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Faust’s Tragedy David Pan Humanities Core Course Winter 2011, Lecture 4.

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1 Faust’s Tragedy David Pan Humanities Core Course Winter 2011, Lecture 4

2 Goethe’s Faust establishes a new understanding of tragedy in which the hero must accept the violent consequences of action. 1.The comic scenes affirm individualism by setting up an alternative to Christian morality. 2.The tragedy arises because Faust must experience the most extreme consequences of his individualist stance. 3.Faust’s decision to continue on his path sets up a new understanding of tragic conflict.

3 1.The comic scenes affirm individualism by setting up an alternative to Christian morality. 1.The comic interludes use satire to criticize the Catholic church, academic learning, and bourgeois morals. 1.Mephistopheles directs his satire against the Catholic church. 2.Mephistopheles criticizes academic learning in the dialogue with the student. 3.Mephistopheles makes fun of bourgeois marriage in his dialogue with Martha. 2.The Walpurgis Night breaks out of a Christian conception of the devil and of witches by referring back to farcical versions of the Faust legend to create a competing view of reality. 1.As opposed to the 17th century Christian perspective that would see a witches’ sabbath as a version of hell, the Walpurgis Night is a realm of dream, magic, nature, and folk traditions that is outside of Christian traditions. 2.The Walpurgis Night presents an alternative reality to the tragedy by using several comic genres. 3.The scene emphasizes both the natural and the magical quality of this folk culture perspective. 1.The scene uses earthy humor and festival atmosphere to emphasize the natural and free character of witches. 2.The scene satirizes the rationalist rejection of fantasy. 3.But because the Walpurgis Night cannot establish itself permanently, it remains an interruption of the tragedy that distracts attention from its significance. 1.Walpurgis Night overturns the tragedy by creating a utopian alternative to the oppressive world of Christian morals that condemns Margaret. 1.By presenting a space of nature, folk tradition, freedom, and fantasy, the Walpurgis Night presents an alternative to the community’s oppression of individuals such as Margaret. 2.Christian-based attack on witches is part of the same prejudices and fears that drive Margaret to despair. 2.Walpurgis Night cannot establish its view of reality and ends up only interrupting the tragedy and distracting both Faust and the audience from Margaret’s plight. 1.The scene distracts Faust from Margaret’s plight. 2.Faust sees the Walpurgis Night afterwards as a harmful diversion. Goethe’s Faust establishes a new understanding of tragedy in which the hero must accept the violent consequences of action.

4 The comic interludes use satire to criticize the Catholic church, academic learning, and bourgeois morals. MEPHISTOPHELES. The mother asked the priest to have a look, and he had scarcely heard what was afoot when he eyed the gems with muted glee and said: “You’ve done the proper thing! Who conquers self will be rewarded in the end. The church has always had an iron belly, has swallowed states and countries now and then, and yet it never overate. The church alone, dear woman, can digest ill-gotten gains without a stomachache.” (2831-40, pp. 243-45) The Catholic Church is hypocritical in its condemnation of worldly goods. Mephistopheles directs his satire against the Catholic church.

5 Mephistopheles criticizes academic learning in the dialogue with the student. MEPHISTOPHELES. In general—put all your faith in words, for then you will securely pass the gate into the temple halls of certainty. STUDENT. But each word, I think, should harbor some idea. MEPHISTOPHELES. Yes, yes indeed. But don’t torment yourself too much, because precisely where no thought is present a word appears in proper time. Words are priceless in an argument. Words are building stones of systems. It’s splendid to believe in words; from words you cannot rob a single letter. (1990-2000, p. 155) In academic learning, words become a substitute for thoughts and concepts.

6 Mephistopheles makes fun of bourgeois marriage in his dialogue with Martha. MARTHA. The dirty thief! The robber of his children! All our misery and dire need did not suffice to draw his shameful life from sin. MEPHISTOPHELES. Well spoken, and for that, you see, he’s dead. But now, if I were in your place, I’d spend a year in decent mourning while angling for a new prospective swain. MARTHA. Oh my! To find another one quite like my first will be no easy undertaking in this world. He was the sweetest little pickle-herring. But he like too much to roam about— foreign win and foreign women, and worst of all, those cursed dice. (2985-97, p. 261) Bourgeois marriage is not about love but about self-interest.

7 As opposed to the 17 th century Christian perspective that would see a witches’ sabbath as a version of hell, Source: Herr, Michael. Zauberei, Witchcraft. 1638. Hollstein’s German Engravings, Etchings and Woodcuts 1400- 1700, Volume XXVI, Matthaeus Merian the Edler. Ed. Tilman Falk. Roosendaal, The Netherlands: Koninklijke van Poll, 1989. Print. 156. Christian legend contributes to the witch-hunt by describing the witches’ sabbath as a place where witches kill children and kiss the devil’s buttocks to show their loyalty.

