This section contains 1,600 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
The First Part of the Tragedy, Lines 2528-4630 Summary
Street: Faust, Margaret Passing By
Faust and Mephisto are on the street as a beautiful young girl passes by. The girl is a maid, yet appears striking to Faust's eye. Faust tells Mephisto that he must have the girl. Mephisto says the girl has just returned from confession and is free of sin - Mephisto has no hold over her. Faust wants to go after the girl; Mephisto says Faust must be more cunning in his ways.
Evening: A Small Neat Room
Margaret sits in her room and thinks about the man she saw on the street. Mephisto and Faust enter the room, unseen. Faust leaves a box of jewels for Margaret, the girl also known as Gretchen.
Faust questions what has happened to him, why he has been overtaken by this extreme desire.
"Do magic smells surround me here?
Immediate pleasure was my bent,
But now - in dreams of love I'm all but spent,
Are we mere puppets of the atmosphere?"
(Evening, p. 267)
Margaret finds the box of jewels and goggles.
Promenade: Faust Walking up and Down, Mephistopheles Enters.
Mephisto and Faust talk about Margaret and the jewels. Faust talks of his torment. Mephisto tells Faust that the priest has taken the jewels.
Margaret's mother sees the jewels and knows immediately that they are not pure. Such ill-gotten gain could bring nothing but sorrow. The mother gives the jewels to the priest.
Mephisto tells Faust to get more jewels for Margaret/Gretchen. Faust says this gift will make the last seem insignificant.
The Neighbor's House
Gretchen finds the second box of jewels. She takes them and rushes to see Martha, the woman next door. Martha says Gretchen should not show the jewels to her mother.
Mephisto arrives at Martha's house. Mephisto delivers the news of the death of Martha's husband. Martha is distraught. Mephisto promises to go to Padua to testify. Then Mephisto tells Gretchen she should marry. Martha should mourn for a year and then she should also marry again. The women agree to meet in the garden that night.
Street: Faust, Mephistopheles
Faust is worried that Mephisto has agreed to go to Padua and testify. How can Faust testify on behalf of a God that he no longer supports? Mephisto says it is not the first time Faust has uttered a lie.
Garden: Margaret on Faust's Arm, Martha with Mephistopheles, Walking Up and Down
Faust treats Gretchen like a lady when she is a lowly maid. Gretchen tries to convince Faust that she in unworthy. Gretchen tells her family story. Meanwhile, Martha and Mephisto talk about marriage.
Gretchen plays "He loves me, he loves me not" with a flower and finds that Faust does love her. Gretchen runs away.
A Garden Bower
Martha fetches Gretchen and says they must go, it is getting late. Gretchen confesses to loving Faust but does not understand the situation.
Wood and Cave
Faust gives a lengthy monologue about being grateful and content.
Mephisto arrives. The men fight. Mephisto tells Faust to go to Gretchen.
Gretchen laments the situation with Faust.
Gretchen and Faust meet and speak of their loves together. Gretchen asks Faust about God. Faust is elusive.
At the Well
Lieschen and Gretchen are fetching water when Lieschen talks about a girl at school who is pregnant. Gretchen is shocked. Suddenly Gretchen realizes that she has no right to judge.
"How I once use to scold along
When some poor woman had done wrong.
How for another person's shame
I found not words enough for blame.
How black it seemed - I made it blacker still,
And yet not black enough to suit my will.
I blessed myself, would boast and grin -
And now myself am caught in sin."
(At the Well, p. 339)
Gretchen prays to the image of the Mater Dolorosa. Gretchen begs for absolution.
Street: In Front of Gretchen's House
Gretchen's brother, Valentine, stands on the street in front of Gretchen's door. Valentine was in a pub when he overheard men talking about his sister. Valentine is devastated and goes to confront the man that stole pure Gretchen's virtue.
Valentine meets Faust and Mephisto. There is a confrontation and Valentine is mortally wounded. Valentine curses Gretchen for throwing away her honor, saying that she did more than cause the death of his body, she pierced his soul.
There are many people in the cathedral. An evil spirit sits behind Gretchen and speaks into her ear. Gretchen laments her situation. The evil spirit tells Gretchen that she cannot hide her sin, that all will be discovered eventually.
