[[caption-width-right:237:Faust, by Rembrandt]]

'''Faust''' is the central character of the archetypal story of a DealWithTheDevil. Though there were earlier stories of individuals bargaining with demons for magical power (such as Simon Magus, Cyprian, and Theophilus), it is the legend of an [[TheRenaissance early 16th century]] [[UsefulNotes/HolyRomanEmpire German]] scholar that has been the most frequent and profoundest inspiration for works of art on this theme.

The original seems to have been a John or George Sabellicus, born near the end of the 15th century, a ne'er-do-well con-man who passed himself off as a scholar and conjuror. There is some confusion as to whether ''Faust'' was his real surname or a pseudonym, and as to whether it was derived from Latin ''faustus'' (="lucky") or the German ''Faust'' (="fist"); he seems originally to have been described, not as a doctor, but a master of arts; there is even some doubt as to his given names ([[Creator/JohannWolfgangVonGoethe Goethe]] calls him neither ''Johannes'' or ''Georg'', but ''Heinrich'') or whether there might not have been more than one Faustus. Be all that as it may, he seems to have made a living by various snake-oil type schemes (one was for a depilatory that took off not only the client's beard, but "the skin and most of the flesh as well"), until he came to a bad end -- his body is said to have been found mutilated, sometime around the year 1540. Various magical manuals ascribed to Faust circulated the first quarter of the 16th century, at least one of which contains the name of a demon, "Mephostophiles" [''sic''].

The legend that he had sold his soul for magical powers, and had been torn to pieces by devils upon the expiration of the contract, seems to have sprung up immediately, spread by Lutheran preachers who used him as an Awful Example. The first surviving fictional account of his adventures was a chapbook that appeared in 1587, ''Historia von D. Johan. Fausten dem weitbeschreyten Zauberer und Schwartzkünstler'' ("History of Dr. Jno. Faust, the far-famed Wizard and Sorcerer").

In this or similar form the legend spread to England, where Creator/ChristopherMarlowe would embody it in ''[[Theatre/DoctorFaustus The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus]]'' (first published 1604, probably written ''c''. 1590). Marlowe suggests a more complicated figure than the mere seeker after wealth and pleasure presented in earlier versions; his play establishes Faustus as a great scholar, one who longs for Knowledge as well as Power, who turns to sorcery after he has already reached the limits of human science and philosophy. His Faustus vacillates more between God and the Devil than the simple character of the chapbook (his [[GoodAngelBadAngel Good and Evil Angels]] appearing bodily, though presumably not in miniature form a few inches above his shoulders, given the conditions of the Elizabethan stage); given several opportunities to repent, he nevertheless proves obdurate, and is duly haled off to Hell, leaving the Chorus to point out the {{Aesop}} that there are [[TheseAreThingsManWasNotMeantToKnow Some Things Man Was Not Meant To Know]].

Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, the story proved popular in Germany in the form of chapbooks and puppet plays, often incorporating a great deal of humor and spectacular effects. Certain episodes became standard: Faust summoning up Mephistopheles; Faust disputing with him on the nature of God and the universe; Mephistopheles mocking Faust's scholar-servant, Wagner; Faust gaining the love of Helen of Troy; Faust appearing at the court of the [[HolyRomanEmpire Emperor]]; Faust or Mephistopheles in invisible form playing pranks on UsefulNotes/ThePope; Faust being given the chance to repent and refusing; and, finally and inevitably, Faust being dragged off to Hell by devils on the expiration of his contract. A subsidiary episode, in which Faust demands marriage with a virtuous peasant girl and is refused by Mephistopheles on the grounds that marriage, being a sacrament and thus pleasing to God, is against the terms of the contract, would form the basis for the story of Margaret (Margarethe, Gretchen, Marguerite) in subsequent versions of the story.

The greatest embodiment of the story is probably [[Creator/JohannWolfgangVonGoethe Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's]] ''[[Theatre/{{Faust}} Faust: Eine Tragödie]]'' (begun ''c''. 1770). Published in two parts: the first (1808) tells the story of Faust's pact with Mephistopheles and his affair with the hapless Gretchen; the second (1832) recounts his union with Helen of Troy and the birth of Euphorion, the Spirit of Poetry, from this mating of northern Romanticism and Greek classicism. Despite the work's title, Goethe would seem to have been the first to have given the Faust story itself a happy ending (though earlier DealWithTheDevil stories had sometimes featured [[{{Jesus}} Christ]], the Virgin Mary, or some saint, tricking the devil out of his prey, often in an elaborate trial scene featuring a number of quite far-fetched legalistic quibbles) -- Faust is redeemed from Hell because he uses his magical power to ''serve'' his fellow men, rather than exploit them. Goethe also popularized the image of Mephistopheles as a DeadpanSnarker in red silk doublet and hose (leading to the modern "devil in tights" image); his devil is less an elemental spirit of pure Evil than a sort of universal cynic.

Most subsequent versions of the Faust story either base themselves on one of these two dramas or react against them. The character has been depicted by artists such as Rembrandt and Delacroix; and by composers such as Music/HectorBerlioz, Music/FranzLiszt, Music/CharlesGounod, Boïto and Creator/RichardWagner. Faust has also appeared in cinematic versions, such as Murnau's ''[[Film/{{Faust}} Faust: Eine deutsche Volkssage]]'' (1926) and Creator/JanSvankmajer's ''Faust'' (1994); while Goethe's version of the story inspired a musical adaptation in two linked albums from metal band Kamelot, ''Epica'' (2003) and ''The Black Halo'' (2005).

