The Individual and the Community in the Gretchen Story David Pan Humanities Core Course Winter 2012, Lecture 3
FAUST. Be not afraid that I might break this pact! The sum and essence of my striving is the very thing I promise you. I had become too overblown, while actually I only rank with you. Ever since the mighty spirit turned from me, Nature kept her doorway closed. The threads of thought are torn to pieces, and learning has become repugnant. Let in the throes of raging senses seething passions quench my thirst! In never lifted magic veils let every miracle take form! Let me plunge into the rush of passing time, into the rolling tide of circumstance! Then let sorrow and delight, frustration or success, occur in turn as happenstance; restless action is the state of man. (1741-1759, pp. 135-37) Faust’s promise to never be satisfied is the “sum and essence” of his striving as an individual. Faust imagines a merging of individual ideal and worldly reality through human action in society. He accepts that he cannot rule over nature. He rejects thought and learning. He embraces action and wants to immerse himself in the passions and circumstances of the human world.
STRUCTURE OF FAUST • WALPURGIS NIGHT • Walpurgis Night • Walpurgis-Night’s Dream PRELUDE IN THE THEATER PROLOGUE IN HEAVEN • FAUST STORY • Night • Before the Gate • Faust’s Study • Auerbach’s Cellar in Leipzig • Witch’s Kitchen • GRETCHEN STORY • A Street • Evening • Promenade • The Neighbor’s House • A Street • Martha’s Garden • A Summer Cabin • Forest and Cavern • Gretchen’s Room • Martha’s Garden • At the Well • By the Ramparts • Night • Cathedral • GRETCHEN • STORY • Gloomy Day • – Field • Night • – Open Field • Dungeon DEDICATION Act 5: Burial Act 3: Helen Story Act 1: Emperor Story Act 5: Mountain gorges Act 4: Counter-Emperor Story Act 2: Classical Walpurgis Night Act 5: Baucis and Philemon Story Faust II Faust I
The Bourgeois Tragic Drama • Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, • Emilia Galotti (1772) • A prince tries to capture a bourgeois daughter in order to make her into his mistress. • The daughter’s father kills her at her request so that the prince cannot capture and seduce her. • Heinrich Leopold Wagner, • The Child Murderess (1776) • A bourgeois daughter is seduced by an aristocratic officer. • Fearing her father’s condemnation, she flees her home when she becomes pregnant. • She kills her child in her despair over her situation and is condemned to death. The conflicts of these dramas focus on the formation and defense of bourgeois morality as an alternative to the licentiousness of the aristocracy.
Goethe alters the bourgeois tragic drama to shift the perspective from the community to the individual. • The story is told from the perspective of the seducer. • Fathers are absent, and individuals must decide for themselves. • The class conflict is overshadowed by the conflict between Faust’s dynamic, striving character and Margaret’s static attachment to her family and community. Bourgeois tragic dramaGoethe’s Faust Perspective Role of Fathers Role of Community • The story is told from the perspective of the daughter. • The moral severity of bourgeois fathers is central for the action. • The daughter’s situation involves a defense of bourgeois families against aristocratic excesses. The problem in Faust I is not the status of the community but the moral decisions of individuals.
Faust ‘s response to the “Gretchen question.” Faust is concerned more with worldly phenomena than with a personified God. The All-Enfolding, All-Sustaining, does He not uphold and keep you, me, Himself? Do you not see the vaulted skies above? Is our earth not firmly set below? Do not everlasting stars rise up to show their friendly light? Is my gaze not deeply locked in yours, and don’t you feel your being surging to your head and heart, weaving in perennial mystery invisibly and visibly in you? Fill your heart to overflowing, and when you feel profoundest bliss, then call it what you will: Good fortune! Heart! Love! or God! I have no name for it! Feeling is all; the name is sound and smoke, beclouding Heaven’s glow. (3438-58, pp. 309-11) God is one with creation. Feeling is the evidence for God. Feeling rather than the word becomes the source of authority. The name is not important.
Faust turns to the Earth Spirit, not God FAUST. You roam the ample world, my bustling spirit; how close I feel to you! SPIRIT. You’re like the spirit that you grasp. You’re not like me. (The SPIRIT vanishes.) FAUST (overwhelmed). Not your equal? Then whom do I resemble? I, the image of the godhead! And not your equal? (510-17, pp. 41-43) Faust does not seek material gain, but rather a god-like experience of the world and of nature. He has no means to achieve the power over nature that he seeks. Goethe, Johann Wolgang von. Faust and Erdgeist. 1810/12 or 1819. Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia, 31 January 2008. Web. 22 December 2010.
