The Faust-Legend and Goethes Faust

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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Faust Legends

Legends about him flourished, often depicting him as evil. According to the Faustbuch , published in , he traded his immortal soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge and twenty-four years of pleasure. Faustus , on the Faust legend. Many other literary and musical works also derived from the Faust legend. Influence of Homer and Other Writers. Goethe also based various scenes and characters on Shakespearean models and also drew inspiration from such epics as Virgil's Aeneid and Dante's Divine Comedy.

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In heaven the archangels Raphael , Gabriel , and Michael 1 exalt the Lord and all creation. But Satan, called Mephistopheles, decries the works of the Lord — in particular humankind — as he always does. Faust is a scholar and wizard whose good works as a university teacher and as a physician to the downtrodden have earned him heaven. He is proof that the world has worthy men.

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But Mephistopheles mocks Faust for his dedication to God and suggests that his ceaseless thirst for knowledge is a weakness that could cost him his eternal soul. The Lord concedes that Faust is in turmoil over his attempts to understand the deepest mysteries of the universe. The Lord grants Mephistopheles permission to tempt Faust, saying that even in his darkest moment Faust will be conscious of the righteous path. Faust laments that though he has studied philosophy, medicine, law, and theology he really knows nothing about the inner workings of the universe.

Even his magic — powerful as it is — fails to lift the veil of mystery. On the brink of despair, he considers suicide. However, it is Easter morning, a time of hope and renewal, and the hubbub of strollers passing a window distracts him and tempers his gloom. With his assistant, Wagner, he takes a walk in the invigorating spring air. An ominous black poodle circles them warily, then follows them home.

Realizing it is possessed, he recites magical words that force the supernatural presence to manifest itself. It is Mephistopheles, who appears in the garb of a scholar. Although Mephistopheles does not immediately reveal himself, Faust guesses his identity.

The Faust Legend and Goethe's 'faust' -

They talk philosophy and, as the visit concludes, Faust invites him to return. Spirits conjured by Mephistopheles then sing Faust to sleep and make him dream of earthly pleasures. The following day, Mephistopheles offers to show Faust the secrets of the world and let him experience the profoundest pleasures.

In return, when Faust dies, he must surrender his immortal soul to Mephistopheles. Faust agrees on one condition: The adventure must culminate in a moment when he experiences the highest, most exquisite pleasure attainable by man. After Mephistopheles accepts the condition, they sign a pact in blood. Faust believes he has struck a bargain, for he doubts that human souls live eternally. Moreover, because his present life is miserable, what does he have to lose? Off they go, traveling through the air. They are delighted at first.

But when they spill the wine, it turns to fire. Consequently, they accuse him of sorcery and attack him with knives. Mephistopheles parries with a spell that transfixes the men; they believe they are in a vineyard. After lifting the spell, he disappears with Faust, leaving the men dumbfounded.


But the experience only disgusts Faust; playing tricks on drunkards is not his idea of ennobling activity. Mephistopheles decides it is time to shock Faust with a genuinely extraordinary experience: regaining his youth. After they materialize in the kitchen of a witch, where four monkeys sit at a bubbling cauldron, Faust — gloomy and downcast in the eerie surroundings — suddenly quickens with excitement when he stares into a looking-glass.

Gazing back at him is a wondrously beautiful woman. Oh, to be young again! Oh, to experience and fulfill youthful longings. When the cauldron boils over, flames shoot up the chimney and scorch the witch 3 as she descends from above. After scolding a female monkey tending the cauldron, she notices her visitors and is overjoyed to learn that one of them is her master, the devil himself. When he drinks it, he instantly becomes a handsome young nobleman, and Mephistopheles says that henceforth every woman whom he meets will look to him like Helen of Troy.

Out on a street, Faust becomes infatuated with a passerby, Margaret, who is nicknamed Gretchen. When he confronts her, she demurely turns away and walks on even though Faust intrigues her. Faust vows to seduce this comely maiden. When she visits her neighbor Martha, he steals into Gretchen's room and leaves her a casket of jewelry provided by Mephistopheles.

Later, when she returns and discovers the casket, its contents — a chain, gems, and earrings — dazzle her, but her mother regards them as suspect and donates them to a priest to adorn a shrine of the Virgin Mary.

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  4. Mephistopheles curses this turn of events and ridicules the church as a devourer of wealth. Meanwhile, Margaret wonders about the gift-giver.

    Who was he, an admirer? Faust asks for more jewels, and Mephistopheles provides them. After Margaret receives them, she keeps them a secret from her mother. Thanks to the machinations of Mephistopheles, Faust meets Margaret and woos her in a garden at her house. Margaret is overcome with joy that a young nobleman finds her attractive. Faust, meanwhile, is torn between love and lust, but Mephistopheles sees to it that lust conquers. Soon, Faust and Margaret lie together, and she becomes pregnant.

    Faust, however, has disappeared, and Margaret — though pining for him — regrets her sinful behavior.

    She prays for forgiveness to the Mother of Sorrows, the Virgin Mary. Eventually, Faust yearns anew for Margaret's body. In a sword fight, Faust kills Valentine. But the commotion has attracted neighbors, and Faust and Mephistopheles flee. A year passes. Faust — still eager for knowledge and experience — descends to a new low when he attends an annual nocturnal gathering of sorcerers and evil spirits, called Walpurgis-nacht , 5 in the Harz mountain chain of Germany between the Weser and Elbe Rivers.

    But a fraction of his former self surfaces when he thinks of poor Margaret Gretchen and has a vision that she has been imprisoned. Guilt-ridden, he persuades Mephistopheles to help him rescue her. Sitting in a bed of straw in a corner, she awaits execution for drowning the baby that Faust fathered, an act that has driven her insane with guilt. When she rises, her chains miraculously fall off.

    Dawn creeps toward the horizon, and Faust urges her to flee with him. However, though fearing death, she refuses to leave, realizing that she must pay for her crime. When Mephistopheles appears, she perceives him as an evil spirit and throws herself on the mercy of God, begging angels to descend from heaven to protect her. Faust reclines at twilight in a verdant field. Spirits of the air circle about him, singing and playing harps.

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    For a moment, he knows peace and tranquillity. In the morning, he awakens with renewed vigor and the will to carry on — but at a measured, less impassioned pace. Meanwhile, Mephistopheles masquerades as the new court jester of an emperor in deep financial distress that threatens to undo him. Mephistopheles points out that the country is rich in unmined gold. In the morning, while the emperor basks in his sun garden with members of his court, a marshal reports that the financial crisis has ended. Report incorrect product info or prohibited items.

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