Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Faust Goethes Faust giving
- Slides: 25
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Faust
Goethe’s Faust: giving birth to the modern? Faust looks back: • Influenced by the allegorical tradition (think mystery and morality play traditions)… • …and by Renaissance drama, not least Shakespeare (“A Walpurgis Night’s Dream”). • Takes the medieval German legend of Faust, the scholar who sells his soul to the devil in return for great knowledge and power, as source material. • Shows Goethe’s interest, in the 1790 s especially, in classicism. Note the repeated use of Choruses and a depiction of a protagonist who wrestles with the limitations of his own humanity.
Goethe’s Faust: giving birth to the modern? But Faust also looks forward: “Goethe was sent by the gods as a boundary stone to mark where the past ends and modernity begins. ” (Karl Gutzkow, 1836) It offers us: • Modern domestic drama (the “Gretchen tragedy”). • Intense, fraught, self-conscious look at human subjectivity: the frustration and alienation of the individual in a modern, secular, industrialized world. • A movement beyond the categories of good and evil. • The breakdown of genre.
The Faust legend Dr. Johann Faust or Faustus (c. 1480– 1540), a German scholar of supposedly magical and arcane powers. The basic legend: Faust, in search of greater magical powers, made an agreement with Mephistopheles according to which he would literally sell his soul to the Devil in return for twenty-four years of knowledge, magical power, and unlimited pleasure. In the end, of course, Faust regretted the agreement, understanding the illusory nature of that which he had apparently gained, and he was taken off to Hell. 1587: Chapbook entitled Historia von D. Johann Fausten published. First known printed source of the legend of Faust is a small. c. 1588: Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus written and performed.
Updating the Faust legend Goethe radically changes the narrative and emphases of this legend as it appears in earlier sources, including Marlowe. Gretchen He adds the seduction story of Margareta/Gretchen – the part of the play that was and is most popular and successful with theatre audiences. As a result the Faust legend is split in two: “the scholar’s tragedy” and “Gretchen’s tragedy”.
Updating the Faust legend Mephistopheles and the nature of evil Mephistopheles no longer the embodiment of evil. He is, as he describes himself: Part of that Power which would Do evil constantly, and constantly does good. (1335 -6) He represents a vital cosmic force: I am the spirit of perpetual negation; And rightly so, for all things that exist Deserve to perish… (1338 -40) In the “Prologue in Heaven”, the Lord tells Mephistopheles that he “Serves well to stimulate him [man] into action” (343). In fact, in a celestial bet, he gives Mephistopheles permission to tempt Faust as part of a divine bet.
Updating the Faust legend The “pact” Goethe’s Faust doesn’t make a pact with Mephistopheles at all. Instead, there’s a “wager” (the second bet in the play): If any pleasure you can give Deludes me, me cease to live! I offer you this wager! […] If ever the moment I shall say: Beautiful moment, do not pass away! Then you may forge your chains to bind me (1696 -1701) Traditional story inverted? • Faust can only save himself by continually giving into temptation. • And he wants experience not knowledge: “in my inner self I will embrace | The experience allotted to the whole | Race of mankind. ” (1770 -2) The Faust story is recast as a conflict, or dialectic, between idealism and cynicism, the positive and the negative.
Goethe and the composition history of Faust 1749 Born in Frankfurt. 1765 -8 Studies at the University of Leipzig. 1772 -5 Begins writing Faust. 1774 Publishes The Sorrows of Young Werther. 1788 Resumes work on Faust 1790 Publishes Faust. A Fragment. 1794 Strikes up friendship with poet, philosopher and playwright Friedrich Schiller. 1797 -1801 Resumes work on Faust at Schiller’s prompting.
Goethe and the composition history of Faust 1819 Selected scenes from Faust performed privately at Castle Monbijou, Berlin. 1825 -31 Completes Faust Part II. 1827 Publishes Helena, part of Faust Part II. 1829 First public performance of Faust Part I. 1832 Goethe dies, aged 82. Faust Part II published posthumously. 1876 in First performance of Faust Parts I & II, Weimar.
Goethe and the composition history of Faust Three phases of composition: 1. URFAUST (1772 -5) Discovered in manuscripts in 1887. Consists mainly of the tragedy of Gretchen. “Sturm und Drang” (“Storm and Stress”) • • A short‐lived but influential movement in German literature of the 1770 s. Early precursor of Romanticism. Passionate, individualistic, rebellious. Hostile attitude to French neoclassicism and Enlightenment rationalism. E. g. The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) 2. FAUST. A FRAGMENT (1790) Goethe revises everything to date into verse and adds a few scenes. Published without the final dungeon scene. 3. FAUST PART I (1808) Completed 1797 -1806. To this stage of the play belong the prologues, the second half of ‘Night’ with the Easter chorus, the pact scenes and the ‘Walpurgis Night’. IS FAUST A UNIFIED WORK?