8 the Walpurgis Night is a realm of dream, magic, nature, and folk traditions that is outside of Christian traditions. FAUST, MEPHISTOPHELES, WILL-0’-THE-WISP. (singing alternately) We have arrived, so it appears, In a sphere of magic dreams. Lead us on and show no fears, So we may move to further stations Over broad and barren regions! See the forest like a legion Flitting past us as we go; And the cliffs inclining low, Reaching for the forest floor, Blow their noses, sneeze, and snore. Through meadow and by rocks we soar, By brooks and reeds to which we cling; Do they bubble? Do they sing? Are those ancient lovers’ lays, Languid voices out of blissful days? We love and hope, and hope and love! And the echo, like an age-old secret tale, Rings below and sings above. (3871-88, p. 351) The journey leads to a realm of: dream and magic, embedded in nature, and linked to love and ancient folk songs.

9 The Walpurgis Night presents an alternative reality to the tragedy by using several comic genres. Burlesque: Takes a serious genre and exaggerates it to make fun of it. Operetta: Comic theater with characters singing their parts. Processional Masque: A parade of characters walks across the stage in a festive atmosphere. BOTH CHORUSES. The broom can fly, the stick’s for you, A pitchfork and a goat will do; (4000-4001, p. 361) FAUST, MEPHISTOPHELES, WILL-O’-THE- WISP. (singing alternately) We have arrived, so it appears, In a sphere of magic dreams. (3871-72, p. 351) WALPURGIS NIGHT’S DREAM characters: SPIRIT (forming itself). … A YOUNG COUPLE. … INQUISITIVE TRAVELER. … AN ORTHODOX PERSON. … NORDIC ARTIST. … PURIST. … YOUNG WITCH. … (4259-80, pp. 385-7)

10 This scene uses earthy humor and festival atmosphere to emphasize the natural and free character of witches. WITCHES (in chorus). The witches ride to Blocksberg’s top. The stubble is yellow, green the crop. On top of the cackling horde Sits Urian presiding as lord. Over rubble and stubble they stream in blustery weather, Witches and billy goats stinking and leaping [Es furzt die Hexe, es stinkt der Bock] together. (3956-61, p. 357) MEPHISTOPHELES. Just look! You scarcely see the end of it. One hundred fires burning in a row; they dance, they chat, they cook and drink and kiss. Can you tell me where one offers something better? (4056-59, p. 367) Witches celebrate, free of social constraints. Focus on body and scatological humor

11 This scene satirizes the rationalist rejection of fantasy. PROCTOPHANTASMIST. Shameless mob! What on earth is this? Has it not been proven long ago: Spirits do not walk on solid ground? Now you presume to dance like one of us! PRETTY WITCH (dancing). What could he be doing at our ball? FAUST (dancing). You may find him anywhere, my dear. When others dance, he’s got to criticize, and if he fails to criticize a step, that step might just as well have not been taken. (4144-52, p. 375) This is a satirical depiction of a rationalist who does not believe in ghosts. Faust makes fun of the intellectual’s habit of criticizing rather than living.

12 There are two interpretations of how the Walpurgis Night relates to the Gretchen tragedy. Walpurgis Night overturns the tragedy by creating a utopian alternative to the oppressive world of Christian morals that condemns Margaret. By presenting a space of nature, folk tradition, freedom, and fantasy, the Walpurgis Night presents an alternative to the community’s oppression of individuals such as Margaret. Christian-based attack on witches is part of the same prejudices and fears that drive Margaret to despair. Walpurgis Night cannot establish its view of reality and ends up only interrupting the tragedy and distracting both Faust and the audience from Margaret’s plight. The scene distracts Faust from Margaret’s plight. The scene diverts the audience from the tragedy. The scene’s alternative perspective finds expression in the tragedy as Faust’s ethic of individualism. But because the Walpurgis Night cannot establish itself permanently, it remains an interruption of the tragedy that distracts attention from its significance.

