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2012 Group Reads - Archives > Faust - Part I ~ Scene XIX: Night - XX: The Cathedral

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message 1: by Silver (new)

Silver Now we see the inevitable of which was bond to happen, the beginning of the downfall of Margaret, and the sinister outcome of Faust's seduction of her.


message 2: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Why do you think it is inevitable?


message 3: by Silver (new)

Silver Well I figured whenever anyone is acting under the influence of the Devil there are bond to have bad consequences. And rarely does the seducing of innocent, "pure" young women have favorable consequences. I did not see this as having any sort of happy or positive ending.


message 4: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) What's the difference between Faust's seduction and courtship?


message 5: by Silver (new)

Silver Nemo wrote: "What's the difference between Faust's seduction and courtship?"

I think for one thing is the fact that he is acting under evil influences which automatically puts it into a more sinister light, and Mephistopheles helps him "bewitch" the girl, in making the jewels magically appear. He has an unfair advantage in turning her heart towards him.

There is also the fact that he does deceive the girls mother to obtain private meetings with her, his courtship/seduction is done in a way that is clandestine, not in a proper way, out in the open. But it is done as something sneaky.

And there is nothing to suggest that he has in fact any intention of seeking her hand in marriage, and I do believe it is implied that Faust has been sexually intimate with her.

Her brother catches him creeping around her bedroom window late at night.

So there is not much in his actions that suggest a proper, acceptable courtship with good intentions.

But rather he is besotted with her and seeks to satisfy his lusts and desires through any means necessary.


message 6: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Not all courtship done in secret are sinister, though. Didn't Romeo "creep around" Juliet's bedroom window late at night?

As for giving jewels and lavish gifts, if the rich do that to woo their love interest, is that an unfair advantage? It's a way of saying that their beloved is just as precious and beautiful as the jewels, if not more.


message 7: by Silver (new)

Silver Nemo wrote: "Not all courtship done in secret are sinister, though. Didn't Romeo "creep around" Juliet's bedroom window late at night?

As for giving jewels and lavish gifts, if the rich do that to woo their l..."


But I think it is the fact that he is doing it with the aid of Mephistopheles which makes it different. Romeo did not make a deal with the devil, and he has good reason for sneaking around, because of the family feud.

Faust was a well respected doctor, and he did not make any effort to court her in a more dignified way. He never tried to present himself to her mother as a sincere suitor.

And the jewels magically provided were done in this case as a way to try to manipulate Margaret's feelings and make her fall in love with Faust, they were not given in an honest way.

Mephistopheles also proposes that he and Faust like to Martha about her husband, and the introduced dishonesty and deceit as part of the courtship process is another way of making it more ominous and not genuine or legitimate.

Why are you of the opinion that Faust should be seen as a guanine and sincere suitor and that there should be any expectation of happiness for them?


message 8: by Nemo (last edited Sep 26, 2012 10:36AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) I tend to think that "making a deal with the devil" is a metaphor for "the end justifies the means". There is nothing that Faust did that an ordinary folk would not do if he were under the same type of circumstances.

He tried to deceive Margaret's mother. Yes, but suppose you were an atheist who is desperately in love with a girl of a strict religious family. They forbid her to date outside her faith. What would you do?

Given the fact that Goethe at the age of 73 (9 years before his death) wooed 18-year old Levetzow, whose mother opposed the relationship. I suspect that Goethe was sympathetic, if not identified, with Faust.


message 9: by Silver (new)

Silver Nemo wrote: "I tend to think that "making a deal with the devil" is a metaphor for "the end justifies the means". There is nothing that Faust did that an ordinary folk would not do if he were under the same typ..."

But in this case he did not even give the mother a chance to oppose the relationship, He never tried to do it legitimately. It was not as if he went to the mother first and was denied and then decided to go about it his own way because of his love for the girl. He immediately used deceptive means from day one.

The very fact that it was his first instinct to use deception, I think does say something of his intention.

I think that Goethe's original audience would have seen this relationship as being doomed from the start. I do not think anyone reading it from Goethe's time would ever have viewed it as something that was likely to have a happy ending.

And while Goethe may have sympathized with Faust, I am not so sure his actions and conduct would have, or are intended to have been viewed favorably.