Faust’s motivations and justifications Address to Mephistopheles Address to Earth Spirit FAUST. Sublime Spirit, you gave me everything, gave me all I ever asked. Not in vain you turned your fiery countenance on me. You gave me glorious Nature for my kingdom, the strength to feel and to enjoy Her. (3217-21, p. 291) 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? (3347, p. 301) Feeling as highest justification
Words and Feelings FAUST: You'll always be a sophist and a liar! MEPHISTOPHELES: True enough; except I've peered a little deeper. For will you not, in words of great propriety befog poor Gretchen, come tomorrow, and swear your heart and soul belong to her? FAUST: An that with all my heart! MEPHISTOPHELES: That’s good of you! And then you’ll speak of faith and love eternal, of a single, overpowering urge— will that flow so easily from your heart? FAUST: Enough, I say it will.—When I am deeply stirred and through the raging tumult seek and grope in vain for name and speech, sweep through the world with all my senses, reach for the highest words that come to me, and the ardor in which I burn I call infinite, eternal fire— can that be called a devil’s game of lies? MEPHISTOPHELES: All the same, I’m right. FAUST: Listen now! Mark this well, I beg of you, and let me save my breath— Anyone intent on winning, if he but use his tongue, will win, But come, I’m tired of this idle chatter, for you have won your point, since what I do, I must. (3055-72, pp. 269-71) Mephistopheles points out that Faust will lie to Margaret about the eternal character of his love. Faust claims that passion can make his words true. Words are not truth but only rhetoric. Faust agrees to lie to achieve his goals.
Words and Feelings FAUST. Oh, do not tremble. Look into my eyes; let my hands which press your hands convey to you the inexpressible: to give oneself completely and to feel an ecstasy which must be everlasting! Everlasting!—the end would be despair. No—no end! no end! (MARGARET clasps his hands, frees herself, and runs off. FAUST stands for a moment in deep thought, then follows her.) (3188-94, p. 285) The focus of “everlasting” is not on a promise of marriage, but on how he describes his present feeling.
Goethe’s Faust is: A. a villain for the play and for us. (Faustbuch, Michael Jaeger) B. a villain for the play and a hero for us. (18th century Faust as farce) C. a hero for the play and for us. (Frederick Amrine, Astrida Tantillo) D. a hero for the play and a villain for us. (Alberto Destro) E. don’t understand the question.
Trajectory of Margaret’s development Individualism Gives her mother a sleeping potion to spend the night with Faust. Though she would like at this point to return to her community, they will not accept her. Feels guilty when she hears Lieschen criticize Barbara’s behavior. Hides 2nd jewelry box from her mother with Martha Continues with Faust even after he rejects the name of God. Kills her baby Seeks comfort from the Mater Dolorosa Has no father, but takes 1st jewelry box to her mother Hears Evil Spirit’s repetition of community opinions. Asks Faust about his belief in God. Chooses judgment over escape from prison Respect for Community
Margaret vs. Faust MARGARET. I dare not leave; for me there’s nothing more to hope. Why escape? I know they lie in wait for me. It’s misery to go begging, and with a guilty conscience too. It’s a misery to wander where I am not at home, and in the end they’ll come to hunt me down. (4544-49, pp. 417-19) FAUST. Let me plunge into the rush of passing time, into the rolling tide of circumstance! Then let sorrow and delight, frustration or success, occur in turn as happenstance; restless action is the state of man. (1754-59, p. 137) Sees his experiences in terms of his own continual movement through the world. Margaret sees her life as bounded by her surrounding community.
The Evil Spirit repeats to Margaret the condemnations from Valentine and Lieschen. VALENTINE. Once you said farewell to honor, you dealt my heart a heavy blow. (3772-73, p. 341) LIESCHEN. It stinks! Now she must eat and drink for two. (3548-49, p. 321) VALENTINE. You will hide in dismal nooks and corners among the cripples and the beggars, and even if our God forgive you in the end, you’ll still be damned on earth until you die! (3760-63, p. 341) VALENTINE. Even now I see the time when all the decent people of this town will turn, as from a festering cadaver, away from you, you slut! (3750-53, p. 339) EVIL SPIRIT. What misdeed is lodged in your heart? Do you pray for he soul of your mother, who through your doing passed to never-ending sleep? Whose blood stains your doorstep?— Is something not stirring and swelling beneath your heart, making itself and you afraid with stark foreboding? (3787-93, p. 343) EVIL SPIRIT. Hide! Hide! Yet sin and shame will not remain concealed. (3821-22, p. 345) EVIL SPIRIT. From you the blessed turn their faces. The pure recoil from offering their hand. Woe! (3828-32, p. 347)
Faust. Given over to evil spirits and to the unfeeling who presume to dispense justice! (Gloomy Day—Field, p. 399) Faust criticizes the way the townspeople persecute Margaret by means of their moral principles. His feelings of guilt are related, not to the transgression of moral principles from the community or the church, but to the practical consequences for Margaret. Faust. It was her life, her peace I had to ruin. (3360, p. 301)