13 Mephistopheles and the Walpurgis Night distract Faust from Margaret’s plight. FAUST. Mephisto, do you see a pale and lovely child, far away and quite alone? She is gliding slowly from her place; she appears to move with fettered feet. I must confess, it seems to me that she resembles my dear Gretchen. MEPHISTOPHELES. Leave that be! It bodes no good to anyone. It is a lifeless magic shape, an idol; it is unwise to meet it anywhere. Its rigid stare congeals the blood of men so that they nearly turn to stone. You’ve heard of the Medusa, I suppose. FAUST. Now I see a dead girl’s eyes which were never closed by loving hands. That is the breast which Gretchen yielded me, the blessed body I enjoyed. MEPHISTOPHELES. You are too gullible, you fool! It’s make-believe! To all she seems their own beloved. (4183-4200, p. 379) Faust is reminded of Gretchen. But Mephistopheles turns Faust’s attention away from her, diverting him with the Walpurgis-Night’s Dream.

14 Faust sees the Walpurgis Night afterwards as a harmful diversion. FAUST. In prison! In irremediable misery! Given over to evil spirits and to the unfeeling who presume to dispense justice! And meanwhile you soothe me with stale, insipid diversions, hide her ever-growing anguish from me, and let her perish without help and without hope. (Gloomy Day – Field, p. 399) Faust blames Mephistopheles for distracting him from Margaret with the Walpurgis Night.

15 Goethe’s Faust establishes a new understanding of tragedy in which the hero must accept the violent consequences of action. 1.The comic interludes use satire to criticize the Catholic church, academic learning, and bourgeois morals. 2.The tragedy arises because Faust must experience the most extreme consequences of his individualist stance. 1.Mephistopheles spurs Faust’s individualist action. 1.Mephistopheles promotes an ethic of individualist action against both a community ethic and a static individualism. 1.Mephistopheles threatens Faust’s goals by tempting him with empty activity. 2.Mephistopheles satirizes Faust’s feelings of unity with nature. 2.Mephistopheles repeatedly spurs Faust on to action with Margaret. 1.Faust is unsure whether to continue the relationship with Margaret. 2.Mephistopheles prods Faust to return to Margaret instead of deluding himself with the Earth Spirit. 3.Mephistopheles tempts Faust to return to Margaret. 2.But Mephistopheles also forces Faust to face the violent consequences of his actions. 1.Mephistopheles carries out Faust’s wishes in a way that maximizes the accompanying violence. 2.Faust seeks to push the guilt for the bad consequences onto Mephistopheles. 3.But Faust was always the one who made the final decisions that led to violence.

16 Mephistopheles threatens Faust’s goals by tempting him with empty activity. Mephistopheles praises science and reason over trickery and magic. He recognizes Faust’s preference for striving rather than pleasure. He wants to make Faust’s activity into something meaningless and focused on sensual satisfaction. MEPHISTOPHELES (in FAUST’s gown). If once you scorn all science and all reason, the highest strength that dwells in man, and through trickery and magic arts abet the spirit of dishonesty, then I’ve got you unconditionally— then destiny endowed him with a spirit that hastens forward, unrestrained, whose fierce and overhasty drive leapfrogs headlong over earthly pleasures. I’ll drag him through the savage life, through the wasteland of mediocrity. Let him wriggle, stiffen, wade through slime, let food and drink be dangled by his lips to bait his hot, insatiate appetite. He will vainly cry for satisfaction, and had he not by then become the devil’s, he still would perish miserably. (1851-67, pp. 143-45)

17 Mephistopheles satirizes Faust’s feelings of unity with nature. FAUST. Can you conceive what new and vital power I draw from living in the wilderness? If you could, I think you’d be devilish enough to envy me my happiness. MEPHISTOPHELES. What supernatural delight! To lie in nightly dew on mountain heights, to encompass earth and heaven in a rapture and inflate one’s being to a godlike state, to burrow to the core, inflamed by premonition, to feel six days of God’s creation in your bosom, enjoy in pride and strength I know what not what, and flooding all in loving ecstasy, the son of earth is canceled out— then comes the lofty intuition— (Makes an obscene gesture) to end in … Well, I’ll keep it to myself. (3278-92, pp. 295-97) Faust obtains a feeling of power by communing with nature. Mephistopheles pokes fun at Faust, treating his feeling of power as a conceited, self- indulgent delusion.

18 Faust is unsure whether to continue the relationship with Margaret. FAUST. And you, what led you to this chamber? How deeply you are stirred! Your heart is heavy, and you feel so out of place. Wretched Faust! Who are you anyway? Am I moving in a magic haze? I came to seize the crassest pleasure, and now I dissolve in dreams of love! Are we the sports of every whim of the weather? And should she enter at this very moment, how you would rue your crude transgression! Then Faust would suddenly be very small and languish helpless at her feet. MEPPHISTOPHELES (entering). Quick, my friend! I see her coming down below. FAUST. Away from here, and never to return! (2717-2730, p. 235) But Faust seems to feel not just guilty, but also has a fear of weakness. Faust has misgivings about entering Margaret’s room.