In addition in spite of Faust's pledging his love for the girl, I do not think we see anything to suggest that he actually has any intention of wedding her, but truly is more inclined to want to seduce her to stratify his lust for her.

He is besotted with her, but I do not see him as truly having any legitimate intentions towards her.

I just do not see this as being some sort of Romeo and Juliet story of true love, I see this as being a more sordid tale.


message 10: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Silver wrote: "I think that Goethe's original audience would have seen this relationship as being doomed from the start."

The story of Dr. Faust was a familiar legend, but Goethe's gave it a different twist and infused a new meaning/perspective into his play, which set his Faust apart. It's not the first time that he rewrote a well-known tragedy (e.g., Iphigenia in Tauris) and changed it for a "higher" end.

Faust was not after Margaret's money or position, for she had none. He didn't misrepresent himself to her. He did love her and sought union with her, as all lovers do.

Suppose, as you say, Faust had indeed married Margaret but divorced her a year later, would it have made the relationship more honorable or less?


message 11: by Silver (new)

Silver Nemo wrote: "Silver wrote: "I think that Goethe's original audience would have seen this relationship as being doomed from the start."

The story of Dr. Faust was a familiar legend, but Goethe's gave it a diffe..."


In his actions to simply satisfy his desires for her, without any intention of marrying her, he would leave her with very dismal future prospects.

Considering the time period, she would have been viewed as "ruined" a woman of loose virtue, she would bring disgrace and dishonor to all of her family, and it would be very difficult for her to make any kind of marriage.

Faust seeks to satisfy his carnal desires on a young virgin, innocent, maiden, something that would not have been viewed in a positive light.


message 12: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) [I'm enjoying the part of the devil's advocate a little too much. :)]

For evidence of the audience's sympathy towards the "ruined woman" Margaret, from Wikipedia (view spoiler)


message 13: by Silver (new)

Silver I see Margaret as being a victim of the designs of Faust and Mephistopheles.

For one thing Faust is playing with a loaded deck. He has the supernatural in his corner to help seduce Margaret and effect her emotions towards him.

Does Margaret truly know her own mind?

As well when Faust visited the Witches' kitchen he took a potion to take I think it was 30 or 20 years off of his life, and so he has altered his physical appearance/age via magically means. Thus he is appearing to Margaret in a physical disguise, not as he truly is, is that not a misrepresentation of himself?

Margaret is young and inexperienced, does she truly know going into things that Faust does not have entirely pure intentions towards her, that he is not going to wed her?

Or is she led into believing that they really can have a future together, that indeed he will make an "honest" woman out of her?

There is also the fact that she acknowledges the evil in Mephistopheles. She dislikes him and she can see him for what he is. Does not her awareness of this fact shed more ominous late upon her relationship with Faust?


message 14: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Silver wrote: "As well when Faust visited the Witches' kitchen he took a potion to take I think it was 30 or 20 years off of his life, and so he has altered his physical appearance/age via magically means."

Is that a misrepresentation of himself? Not necessarily.

Firstly, unlike the cosmetic surgery today which only changes the surface, if the drink actually transformed his whole body into a younger one, it's not a misrepresentation.

Secondly, there are people who are "young at heart". One can argue that an aged physical appearance is a misrepresentation of a young heart. Faust was passionate for life, for knowledge, for love (or lust, depending on your perspective). So he was young at heart, and a young physical appearance actually suits him better.

Does Margaret truly know her own mind?

Which lovestruck person does?

There is also the fact that she acknowledges the evil in Mephistopheles.

So does Faust. But neither of them could put their finger on the exact nature of evil in Mephistopheles or acknowledge anything evil in their relationship.

[BTW, are you using auto-correct in your text-editor. Some words read funny. "stratify his lust"? :)]


message 15: by Silver (new)

Silver Nemo wrote: "[I'm enjoying the part of the devil's advocate a little too much. :)]

For evidence of the audience's sympathy towards the "ruined woman" Margaret, from Wikipedia [spoilers removed]"


That does not change the fact that life was genreally rather bleak for women of "ill repute"


message 16: by Silver (new)

Silver Nemo wrote: Does Margaret truly know her own mind?

Which lovestruck person does?"