Faust and Mephisto are in the Harz Mountains in the Schierke and Elend region. The men are climbing a steep and narrow road. Mephisto offers a broomstick to Faust but Faust says he will walk. Mephisto asks for direction from the will-o-the-wisp.
Mephisto and Faust arrive at the gathering of witches, wizards and all manner of other celebrants at the spring rite. Faust still thinks about the confrontation with Valentine and how Gretchen is left alone. Walpurgis Night serves as an entertainment and a way to distract Faust from his problems. There are many strange occurrences during the festival, most notably Faust's sighting of Lilith and the almost disastrous encounter with Medusa.
Walpurgis Night's Dream or the Golden Wedding of Oberon and Titania
The Dream portrays a play in which Oberon, Shakespeare's King of the Faeries, marries his Queen, Titania.
Faust has escaped to be at one with nature. Mephisto informs Faust that Gretchen is in prison. Gretchen has been tried and convicted of killing her baby. Gretchen is sentenced to die for her crime. Faust is devastated at the news and begs Mephisto to save her. Mephisto refuses and says he will stand guard but it must be Faust that saves the girl.
Night: Open Field
Faust and Mephisto ride black steeds to the prison where Gretchen is being held.
Faust arrives at Gretchen's door with a large ring of keys. Faust enters and sees Gretchen in chains. Gretchen does not recognize Faust and believes he is the hangman. Faust tries hard to get through to Gretchen while she talks about her imprisonment and the death of her baby. Gretchen has gone mad from the guilt of killing the baby and convinces herself that someone else has committed the crime. Faust finally gets through to Gretchen but is unable to help her. Gretchen prays and is saved. Faust leaves in misery.
The First Part of the Tragedy, Lines 2528-4630 Analysis
Faust sees Margaret for the first time and is immediately taken by her beauty. Mephisto tries unsuccessfully to dissuade Faust. Faust argues that the girl is old enough. It is clear that Faust is under some strange power because of his insistence to meet and have the girl who is no more than a lowly maid in rags.
Mephisto tells Faust that he cannot go after Margaret—that he must be clever in the way he approaches the girl or else Faust will scare her. Mephisto suggests giving a rare gift to Margaret as a token of affection.
In this section the reader is introduced to Margaret. It can become quite confusing when the author refers to Margaret by her proper name while Faust often refers to her as Gretchen. Faust prefers to use the affectionate terms. For this summary and analysis of the work, the two names are more or less interchangeable.
Gretchen cannot understand why a noble man like Faust would be interested in her, a girl who is obviously lower class and far beneath his station. Faust becomes so obsessed that he cannot think of anything else, much to Mephisto's dismay.
Gretchen eventually admits to being in love with Faust. Gretchen's brother Valentine learns about Gretchen's dalliance with Faust and becomes enraged. Valentine challenges Faust and spews hatred over the loss of Gretchen's innocence. Faust ends up killing Valentine and then flees.
Faust is torn by his actions and his relationship with Mephisto. Once again Faust tries to break the pact with help from the earth spirit but is unable to complete the task. The trip to the spring rite on Walpurgis Night helps to distract Faust for a while. The appearance of Medusa in the guise of Gretchen vexes Faust. Mephisto is able to distract Faust just before he is turned to stone.
The Walpurgis Night Dream may seem out of place in this part of the story. However, Goethe wanted to remind the reader that Faust is a learned man and has appreciation for art. It is also a way for Goethe to pay homage to Shakespeare and "A Midsummer Night's Dream". It also causes Faust to remember what his life was like before, how intellectual pursuits ruled him.
Faust loses what restraint he has when he learns about Gretchen's imprisonment. Faust rages at Mephisto for Gretchen's condition and the death of his child. Mephisto simply states that Gretchen is not the only one to have gone through such an ordeal. Faust insists on rescuing Gretchen from prison.
At the prison, Faust realizes that Gretchen has gone insane. Gretchen does not recognize Faust at first and thinks he is the hangman. Faust tries hard to get Gretchen to leave the dungeon, but Gretchen will not stop talking about her fall from grace, her guilt, and how her torn veil should have been her wedding veil. Gretchen asks for forgiveness from the Lord and is saved.
This section contains 1,600 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)