Literature Study GuidesFaust Parts 1 And 2Part 2 Act 4 Scenes 1 3 Summary

Faust (Parts 1 and 2) | Study Guide


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Part 2, Act 4, Scenes 1-3

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 2, Act 4, Scenes 1-3 from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's play Faust.

Faust (Parts 1 and 2) | Part 2, Act 4, Scenes 1–3 | Summary



Part 2, Act 4, Scene 1: High Mountains

The cloud deposits Faust on a mountain. As he ponders the view, Mephistopheles magically joins him. The two immediately start bickering. This time the topic is the origin of the mountains. Mephistopheles says they were thrown up to the surface of the earth by volcanic action, and Faust says it doesn't matter. Mephistopheles wonders whether everything bores Faust and asks if there isn't something—anything—he wants. Faust says there is something and tells Mephistopheles to guess what it is. Mephistopheles tries, but it's not life in a bustling city, it's not a selection of beautiful mistresses, and it's not fame. Finally, Faust has to tell him. He has come up with a grand engineering project to reclaim land from the sea. What he wants is to see his project through and found his own kingdom on the reclaimed land.

They hear the drums of war in the distance, and Mephistopheles says this is Faust's chance. There's been an uprising against their old friend the Emperor, and this is the last battle. If they help the Emperor win, he'll be grateful and give Faust what he wants. Mephistopheles has already arranged for the help of three fighters who will ensure victory: Raufebold, Habebald, and Haltefest.

Part 2, Act 4, Scene 2: In the Foothills

The Emperor and his Commander-in-Chief are discussing their battle strategies when Faust and his Mighty Men arrive. As the Commander-in-Chief sends his troops into battle, Faust distributes his three soldiers among them. As Habebald leaves, he's followed by a woman called Eilebeute. Above them, Mephistopheles points out the "hordes in helm and harness" joining the Emperor's army; these are suits of armor he has reanimated. The fighting on the right goes well, but on the left the enemy is making headway. Mephistopheles takes over command and arranges for the illusion of a flood, which sends the enemy soldiers into retreat. Next, he arranges for lightning and fire, which spark confusion among the enemy troops. Finally, his reanimated soldiers enter the fray.

Part 2, Act 4, Scene 3: The Rival Emperor's Tent

Habebald and Eilebeute are found plundering the rival emperor's tent by four imperial guards, who send them packing. The guards talk about how "strange" the battle was—they can't remember it clearly. The Emperor joins them and thanks the four guards for their service by giving them court appointments, knighthoods, and lands of their own. The Archbishop arrives, and the Emperor thanks him, too, giving him lands as well. The Emperor dismisses them, but the Archbishop stays to tell him off for getting involved with "Satanic power." If the Pope were to find out, he would "utterly shatter" the empire. To show his "repentance," the Emperor should give much more land to the Archbishop along with all the income from the lands. The Emperor agrees. The Archbishop is on his way out when he suddenly turns back. He says it won't do for the Emperor to have given Faust the "shores of the Empire"; that income must go to the Archbishop as well. The Emperor points out that the land is "still under water," but the Archbishop says he's happy to wait.


At the beginning of Act 4, Scene 1, there is a fleeting reference to Gretchen. As the cloud draws away, Faust thinks he sees a woman's figure lying on it. At first it reminds him of classical women, including Helen, but then it becomes a "ravishing image" of something "long deprived of, lost." Faust is somehow reminded of first love, "which ... would outshine all else ... And bears along with it all that is best in me." Goethe includes such occasional references into Part 2 to help readers reconcile the events of this half of the play with those of the final scenes, when the power of love, and Gretchen herself, will save Faust's soul.

Scene 1 also returns to the topic of nature, which represents spiritual goodness, as in the case of the Spirit of the Earth who visited Faust in his study in Part 1. Nature is a topic Faust and Mephistopheles cannot agree on. Faust appreciates nature and finds he enjoys it without studying it. Mephistopheles, on the other hand, isn't particularly interested in nature since it's outside his realm. Whenever he finds Faust engaged in admiring the scenery, he becomes impatient. Mephistopheles sees mountains as the result of violent geological processes, not of anything spiritual or aesthetic. Faust, by contrast, sees nature as something spiritual. He ascribes intent to the glorious scenery around him, calling nature "kindly."

Also in Scene 1 Mephistopheles is still trying to figure out what Faust really wants. He has made a lot of mistakes along that line in the course of the play. At first, he expected Faust to like carousing, but then he thought love would satisfy the professor. But by this point, Faust has had a great many exotic experiences, two beautiful and adoring lovers and a child, none of which has satisfied him. Now Mephistopheles is getting frustrated. If he can't figure out what Faust really wants, he can't win his wager with the Lord.

It is in Act 4, Scene 1 that Mephistopheles and readers finally find out. Goethe, who was himself very interested in land reclamation projects in later life, has given Faust a similar interest. He wants to create a new land where people can "prosper, ... have some pleasure, [and] learn to read, be educated." This may seem like a utopian vision more in sync with Enlightenment values than with romanticism. But Faust goes on to say people need to be educated in order to "know how to foment rebellions." The romantic period was typified by nationalist rebellion. After all, Byron died in Greece (of a fever) because he had gone there to fight in the Greek struggle for independence.

As soon as he knows what Faust wants, Mephistopheles jumps into action. Like magic the drums of war begin beating in the distance. No doubt he knew war was coming. After all, he is now in his element—the Germanic North—and his powers are at their fullest. Now he just needs to turn the opportunity to Faust's advantage. Typically Mephistopheles tells Faust that Faust will have to take over command of the battle, but—again typically—that doesn't happen. Mephistopheles immediately produces three biblical warriors who, he says, will ensure the Emperor's victory. Then in Scene 2, when the Emperor's Commander-in-Chief sends his troops into war, it's not Faust but Mephistopheles who inserts the three fighters where he wants them. It's also Mephistopheles who, through dark magic, augments the Emperor's forces with animated suits of armor and uses illusions to confuse the enemy forces. Faust does nothing but get the glory. In fact, he almost misses out on that when the greedy Archbishop insists the Emperor give the shores to the church instead. But since Faust has land, wealth, and power in Act 5, it appears the Archbishop is unsuccessful in his attempt to get his hands on the lands promised to Faust. Mephistopheles, of course, doesn't need earthly rewards; he hopes to get his reward after Faust's death.

After the drama of battle, Scene 3 opens with some comic relief as Habebald and Eilebeute attempt to plunder the rival emperor's tent. In contrast to Mephistopheles's puns and ironic wit, this is very physical comedy: Eilebeute is too weak to lift a chest, so its contents spill out; then she tries to fill her apron with booty only to find it has a hole in it. Habebald may have been one of the most important factors in the Emperor's victory, but in an ironic twist he is lucky to get away with his life when the imperial guards show up—guards who can't remember the battle but whom the Emperor raises to knighthood to show his gratitude for their role in it.

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