How do you react to the tragedy

Faust Chapter summary: An overview of Goethe's "Faust"!

Faust at a glance: introduction, short summary and the most important people

"Faust. A Tragedy" by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is one of the most important and well-known literary works in German history. In addition to the most important information about getting started, we also have one brief summary of the tragedy for you, to give you one first rough overview of what is happening To provide.

We have also listed the most important people and storylines in the play. Following this you will find a chapter summary of every single scene in "Faust".


You can also download the summary of each individual scene as a PDF here!

Table of Contents

1) Introduction: First information about Goethe's "Faust"
2) The most important people in "Faust"
3) Short summary of the tragedy "Faust"
4) Important storylines in "Faust"
5) "Faust" chapter summary: What happens in the individual scenes?

Introduction: First information on Goethe's "Faust"

The tragedy was published in 1808. However, Goethe wrote over sixty years on this work. Therefore it cannot be clearly a particular one Literary era be assigned. Rather, you will find the influences of various literary epochs in "Faust": the enlightenment(1720-1785), des storm and stress(1767-1785), the Weimar Classic (1786-1805 / 1832) and the romance(1795-1835).

Take center stage Doctor Heinrich Faust and Mephistopheles, also called Mephisto, the devil. The plot is located in early 16th century, but it cannot be precisely dated. An exact place is not mentioned either, the scenes change. However, reference is made to Leipzig in the scene in Auerbach's cellar.

The most important people in "Faust":

  • Dr. Heinrich Faust, a scholar
  • Mephistopheles (Mephisto), the devil
  • Margarete (Gretchen), a young girl
  • Marthe, Margarete's neighbor
  • Wagner, a student of Faust
  • Valentin, Margarete's brother
  • Lieschen, an acquaintance of Margarete
  • The Lord God
  • Spirit, an earth spirit

Short summary of the tragedy "Faust"

The real beginning of the tragedy will be preceded by three prologues. During the third, the "Prologue in Heaven", the devil, Mephisto, talks to God and makes fun of his creation, man. Mephisto resolves to lead a person off the right path and in this context summarizes the scholar Dr. Heinrich Faust in the eye. Because he is especially praised by God. So Mephisto decides to get Faust to behave immorally.

When Faust meets Mephisto for the first time, he is currently in a deep state Crisis of meaning and creativity. He therefore enters into a deal with Mephisto: his soul against a lifestyle from which Faust hopes for bliss.


Makeover through sorcery

Mephisto ensures that Faust undergoes a makeover with a magic potion. The Potion also makes Faust find every woman desirable. Shortly after taking the potion, Faust meets the young, virtuous, deeply religious Margarete and is immediately determined to make her his lover. Mephisto should help him with this.

Margarete's seduction

Mephisto uses a trick to ensure that Faust to spend a moment alone with Margarete in her neighbor's garden can without Margarete's strict mother noticing. Although Margarete hesitated for a long time and didn’t get involved at first, he managed to to seduce her into a kiss. Both admit their affection for each other.

Although Faust realizes that he is increasingly under Mephistus' influence, he also realizes that he wants to get Margarete to sleep with him. And indeed he can Convince Margarete to give her mother a sleeping pillso that he can meet Margarete undisturbed. However, the agent fails to work and kill the motherinstead of just numbing them.

The conflict over Margarete

Margarete's brother Valentin has since heard of the relationship between his sister and Faust and confronts the scholar. It comes to Kampf and Valentin is stabbed to death by Faust. Faust and Mephisto flee the city for fear of punishment.

While Valentin is dying, he insults his sister as being indecent and suspects that she is pregnant.

Shortly after Valentine's death and Faust's escape Margarete realizes that she is actually pregnant is - by a man who can no longer be found and, as far as she knows, does not intend to come back to her and support her and the child.

For louder Despair over their situation Margarete kills her child after the birth and ends up in dungeon for it - she faces execution. When Faust finally learns of Margarete's fate from Mephisto months later, he sets out with the devil to get Margarete out of the dungeon and to save her from execution.

