Synopses & Reviews
Drama. Translated from the German by Mike Smith. A new translation of one of the greatest monuments of German literature. This is the famous first part (Faust. Der Tragödie erster Teil), and does not include the extraordinary (and virtually unstageable) Part 2, completed many years later.
First published in 1808, and then, in a revised edition, in 1829, the story—a variant of the old Faustus legend—concerns the scientist (or perhaps, better, natural philosopher), Dr. Heinrich Faust, whose scientific quests, and their lack of success, lead him into a state of great frustration. Parallel to this, Mephistopheles (the Devil) lays a wager with God that he can subvert God's favored human being (for this is Faust).
Mephistopheles appears in Faust's laboratory, having metamorphosed from the form of a stray dog that had followed Faust home, and offers Faust a pact whereby he, Mephistopheles, will aid Faust on Earth, if Faust in turn will serve him forever in Hell. The pact is signed in blood, after some prevarication. The core of the tragedy revolves around the figure of Margarete (known by her familiar name, Gretchen), with whom Faust falls in love. Mephisto aids Faust in his seduction of her. Gretchen kills her mother, unintentionally, with a sleeping potion, administered so that she can receive Faust in her chamber without being disturbed.
When Gretchen discovers she is pregnant, her brother confronts Faust but is killed in a fight with him and Mephisto. The distraught Gretchen drowns her child, is convicted of murder and imprisoned. Faust tries to free her from jail by magical means but she refuses to leave, and Faust and his devilish accomplice flee the scene to the accompaniment of a chorus of heavenly voices who reveal that Gretchen will in fact be saved.