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Goethe, Faust > Faust Week 3 - Part 1, In Martha's Garden through end

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Things go from strange to bizarre, in scenes from a cathedral to Walpurgis night to Shakespeare. What is all this doing, what is it all leading to, and why does this Part, which was published as a stand-alone, not resolve Faust's fate? Or does it???

And what have we to say of Faust's treatment of Margaret? Yuck? Or something more/other than that?


message 2: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4510 comments Faust's treatment of Margaret, and Margaret's treatment of her mother and child, are all quite hideous. It's interesting how Goethe seems to frost over a lot of this abuse (or sheer criminality) with poetry. This technique almost makes the crimes themselves more horrifying.


message 3: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Thomas wrote: "Faust's treatment of Margaret, and Margaret's treatment of her mother and child, are all quite hideous. It's interesting how Goethe seems to frost over a lot of this abuse (or sheer criminality) wi..."

Well, after all, this is being orchestrated by Mephistopheles. We can hardly expect it to end well, can we?

BTW, according to Wikipedia, Mephistopheles first appeared in the original Faust legend. W goes on to say "In the 1725 version, which Goethe read, Mephostophiles is a devil in the form of a greyfriar summoned by Faust in a wood outside Wittenberg."


message 4: by Thomas (last edited Aug 17, 2015 03:06PM) (new)

Thomas | 4510 comments Does Faust change from the beginning of Part 1 to the end? Or does his personality simply come to light? Is Faust really an evil man, or is it the influence of Mephistopheles that makes him so?

Gretchen is saved at the end... why? The ending seems abrupt, and though we know there is a Part 2 coming, Part 1 doesn't end very neatly. The first part doesn't seem to stand alone very well, but I would be interested in hearing arguments to the contrary.


message 5: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4510 comments Christopher wrote: "I agree that the end of Part One comes together abruptly. We go from dwelling on Mephisto's pranks in the tavern to the rapid dismantling of Gretchen's life..."

Mephisto's pranks and the theatricality of the play are what stand out for me. It's called a tragedy, but the tragic part of it seems to fall on Gretchen rather than Faust. At times the play seems to be more of a dramatic pageant than a tragedy. Maybe we have to continue on to the second part for the fulfillment of the tragic part of the story?


message 6: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 17 comments As far as I know Goethe himself was part of a jury - not exactly a jury but a group of law experts - who voted for the death penalty in the case of a young servant that killed her child. There is Goethe's signature among others under her death warrant. We can probably assume that he was not too sympathetic with Margarete - and probably also that the voice saying that she is saved in the end is more owing to the dramatist's wish of thwarting Mephistopheles's plans than to understanding the young girl's - like Juliet, she must have been 14 or something like that - plight.

This might also account for his cursory treatment of Gretchen's fate. In a way, the situation reminds me a little bit of "Hamlet": There is the rejected woman who is driven mad or half-mad, and there is also the brother who tries to avenge her and is killed by the anti-hero. Saying that, however, I might also say that I prefer Shakespeare's plays very, very, very much to Goethe's "Faust". In terms of plot and dramatic unity, "Faust. Part 1" is a botch job: The exposition seems to go on forever, then there are several scenes - like Auerbachs Keller - that do not add anything to the plot at all, and finally the main conflict is dealt with quite desultorily. Shakespeare would never have done such a shaggy-dog-story at all.

In terms of ideas, of criticism and language, on the other hand, "Faust. Part 1" is impressive. I regard Meph's pranks more and more as Goethe's means of voicing criticism - cf. for instance the brilliant passage in which Meph recounts how the clergyman bagged the mysterious jewellery saying that the Church alone can stomach "ill-got wealth".

Give me Goethe as a poet, and you can keep him as a dramatist ;-)


message 7: by Chris (new)

Chris | 385 comments I just finished this section & there is a lot packed into it. My head felt like a Ping-Pong ball, as we are whisked from place to place and contrasting styles and ambience.

Mephisto definitely shines as the Master Manipulator throughout, binding Faust tighter and ensuring Gretchen's demise. Is Faust complicit in all these vile acts? Did he know the "sleeping potion" that he gave to Gretchen for her mother would lead to her death? Had he planed to fight Valentine to his death? A little Mephisto magic propels both those crimes. Not that Faust is without blame in Gretchen's downfall. He no longer seems to profess love but just lust as he went to see her again. Seemed without concern over her welfare & what could happen to her post-seduction. I saw him completely without empathy until the vision of Gretchen comes to him amidst the orgy of Walpurgis Night and his subsequent castigation of Mephisto and desire to free Gretchen. It seemed to demonstrate that a spark of morality still existed in Faust & Mephisto still had not completely captured his soul. Although at the end of this he still did not acknowledge his part in the crimes or Gretchen's plight, nor make any attempt at repentance. Even Gretchen in her plea to God, tells Faust that she "quails" at the sight of him. Isn't she saved because she does repent in her appeal to God?

