Literature Study GuidesFaust Parts 1 And 2Part 2 Act 1 Scenes 6 7 Summary

Faust (Parts 1 and 2) | Study Guide


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Faust (Parts 1 and 2) | Part 2, Act 1, Scenes 6–7 | Summary



Part 2, Act 1, Scene 6: Brightly Lit Halls

The Chamberlain and the Steward are pressuring Mephistopheles to produce Helen. He explains his "colleague" is off working on it. Then people start crowding around Mephistopheles asking for cures to illnesses and love problems. He quickly tires of them and exclaims, "Oh Mothers, Mothers, send me back my Faustus!"

Part 2, Act 1, Scene 7: Baronial Hall

The Emperor is ready for an entertainment, explains the Herald. The Astrologer announces that a play is about to begin. A stage appears by magic, lit eerily. Mephistopheles acts as prompter. Faust climbs onto the stage from the back and calls out to the Mothers. Using the key, he conjures a mist. Out of the mist walks the handsome Trojan prince Paris. The ladies in the audience are enamored; the men find fault with him. Paris lies down and goes to sleep. Then Helen appears. Except for Mephistopheles, all the men in the room are overwhelmed. Even Faust calls her "Beauty's very fount and origin." Beside her, he says, the "form he found so alluring ... in the magic glass" is "a shadow, nothing." The women in the audience, however, find fault with Helen. Helen approaches Paris, who awakes and grabs her. It seems he is about to abduct or rape her. Faust demands that the Mothers let him have Helen, vowing to save her. He grabs Helen away from Paris and attacks Paris with the key; there's an explosion, and the spirits disappear. Faust is knocked out. Mephistopheles throws Faust over his shoulder, complaining that if he gets involved with "fools," even the devil won't get out "unscathed."


In Act 1, Scene 6, with Faust away in the underworld, Mephistopheles has to continue to play his role in order to keep their con game going. That means he has to continue to work wonders. It's not clear, however, whether the remedies he doles out will work in the long run. The situation offers Goethe the opportunity to insert more humor into the play. For instance, when Mephistopheles stamps on the lame girl's foot, she hops around, and he claims to have cured her. This is slapstick comedy of the kind not seen since Mephistopheles set the students on fire in Auerbach's Cellar. But at the same time, the girl has noticed that his foot felt like a horse's hoof. That is inaccurate of course, since a horse's hoof is not split. The devil has a cloven hoof, like a goat. This is also humorous, but more subtle.

Act 1, Scene 7 is largely taken up with a play-within-a-play. Faust has conjured Paris and Helen as requested, but things don't go according to plan. First of all, a fight nearly breaks out between the ladies and gentlemen present in the hall: The women are mad for Paris and quite jealous of Helen, while the men are bewitched by Helen and disparaging of Paris. Their arguments doubtless have readers chuckling. But the humor is a set up for the denouement when Faust, who has also been bewitched by Helen, insists he will save her from Paris. This flies in the face of Greek myth, creating a paradox. Moreover, the ghosts disappear and with them—at least potentially—the Emperor's favor.

Despite Faust's newfound confidence, readers learn at the end of Act 1 that he is still susceptible to the charms of a pretty girl. But Helen is not just a pretty girl; she is the archetype of beauty over whom the Trojan war was fought. In Part 1 Faust fell for Gretchen, a very pretty but otherwise perfectly normal village girl. But in Part 2 he has fallen for someone unique and unattainable.

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