“Faust” is a play written by German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The play is in two parts, the first part having been published in 1808 and the second, posthumously in 1832.
The play is based off of a classic German legend about a scholar who, although he is very successful, finds himself unsatisfied with his life. This dissatisfaction drives him to make a deal with the devil, exchanging his immortal soul for unlimited knowledge and other pleasures.
In Goethe’s play, the main character, Heinrich Faust feels that none of his numerous accomplishments has furnished him with fulfillment or a feeling of satisfaction. He longs to obtain information of absolute truth and the importance of our existence on this earth. Faust resorts to an enchantment in the hopes of finding an answer and makes a settlement with the devil. He consents to offer his spirit if the devil can give him one snippet of experience which is rewarding to the point that his feeling of estrangement vanishes and he calls upon that minute to stay as it is until the end of time.
In Part One of the sonnet, Faust endeavors, with the fallen angel’s assistance, to discover satisfaction through emotional connection. His heartbreaking relationship with Gretchen closes in her demise, however Faust is quite reprimanded by this experience. In Part Two he tries to fulfill his longing through transient achievements and introduction to all that the world can offer as far as thoughts and externalized delights. He achieves an essential position at the Imperial Court, charms Helen of Troy, wins awesome triumphs, and is prestigious for his works, yet none of these things gives him enduring significant serenity.
Faust passes on bitter and baffled. He is at last admitted to paradise by God, in reward for his perpetual seeking out learning of goodness and truth, and his gutsy determination to have faith in the presence of an option that is higher than himself.
The play opens with a conversation between a director, a clown and a poet. The three begin to argue about what makes for a good play and present all of their points of view. The director’s idea of a good play is one that becomes a great commercial success, the poet thinks it should be about artistic integrity, and the clown only states that these two things need not be mutually exclusive. That a play can be both a commercial success and true art. The director, ending the argument, reminds them that there is still much work to be done if they intend to put on a play at all. He then begins to speak to the audience, informing them that they are about to see the whole universe presented in the play, starting with heaven and making their way through hell.
In the beginning of the first act, we are presented with a meeting of God and three archangels. Gabriel, Michael and Raphael are reciting praises to God when the devil enters. The devil says that he cannot imitate their praises because he has seen that mankind is made sad by having the reason and intelligence that God has given them. God tells the devil about Faust, a man whose judgment is not clouded by the reason he posses and whom he believes will always ultimately see the truth. The devil disagrees about Faust and he and God eventually make a bet about the man. For all of Faust’s life, God says that the devil may attempt to seduce and influence him but if he cannot he will have to admit that there are still good men in the world. After the wager is sealed, we are taken down to earth. Specifically, to the study of the man named Faust.
Faust sits as his desk, frustrated. He is middle aged and has mastered many schools of thought over his life but still finds himself unsatisfied. He feels that he is held back by the limits of basic human knowledge and moreover that he has not reaped enough earthly rewards for his trouble. The next day, Faust is watching the local townspeople celebrate Easter when he notices a small black dog following him as he walks. He finds that it makes him uncomfortable and that he worries is might have something occult about it.
The next day Faust is in his study when a nobleman enters. The nobleman is the devil in disguise. He attempts to tempt Faust by offering him unlimited wealth and earthly pleasures but Faust refuses on the grounds that he does not think this will satisfy his longing. The devil persists, taunting Faust and driving him to rebuke his Christian values. He asks Faust to start a new life with his help. He tells him that if he agrees to sell his soul to him, he will grant all of Faust’s desires and make him more than mortal. Finally, Faust accepts, though he doubts the strange nobleman’s ability to fulfill his promises. The devil makes him promise that if any moment of his life hereafter is so perfect, rare and beautiful that he calls out to make it last forever that will be the last moment of Faust’s life and he will then die and serve the devil forever.