For all the apparent influence of Shakespeare & Goethe's nod to him in the Intermezzo. I had visions of Disney's Hall of the Mountain King from Fantasia during the description of Walpurgis Night. And Gretchen's mad scene was reminiscent of Lucia di Lammermoor!


message 8: by Thomas (last edited Aug 19, 2015 07:46PM) (new)

Thomas | 4510 comments Tristram wrote: "As far as I know Goethe himself was part of a jury - not exactly a jury but a group of law experts - who voted for the death penalty in the case of a young servant that killed her child. There is G..."

That is really interesting, especially in light of what Christopher mentioned about the original ending. The story would have been tragic enough had Gretchen been simply used and cast away by Faust. Ophelia is certainly tragic enough without becoming evil to others. I wonder why Goethe felt the need to include infanticide... unless this is part of the original Faust myth, perhaps?


message 9: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 856 comments I don't know for sure how insane she went in the end, she could still tell the difference between good and evil and chose to embrace death rather than keep company with the devil. I wonder if people who have read Camus' "The Outsider" notice similarities with the personal integrity with which she faces the condemnation of this world?


message 10: by Susan (new)

Susan | 481 comments I find I'm really struggling with the tone of the play. If it's ironic, I would read one way--versus another. And yet, there's the initial comparison with Job, so one tenet is that Faust is being set up for all this, in Gods statement that he won't be corrupted. I've no idea what to make of that, except it appears Faust is in fact corruptible....but Gretchen is somehow redeemed...


message 11: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Susan wrote: "I find I'm really struggling with the tone of the play. If it's ironic, I would read one way--versus another. And yet, there's the initial comparison with Job, so one tenet is that Faust is being..."

Susan -- you might consider reading it multiple ways, including ironic. At least, so I find myself. It has a bit to do with the "manic" aspect Genni (or was it Tiffany or someone else -- I'm not back tracing right now) called to our attention, the highs and the lows, the mood swings. Even the Christian elements I find confusing -- sometimes as if believing, others as if totally rejecting. Sometimes I sense an ability to poke fun at self, at other times a sense of dead seriousness -- and to be felt one way on one reading, another way in the next reading. I suspect Goethe was both deliberate and unaware of those swings as he wrote, but that is unsupportable projection on my part. Especially since he wrote it over such a long period of time and had so many palimpsest opportunities.

These swings are part of what have finally hooked me in reading this thing, which I am finding more work than summertime inspires, i.e., it's not the proverbial "beach read." But, I am reminded of these lines of Robert McCrum in his Guardian articles on "The 100 Best Novels": "...Classics, for some, are books we know we should have read, but have not. For others, classics are simply the book we have read obsessively, many times over, and can quote from." I find I want to be able to quote from "Faust", albeit in English translation.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013...


message 12: by Tk (new)

Tk | 51 comments I was not planning to read Part II for logistical reasons, but now I'm going to fit it in because I find it disturbing that Faust made a deal with the devil and a young girl suffered the consequences. Frankly, I'm hoping for redemption in Part II.

That said, some parts of it were quite poetic and it was very easy to see how it might appear as a play. I also enjoyed the parallels between Faust and The Master and Margarita: havoc created by the appearance of the devil,Woland/Voland, the party at the end of M&M/Walpurgis Night, etc. I had read Bulgakov was strongly influenced by Faust and it was interesting to see in what ways.


message 13: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4510 comments Tk wrote: "I also enjoyed the parallels between Faust and The Master and Margarita: havoc created by the appearance of the devil,Woland/Voland, the party at the end of M&M/Walpurgis Night, etc. "

I can't say I'm loving Faust all that much, but it does make me want to re-read Master & Margarita, and Mann's Doctor Faustus as well. It's been a long while since I read either, and I think I would see them in a new light after reading Goethe.


message 14: by Tk (new)

Tk | 51 comments Thomas wrote: "I can't say I'm loving Faust all that much, but it does make me want to re-read Master & Margarita, and Mann's Doctor Faustus as well. It's been a long while since I read either, and I think I would see them in a new light after reading Goethe. "

I also think a re-read of Master & Margarita is in order after finishing Faust. I haven't read Doctor Faustus. I take it you enjoyed it more than Faust?


message 15: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4510 comments I can't remember the details of Mann's Doctor Faustus, but I remember liking it quite a bit. I still have the book I read 20 years ago because it's a first edition (of the English translation by Lowe-Porter). I feel a temptation coming on... but I'll do the right thing and finish Faust first.


message 16: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 328 comments Everyman wrote: "Things go from strange to bizarre, in scenes from a cathedral to Walpurgis night to Shakespeare. What is all this doing, what is it all leading to, and why does this Part, which was published as a..."

