Goethe’s Faust; The contemporary Oedipus?

Who is Faust?

Faust is considered one of the German writer Goethe masterpieces, and it’s a play consisting of two pieces. Goethe and Faust is often mention in intellectual pop culture. I can guarantee that if you just learnt their names, you will from now on notice how often they are being referred to. The fictional Faust is loosely based on the life of Johann Georg Faust (c 1480–1540), an alchemist and practitioner of necromancy, a form of ‘black magic’. Yet, the primary question remains who or what is the legend of Faust?

Faust brings resonance in today’s society because of who he, or the legend was. Faust was very successful and had immense knowledge. Yet, he was very dissatisfied with life. The mythical Faust is frustrated by his inability to find the ‘true’ meaning of life despite his vast knowledge. Faust may be inherently human in that sense that he is not a perfect hero but rather someone who has flaws. Goethe has done so to make Faust represent humanity, thus, suggesting that the play is about something greater than a tale. Indeed, Goethe is considered an enlightenment thinker. 

A Tragic Hero

Faust is a tragic hero. The greek portrayed their heroes where they used their tragedy for ‘Catharsis’ which can be translated to ‘cleanse’. Just as Sophocles’ Oedipus, who’s tragic life taught a lesson to the Greeks, it is in this light we oughta to read Goethe. The concept Goethe is conveying is how man ought to look at himself. Even though the story is extravagant, it is meant to teach and to cleanse the society of those feeling portrayed by  Faus

The setting of the play

The play starts up in heaven with the archangels and God then another character, Mephisto one of the devils lackies, enters. Cunningly, Mephisto makes a wager with God, regarding Faust’s life. They discuss the wretched ways of earth, God is found of Faust but Mephisto claims he can turn Faust in to evil and sin. Both of them make a wager whether Faust will remain a good servant to God or not and off Mephisto go to make a sinner out of Faust. At the time, Faust is in despair, life as he knows it is no more. He does not get any satisfaction in life anymore, Faust wants to commit suicide. 

Books in a bookcase

Through his quest, Faust encounters the antagonist Mephistopheles (Mephisto) who is one of the demons of the devil. Mephisto is not crud, on the contrary, he is cultivated and witty. Perhaps that is why he enchants Faust. Goethe portrays some contemporary issues and does it with his introduction of Mephisto, who can be considered materialistic and nihilistic. Thus making a comment of the growing capitalism as a cause of industrialism. At the time of writing, the world was changing to something new. Faust is damned when he signs a covenant with Mephisto. He signs it with his own blood. 

“The mythical Faust is frustrated by his inability to find the ‘true’ meaning of life despite his vast knowledge.”

The take-away from Faust

Just like the creation story where God creates Adam and Eve in his image, Faust is created in Goethes image. Not only have Goethe explicitly said so, but as  mentioned above Faust is incorporating the human agonies and flaws, particularly of an intellectual as Goethe himself. The storyline can be found in many other contemporary stories. Such as the polarity of Jakyll and Hyde or the human strive of Dorian Grey in Oscar Wildes novel. The theme is ever classic. There is something we could all learn from the story, and if you find it interesting you should read the play. For me I feel as the play portrayed that you should find peace and happiness in what we have and not search for it.