19 MEPHISTOPHELES. I have a little jewel box, not very heavy, which I acquired at another place. Relax, and put it in the wardrobe there; I swear she’ll be beside herself with pleasure. I enclosed some little trinkets which were meant for someone other. But a child’s a child and a game is a game. FAUST. I don’t know—shall I? MEPHISTOPHELES. Don’t ask questions! You mean to keep the trinkets for yourself? May I advise Your Lustfulness to use the happy daylight hours and spare me further toil and trouble! (2731-42, pp. 235- 37) Though Faust hesitates, Mephistopheles urges him on to pursue Margaret. Mephistopheles spurs Faust on to action with Margaret.

20 Mephistopheles prods Faust to return to Margaret instead of deluding himself with the Earth Spirit. MEPHISTOPHELES. Once for all, you are most welcome to the fun of self-delusion now and then; you cannot keep it up for very long; you’re driven on before you know, and should it last, you’re ground to bits by madness, torment, or sheer horror. Enough of this, your sweetheart sits at home, and to her the world seems close and dreary. (3297-3304, p. 297) Mephistopheles sums up Faust’s experience with the Earth Spirit as self- delusion that ends in madness, torment and horror. He ends by prodding Faust to return to Margaret. In urging Faust to return to Margaret, is Mephistopheles opposed to God or is he fulfilling God’s purposes?

21 Mephistopheles tempts Faust to return to Margaret. MEPHISTOPHELES. Now she’s cheerful, but mostly she is sad, now her tears are streaming down, and then she’s calm again, it seems, and always, always loving you. FAUST. You snake! MEPHISTOPHELES (aside). Here now! So I’ve trapped you! FAUST. Get away from me, you cursed fiend, and never speak her blessed name! Lash not again my tortured senses to lust for her whom I adore. (3320-29, p. 299) In order to protect her, Faust tries to avoid going back to Margaret, but Mephistopheles tempts him to return to her

22 Mephistopheles carries out Faust’s wishes in a way that maximizes the accompanying violence. … provides a sleeping potion for Margaret’s mother, but then she dies. … defends Faust against Valentine, who Faust kills. … provides Margaret for Faust, but she is cast into misery and death. … saves Faust from prison, but Margaret is left to be executed. Mephistopheles… Faust must experience the most extreme consequences of his individualist stance.

23 Faust seeks to push the guilt for the bad consequences onto Mephistopheles. Gloomy Day – Field FAUST. Given over to evil spirits and to the unfeeling who presume to dispense justice! And meanwhile you soothe me with stale, insipid diversions, hide her ever-growing anguish from me, and let her perish without help and without hope. (p. 399) MEPHISTOPHELES. The blood-guilt by your hand still lies upon the town. Avenging spirits hover over the site of the murder, lying in wait for the returning killer. FAUST. That too from you? A world of murder and death upon your monstrous head! (pp. 401-403) Faust blames Mephistopheles for diverting him from Margaret’s suffering during the Walpurgis Night. Faust blames Mephistopheles for the murder of Valentine.

24 But Faust was always the one who made the final decisions that led to violence. Gloomy Day—Field FAUST. Save her! Or else beware! The most dreadful curse on you for ages! MEPHISTOPHELES. I cannot undo the bonds of the Avenger, nor draw back the bolts.— Save her!—Who was it that plunged her into ruin? I or you? Mephistopheles insists that he only provided the means for violence and that Faust is the one who is ultimately responsible for making the decisions.

25 1.The comic interludes use satire to criticize the Catholic church, academic learning, and bourgeois morals. 2.The tragedy arises because Faust must experience the most extreme consequences of his individualist stance. 3.Faust’s decision to continue on his path sets up a new understanding of tragic conflict. 1.In order to remain true to the principle of individual development, Faust must accept the violent consequences of his actions. 1.In “Forest and Cavern,” Faust must decide to either despair and give up his efforts, or to recommence those efforts anew. 2.Faust decides that he cannot let Margaret’s stasis prevent him from continuing on his path. 2.The two primary ways to interpret the cause of the tragedy both lead toward a pro-individualist conclusion. The critique of Christianity imagines an alternative social order based on the individual that could turn the tragedy into comedy. –Christian principles create a delusion of imprisonment for Margaret that drives her to kill her child and prevents her from leaving with Faust. –Faust’s individualism could establish a new basis for happiness. –For Faust to stay with Margaret would be to succumb to the same Christian oppression. The pro-community interpretation of the tragedy must work against the structure of the drama. –Faust’s individualist striving is itself a diabolical and destructive goal. –But this goal of striving is precisely the main innovation of the drama. Goethe establishes a new form of tragedy in which Faust’s striving can only continue at the cost of destroying Margaret and her family. –Faust seduces Margaret as part of his own experience of the world. –Faust’s development cannot go on without an accompanying violence to community values. –Faust must have the courage to continue on his path in spite of the damage it causes to others. 3.Goethe’s drama establishes a new kind of tragedy in which the hero is not the one to suffer but the one who inflicts suffering as a consequence of action. 1.Christopher Marlowe’s Faust is a tragic figure because he pays for his arrogance with death and damnation. 2.Goethe’s Faust escapes death and damnation by reaffirming his individual striving in spite of the suffering it causes. Goethe’s Faust establishes a new understanding of tragedy in which the hero must accept the violent consequences of action.

