Literature Study GuidesFaust Parts 1 And 2Part 2 Act 5 Scenes 3 4 Summary

Faust (Parts 1 and 2) | Study Guide


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Faust (Parts 1 and 2) | Part 2, Act 5, Scenes 3–4 | Summary



Part 2, Act 5, Scene 3: Dark of Night

Lynceus is on watch, enjoying the beauty of the night, when he sees the old couple's cottage catch on fire. Soon the chapel and the linden trees are burning, too. Faust hears his report and is sorry to lose the linden grove. But he reassures himself that Baucis and Philemon will be happy in their new home. Then Mephistopheles and the three Mighty Men return and report that no one answered when they knocked, so they entered the cottage to clear it. Upon seeing them, the old couple died of fright. A third person resisted, but the three soldiers made short work of him. Unfortunately, burning embers from the fireplace fell into the straw on the floor and set the place ablaze. Faust is furious and curses their "mindless violence." As he stands on his balcony watching the fire burn out, he sees "dim, shadowlike" forms approaching.

Part 2, Act 5, Scene 4: Midnight

The shadowlike forms are four gray women who call themselves Lack, Default, Dearth, and Care. Because Faust is rich, the first three can't enter his palace, but Care slips in through a keyhole. As the other three leave, they see their brother, Death, approaching in the distance.

Inside, Faust is wishing he could "give up sorcery" and "face ... Nature, simply as a man" as he once did. But because he has "tampered with the things of darkness," it is now hard to sleep at night. He sees ghosts and portents everywhere. Care joins him, intending to make him suffer. But Faust has had a lot of dealings with demons and "refuse[s] to recognize" her power over him. As a parting shot, she strikes him blind. Still, Faust has an inner vision and is determined to get on with his work.


Scene 5 brings back Faust's watchman, Lynceus, who was last seen when Helen begged Faust to forgive him. Once again his diction is poetic as he enjoys the familiar view of the nighttime landscape—until the fire bursts out, that is. His presence here makes readers wonder again about the barbarian castle where Helen and Faust first met and the timeline of their courtship and marriage. Here it is, apparently decades after Euphorion's death, and Lynceus is still standing watch.

In Scenes 5 and 6 Faust must grapple with his conscience and makes some important decisions about what matters to him. First of all, he has to face his role in Baucis and Philemon's death. He blames himself for not making his wishes clear enough. He also blames himself for his use of sorcery, which keeps him from enjoying life and nature as he did when he was young. However, readers remember that that was not the case at the very start of the play. Then he was practicing alchemy and deeply depressed. The youth and closeness to nature he is longing for must be much further back than that, to his origins. Showing wisdom, at no point does Faust blame Mephistopheles for his problems. It seems he recognizes that his contract with Mephistopheles is a symptom of his own original flaws, not the cause. Honest self-appraisal is an important element in true contrition, which must come before redemption. In his conversation with Care, Faust is equally honest. He is truly beyond her power.

If Care hopes to make Faust suffer by striking him blind, she must be disappointed. His inner strength and vision is beyond her power. It is in fact his inner vision that will finally give him the fulfillment he has craved his entire long life. Readers know Faust's death is imminent because Care's sisters spot their "cousin" Death approaching. He's not at the palace gates yet, but he's within sight. As with Helen, however, Lynceus doesn't spot him.

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