Faust Part II Faust helps the Emperor to solve the financial problems of the Empire by issuing paper money. He summons of Helen of Troy and later seduces her. They have a son, Euphorion, who flies so high that he falls dead at his parents’ feet. Helen takes him back to the dead with her. Mephistopheles debates with a homunculus created by Faust's former pupil. Faust and Mephistopheles attend a “classical Walpurgis night”. They help the ageing Emperor win a battle; Faust is rewarded with a stretch of coastal land, which he plans to win from the sea. Faust is so delighted by his new endeavour that he utters the fatal words that this moment should last for ever. He dies, and Mephistopheles seems to have won his wager, but… …female saints with Gretchen intervene to save him, taking him up into heaven.
Is Faust theatre? NO! • It’s more an epic than a play. • Goethe didn’t stage the play at the Weimar court theatre, of which he was the director. • Much of action of the play is almost unstageable. • Stage action is usually described in a way that suggests an attempt to compensate for the absence/impossibility of visual realization. • It constantly makes allusions to and seems to align itself with some of the major verse narratives of European literature: Virgil’s Aeneid, Homer’s Iliad, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Is Faust theatre? YES! • The “No” case is predicated on a “naturalism fallacy”. • Allegorical dramas that have a wide cosmic focus – heaven, earth, hell – were still being widely performed across Europe in the seventeenth century (including Calderon’s autos sacramenteles). • Such dramas still staged in the German provinces in his own day. A Faust play was performed by travelling players in Frankfurt in 1768. • Faust ignores – indeed flagrantly abuses – the three unities (time, place, action) of French neoclassical theory… but Goethe wrote many court masques and libretti that did the same.
Goethe and theatre He wrote a number of plays, including: • Stella (1775) • Iphigenia in Taurus (1781/7) • Torquato Tasso (1790) • The Natural Daughter (1803) He was director of the Weimar Court Theatre from 1791 to 1817: • Under his leadership the Theatre achieved national importance. • Established a repertoire and style founded on a classical aesthetic (antinaturalistic). • Helped to train young actors. • Collaborated with Schiller between 1795 and 1805. • Rejected idea that drama should be preachy. Rather, saw it as an art that enriched and ennobled those receptive to it. • The repertoire was mixed and international, and included Voltaire, • Goldoni, Aristophanes, Calderon, along with German authors such as Lessing and Goethe himself.
Faust: major productions 1829 First public performance of Part I (Brunswick). 1876 First production of both parts together, by Otto Devrient (Weimar). 1933 Max Reinhardt’s legendary production of Part I at the Salzburg Festival. 1938 World premiere of both parts, unabridged (Dornach, Switzerland) Gustav Grundgens production in Hamburg (filmed in 1960). 1957 2000 Peter Stein’s complete version for Expo 2000 (Hanover). Total length, inc. intervals: 21 hours. (Image above)
Drama vs. literature? Why might scholars want to talk about Faust as “literature” rather than as “theatre”? Why do scholars tend to distinguish the “literary” from the “dramatic”? What’s with the problem with calling Faust a play? Lyn Gardner, “Are plays proper literature? ” (Guardian, 27 May 2010) http: //www. theguardian. com/stage/theatreblog/2010/may/27/are-plays-proper -literature “I suspect it's theatre's brazenly collaborative and transient nature that spooks the literary gatekeepers. We may think of the literary experience as essentially solitary: a lone reader's silent encounter with a momentous text. It's a notion freighted with reverence, nudging literature into a secular religiosity. Surely literature isn't – or isn't just – about contemplation, let alone meditation. It's about engagement. ”
Faust: a drama about theatre Prelude on the Stage DIRECTOR POET CLOWN BUMS ON SEATS ART AS TRANSCENDENT ENTERTAINMENT, VARIETY, YOUTH • Wants only “to please the mob”. • Knows an audience want “action”, “spectacle”, “excess”. • A play should be “all in pieces” because the public will “just fragment |It anyway” • Deeds not words. • Wants “quietness”, “love and friendship”. • Believes in writing – in art – for “posterity”, not for the gratification of a paying audience, “that motley throng”. • Yearns for his youth. • Let’s entertain! Make the audience laugh and cry. • “Use real life and its rich variety”. • A theatre of variety will attract the youth, who can still be moved and pleased.