From strange to bizarre, indeed. One minute I'm laughing and the next horrified. That got dark quickly. To me, most of Mephisto's tricks have been amusing and until now he was my comic relief. Why such a nasty turn? I do believe, Chris, that Meph knew full well what was going into mother's drink. Oh, dear.


message 17: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 328 comments I'm not sure what is happening in the inconclusive ending. Particularly in light of the addition of redemption. Part of me thinks this is left intentionally vague to inspire conversation in the audience. Has Faust changed much?


message 18: by Wendel (last edited Aug 31, 2015 08:49PM) (new)

Wendel (wendelman) | 609 comments Goethe claimed that his Faust was incomparable, one of a kind. But to me it seems to fit in a tradition of the grotesque within German romanticism (Jean Paul, Kleist, E.T.A. Hoffmann?). At the same time Faust feels so very modern (making me really curious about Faust 2, given its reputation for incomprehensibility).

So many things obviously did not bother our author. Like narrative logic, or psychological consistency. Moreover, Goethe warned his readers not to expect great ideas here. Instead, there is a lot of fine writing, quotable sentences galore. And fun. Still, as readers we can’t help wanting more, can we? We do want to know whether Meph succeeded in subverting Faust’s moral integrity or not.

Meph certainly did make him destroy an innocent girl (true, drugs were involved), and made him an accessory to murder (twice). Those murders may have been mainly Mephisto’s own doing and Faust showed some remorse about how he dumped Gretchen (I understand there is an autobiographical element here). But while there may be mitigating circumstances, it does not feel right. Not at all.

However, we should consider the question not only from a conventional moral point of view. There is also the specific morality explained in the prelude in Heaven. So, is Faust’s divine spark, his restless drive for more and more, extinguished by his submersion in sensuality? Or did he, like Job, hold on to his gift?


message 19: by Wendel (new)

Wendel (wendelman) | 609 comments Walpurgis Night made me think of the Brothel scene in Ulysses - more than of the Walpurgis Night in The Magic Mountain. It is of course, in a literary way, only fitting that Faust goes dancing while Gretchen is sent to death row. But this Witches Sabbath is not just a party, it is a very obscene. And funny, attended by every literary critic who ever dared to criticize the poet.


message 20: by Tk (new)

Tk | 51 comments Wendel wrote: "Walpurgis Night made me think of the Brothel scene in Ulysses"

Yes! I hadn't thought of that.


message 21: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 328 comments I've been thinking a lot about the salvation of Gretchen. Maybe the key to understanding involves going back to the deal between Mephisto and God in the prologue. First, I'd like to express my discontent with a lack of closure on this bet, I was expecting more of a conversation between God and Mephisto to bookend the first act. Remember, in the prologue the Lord says "Man ever errs while he strives." I keep coming back to this statement as central to the play.

The Lord acknowledges that it is in the nature of man to err and have flaws. So what's mankind to do? Stop striving? Or continue erring? Action is important to Goethe. (I am reminded of Faust's translation of the bible- In the beginning there was DEED) Perhaps the errors themselves are of little consequence as long as the intent is in the right place. "In the heart that knows itself- then things grow clear."

When it comes to Gretchen, Goethe is using an extreme case. Still, though her actions were very much errors (to say the least), she was motivated by purity/or naivete. Gretchen initially goes to confession, and even expresses concern for Faust's soul. She also prays for mercy and acknowledges her own guilt. In other words, she accepts responsibility for her errs and continues to strive nonetheless.

Faust, on the other hand, tries to blame Mephisto for the awful tragedies at hand and is seeking a moment in which he can stop striving. This was what he said while making a pact with the devil. "Should ever I take ease upon a bed of leisure, may that same moment mark my end!"


message 22: by Clarissa (new)

Clarissa (clariann) | 215 comments I didn't really understand what Oberon and Titania were doing in this play, can anyone explain their significance to Faust's deal with the devil?


message 23: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4510 comments Clari wrote: "I didn't really understand what Oberon and Titania were doing in this play, can anyone explain their significance to Faust's deal with the devil?"