How it Ends: The End of "Faust"

Margarete refuses to flee. Instead, she would now like to place herself in the hands of God. The tragedy ends with Faust fleeing again, together with Mephisto. The ending also suggests that Margaret will be saved by God.

Important storylines in "Faust":

The plot can be divided into two thematic complexes: on the one hand, the so-called Scholarly tragedy and on the other hand in the Margarete's tragedy or Gretchens.

The scholarly tragedy relates above all to the fact that Faust as a scholar and scientist reaches its limits, he is making no headway in his research and is frustrated by the conservative attitudes of his students and the people who surround him. He is also dissatisfied with his private life, he is bored and wishes to feel happiness. That's why he gets involved in the deal with Mephisto.

The Gretchen tragedy describes the part of the plot that is about Margarete's fate and about Faust ultimately ruining her through his actions.


Faust chapter summary: What happens in the individual scenes?

As mentioned in the summary section above, "Faust" begins with three prologues. The third prologue is particularly relevant for the plot, because here is made clear what drives Mephisto and why he goes to Faust. It can be said that this is where the whole tragedy begins.

Prologue 1) the poem "appropriation"

Before the play begins, there is a lamentation poem, an elegy. In this one speaks Poet from the creation process of the piecelosing himself in thoughts of losing companions and first love.

Prologue 2) Prelude in the theater

People: director, theater poet, funny person

In the second prologue, a director, a theater poet and a funny person - an actor - talk about what makes a successful play. The conversation turns into an argument because all three have different focuses. Ultimately, this piece is intended to represent a compromise for everyone.


Prologue 3) Prologue in Heaven

People: The Lord, the heavenly hosts, afterwards Mephistopheles, the three archangels

At the beginning of the prologue in heaven, the three archangels Raphael, Gabriel and Michael praise the works of the Lord, which is mocked by Mephisto. He also gossips extensively on people. God in turn praises the scholar Faustwhereupon Mephisto offers the Lord a wager: He wants to lead Faust astray.

God allows Mephisto to lead Faust astray. According to the Reclam reading key to "Faust" by Mario Leis, God never agrees to a real bet. Rather, God trusts that Faust will not be seduced.

Faust chapter summary: "Night"

People: Faust, later Erdgeist and Wagner

Faust is in a deep crisis as far as his scientific knowledge is concerned. He wishes, "that I can see what holds the world together inside. "Although he normally trusts science, he now conjures up an earth spirit in order to feel more connected to nature. But he can hardly stand the appearance of the spirit and is mocked by it.

After the ghost has disappeared again, the student Wagner knocks on Faust's door. The brief conversation with the conservative Wagner leaves Faust completely in despair.

Resigned and Faust hopelessly wants to kill himself with poison, however, is used by the Ringing the daffodils prevented from doing so. These remind him of happier days, of his childhood and give him new Hopeso that he doesn't drink up the poison.

Summary: "In front of the gate"

People: walkers of all kinds, Faust, Wagner

The next day, Easter Sunday, Faust and Wagner go for a walk together and mingle with the common people. The scene gives a good one Overview of the companyby citizens, peasants, students, craft boys, soldiers, bourgeois daughters and maidservants. In the scene it quickly becomes clear that Faust is admired by the whole population for his medical achievements.

In the conversation between Faust and Wagner, his inner turmoil becomes visible. They are also followed on the walk by one black poodle, Faust takes him home.


The Devil's Pact: Scene "Study Room"

People: Faust, Mephisto

Faust translates the beginning of the Gospel of John into German, while the poodle is getting more and more restless. Angry, Faust conjures him with spells, whereupon the poodle turns into the devil Mephisto. Hence the famous exclamation "So that was the crux of the matter!".

In the so-called Pact with the devil Mephisto offers his services to Faust, in exchange for which he demands the soul of Faust. He hopes for fulfillment and happiness from the deal and agrees.


