The first (and much better known) part of the Faust
duology by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
about the eponymous sorcerer and his deal with the devil.
Mephistopheles, a powerful spirit from down below, pays a visit to Heaven
to have a chit-chat with God
. Disagreeing on whether humanity's struggle for knowledge is futile or not, their exchange of views ends in a bet: Mephistopheles has free rein to tempt the eminent scholar Faust to stray from the path to salvation destined to him; the bet will be won if he succeeds in subjecting Faust to eternal damnation.
Down below on Earth, the immensely learned Faust is moping lonely in his study. All his learning has only left him disillusioned, nor has it earned him material comfort. Not even his commitment to magic has revealed him the answers he seeks. Thus, Mephistopheles has little trouble in persuading him to a deal: Mephistopheles will serve him on Earth, but should Faust ever experience a moment of perfect contentment, he will have lost his soul to Mephistopheles and presently follow him to Hell
Faust approves and signs the contract with his blood. And off they go on an uncurbed tour to debauchery, in the course of which Faust gets rejuvenated and the hots for the innocent young Gretchen. Faust pressures Mephistopheles to get Gretchen into bed with him, which proves tricky business as Gretchen is annoyingly pious. Yet Mephistopheles realizes that Gretchen may just be the key that could win him the wager and Faustís soul.
Goethe continued the storyline in Faust II
24 years later.
Tropes in Faust I:
- Armor-Piercing Question: "Now tell me, how do you take religion?" Asked by Gretchen to Faust. Having made a Deal with the Devil, he has a hard time answering it. Became so influential that "Gretchenfrage" entered the German vocabulary.
- The Bet: Twice — God's wager with Mephistopheles, and Mephistopheles' with Faust.
- Blood Oath: The contract is sealed with a drop of Faust's blood.
- Deal with the Devil
- Fountain of Youth: Faust is permanently rejuvenated by a magic potion brewed by a witch.
- God: As "The Lord", he has a speaking role in scene 1.
- Heaven: Setting of the very first scene.
- Homage: The Witches' Kitchen and Walpurgis Night scenes contain various allusions to Shakespeare's Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
- The Ingenue: Gretchen — at least the way she starts out.
- Off With The Head: Gretchen is beheaded for the murder of her child.
- Red Right Hand: Parodied. The Witch is surprised that she cannot see Mephistopheles' cloven foot. Mephistopheles explains that he has been using false calves for a long time. He does have a limp, though, as noticed by one of the patrons in Auerbach's Cellar.
- Show Within a Show: "A Walpurgis Night's Dream, or Oberon's and Titania's Golden Wedding", a farcical play enacted by the spirits on Mount Brocken during Walpurgis Night.
- Summoning Ritual: In Act I, Faust summons the mighty Earth-Spirit.
- Vampire Invitation: Mephistopheles can only enter Faust's study after Faust has invited him to come in three times.
- Wicked Witch: One that brews the rejuvenation potion, and a whole army of them celebrating Walpurgis Night on Brocken.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Wagner, Faust's naive young assistant.