HomeLiterature Study GuidesFaust Parts 1 And 2Part 2 Act 1 Scenes 4 5 Summary

Faust (Parts 1 and 2) | Study Guide

Goethe

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Faust (Parts 1 and 2) | Part 2, Act 1, Scenes 4–5 | Summary

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Summary

Part 2, Act 1, Scene 4: A Pleasure Garden

Faust and Mephistopheles are chatting with the Emperor, who's very pleased with Faust's abilities. The Steward appears with the news that the empire's debts have all been paid. The Minister of War reports that the army has doled out part of the soldiers' back pay. The Treasurer has equally good news. Even the Chancellor is in good spirits. He appears with a promissory note for a thousand crowns secured by the "untold Treasure hidden in the earth/Of our Realm." The Emperor is shocked, saying his signature has been forged, but the Chancellor assures him that the Emperor himself signed it. Everyone has been paid off, and they all love the Emperor again. The Emperor is uneasy about issuing paper money without gold in hand to back it up, but Mephistopheles tells him paper money is much easier to get and use, and Faust assures him the ground below is full of gold. The Emperor gives Faust the job of finding it. The Emperor's Fool turns up; it turns out he fell down drunk, not dead. The Emperor gives him enough paper money to buy his own house and land.

Part 2, Act 1, Scene 5: A Dark Gallery

Together again, Faust accuses Mephistopheles of avoiding him. The Steward and the Chamberlain are insisting Faust use his powers to conjure Helen and Paris. Mephistopheles says it's not as easy to conjure Helen's ghost as it is paper money. The "old pagans" have "their own Hell," and only the goddesses known as "the Mothers," who live "outside of place [and] time," can get Helen out. Moreover, Mephistopheles can't approach them; Faust will have to do it. Mephistopheles gives Faust a key, saying it will lead him to the Mothers. Hearing the word "Mothers" disturbs Faust, but he has no idea why. Mephistopheles distracts him by talking about the task at hand. He confidently gives Faust directions to the underworld, and Faust sinks out of sight. Mephistopheles hopes the key will work and wonders, "Will he come back ... as he went?"

Analysis

In these two scenes, it becomes clear Mephistopheles is up to his old tricks. When the Emperor wants to be cautious about paper money, Mephistopheles talks him into accepting it. (Goethe himself knew that issuing paper money was an indication that a government was in bad shape. Act 1, Scene 4 can be understood perhaps as a criticism of the French Revolutionary Assembly, which issued more and more paper currency, which only made the country's financial situation worse.) Then the Fool appears. Apparently Mephistopheles didn't kill him; he only made it look that way long enough to get the Emperor's ear. He also is still trying to control Faust with lies and half-truths. In Act 2, Scene 5 Mephistopheles sends Faust off to the underworld with assurances that all will be well, but he knows there's every chance it won't be.

In Act 1, Scene 3 the Herald mentioned that their Carnival would not be a traditional German one. The Emperor returned from his coronation in Rome, the Herald explains, with different cultural traditions. In Act 1, Scene 5 readers learn that the divide between the medieval, Germanic North and the classical South extends well beyond cultural traditions. Although he's the devil, Mephistopheles's power is limited; he cannot access classical gods and has no control over classical "shades." This dichotomy will appear many times in Part 2.

Mephistopheles wonders if Faust will return from the underworld changed. But he is already a much different man than he was at the end of Part 1. Freed of his love of and guilt over Gretchen, he exudes confidence and ability. He has become a man of deeds and not just words. In fact, in the gallery, he complains that all this talk of the supernatural reminds him of how unhappy he was as a scholar and teacher. He feels much better once he has a dangerous task to accomplish. Although he still is irritable and excitable at times and complains a bit, Faust is a more positive and independent man as a whole than he was in Part 1.

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