Scene "Auerbachs Keller in Leipzig"

People: students, Faust, Mephisto

Four students in the basement try to lighten the mood with jokes and jokes. Faust and Mephisto join them with it the devil show the doctor the easy life can. Mephisto conjures up wine for the students, which eventually turns into fire. The students then attack Mephisto, but he can stop them with his magical powers and he and Faust manage to escape. The students remain disturbed. One of the students is certain to have seen Mephisto ride to the door on a barrel.


The makeover: "Hexenküche"

People: Faust, Mephisto

Mephisto leads Faust into a witch's kitchen, where this one Who gets potionrejuvenates him and who ensures that every woman seems desirable to him. In a mirror, Faust sees a beautiful woman whose sight immediately enchants him.

Faust Chapter summary: Street (I) - encounter with Gretchen

People: Faust, Mephisto, Margarete

In the city Faust meets young Margaretejust coming from confession. He offers her his company, but she is shy and humble and refuses. (Faust: "My beautiful lady, may I dare to offer her my arm and escort?" Margarete: "I'm neither a lady, neither beautiful, can go home unaccompanied.")

Bewitched by her Faust asks Mephisto to make Margarete his lover. Mephisto says he should be patient, but makes sure that Faust can leave a present in Margarete's room.


Faust gives Margarete jewelry: Scene "Evening"

People: Margarete, Faust, Mephisto

Margarete braids her hair in her room and thinks about Faustwhom she considers a nobleman because of his appearance. As she leaves the room, Mephisto and Faust enter. Faust sends Mephisto away and, left alone, he dreams of Margarete.

Mephisto enters again and warns Faust that Margarete is coming back. They hide the present for Margarete and disappear as quickly as possible. She is amazed to find what was left for her Jewelry and put it on before she looks at herself in the mirror.


Scene "walk"

People: Faust, Mephisto

Mephisto angrily reports to Faust that Margaret told her mother about the jewelry and that she handed it over to the church. But he also says that Margarete thinks constantly about the jewelry and who might have hidden it for her. Faust wants Mephisto to get more jewelry and to make Margarete's neighbor an accomplice.


Faust chapter summary: "The neighbor's house"

People: Marthe, Margarete, Mephisto

Margarete's neighbor Marthe is alone in her house and thinks about her absent husband and how lonely she feels without him. She is unsure whether he is still alive or dead and would like to know about that.

Margarete comes to visit to show her her new jewelry and Marthe advises her to hide it from her mother first and only to be carried secretly into Marthe's house.

Mephisto hands Marthe the news that her husband is dead. At an evening meeting in Marthe's garden, he wants to bring a second witness with him to confirm this news. He asks Margarete, also present to be.


Scene "Street (II)"

People: Faust, Mephisto

Faust and Mephisto meet again on the street, Faust inquires about the progress made with Margaret. He is thrilled that he will meet her at Marthe's that evening. Indeed he hesitates to witness the death of Marthe's husbandwithout knowing for sure whether he was dead. But Mephisto can convince Faust.


Confession of love: Scene "Garden"

People: Faust, Margarete, Mephisto, Marthe

The four people meet in pairs in Marthe's garden. Faust and Margarete get closer and confess their affection.

The kiss between Faust and Margarete: "A garden house"

People: Faust, Margarete, Mephisto

Mephisto interrupts Faust and Margarete, when they kiss in the garden shed. She is left alone while Faust and Mephisto leave, wondering what Faust could find in her.

This scene is the only one in which it is explicitly described that the two get close. Other physicalities are only exchanged outside of the scenes, away from the reader or viewer.


Can Faust still avert the tragedy? Scene "forest and cave"

People: Faust, Mephisto

Faust withdraws into the forest alone. He thanks the earth spirit for the fulfillment of his wishes and explains that he now feels closer to nature as previously. At the same time he realizes his growing dependence on Mephisto.

Mephisto arrives and continues to awaken the desire for Gretchen in Faust. Faust thinks that the seduction of Gretchen is inevitable is.

Scene "Gretchen's room"

People: Gretchen

Gretchen is sitting at home alone and longs for Faust.



