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Theatre / Faust

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Faust and Mephistopheles, by Harry Clarke (1925)

Faust is a dramatic duology by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and an adaptation of the 16th century folk legend about the eponymous sorcerer that supposedly sold his soul to the devil.

The first part is far better known than the second.

  • Faust: First Part of the Tragedy (1808): Faust makes a deal with the demon Mephistopheles and engages in a love affair with the innocent Gretchen which has dire consequences for the latter.
  • Faust: Second Part of the Tragedy (1832): More incredible adventures of Faust and Mephistopheles, until Faust grows old and Mephisto makes ready to collect his prize.

Tropes present in both parts of Faust:

  • Big Bad: Mephistopheles, AKA Satan, is responsible for everything with his manipulation of Faust.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Mephistopheles openly addresses the audience in several scenes and even inserts some occasional meta commentary on himself as a mythological/fictional character.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mephistopheles, often at the expense of the humans that surround him. It doesn't come across very well in some translations, but when it does it renders him by far the most entertaining part of the play.
  • Deal with the Devil: Though Faust's contract with Mephistopheles here is a wager, not a trade.
  • Familiar: As his part of his deal with Faust, Mephistopheles becomes Faust's permanent companion and servant. In other words, he is Faust's familiar.
  • The Ingenue: Gretchen, the innocent young girl whose love eventually plays a part in redeeming Faust.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: This is generally one of the earliest works to portray the devil this way - a suave, intelligent, and cultivated Deadpan Snarker. One of his first lines calls attention to how sharply he's dressed.
  • Lighter and Softer: The most famous version of the Faust story ends with Faust's salvation rather than damnation and fall into Hell.
  • Protagonist Title: Ironically, many theatrical posters and book covers of Faust feature Mephistopheles and not the main character who is, you know, right there in the title.
  • The Remake: Goethe certainly knew Doctor Faustus and to a degree the duology is a remake of the Marlowe play.
  • Satan: While in previous embodiments of the Faust tale Mephistopheles was a devil, Goethe suggests that he may just be the Devil.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Goethe is the first author that has Faust go to Heaven.

Alternative Title(s): Faust A Tragedy