26 In “Forest and Cavern,” Faust must decide to either despair and give up his efforts, or to recommence those efforts anew. MEPHISTOPHELES. When you pinheads find no place to go, you think at once, “It is the end!” Long live he who stands his ground courageously! Till now I’d thought you pretty well en-deviled. I can think of nothing tawdrier in the world than a devil who despairs. (3368-73) Mephistopheles insists on the courage needed to keep striving rather than despairing. MEPHISTOPHELES. Now she’s cheerful, but mostly she is sad, now her tears are streaming down, and then she’s calm again, it seems, and always, always loving you. FAUST. You snake! MEPHISTOPHELES. Here now! So I’ve trapped you! FAUST. Get away from me, you cursed fiend, and never speak her blessed name! Lash not again my tortured senses to lust for her whom I adore. (3320-24) In order to protect Margaret, Faust resists the temptation to continue his relationship with her.

27 Faust decides that he cannot let Margaret’s stasis prevent him from continuing on his path. FAUST. When in her arms, I need no joys of Heaven. The warmth I seek is burning in her breast. Do I not every moment feel her woe? Am I not the fugitive, the homeless roamer, an aimless, rootless, monstrous creature, roaring like a cataract from crag to crag, madly racing for the final precipice? And she along the banks with childlike, simple sense, there in her cabin on an alpine meadow, with all the homey enterprises encompassed by her tiny world. And I whom God abhors, I was not satisfied to seize the rocks, and crush them into pieces. It was her life, her peace I had to ruin. You, Satan, claimed this sacrifice! Help, Satan, help abridge the time of fear! What has to happen, let it happen now! Let her fate come crashing down on mine, let us both embrace perdition! (3345-65, pp. 301-303) Faust describes himself as someone who is in continual movement He describes Margaret as someone in stasis. He blames himself and Satan for ruining her peace. Faust chooses to continue on his path in spite of the destruction it will cause. The drama requires Faust to reject guilt and moral principles to guide his actions. He forgets past crimes in order to be able to continue on his path.

28 The critique of Christianity imagines an alternative social order based on the individual that could turn the tragedy into comedy. Christianity as cause of tragedy: The power of Christian principles over Margaret drives her to despair. –Christian principles create a delusion of imprisonment for Margaret that drives her to kill her child and prevents her from leaving with Faust. –Faust’s individualism could establish a new basis for happiness. –For Faust to stay with Margaret would be to succumb to the same Christian oppression.

29 The pro-community interpretation of the tragedy must work against the structure of the drama. Faust’s striving can only continue at the cost of destroying Margaret and her family. –Faust seduces Margaret as part of his own individual development in the world. –Faust’s development cannot go on without an accompanying violence to community values. –Pro-individual: Faust must have the courage to continue on his path in spite of the damage it causes to others. –Pro-community: Faust’s individualist striving is itself a diabolical and destructive goal. But this goal of striving is precisely the main innovation of the drama.

30 Goethe establishes a new form of tragedy in which Faust’s striving can only continue at the cost of destroying Margaret and her family. Faust seduces Margaret as part of his own experience of the world. Faust’s development cannot go on without an accompanying violence to community values. Faust must have the courage to continue on his path in spite of the damage it causes to others.

31 Goethe’s drama establishes a new kind of tragedy in which the hero is not the one to suffer but the one who inflicts suffering as a consequence of action. Christopher Marlowe’s Faust is a tragic figure because he pays for his arrogance with death and damnation. Trades his soul for the devil’s service. Suffers by being taken to hell at the end of the play. Goethe’s Faust is tragic because he must reaffirm his individual striving in spite of the suffering it causes. Wager allows him to escape at the end of the play. Others suffer for his actions. Two visions of tragedy


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