The devil begins to take Faust on a journey, starting with a tavern where he tries to show Faust that pleasure can be derived from good company and cheer. But Faust, thinking him wrong, asks to leave. The devil then brings Faust to the kitchen of a mysterious witch. The devil tells him that the witch will make a potion to remove thirty years from Faust’s age so that he will be young again. Faust agrees and drinks the potion and has a vision of a beautiful young maiden in a mirror on the witches wall. The devil promises him the maiden and later Faust meets her. Gretchen, the beautiful woman however, refuses his advances. Faust demands that the devil get Gretchen for him but the devil tells him that he has no power over her because of her innocence and purity. Faust decides that he will seduce her without his help and tells the devil to get him jewelry and fine gifts to give to her.
Later that night, Faust asks the devil to see Gretchen’s bedroom. When he is taken there he finds her room and the simple furnishing heartwarming. He tells the devil to leave and then talks to the audience about how at home and at peace he feels in Gretchen’s room. The devil returns with a chest full of beautiful jewels and they decide to leave them for Gretchen. After they leave, Gretchen comes back in and discovers the jewels. She is so entranced by their beauty that she doesn’t even wonder where they came from.
Back in Faust’s study, the devil informs him that Gretchen’s mother has found the jewels and, suspicious of their origins, has turned them over to the church. The next day we are taken to the house of a friend of Gretchen named Martha. Gretchen tells Martha that she has found another chest of jewels but that she won’t be telling her mother about them this time. Martha advises her to keep the jewels a secret. The devil enters the house, pretending to be a traveler who knew Martha’s husband year before and saw his death. Martha, who never had proof that her husband was dead, asks him if he can provide such proof so that she can remarry. The devil tells her that he will bring a young man named Faust who can personally attest to the death. He asks that Gretchen also be present because his friend has an eye for beautiful women. Gretchen is embarrassed but agrees. Faust objects to the devil’s plan, saying that they cannot come up with a credible lie about a man that they have never met. However, the devil argues that Faust, as a scholar, speaks on subjects he knows nothing about all the time. Faust reluctantly agrees.
Back in the garden, Faust courts Gretchen while the devil courts Martha. Faust finds Gretchen charming and innocent. A few days later the couple finally kiss. The devil interrupts them to say that he and Faust need to leave. Gretchen tells Faust that she cannot introduce him to her parents because her mother will disapprove but she pledges her love to him and swears to meet him again soon. Faust finds himself in love with Gretchen but torn between his innocent love for her and his sexual desires. He also broods that he is becoming too dependent on the devil for the help he is providing. The devil attempts to convince him to stop brooding and reminds him that he has everything he’s ever wanted. He tells him he ought to go ahead and make love to Gretchen since that is his main purpose in being with her anyway. Faust protests but the devil’s continued erotic descriptions of Gretchen stir his passion and he rushes off to meet her.
When we are shown a scene between Faust and Gretchen again they speak about religion. Gretchen asks him if he believes in God. Faust answers that he doesn’t but he tolerates the belief in others and argues that he believes that God is in nature. A short while later, Gretchen and a woman named Lisbeth are gossiping about a local girl who has become pregnant and fallen from the town’s good graces as a result. Gretchen expresses her sympathy for the girl and tells the audience that she, herself has become pregnant by Faust and that he has now abandoned her. Soon, Gretchen’s secret gets out and her brother, a soldier opens the next scene standing in the street talking about how Gretchen’s good reputation was once a source of pride for their family but now he knows her purity has been lost. He is waiting at her door hoping to catch her lover going in and gain revenge.
Faust and the devil walk up the dark street to Gretchen’s window where the devil sings a mocking song to her. Faust himself appears to have no feeling left for the girl and is interested only in satisfying his carnal desires again. Gretchen’s brother, Valentine comes forward and challenges Faust to a duel. The devil assists Faust in the duel and the two get away leaving Valentine dying in the street. Hearing the noise, Gretchen comes out and finds her brother dying. She tries in vain to comfort him only to have him insult her and predict a tough life for her with his dying breath.
Heartbroken and desolate, Gretchen gives her mother a sleeping potion that kills the woman. Later she is visited by an evil spirit that taunts her for her misdeeds. Gretchen is so overcome by the spirit that she faints while attending her brother’s funeral.
