A synopsis of the play by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This document was originally published in Minute History of the Drama. Alice B. Fort & Herbert S. Kates. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935. p. 71.

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THE learned Dr. Faust has taken for his province all knowledge. He is honored by students who come from afar; he is revered by the townspeople to whose ills he ministers. But the farthur he pursues his studies the more he is convinced of the futility of man.

Mephistopheles, knowing Faust's dissatisfaction, makes a wager with the Lord that he, the Devil, can win Faust's soul. Thus it comes about that Faust in his experiments with the supernatural conjures up the Devil himself. Mephistopheles proposes that he will enable Faust to experience all pleasures the world has to offer, providing that, if Faust shall wish to hold any passing moment for further enjoyment, in that moment he shall die and become the Devil's own. Faust readily assents and signs a written compact with a drop of blood.

The two set out to see Life and, in order that Faust may better enjoy it, visit first a witch a drink of whose brew renews Faust's youth. With renewed youth comes interest in romance and Faust demands that Mephisto procure for himn the love of the innocent Margaret whom he has just seen leaving the cathedral. Margaret's purity and faith in her lover make her an easy prey for Mephisto, and she is soon the talk of the town. The gossip reaches the ears of her soldier brother, Valentine, who swears to kill her seducer. Under Mephisto's guidance, Faust, instead, kills Valentine and is forced to flee.

Too late Faust learns the awful sequel, that Margaret has been condemned to death for the murder of her mother and drowning of her babe. He insists that Mephistopheles must rescue her. The best the devil can do is to get Faust the jailer's keys. Half crazed with remorse and grief, Margaret is slow to respond to Faust's attempt at rescue. When at last Mephisto rises through the floor of the cell to bid Faust hurry, a fleeting moment of sanity reveals him to Margaret in his true likeness. Casting herself on the mercy of the Lord she bids Faust go forever.

The second part relates Faust's adventures at an emperor's court; in the underworld where he has gone in pursuit of the Grecian Helen; and in many other imaginative scenes. Gradually there is born in him the consciousness that through service to humanity one lives in the memory of mankind forever. He undertakes work for the benefit of others and thus finally comes to his supreme moment. Mephistopheles is about to claim his prey, but in that moment the angels of the Lord intervene. Faust, through the sincerity of his love for Margaret and his desire to help humanity has been the means of his own redemption.

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