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Saturday, November 29, 2014

GOETHE: Faust (Scenes 5 & 6: Faust in Darkness)

When Faust first meets Mephistopheles he asks the most obvious question: who are you? And Mephistopheles tells him the truth: “I am a part of the part that once was all, a part of darkness that gave birth to light, the haughty light, that now with Mother Night is struggling for her ancient rank and space.” This is a strange answer. But it’s true. In order to understand what Mephistopheles is talking about we have to go way back to the very beginning of time. In the first chapter of Genesis we read that “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” This is the darkness where Mephistopheles came from. Darkness is his home. Mephistopheles believes here’s where all the trouble began: “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good.” But for Mephistopheles it was not good. Mephistopheles calls it “the haughty light.” For him the cosmos is just a gigantic chess board filled with spaces alternating between light and darkness. And Faust is just a pawn in a great cosmic chess game.
Mephistopheles’ first move is to take Faust from the relative light of his study to a darker place called Auerbach’s Cellar in Leipzig. Auerbach’s Cellar is a bar. Not a sports bar to go watch football games on TV with friends. It’s a serious bar, a place to go get drunk with other drunks. As Mephistopheles puts it, “for these boys every day’s a holiday…as long as nobody gets a hangover they’re satisfied, they haven’t a care.” That’s the kind of boys who hang out in Auerbach’s. They don’t have a clue about Mephistopheles. “These boys would never guess it was the Devil, not even if he had them by the throat.” As the boys get drunk they shout “Long live liberty! And long live wine!” These guys drink to get away from the trouble of living a life. Mephistopheles points out to Faust, “The men are free; look how they love it!” But they’re not free and they don’t love freedom. They just love to get drunk. Faust says “I think I’d just as soon go now.” Auerbach’s is not the kind of place Faust would go to look for answers. Once they sober up even the boys at the bar realize that “it was all a fake; all tricks, all lies.” Mephistopheles is the master of tricks and lies. He feels quite at home in a dark barroom.
It’s not surprising that Faust wouldn’t be lured by the temptation of the bar scene. He’s much too clever for that. But he has shown a fascination for magic. So Mephistopheles’ next move is to take Faust to the Witch’s Kitchen. What is Faust’s first reaction when he’s confronted with real magic? “This crazy witchwork nauseates me… this filthy cookery will take off thirty years from my body? If that’s the best you can do, I’m out of luck!” Faust wants to feel young again but not that way. Mephistopheles offers another way but doesn’t think Faust would like it. “There is a natural way to make you young… go out in a field and start right in to work: dig, hoe, keep yourself and your thoughts in that field… that’s the best way to go on being young at eighty.” And just as Mephistopheles predicted Faust doesn’t like that idea either, “to live spade in hand; I’m not used to it, I couldn’t stand it. So narrow a life would never suit me.”
So what kind of life would suit Faust? The life of the scholar didn’t appeal to him. He wasn’t interested in law, medicine, philosophy or theology. He didn’t want to drink away his troubles in Auerbach’s bar. Magic wasn’t nearly as much fun as he thought. Becoming a farmer is out of the question. It looks like Faust is out of luck and doomed to a life of discontented brooding. Then something very common happens to this very un-common man. He sees a girl and it's love at first sight. Faust sees Gretchen and immediately tells Mephistopheles “Listen, you’ve got to get me that girl!” Faust is in love and he’s finally beginning to see the light.


Blogger james said...

a foreign language. The Goethe-Institut offers various certificates catering to different proficiency levels, including the A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2 levels.

3/28/2024 6:12 PM  

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