The crucial question: "Marthens garden"

People: Margarete, Faust

Faust and Margarete meet again in the neighbor's garden and she provides him with the famous one Crucial question: "Now tell me, how are you with religion?". He evades the question and reacts negatively. When she has to leave, Faust is sad and dejected and wishes for a few hours alone with Gretchen. He gives her one Sleeping pill to give her mother. Only later it turns out that this is fatal.


Prediction? Scene "At the fountain"

People: Gretchen, Lieschen

Gretchen goes to the well to get water and meets Lieschen there. She tells her about another girl who got pregnant unmarried and, unlike Gretchen, has no pity for her. Alone again, Gretchen regrets that she used to convict girls who became pregnant without being married. Because through her relationship with Faust, she feels herself a sinner.


Prayer for protection: scene "Zwinger"

People: Gretchen

Gretchen brings flowers to the devotional image of Mater Dolorosa - Mary who mourns for her son Jesus. you asks Mary to save her from shame and death.

The death of the brother: scene "Night, street in front of Gretchen's door"

People: Gretchen's brother Valentin, Faust, Mephisto

Gretchen's brother Valentin found out about the connection between Gretchen and Faust. He worries about her virtue and the shame that comes with losing it. At night he waits in front of the house for his sister's admirer.

Meanwhile, Faust and Mephisto plan to steal the church treasure in order to have new jewelry for Gretchen. Meanwhile, Mephisto offers to play a song for Gretchen to get them in the mood for the night together. But Gretchen's brother smashes the instrument. Mephisto incites Faust and this one fights with Valentin and stabs him in the end. To avoid punishment, Mephisto and Faust flee the city.

The dying one Valentin insults Gretchen in front of the neighbors as being indecent and exposes them publicly. He not only prophesies that they have an illegitimate child, but also that they end up as prostitutes becomes. He claims his death was Gretchen's fault.


Gretchen is pregnant: Chapter "Dom"

People: Gretchen, evil spirit

During the service, an evil spirit admonishes Gretchen that she is to blame for the death of her mother and brother. He also confirms her suspicion that she is pregnant. When the choir sings about the Last Judgment, she passes out.

Scene "Walpurgis Night"

People: Faust, Mephisto, Witches

Mephisto lures Faust to Walpurgis Night on Blocksberg, where she Part of a witch celebration become. The two dance with two beautiful witches until one of them reminds Faust of Gretchen. To distract him, Mephisto leads Faust up a hill on which a play is to take place.


Scene "Walpurgis Night's Dream or Oberons and Titania's golden wedding"

People: different roles

A "Piece in piece" takes place, which contains many contemporary allusions.


Faust hears Gretchen's fate: "Dull day, field"

People: Faust, Mephisto

Months later: Faust is beside himself and reproaches Mephisto for not having told him what has happened to Gretchen in the meantime. Left alone by Faust, she killed her newborn child and is now waiting in the dungeon for her execution.

Mephisto reminds Faust which of them led Gretchen to her doom. He tries in vain to stop Faust from returning to town. Faust cannot be changed and in the end Mephisto promises to bring the guards to sleep and to get magic horses. Free Gretchen but Faust must himself.


Night, open field

People: Faust, Mephisto

Faust and Mephisto ride on black horses and pass the Place of execution. You see floating beings, which Mephisto recognizes as the witches' guild.


Last scene from Faust I: "Dungeon"

People: Gretchen, Faust

When Faust enters the dungeon, Gretchen first thinks that she has her executioner in front of her. But when she recognizes him, she is torn between her love and the fear of further damnation. Faust tries to persuade her to flee, but she refusesbecause she does not want to be plunged any further into ruin. Ultimately hands it over into the hands of God.

Mephisto urges Faust to get out of prison and says Gretchen has been judged. A voice sounds from heaven that presumably belongs to God. The voice says that Gretchen was saved. Thereupon Mephisto and Faust flee together.

Here you can download the chapter summary as a PDF and listen to "Faust" as a Reclam audio book on Spotify:


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