I have heard about the legend of Faust before but never had the chance to read it. As destiny would have it, I recently stumbled upon Faust again, one of the works by Goethe (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe), the one that made him apparently famous in the literary world of then Europe.
For the past few days, piecemeal I’ve read and it is beautiful. My only regret is that I did not discover this gem before.
The tale of Faust is supposed to be Goethe’s greatest work into which he poured a lifetime of experience; the entire work took him his whole life and he finished the second part only a year before his demise. The literary work is written as a play (a poetical drama actually) and it portrays an interplay of religion, the supernatural, love, tragedy and the surreal. To give you an introduction about Faust, here’s a brief synopsis.
Faust is an old man, a sage or an alchemist, wise, learned and very pious. We see a conversation between God and Mephistopheles (satan) in which God remarks that Mephistopheles may try all he likes to tempt Faust; God is confident that Faust is too moral an individual to be tempted by anything. Mephistopheles sets to work, appearing to Faust and conversing with him. Faust is weary of life, and Mephistopheles is soon able to convince him that he could sample something more.
The story concerns the fate of Faust in his quest for the true essence of life. Frustrated with learning and the limits to his knowledge and power, he attracts the attention of the Devil (Mephistopheles), who agrees to serve Faust until the moment he attains the zenith of human happiness, at which point Mephistopheles may take his soul. Faust is pleased with the deal, as he believes the moment will never come.
In the first part, Mephistopheles leads Faust through experiences that culminate in a lustful and destructive relationship with an innocent and nubile woman named Gretchen. Gretchen and her family are destroyed by Mephistopheles’ deceptions and Faust’s desires and actions. The story ends in tragedy as Gretchen is saved and Faust is left in shame.
The second part begins with the spirits of the earth forgiving Faust (and the rest of mankind) and progresses into rich allegorical poetry. Faust and his devil pass through the world of politics and the world of the classical gods, and meet with Helen of Troy (the personification of beauty). Finally, having succeeded in taming the very forces of war and nature Faust experiences a single moment of happiness.
The devil Mephistopheles, trying to grab Faust’s soul when he dies, is frustrated as the Lord intervenes — recognizing the value of Faust’s unending striving.
This has been one of the most interesting drama’s I have ever read. It portrays one of the imminent weaknesses of the human kind; The quest for knowledge and the impossibility to attain enlightenment without the passion. And It punches in all that with philosophical poetry. Enough said. Go grab a copy now and enjoy it.
Download from Google for free.