Not to be confused with animator Creator/LaurenFaust, [[VideoGame/GuiltyGear a certain baldheaded ex-homicidal doctor]], or the German experimental band.
!!Tropes associated with the Faust story in its various versions

* AllWomenAreLustful: Almost all the women lust after Mephistopheles in Goethe's ''Faust'', especially if they're witches. The attraction, however, is not mutual. In Marlowe's version, the only female presences are the spirit of Lust, Helen of Troy (who is presented as a succubus), and the pregnant Duchess.
* AlternateContinuity: Different authors have different takes on this story, including several that show Faust actually outsmarting the devil with whom he makes a pact.
** WholePlotReference: The essential story of ''Faust'', in particular the Marlowe and Goethe versions, has been lifted for dozens, if not hundreds, of works over the centuries. Modern examples include ''ComicBook/{{Spawn}}'', ''ComicBook/{{Preacher}}'', ''Anime/BlackButler'' and ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica'' (though the last isn't obvious at first). Also seen in the ''Manga/BlueExorcist'' anime- notice the name Mephistopheles.
* AltumVidetur: Various versions use Latin for Faust's spells.
* AnAesop: BeCarefulWhatYouWishFor.
* AntiHero: More or less, depending on how sympathetic the author is with Faust's dissatisfaction with the moral set-up of his world.
* BlackMagic: As in, derived from devils.
* CastFromLifespan: The price Faust has to pay for his magic.
* CelebrityIsOverrated: Depending on the author, can be the reason Faust makes his bargain -- or the reason he regrets it.
* TheDarkSideWillMakeYouForget: In many versions, Faust starts out with good intentions, which he gradually pays less and less attention to as he goes along -- even, in some versions, to the point of complete dehumanization.
* DealWithTheDevil: Pretty much the story's entire plot.
* {{Defictionalization}}: Up to the 18th century shady booksellers made a buck with weird [[{{Spellbook}} 'grimoires']] that supposedly were written by Faust, or contained his 'real' magic spells.
* DraggedOffToHell: The standard finale until Goethe came along.
* EarnYourHappyEnding: Despite being the story of a man who makes a DealWithTheDevil, being referred to as a tragedy, and being based on a story with a DownerEnding, Goethe's Faust is ultimately saved; the ending explicitly states that he earned his happy ending through his endless striving in his search for philosophical truth.
* EvilIsNotAToy: Faust's bargain generally involves a great deal of trouble, even if he eventually manages to wriggle out of it.
* EvilSoundsDeep: In musical adaptations, expect Mephistopheles to be a bass or baritone -- who at some point will most likely burst into a [[EvilLaugh HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA]]!
* FaustianRebellion: Trope namer.
* FlamingDevil: Mephistopheles is commonly characterized as latently or overtly homosexual in stage productions. Both Marlowe's and Goethe's versions of the story support these interpretations.
* AGodAmI: In some versions, Faust actually aspires to divinity.
* GoodAngelBadAngel: Some versions have good angels appear to debate with the demons.
* HistoricalDomainCharacter: Besides Faust himself, the [[HolyRomanEmpire Emperor]], usually Charles V, and UsefulNotes/ThePope, though he is rarely specified (Alexander VI and Julius II are possibilities).
* InCaseYouForgotWhoWroteIt: The work is never simply mentioned as ''Faust''. It is always ''Goethe's Faust''! Justified with so many adaptions though.
* InWithTheInCrowd: As a result of his bargain, Faust gets to hang with the Emperor and the Pope, not to mention Helen of Troy and {{Satan}}.
* KidWithTheLeash: Devils are at his beck and call...for a while.
* NobleDemon: Mephistopheles, in some versions.
* MundaneUtility: The all-powerful magician uses his magic to do things like draw wine from a table and play pranks on detractors.
* PopculturalOsmosis: C'mon, how many versions of the Faustian Bargain have ''you'' seen actually featuring a guy named Faust?
* RageAgainstTheHeavens: In some versions, Faust is driven to his course by his sense of God's cruelty and injustice to mankind.
* TheRenaissance: Naturally, the setting for the story.
* {{Satan}}: He and various associate devils will often show up to support Mephistopheles.
* SummoningRitual: Nearly every version will feature the scene in which Faust summons Mephistopheles -- and sometimes various other summoning scenes as well.
* SympathyForTheDevil: Mephistopheles, in several versions of the story, seems much more sympathetic -- and certainly more intelligent -- than the relatively blind and completely self-centered Faust. Being a demon, though, it could be his image...
* VillainsNeverLie: In Marlowe's version, Mephistopheles actually tries to talk Faust out of the deal, pointing out that the fact that he, Mephistopheles, a demon, really exists, suggests that God also really exists, and that Faust would, by implication, be making a horrible mistake. Faust replies that that does not logically follow, since just because one part of a story turns out to be true, it does not necessarily follow that the whole story is true. Mephistopheles concedes the point.