Faust (Parts 1 and 2) | Study Guide

Goethe

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Faust (Parts 1 and 2) | Part 1, Scenes 5–6 | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Scene 5: Auerbach's Cellar in Leipzig

A group of students—Frosch, Brander, Siebel, and Altmayer—are drinking, singing, and complaining about their love lives in Auerbach's Cellar. They notice two strangers enter—Faust and Mephistopheles—and speculate on who they are. Mephistopheles invites the students to join him and Faust. With his jokes and songs, Mephistopheles quickly becomes the life of the party. He asks each person what he wants to drink; each wants something different. Then he bores holes in the table beside each of them, having them plug the holes with wax. Altmayer expresses skepticism all the while. Mephistopheles recites a few lines about wine and instructs them to pull the plugs but not to spill any. Wine pours into their glasses, and they all drink copiously. Faust calls them "nincompoops" and wants to leave. Just then Siebel spills some wine, and it bursts into flame. When Mephistopheles quells the flames with words, calling it "a pinch ... of the purgatorial fire," the young men pick a fight with him. When they draw their knives, Mephistopheles casts a spell on them that makes them think they're in a grape arbor. They start plucking at each other's noses, thinking them grapes. Mephistopheles ends the spell, and he and Faust vanish, leaving the drinkers in confusion and Altmayer a believer in miracles.

Part 1, Scene 6: Witch's Kitchen

Faust and Mephistopheles arrive at a witch's house to get a potion that will make Faust young again. The Witch is not home, but a family of marmosets, or small monkeys, is there. The female ape is at the fire, stirring a cauldron of soup. Faust complains about having to go to "an ancient hag" for help, but Mephistopheles say she's the only option if he doesn't want to get young again by taking a more active profession like digging in the fields for decades. While Mephistopheles chats with the apes, Faust is looking in the mirror, where he sees a beautiful young woman. Mephistopheles says he can get Faust the real thing. The "she-ape" has stopped stirring, and the cauldron boils over, shooting a flame up the chimney just as the Witch is coming down it. She is angry, and stirs the pot viciously, flinging fire across the apes and her visitors. Mephistopheles has to identify himself. She hasn't recognized the devil without his "cloven foot" and his "two ravens." He tells her to get Faust a goblet of her "famous liquor." She makes quite a show of casting her spell, which Faust finds ridiculous and unconvincing. Finally the Witch pours a bowl of her brew, and Faust drinks it. He wants to take another look at the girl in the mirror before they leave, but Mephistopheles says they have to make sure the potion works. After that, he promises Faust: "Soon yours the delight outdelights all things." He tells the Witch he'll see her on Walpurgis Night.

Analysis

Mephistopheles is the star of the scene in Auerbach's Cellar. Faust has only one line. It is Mephistopheles who interacts with the students, first partying with them but later terrifying and baffling them. For the devil, it is likely this scene is a learning experience. He brings Faust there for some "diverting company" and "gaiety," but finds that Faust is merely disgusted with the antics of the young drinkers. Readers and audiences, though, learn something more about Mephistopheles himself. He proves he has supernatural powers and overwhelming control over people and objects. However, he never uses these powers to directly influence Faust's emotions and so win their bet. This indicates that he is honorable in his way and wants to—and believes he can—win his bets with Faust and the Lord honestly. Nevertheless, he is not above cajoling Faust into drinking the Witch's brew in Scene 6. It might be going against the spirit of the bets to spell Faust himself, but Mephistopheles considers it perfectly fair to convince Faust to accept spells and potions from others.

Goethe's depiction of the students is doubtless drawn from his own experiences and observations. The way they bicker and joke with one another rings true. In fact, Auerbach's Cellar, the setting of Scene 5, is a real place. As a young student in Leipzig in the 1760s, Goethe himself had spent many an hour there. There are paintings on the wall of Faust talking with the students and riding a barrel—although in the scene, Altmayer says it was Mephistopheles who rode the barrel. Today Auerbachs Keller bills itself as the fifth best-known restaurant in the world. It opened in 1525 and is Germany's second-oldest restaurant.

The Witch is the stereotypical old hag, ugly and ill tempered. She lives with her familiars, but they are not the usual domestic animals; instead, they are marmosets—very exotic fare for Germany. Their jokes and antics add unexpected comedy to a frightening setting. Since witches are supposed to be close associates of the devil, it must have surprised audiences that the Witch doesn't recognize Mephistopheles as soon as she spies him. But that is amusingly explained and adds to the humor of the scene. Another humorous aspect is Faust's reaction to the mirror, which is going on while Mephistopheles interacts with the apes. In some ways, Scene 6 is like Scene 5 in that Faust's role is minor. Although he speaks more than once, Mephistopheles, the apes, and the Witch do most of the talking. And again, Faust suggests leaving because he doesn't like the company. Mephistopheles is the much more amiable of the two men.

The theme of faith comes up again in Scene 6. Faust finds the Witch's chant about numbers ridiculous, but Mephistopheles says he knows "the book, it's all like that." He goes on to say, "a thoroughgoing paradox ... Bemuses fools and wise men equally" and gives the example of "Three-in-One and One-in-Three"—a reference to the Trinity.

Mephistopheles addresses his final words in Scene 6 directly to the audience: "With that stuff in him, old Jack will/Soon see a Helen in every Jill." This is a reference to the mythical Helen of Troy, considered the greatest beauty of classical Greece. Mephistopheles uses the name metaphorically in this sentence, but it also foreshadows Faust's marriage to Helen of Troy in Part 2.

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