A year passes, and Faust has completely forgotten about Gretchen. He attends Walpurgis night, (a superstitious German festival said to contain the dancing and orgies of many spirits and witches) with the devil. While entangled in a dance with a young witch, Faust has another vision of Gretchen but this time it is of her in chains and distraught. He becomes so upset that he wonders away from the party only to be led back by the devil.
Later, Faust realizes that Gretchen is in prison and asks the devil to free her. The devil refuses, saying that there is no reason and that she deserves to be there. Angered by this, Faust insults the devil and the devil reminds him of his part in Gretchen’s downfall, saying that humans always think they want to make a deal with him without truly considering the consequences. Faust continues to insist that the devil helps Gretchen and finally the fallen angel relents, agreeing to do what he can.
Faust and the devil make their way to Gretchen’s prison cell. When they find her it becomes clear that she has been driven insane by her imprisonment. Gretchen does not remember Faust and fears him, thinking that he is a hangman who has come to execute her for drowning her baby. Learning of what happened to his child, Faust despairs, crying out into the night. This makes Gretchen remember him and she leaps up, her chains falling away. The two embrace and Gretchen is happy that he has returned and thinks that everything will be well now. However, Gretchen refuses to escape the cell. She tells Faust that she can see no peace except that of her grave. The devil reminds Faust that they don’t have long and must leave immediately if they don’t want to be caught. The devil tells Faust that Gretchen is condemned but a voice from heaven interrupts only to say, “Redeemed!”. The devil summons Faust and they leave together while Gretchen calls out for them.
After this part two begins with the devil pretending to be a jester in the court of an Emperor. Officials are reporting to the Emperor that the country is having monetary issues. The devil suggests that they mind for gold beneath the land. Though the court officials distrust him they agree that he seems to be telling the truth. The Emperor ends the meeting by announcing that there is to be a carnival for Ash Wednesday. Soon we find that the Emperor has accepted the devil’s idea of mining for gold and the country has been flooded with the new currency.
At the carnival, the Emperor asks Faust to invoke the spirits of Helen of Troy and Paris. Faust agrees, asking the devil to help. The devil tells him he will need to visit the Eternal Mothers, strange spirits who live deep within the earth. Faust agrees and we are shown him making Helen and Paris appear in a Greek Temple. Most of the courtiers are skeptical. Faust finds himself overwhelmed by Helen’s beauty and tries to get to her only to be knocked down by a burst of thunder. The devil carries the unconscious Faust out of the room, seeking help to wake him up in the form of Wagner, the scholar who has replaced Faust at the university. Wagner creates a tiny version of a humanoid man, telling him to go to Faust’s side and spy on his dreams. The little man does so, telling the devil that Faust cannot be woken right now but that they should take him to Greece to participate in Walpurgis night.
In Faust’s mind he hallucinates a dream sequence in which he is once again reunited with Helen of Troy and fights a way as a mighty commander. When he awakes he finds that the Emperor has been overthrown and is holed up with his army attempting to take it back. Faust finds the Emperor and offers his assistance which is gladly accepted. The devil helps too and the Emperor eventually wins the battle and is put back on his throne. After ward, Emperor rewards Faust by giving him a strip of coastal land. But Faust quickly finds that much of the land is underwater and therefore worthless.
Now more than a hundred years old, Faust fails to acquire more land and broods over his losses. He asks an elderly couple to sell him their house so that he may have more land and when they refuse he asks the devil to take it from them. The devil kills them and takes the cottage and Faust, not expecting them to die, is distraught.
Faust beings to have more visions, this time seeing four grey hags who tell him of his coming death. He says that he cannot die until he is free from the devils power and that he has learned that men should not want for things that are beyond what mortal power. The devil commands a gang of monkeys to being digging a grave for Faust and Faust, overhearing the work assumes that this is the culmination of his plan to get more land. He finally utters the words that the devil said would end his bargain, overcome with happiness and wanting the moment to last forever.
Faust drops dead immediately afterward. The devil assumes that he has won Faust’s soul but soon angels come to take it away. Angered, he blames his own mishandling of the bet and the strange ways that love and happiness manifest themselves in humans.