But who is to say that her love is genuine, and truly comes from herself, or that indeed she is being made against her own will to love him by the powers of Mephistopheles ?

If Faust was acting purely under his own mortal powers with no supernatural aid, now jewels that could be magically produced out of air, then do we really know that Margaret would still fall in love with him?

If the answer is yes, then the story would be pointless because Faust would have no need for Mephistopheles, but he makes the deal with him pricelessly so he can achieve things he would not have been able to do completely on his own accord.

As example taking the potion to alter his age, if he appeared as his real age what would Margaret have thought of him then? Would he have stood half a chance?


message 17: by Silver (new)

Silver Nemo wrote: "So does Faust. But neither of them could put their finger on the exact nature of evil in Mephistopheles or acknowledge anything evil in their relationship..."

I am not sure what you mean by that. Faust knows exactly who he is dealing with. The moment he first saw Mephistopheles he knew him for the Devil, and Mephistopheles told him plain and simple who he was and what his intentions were, and that he was a creature of evil.


message 18: by MadgeUK (last edited Oct 04, 2012 09:09AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I have not been in good enough spirits since I had my old black cat put to sleep so have not kept up with your discussions but I have enjoyed this particular exchange, which reminds me of Satan in Paradise Lost because Milton was supposed to have given all the best lines to him and not to God. People sympathised/empathised with Milton's Satan so I suppose it is possible that people sympathised with Goethe's Devil and perhaps Goethe had Milton's Satan in mind?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfr...

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-ent...


message 19: by Silver (new)

Silver MadgeUK wrote: "I have not been in good enough spirits since I had my old black cat put to sleep so have not kept up with your discussions but I have enjoyed this particular exchange, which reminds me of Satan in ..."

Mephistopheles is a great character, though I do not know if I would be signing any contracts with him, he would be great to have at a party and I would love to just hang out with him. No telling what sort of adventures he will get you into.

I do think that Goethe was influenced by a variety of different sources when writing this story, and his earlier Prelude in Heaven had a very Milton like feeling to it.


message 20: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Silver wrote: "That does not change the fact that life was genreally rather bleak for women of "ill repute""

That's beside the point. A bleak outlook or bad reputation mean nothing to someone who is in love, nor do they necessarily make his or her relationship evil.

"If Faust was acting purely under his own mortal powers with no supernatural aid, now jewels that could be magically produced out of air, then do we really know that Margaret would still fall in love with him? "

With no supernatural aid, do we really know that the prince would fall in love with Cinderella? Having supernatural power as one's aid is not evil. One could argue that the supernatural power simply gives Cinderella and Faust what rightfully belongs to them, i.e., their truth worth. They were not naturally endowed with those gifts because of circumstances beyond their control. It doesn't mean they are not worthy.

There is nothing in the play that suggests Mephistopheles had exerted any direct control over Margaret. She was attracted by the jewelry, yes, but which woman wouldn't? She fell in love with Faust the person, how much he knew, how much he cared, and more importantly, how much he valued her, as implied by the gift of the jewelry.

Mephistopheles told him plain and simple who he was and what his intentions were, and that he was a creature of evil.

To say the Devil is evil is a tautology. It doesn't tell us what the nature of "evil" is.


message 21: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) MadgeUK wrote: "I have not been in good enough spirits since I had my old black cat put to sleep so have not kept up with your discussions but I have enjoyed this particular exchange, which reminds me of Satan in ..."

Sorry to hear about your cat, Madge. I'm not a pet person, but it must be difficult to lose a close companion like that.

I haven't read Paradise Lost yet. Voltaire biased me against it. What do you think of the book?


message 22: by Silver (new)

Silver Nemo wrote: "Silver wrote: "That does not change the fact that life was genreally rather bleak for women of "ill repute""

That's beside the point. A bleak outlook or bad reputation mean nothing to someone who ..."


The nature of Faust's love is entirely selfish in which he displays no concern for the girl of whom he presumably loves. He is willing to do anything in order to satisfy his desire for Margaret and gives no thought to what will become of her and her life once he is done with her. He only cares about what he wants right then and there in the moment.

Margaret is not entering into the relationship with her eyes wide open to an understanding of the full ramifications of what she is doing and what will ultimately become of her in the end.

