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Visual theme-tracking, too. Brief Biography of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe The son of Johann Caspar Goethe and Catharina Elizabeth Textor, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born into a life of privilege: he received his education from private tutors, and as a young boy was trained in the arts of dancing, horseback riding, and fencing. He also developed an early interest in literature, especially the Homeric epics of the Odyssey and the Iliad , the Old Testament, and the poetry of Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock.

Faust, Parts 1 and 2 Cliffs Notes

On the strength of this novel, Goethe was invited to the court of Duke Carl August in Weimar, where he would live for the rest of his life, serving as an adviser, diplomat, and statesman. During this period, he also began developing and refining what would become Faust , his most important literary work, though it would take him some sixty years to bring it to completion. After one of the most fruitful and diverse imaginative careers in human history, Goethe died in his Weimar home in , of apparent heart failure. He is today considered the single most important writer Germany has ever produced, the peer of Dante and Shakespeare.

Download it! Medievalism is represented as backward-looking and self-satisfied, with knowledge based on authority rather than on independent critical thinking. The Enlightment, in contrast, is represented as mechanically, barrenly rational, devoid of imagination and in conflict with nature, as Wagner is able to create the unnatural Homunculus only with the catalyst of the devil. The poem instead presents Classical Greece as a valuable cultural model, with its humanism and ideals of good proportion and order, which Goethe saw as a much-needed corrective to the fiery, rampant individualism, passion, and imaginative overreaching of the Romantic movement of his own time, of which Faust becomes the most obvious representative in the poem.

However, Goethe not only looks to the great books of the Western canon, but also incorporates German folk traditions into Faust , including the legend of Faust itself, which he quite likely encountered early in his life, as the legend was often adapted in Germany for puppet plays. Cite This Page. MLA Chicago. Wilson, Joshua. Retrieved September 23, Copy to Clipboard.

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Faust tempers his expectations, however. He doubts that the Devil can show him anything of real importance. He will offer him sport with no winner and false love. He will offer him honors that do not last.


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Mephistopheles contradicts these accusations, telling him that such treasures will be easy to produce but that there will come a time when both will want to revel in the leisure that such comforts bring. Faust is now ready to make the wager. He tells Mephistopheles that he will never take such leisure. Mephistopheles, however, is not content with a simple handshake.

He desires a legal, signed document to seal their fate. Faust finds it amusing that the devil would want a binding document and he is reluctant to give it at first, saying that he is a man who keeps his word. All Faust has to do is sign it with a drop of his blood. Faust agrees and tells him that he should not be afraid that he will break his pact because he desires the knowledge of the spirits too much. Mephistopheles tells him that he has never quite met a man with such passions and that he might be disappointed at what he finds.

Faust assures him that he wants to take the journey nonetheless.

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Mephistopheles relents and tells him that he will see and feel all the pleasures he desires. Faust asks how they must begin, and Mephistopheles tells him that they must leave because there is nothing left for him in this study. However, he must first deal with his student who has come prepared for a lesson.

Mephistopheles, speaking only to himself, divulges his secret plan.


However, the Student says that already he is thinking of running away because of the coldness of the place and its lack of joy. Mephistopheles tells him that this is simply because he is not acclimated to the scholarly life and that if he puts all of his energies into his studies, he will soon find his place. The student tells him that he is unsure about which course to follow. Faust makes the transition in this scene from the Christian man of the Renaissance to the post-Christian man of the Modern world.

He thus encapsulates what Goethe sees as the condition of humanity during the Modern era. It is important to note that Faust does not make a bargain with the Devil, implying that each will get something from each other, but instead makes a wager. The wager is that the Devil will accompany him through the world in order to produce for him a moment of bliss and contentment in which he will never want to leave. If Faust does not experience such a moment, then he is free. Faust considers his inability to fuse with the life of the universe to be his own personal hell.

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  6. In a way, Faust is damned either way in the wager. In this world, there are physical things that can provide pleasure and satisfaction to humanity. When such physical things occur in excess, confession and sacraments exist to bring people into right relationship with God. Faust, however, represents a newer world. Faust is entirely sure that physical pleasure will never be able to satisfy him.

    The use of the number three is notable in this scene. Three is a number of religious import in the Christian tradition, often symbolizing the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.