Faust – well educated German professor who, toward the start of the play, is disappointed and unsettled by his failure to find life’s real purpose. Although he is a very learned man and a scholar who has mastered many realms of thought, Faust’s character is mainly driven by his need to find a revelation of rational order in the world. A answer to his longing for something more than mortal to guide him. Because of these character motivations, since his creation Faust has become somewhat of a point character for people referring to man’s alienation with the modern world.
In the play, Faust was created by Goethe to speak to all humankind. He has all of the main characteristics of human capacity and inspiration, and is, as a result, a model “everyman” figure. Every one of Faust’s qualities and shortcomings are amplified with the goal that his advancement in the play is exhibited on a scale that is intentionally overdramatic. This gives his story a stature and poise equivalent to its infinite topic, and makes Faust’s life a mirror of human presence which all men may gain from. Despite the fact that he is given absolution toward the end of the play, Faust is considered a tragic hero. Eventually he comes to comprehend the importance of life and is brought to Heaven, a conclusion that is intended to be a motivation to every individual who reads the play.
The Devil – Goethe’s devil is altogether different from the rough villainous devil of medieval legend. He is a developed, witty, and critical example of realism and skepticism, and lectures a refined teaching of philosophy. The devil’s most extraordinary trademark is suspicion; the powerlessness to have faith in anything. Humorously, in spite of the fact that he speaks to fiendishness, he can likewise be an unsuspecting power for good. This is initially demonstrated by his nearness to God in the “Preface in Heaven,” which infers that he is an acknowledged and normal piece of God’s all inclusive framework. This perspective is stressed by the devil’s association with Faust. Through his tenacious endeavors to degenerate and pulverize the hero, the devil drives him to respond with positive activity, and is in this manner the biggest proponent of his salvation.
The devil’s particular perceptions about humankind and the universe are typically right, since it is simple for him in his part as pariah to recognize genuine deficiencies in the current system. In the meantime, be that as it may, he is portrayed as narrow minded and overall wrong about humanity . Thus he never completely comprehends Faust, makes deficient arrangements for the enchantment of his casualty, and is at long last vanquished by Love, a power which he never perceived or appreciated.
On another level the devil’s character speaks to the antagonistic components in Faust’s own identity. This is the reason the fallen angel and his proposed victim can remain so close all through both parts of the play, and why, at specific focuses, similar to the Walpurgis Night in Part One where Faust’s malicious side is predominant, the devil can verge on winning him. He falls flat, in any case, since he can’t comprehend or value the positive sides of Faust’s character, and does not appreciate any forces of resistance or flexibility in Faust in the battle for his spirit.
Gretchen – Gretchen is, at first an innocent maiden who, as the play goes on develops into a tragic character. She is basically pure and honest, yet turns into an eager casualty of Faust’s temptations because of loneliness, disdain of her mother’s strictness, and an optimistic guilelessness that leads her to expect that Faust’s affection will be as perpetual and unselfish as her own. It could be said her wrongdoings are the consequence of her guiltlessness, in spite of the fact that this doesn’t invalidate her own obligation regarding her destruction. Gretchen has a religious sense, and at least one critic has called her the only genuine Christian in the ballad. This is the reason she can acknowledge her discipline toward the end of Part One, and, furthermore discloses her natural antipathy for the devil and refuses Faust’s plan to break her out of prison.
Gretchen is admitted to Heaven at the end of Part One on the grounds that, in spite of her demonstrations, she was never spurred by abhorrent goals and has acted according to her moral instincts. Gretchen shows up again in the last scene of Part Two as Una Poenitentium, a humble lady. While Faust’s adventures on earth have gone on, she has cleansed herself of sin and has advanced toward the accomplishment of complete Salvation. Her final access to Paradise is reliant on the guide of Love, which for Gretchen is spoken to by Faust. She invites him into Heaven because the most astounding and purest satisfaction of love can only be accomplished together. Toward the end of Part One Gretchen’s refusal to leave the jail kept Faust from turning out to be totally reliant on the devil’s energy, and in this manner made his definitive salvation conceivable.