This section contains 2,359 words
(approx. 6 pages at 400 words per page)
The First Part of the Tragedy begins with Faust sitting in his den at night. The den is Gothic in style, dusty, moldy and filled with antiques passed down from Faust's father and ancestors. The room is gloomy and acts as a prison for Faust who rarely comes out save for holidays.
Faust discusses his extensive education including his studies in jurisprudence, medicine, philosophy and even theology. Although Faust has been named Doctor and Master of Arts, he feels that he has learned nothing. Nature still holds all of its secrets; secrets that are kept from Faust. Faust says it burns his heart to be so ignorant of all the world holds.
Faust talks to the moon as it shines in his window. Faust laments being inside steeped in misery when he might be outside in the moonlight.
The books in the den are discussed. Many of the books are old, covered in dust and mold. Many were inherited from ancestors and so many have been untouched for a long time.
Faust feels trapped in this world of his own making. Faust looks toward the heavens for knowledge but he sees no reason for celebration, only skulls and death.
Finally the doctor picks up a book written by Nostradamus, believing that it should supply ample company. Faust asks the spirits to respond to his need.
Faust opens the book and sees the symbol of macrocosm. At this sight, Faust becomes jubilant and lighthearted, filled with a mysterious potency. Faust wonders if he is a god. He wants to embrace nature and its undeniable power, yet he sees the knowledge as being elusive. There will be no epiphanies for Faust in this area.
Faust becomes renewed when he sees the symbol of the earth spirit. Instant recognition comes over him and at least something rings true. Faust feels able to face the world with all its joys and woes. Once again Faust attempts to summon the spirit.
The spirit appears and Faust is afraid. The spirit says it was summoned and wants to know the identity of the summoner. The spirit asks Faust if he summoned into to the room.
"Could it be you who at my breath's slight shiver
Are to the depths of life aquiver,
A miserably writhing worm?"
(The First Part of the Tragedy, p. 103)
Faust finally finds his tongue and says that he, the spirit's peer, was indeed the one that summoned it into the room. The spirit says that they are not peers but that Faust seeks another.
Wagner knocks on the door and enters. Wagner asks Faust if he is reading a Grecian tragedy. Wagner says he could benefit from Faust's vast knowledge but doubts that Faust can help him, considering his habit of confining himself to the den. Faust says that Wagner can read, learn and do all he wishes but there are some things that must come from within. Faust talks about art, how it must come from the heart and cannot be substituted.
Wagner says he wants to talk more, but Easter is the next day and he must go. Wagner says that perhaps he will have time to question Faust more. Wagner claims to know much but thinks that Faust can help him to learn all there is to know.
Faust is alone again and recites a lengthy monologue. Faust is in turmoil over the state of the universe and his role be it god or a lowly worm. During this monologue Faust observes his surroundings and is burdened by the unused treasures left to him by his ancestors. The doctor spies a crystal vase and remembers fondly parties during which people drank the brown liquid and became drunk. Faust takes the crystal vase off the shelf and drinks.
A choir of angels appears and sings about the resurrection. Faust asks if Easter has come, if the angels sing of the new covenant.
A choir of women also sing saying that when Jesus died they mourned. When Jesus was sought he could not be found. The choir of angels say Christ is risen.
Faust is moved by the songs and feels his heart overflowing. The faith of his youth returns in the first holy hour. The choir of angels tell Faust that Christ is there for him.
Before the City Gate
There are many different types of people wandering around, each with a different place to go. Each place has its benefits. There is always at least one person with a better idea.
Faust and Wagner walk about talking when they are approached by many townsfolk including an old peasant. The people are awed and happy to see Faust, a known hermit.
Faust and Wagner have a long conversation during which Faust returns to his dismay and view of the darkness of the world. Wagner tries to understand and counter Faust to no avail. Wagner states that he too studies in strange ways and yet he does not feel the same as Faust. Faust says that he has two warring souls and hopes Wagner never has to suffer the same anguish.
The men spy dogs and speak of their habits and entertainment. Wagner utters the phrase, "He's poodlishly ridiculous" (Before the City Gate, p. 149).
Faust enters the den with the poodle at his side. The poodle snarls and snuffles around the room, annoying Faust. Faust orders the poodle to settle down, but the dog does not obey. Faust wonders if, like man, the dog snarls at what he does not understand.
Faust turns to the New Testament to better comprehend the meaning of the Word. The fits line disturbs Faust, so he creates a new translation and then another.
Faust opens the door to let the poodle outside. Suddenly the poodle changes shape and Faust realizes it is not a dog after all. The dog is the devil in disguise. Faust attempts to banish the devil.
Mephisto appears in a traveling scholar's attire. Mephisto asks Faust what he desires. Faust questions Mephisto's identity.
Mephisto replies: "I am the spirit that negates.
And rightly so, for all that comes to be
Deserves to perish wretchedly;
'Twere better nothing would begin.
Thus everything that your terms, sin,
Destruction, evil represent -
That is my proper element."
(Study, p. 161)
Mephisto explains that he was once a part of the great Everything, a piece of the Lord's creation. Then Mephisto was separated from the Lord and became night to the Lord's day.
Faust challenges Mephisto by saying that he is too weak to create the type of destruction he desires so he must do so on a smaller scale.
Mephisto asks permission to leave. Faust is surprised and asks why such a powerful spirit would ask his permission. Mephisto explains that the pentagram on the threshold is not completely closed, trapping him in the room. Faust wants to make a pact in exchange for the devil's exit. The devil agrees but says he will return that he must go. Faust says he has a hold on Mephisto and is not foolish enough to think that if pardoned Mephisto will return.
