Faust, Part Two
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Faust: The Second Part of the Tragedy (German: Faust. Der Tragödie zweiter Teil), is the second part of Goethe's Faust. It was published in 1832, the year of Goethe's death. Because of its complexity in form and content, it is usually not read in German schools, although the first part commonly is. Appreciation of the work often requires an extensive knowledge of Greek mythology, and it is arguably one of the most difficult works of world literature.
Only part of Faust I is directly related to the legend of Johann Faust, which dates to at latest the beginning of the 16th century (thus preceding Marlowe's play). The "Gretchen" subplot, although now the most widely known episode of the Faust legend, was of Goethe's own invention. In Faust II, the legend (at least in a version of the 18th century, which came to Goethe's attention) already contained Faust's marriage with Helen and an encounter with an Emperor. But certainly Goethe deals with the legendary material very freely in both parts.
- Graceful area. Faust, bedded on flowery turf, weary, restless, seeking sleep. Dusk. Ghost circle, floating moves, graceful little figures.
The first act opens with an appeal by Ariel to forgive Faust and ease the cares of his suffering.
- Hall of the Throne. State Council in anticipation of the emperor. Trumpets. Servants of all kinds, beautifully dressed, step forward. The emperor ascends the throne, to his right the astrologer.
The first act sees Mephistopheles (playing the role of a fool) saving the imperial finances of the Emperor — and so the Holy Roman Empire — by introducing the use of paper money instead of gold to encourage spending (and economic recovery).
- Spacious room with side chambers, decorated and dressed up for the masquerade.
This is by far the most extensive section of the first act, describing the Florentine carnival from the perspective of Goethe, above all based on Antonio Francesco Grazzini's Tutti i Trifoni (1559) — a collection of contemporary "songs and hard lifts". A parade of Florentine notables, including Dante and Gianni Schicchi, pass by.
- Lustgarten, morning sun. Faust, Mephistopheles, decent, not remarkable, according to custom, dressed, and both knees exposed.
The "Emperor of Thumb" (to use a devilish term of Mephistopheles) describes how much he enjoyed the recent celebrations, and wants more "dergleichen Scherze" (5988). The Emperor appears and blesses the newly introduced paper money from Mephisto, which is adorned with pictures of Simon Magus. The Emperor begins to understand its meaning and to squander it, as do his advisors. Goethe here satirizes the introduction of paper money during the French Revolution, with various advisors possibly representing Danton, Sieyès and other figures.
- Dark gallery. Faust. Mephistopheles.
Faust enters the "realm of the mothers" — variously described as the depths of the psyche or the womb — in order to bring back the "ideal form" of beauty for the Emperor's delight. In this case, the ideal forms are Helen of Troy and her lover Paris. Faust summons their spirits from Hades, but the emperor and the male members of his court criticize Paris's appearance, while the women of the court criticize Helen's appearance. Faust falls in love with Helen. In a fit of jealously toward Paris, who is now abducting Helen, Faust destroys the illusion and the act ends in darkness and tumult.
Mephistopheles transports the unconscious Faust into his old study. Mephistopheles, donning Faust's robe once again, resumes his conversation with the freshman, who is now a cynical baccalaurus. The Homunculus, an artificial human being created by Wagner, Faust's former famulus, by means of an alchemical process, leads Faust and Mephistopheles to the "Classical Walpurgisnacht", where they encounter gods and monsters from Greek antiquity. Faust, still searching for Helen, is led by the sybil Manto into the Underworld. Mephistopheles, meanwhile, meets the Phorkyads or Phorcydes (another name for the Graeae) three hideous hags who share one tooth and one eye between them, and he disguises himself as one of them. Guided by the sea-god Proteus, the Homunculus is initiated into the process of becoming fully human.
The third act begins with Helen's arrival at the palace of Menelaus in Sparta, accompanied by women, who, as in Classical drama, constitute the chorus. The hideous Phorkyas appears at the hearth, and warns Helen that Menelaus means to sacrifice her and her attendants. Distraught at this new knowledge, Helen implores Phorkyas to save them. Phorkyas transports Helen and the chorus to Faust's fortress, where Helen and Faust declare their love for each other. After defeating Menelaus' army, Faust proclaims the pastoral beauty of the Arcadian countryside.
The scene changes in time and space: a range of rocky caverns, with a shadowy grove extending to the foot of the rocks. Phorkyas, now Faust and Helen's attendant, explains to the newly-woken chorus that during the past interval Faust and Helen have had a spirited son named Euphorion, who charms all with his beauty and gift for music. The wild Euphorion, becoming increasingly bold in his flight, falls to his death (in allusion to Icarus), whereupon the sorrowful Helen disappears in a mist to Hades (in allusion to the legend of Orpheus). The chorus of women, undesirous of joining their mistress in the Underworld, revert to nature, which they extol in songs of praise. As the act ends, Phorkyas is revealed to be Mephistopheles in disguise.
In the fourth act, Faust returns to the Emperor, who is at war with a rival Emperor. With the help of Mephistopheles' ordered ranks of Daemons they achieve victory.
An indefinite interval of time has passed since the end of the previous act, and Faust is now an old but powerful man favored by the king. Using dikes and dams to push back the sea, Faust has built a castle on the reclaimed land. Upon seeing the hut of an old peasant couple (Baucis and Philemon) and a nearby chapel, Faust becomes irritated that these two structures do not belong to him, and orders to have them removed. Mephistopheles overinterprets Faust's orders by murdering the old couple. The personification of Care breathes upon Faust's eyes, and he becomes blind. Upon disclosing his plans to better the lives of his subjects, motivated perhaps out of guilt, he recognizes the moment of sheer bliss which he would seek to prolong and drops dead. Mephistopheles believes Faust has lost his wager and tries to claim his soul. Angels suddenly appear, dropping rose-petals on the demons, who flee from the burning petals. Mephistopheles, however, stands his ground, and, under the aphrodisiac influence of the roses, lusts after the angels, who meanwhile make off with Faust's soul.
The scene abruptly changes to a wilderness inhabited by holy anchorites: "Mountain-gorges, Forest, Rock, Desert". Pater Profundus discloses the parable of nature, which is a harbinger of divine love. The angels bearing Faust's soul appear in heaven. After the enraptured Doctor Marianus extols the Eternal Feminine, the virgin Mary, Mater Gloriosa, appears from on high. Three biblical holy women, Magna Peccatrix (the Great Sinneress, Luke 7:36), Mulier Samaritana (the Samaritan woman, John 4), and Maria Aegyptiaca (Acta Sanctorum), plead for Faust's soul, while Una Paenitentium (previously Gretchen), also pleading for grace, offers to lead the reborn Faust into the higher spheres of heaven. Mater Gloriosa grants her wish.
The Chorus Mysticus ends the drama:
- All that must disappear
- Is but a parable;
- What lay beyond us, here
- All is made visible;
- Here deeds have understood
- Words they were darkened by;
- Eternal Womanhood
- Draws us on high.
- Gustav Mahler's Eighth Symphony sets the text of the last scene of Faust II as its concluding movement.