Faust is older and more experienced and knows the consequences that his actions are likely to have and simply does not care.

Nemo wrote:Having supernatural power as one's aid is not evil.

If the supernatural aid that one uses comes from an actual agent of evil then I would say that the supernatural aid itself is by definition evil. If it were an angel instead of a devil assisting Faust it would put a different view on things. But Faust is in fact using evil for his aid. As well we know that it is Mephistopheles intention to tempt Faust away from God, and thus he would not give Faust aid that would be contrary to his goals, and so the actions in which he assists Faust are those which must corrupt his soul or Mephistopheles would be acting contrary against the bet he made with God and be working against himself and in the favor of his adversary.


message 23: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Silver wrote: "Faust is older and more experienced and knows the consequences that his actions are likely to have and simply does not care. "

Older, yes. More experienced? Probably not. He spent most of his time in his study, with books and chemicals, for crying out loud.

Faust did care. He struggled with himself about his relationship with Margaret, and he cared for her even till the very end. But I should wait till the group get there and then continue this discussion. :)

If it were an angel instead of a devil assisting Faust it would put a different view on things.

As St. Paul wrote, "Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." How could we tell the difference between angel and devil if we don't know the nature of evil?


message 24: by Silver (last edited Oct 04, 2012 11:30PM) (new)

Silver Nemo wrote: Faust did care. He struggled with himself about his relationship with Margaret, and he cared for her even till the very end. But I should wait till the group get there and then continue this discussion ..."

His proclaimed caring for her did not stop him from doing that which was bond to destroy her. His own needs and desires still took president over her well being.

Nemo wrote:As St. Paul wrote, "Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." How could we tell the difference between angel and devil if we don't know the nature of evil?

But in this case Mephistopheles wore no disguise, he came exactly at he was with no pretense or disguise. He did not deceive or mislead Faust. He was not pretending to be anything other than what he was. It is easy to know the difference when the Devil introduces himself as being the devil.


message 25: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Silver wrote: "But in this case Mephistopheles wore no disguise, he came exactly at he was with no pretense or disguise. "

He did disguise himself and hid the "cloven hoof", though I don't know the significance of it. He misled Faust in presenting himself as the latter's humble servant, when in fact he wanted to enslave him and have him eat dust.

But again, even if he introduced himself as the devil, it means little. As I said before, "the devil is evil" is a tautology. They are empty words. It doesn't tell us what the nature of "evil" is.

As Goethe himself pointed out (again through Mephistopheles, ironically):
"For just where fails the comprehension,
A word steps promptly in as deputy."


message 26: by Silver (last edited Oct 05, 2012 12:07AM) (new)

Silver Nemo wrote: "Silver wrote: "But in this case Mephistopheles wore no disguise, he came exactly at he was with no pretense or disguise. "

He did disguise himself and hid the "cloven hoof", though I don't know th..."


Faust recognized Mephistopheles as a liar when first he saw him, and thus he knew what/who he was dealing with, and knew the risks he was taking and was dealing with one whom he knew could not be trusted. It was then foolish of Faust if he believed anything else Mephistopheles has told him after Faust's first acknowledgement of his being a liar.

I do not think it matters if he knows or does not know the exact nature of the evil because he knows that Mephistopheles cannot be trusted and knows that Mephistopheles is not well meaning, so all of his actions and advise from that point forth should be regarded with suspicion.

If someone presents themselves as evil, it does not really matter if they do not explain specifically exactly how they are evil, it should be a given they are not going to be well meaning towards you or lead you into doing good things with good outcomes.


message 27: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Silver wrote: "It was then foolish of Faust if he believed anything else Mephistopheles has told him after Faust's first acknowledgement of his being a liar."

Faust didn't trust Mephistopheles so much as the fact that the latter is bound by laws just like himself, i.e., Mephistopheles has to fulfill his end of the contract. This is perhaps the same reason why God made a wager with Mephistopheles.

A liar tells the truth sometimes, or half truths all the time. So you still have to know the truth yourself to tell the difference. Similarly, you have to know the nature of evil to avoid it, imo. Suspicion is not enough. Margaret was suspicious, but she fell for it nevertheless.


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