At the moment I'm reading Act 4 of Part 2, and it seems there that Goethe is doing the same thing that he did earlier with the "intermezzo" in Part 1 -- paying tribute to Shakespeare. It doesn't seem to me to work very well, or at least it is not well integrated into the play as a whole.


message 24: by Clarissa (new)

Clarissa (clariann) | 215 comments Thomas wrote: "Clari wrote: "I didn't really understand what Oberon and Titania were doing in this play, can anyone explain their significance to Faust's deal with the devil?"

At the moment I'm reading Act 4 of ..."


Perhaps it is a theatrical tradition of the time? I know nothing about German theatre. I found it odd as a reading experience.


message 25: by Wendel (new)

Wendel (wendelman) | 609 comments The Dream was originally written for a satyrical project but later recycled in Faust. It has always been a problem for critics: some consider it an irresponsible folly, others see it as essential to a correct understanding the play. So, whatever it is, it illustrates the limits of the critics’s trade. But there must be something more that can be said about it.

First, as already mentioned by Thomas, there is the reference to Shakespeare (one of many in Faust, but probably the most explicit). The (re)discovery of Shakespeare in the second half of the 18th century was important in the move from classicism to romanticism. Voltaire for instance - at the time primarily known as a writer of now forgotten 'classic' plays - deplored the Shakespeare fashion, but for the Romantics Shakespeare was Devine. By the way, Goethe is considered 'Klassik' in Germany, but he is only classic within the context of Romanticism, and so he is an admirer of the Bard.

But that alone does not explain the Oberon-Titania interlude in Faust. Actually it seems to be a comment within the play upon the play, just like the several Prologues we have seen. The interlude is (consciously) written in a silly style, and shows a group of amateurs - representing the public and the critics - react on what they have seen, many of them venting their indignation about the scandalous scenes in the Walpurgis Night. The Dream stresses once more that the play is fiction (and should be commented on as fiction).

Goethe authorized the elimination of the Dream from the theater production, so it can hardly be essential. But for me it works when it breaks the spell of the Walpurgis Night, and saves Faust from those too serious interpretations that are always threatening everything Goethe wrote (he has been made into the prophet of German cultural superiority, a model of Pietist Christianity and what not). So the 'words’ of the Dream (the people and opinions Goethe refers to) may not be important today, but the ’tune’ is.#

Still, why did Goethe choose Midsummer Night Dream? Of course the night theme is fitting, but I suspect there is more. Note for instance the correspondence between Goethe’s amateur actors and Shakespeare’s 'mechanics' - both switching the plays from tragedy to comedy and back.

# Peter Stein makes a complete cacophony from the Interlude (but I’m not sure why he stresses the sexual characteristics of the players). See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0Igo... - starting at 7:00.


message 26: by Clarissa (new)

Clarissa (clariann) | 215 comments Wendel wrote: "The Dream was originally written for a satyrical project but later recycled in Faust. It has always been a problem for critics: some consider it an irresponsible folly, others see it as essential t..."

thank you for the explanation, Wendel, it is very useful information.


message 27: by Lily (last edited Sep 15, 2015 06:40PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Clari wrote: "I didn't really understand what Oberon and Titania were doing in this play, can anyone explain their significance to Faust's deal with the devil?"

Hmm -- another post that I know I composed seems never to have gotten posted. While uncertain of its worthiness of reconstruction, let me try.

When one looks at the Wiki article on Oberon, besides being the rather furious king of fairies (magic), one learns he is deeply entwined with German legend and with medieval sorcery, one could argue making him a multi-layered allusion or symbol for Goethe. Oberon also is linked to French literary sources and to hero-dwarf, beauty-deformity symbolism.

In concert with Titania, control or at least impact with the very forces of nature are suggested. (See passage quoted.) Then, too, the "gold" of golden anniversary -- something long lasting, more than momentary?

I'm not really answering your question, Clari, a good one. I would ask perhaps the same of why the appearance and the significance of Puck?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oberon


message 28: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 328 comments Clari wrote: "I didn't really understand what Oberon and Titania were doing in this play, can anyone explain their significance to Faust's deal with the devil?"

Primarily, I feel the Midsummer Night's Dream references serve to lighten the mood, but I also think including Shakespeare as well as the Greeks, Dante, etc., is Goethe's way of representing what is universal (nearing the divine) about art. Though I'd have to agree with Thomas, it doesn't work very well for me.


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Robert McCrum (other topics)