wolfgang Goethe "Faust-Dichtungen". Stuttgart 1999, Philipp Reclam jun. Verlag, ISBN 3-15-030019-3
* Gero von Wilpert: Goethe encyclopedia, Stuttgart, Kroener 1998, ISBN 3-520-40701-9
* Gerhard Kaiser, Ist der Mensch zu retten? Vision und Kritik der Moderne in Goethes Faust, Rombach Wissenschaft, ISBN 3-7930-9113-9 (German)
* [http://www.dichterseiten.de Faust Part 1] as HTML/PDF. All text in German.
* (English translation by Bayard Taylor)
* [http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=creator%3Agoethe%20title%3Afaust%20AND%20mediatype%3Atexts "Faust"] available at
Internet Archive, scanned illustrated books
* [http://www.ucalgary.ca/~esleben/faust/goethe/germans.html Goethe's "Faust" and the Germans]
* [http://www.leipzig-picture.com/search.php?searchstring=Faust&go=Go%21 Statues of the scene in Auerbach's Cellar, Leipzig]
* [http://www.digbib.org/Johann_Wolfgang_von_Goethe_1749/Faust_II Faust as a "Webausgabe" freely accessible in the digital library]
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