A group of spirits arrives in the hallway and sings. The song puts Faust to sleep, allowing Mephisto to escape. When Faust awakes he suspects that the whole thing was a dream.
Study: Faust, Mephistopheles
Mephisto returns. Faust invites the devil into his den. Faust and Mephisto talk of death. Faust says that although he feels the Lord inside him, there is no way to bear the pain and misery of the world. Faust says he would prefer to die than to live. Mephisto says when death comes it will not be welcomed.
Faust goes on to curse the things that he once desired but that were false or unattainable. A choir of spirits tells Faust that he has shattered everything that was once beautiful but it is not too late to rebuild from within his soul.
Mephisto tells Faust that he is human like all the rest but that Mephisto will agree to be his servant and to grant every wish that no mortal could resist. Faust wants to know what he must give in return. Mephisto does not want to answer but eventually tells Faust that in the hereafter their roles would be reversed.
The offer is accepted and made official with Faust's blood.
Faust says he has no hope or desire for joy, only excess. Mephisto promises Faust every thing he could possibly wish for and more. Mephisto also tells Faust that he must learn to see the world in a new way. Mephisto goes on to explain that while he will be bound to Faust and be required to serve him on earth, Faust's life is short and "art" is for eternity.
Faust asks Mephisto how to begin. Mephisto tells Faust to leave without a word. Faust says he cannot leave his students without warning or at least a goodbye. Mephisto insists and don's Faust's robe to speak to a student at the door. The student begs to be enrolled in the school and to learn from Faust. Mephisto, as Faust, gives the boy advice on where to start in his career.
Faust and Mephisto leave the den and the school.
Auerbach's Keller in Leipzig: Jolly Fellows' Drinking Bout
The first place Faust and Mephisto go is to a tavern where there is a group of men drinking, regaling one another with song and stories with some intermittent bickering.
The men question the arrival of Mephisto and Faust. The evening wears on and Mephisto plies the men with drink he has conjured. When the men realize what is happening, Mephisto and Faust depart.
Mephisto and Faust arrive at the witch's kitchen. There are monkeys tending the cauldron in the witch's absence. Faust is alarmed by the scene and wants to leave, saying he does not need a witch's spell. Mephisto corrects Faust and says that unless Faust expresses his wishes to the witch and drinks the potion, the desires will not come to fruition. Faust reluctantly agrees.
The witch returns home in a foul mood. The witch challenges Mephisto and is immediately horrified when she realizes that it is Satan himself in her kitchen. Mephisto says he will forgive the witch as he has appeared in an unusual way. The witch learns about Faust's desires and prepares a potion. A circle is cast and the witch performs the rite. Faust thinks the witch may be crazy. Faust drinks the potion, the circle is broken and the men leave.
The First Part of the Tragedy is most important because it shows the discontent of Faust in his current position and wish to break free of the bonds he has created. The den, once cherished, almost feels like a prison to Faust. Faust has responsibilities at the school and so he does not leave, yet he stays awake all night pondering his fate.
Wagner makes every attempt to help Faust. Although Wagner also studies magic and its eccentricities, he still carries the power of the Spirit inside him. Wagner tries to make sense of the things Faust says but cannot. Wagner confesses his lack of understanding to Faust saying that while he knows much, Faust knows all. Wagner is eager to learn.
Easter morning comes and Faust is still in the study. He has been up all night drinking and is stunned to realize Easter has arrived when he is approached by a group of spirits. The spirits appear often throughout the play usually carrying hope, warnings or opportunities for salvation. Faust begins to feel hope but it is short lived.
Faust makes an unusual appearance in the town. People are thrilled to see the old doctor. Faust and Wagner walk along. Wagner points out many beautiful things and reasons to be joyful. Faust cannot see those things and explains to Wagner that he sees nothing but pain and misery even after his encounter with the spirits from the night before.
The lengthy scene between Faust and Mephisto is the most important in the book. Faust is unaware that he has summoned Mephisto in the form of a dog. Mephisto questions Faust about his reasons for wanting to see him. Faust is confused and scared. Faust quickly learns that although he has the power to summon Mephisto he lacks the power to expel him. Mephisto explains his limits and the reason he cannot leave the den. Faust wants to make a deal with Mephisto. Mephisto will grant Faust's every wish and work as Faust's servant. Mephisto agrees if, upon Faust's death, the roles will reverse.
It is uncharacteristic for Mephisto to attempt to refuse such an offer. Faust jumps into the decision quickly and Mephisto urges him to rethink the decision since the pact will be permanent. Mephisto explains that he will serve Faust to the end of his life which is a relatively short time away but Faust must serve Mephisto throughout eternity. Faust insists and the deal is made with Faust's blood. The blood is the ultimate sacrifice and seals the irrevocable bond.
The spirits appear once more the tell Faust to reconsider - there is still time to repent and be forgiven by God's grace. Faust says that he cannot go back on the pact because it is not reversible. The spirits argue and say Faust is wrong, that one may repent until death and still be saved.
Mephisto shows his true character several times throughout the scene, including the interaction with the student. Mephisto grows tired of being an advisor and tells the boy whatever he wants to hear. Mephisto also plays tricks on the men in the bar, in part just to show off.
The scene in the Witch's Kitchen shows Faust's recurring hesitation and trepidation. Mephisto tells Faust that it is the only way. The part that is puzzling is that the witch is Mephisto's servant. Mephisto's power is called into question again when he says the witch is needed to perform the spell, telling Faust that Mephisto is unable to do so.
This section contains 2,359 words
(approx. 6 pages at 400 words per page)