Faust: a drama about theatre Prelude on the Stage DIRECTOR POET CLOWN BUMS ON SEATS ART AS TRANSCENDENT ENTERTAINMENT, VARIETY, YOUTH • Wants only “to please the mob”. • Knows an audience want “action”, “spectacle”, “excess”. • A play should be “all in pieces” because the public will “just fragment |It anyway” • Wants “quietness”, “love and friendship”. • Believes in writing – in art – for “posterity”, not for the gratification of a paying audience, “that motley throng”. • Yearns for his youth. • Let’s entertain! Make the audience laugh and cry. • “Use real life and its rich variety”. • A theatre of variety will attract the youth, who can still be moved and pleased. • Deeds not words. FAUST? THE LORD? MEPHISTOPHELES?
Faust: a drama about theatre Night Faust, looking at the Sign of the Macrocosm: “How great a spectacle! But that, I fear, | Is all it is. ” (Night, 454 -5) Wagner enters, believing he has heard Faust “reading a Greek tragedy” (523). Faust then attacks history as capturing not the “spirit” but rather the “image” of the past (578): At best a royal tragedy—bombastic stuff Full of old saws, most edifying for us, The strutting speeches of a puppet chorus. (583 -5)
Faust: a drama about theatre Faust’s Study (I) & (II) Theatre as distraction… • Faust asks Mephistopheles, trapped in his study, to give him “an amusing show” (1435). • The show then puts Faust to sleep, allowing Mephistopheles to escape. Theatre as metaphor… • Mephistopheles on human pretension to greatness: Wear wigs, full-bottomed, each with a million locks, Stand up yards high on stilts or actor’s socks— You’re what you are, you’ll still be the same man still. (1807 -9)
Faust: a drama about theatre Walpurgis Night An “intermezzo”: a short piece introduced between the acts or scenes of a larger work of dramatic or musical performance. Faust describes the scene of Walpurgis Night as a “fairground” (4115). All about the carnivalesque (think back to Bakhtin): licensed transgression and excess; the celebration of bodies and sexuality. MEPHIST [with an old witch] A naughty dream once came to me: I saw a cleft and cloven tree. It was monstrous hole, for shame! But I like big holes just the same. OLD WITCH: Greetings, Sir Cloven-Hoof, my dear! Such gallant knights are welcome here. Don’t mind the outsize hole; indeed An outsize plug is what we need! (4136 -43)
Faust: a drama about theatre A Walpurgis Night’s Dream: “It’s actually a theatre. ” (4213) Already Walpurgis Night has the feel of a play-within-a-play. So “Walpurgis Night’s Dream” is a play-within-a-play… Theatre – the “show” – again a distraction here. When Faust learns that Margareta has been arrested while he enjoyed the entertainments, he lambasts Mephistopheles: A prisoner! In utter ruin, delivered over to evil spirits and the judgement of cold heartless mankind! And meanwhile you lull me with vulgar diversions…” (A Gloomy Day. Open Country, <8 -10>)
Faust: a drama about theatre Martin Swales, “Goethe's Faust: theatre, meta-theatre, tragedy” “Faust oscillates between wanting to be both on the stage of life and a spectator at it. Mephisto offers him life as a theatrical extravaganza – immensely appealing, quick-fire experience, yet ultimately (in his, Mephisto’s, view) tawdry and worthless. ” “Theatre is a key metaphor for human existence in Goethe’s Faust; and this changes the way we receive the play in theatre. It becomes allegorically charged at every turn. ” In Goethe’s Faust: Theatre of Modernity, ed. Hans Schulte, John Noyes, and Pia Kleber (Cambridge: Canbridge University Press, 2011). FAUST THE ACTOR: Night, Study (II), the Gretchen scenes FAUST THE SPECTATOR: Study (I), A Witch’s Kitchen, Walpurgis Night, A Walpurgis Night’s Dream
Faust: a tragedy? For • Goethe entitles it “tragedy”. • Faust in many ways like the classical tragic hero (e. g. Oedipus): the human who would be more than human. • There a number of choruses: of angels, women, disciples (Night); of villagers (Outside the Town Walls); of merrymakers (Auerbach’s tavern)… Is there a change in tragic form across Faust? So we move from classical tragedy (the scholar’s tragedy) to what bourgeois domestic tragedy (the Gretchen tragedy)? After the entrance of Margareta/Gretchen, the choral element almost disappears. Goethe offers: • The choir (A Cathedral). Not described as a “chorus”. • A chorus of witches (A Walpurgis Night). Appears in a scene expressly positioned as an interlude. And is this chorus tragic?
Faust: a tragedy? Against • Margareta/Gretchen is saved at the close of Part I: “She is redeemed”. • Faust is redeemed at the close of Part II. • Faust a mix of some many forms and allusions. More complex than one side or the other… “Faust is not an avoidance of tragedy; rather, it makes an issue of tragedy. ” (Martin Swales) “The individual, Faust, is never the tragic target. It is essential that we understand him as the representative of the human condition. Then suddenly a new dimension opens up, tragedy fills the space, and we are part of it. ” (Peter Stein)