Activities for Faust

Dr. Diane Thompson, NVCC, ELI

Select the Activity question you wish to respond to. Make a copy of the question to begin your Activity. Post your response to the Blackboard Activity 5: Faust Forum. If you select a double credit option, be sure to note that at the top of your Activity along with your Activity number. Double credit now, well done, could mean one less Activity to do later.

graphic of one chili pepperCompare the Prologue of Faust to the Book of Job in the Old Testament. What exactly is God's agreement with Mephistopheles about Faust? How does it compare with God's agreement with Satan about Job? Give specific examples from both texts to illustrate and support your points.
graphic of one chili pepperExplain whether or not YOU would send Faust to hell for his behavior. Don't be trivial here. Take into account both God's agreement with Mephistopheles and Faust's bargain with Mephistopheles. What exactly is Faust's bargain with Mephistopheles? Are the terms of the agreement met or broken? Explain thoroughly, referring to specific examples from the play. 
graphic of one chili pepperBriefly summarize Faust's relationship with Margaret/Gretchen (two names for the same woman). Is Faust the only one to blame in this affair? If not, who else is? Be detailed in supporting your position, whatever it is. What is Goethe's point in putting in the affair with Margaret? E.g. SO WHAT? Give specific examples from the play to support your ideas.
graphic of one chili pepperGretchen/Margaret (they are two versions of the same name, same woman) seems to me like a stereotype of the naive, "innocent" young girl just waiting for some man to come along and ruin her. What do you think of this perception of "pure" female nature? Does it seem dated or do you think there is some deep truth in at least some of her experience, despite the obvious sexism of the role? (Goethe wrote long before Women's Lib!) Give specific examples from the play to support your ideas. 
graphic of one chili pepperFaust uses a lot of folklore and witch lore. Compare the use of this superstitious material with the enchantments in Keats' "La Belle Dame sans Merci" and/or Akinari's "Bewitched." Are there any interesting similarities and/or differences. Use specific examples to support your ideas.
two chili peppersDouble Credit Option: Get a copy of the movie Dr. Faustus (Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) and watch it.  Then compare/contrast it to Goethe's Faust using many specific details from each to support your ideas. What do you think is the most significant difference between the two and so what? (Potential for double credit if very well done.)
two chili peppersIn the earlier versions of the Faust legend, Faust goes to hell because he: a) sells his soul to the devil; b) behaves foolishly; and c) does not repent. Goethe does not intend to send his Faust to hell at all. In Faust II (not in your text), he makes this very clear. So, approach this story of a deal with the devil with an open mind; even the devil serves a useful purpose in Goethe's notion of the universe. Explain what you think Mephistopheles' purpose is in Faust. Use details from the play to support your ideas.
two chili peppersAt the beginning of the play, Faust is a middle-aged scholar who is totally frustrated by his lack of experience with the "real" world of nature and emotion. His deal with the devil makes him into a young man with a strong sex drive, who travels around and has various unscholarly experiences. Do you think Faust learns anything through his deal with the devil? If so, what does he learn? Give specific examples from the play to support your ideas. 
two chili peppersWhen Faust asks, "Who are you then?" Mephistopheles responds: "Part of that force which would/Do evil evermore, and yet creates the good..../I am the spirit that negates." How does Mephistopheles' self-definition compare/contrast with the more traditional Christian notion of the devil? You may have to do a bit of research on standard devils to answer this one. Give specific examples from the play to support your ideas.
two chili peppersFaust is an intellectual's conception of a hero--seeking knowledge and understanding and power over nature by any means. He is very unlike a fellow like Odysseus or Aeneas or Roland, whose striving is connected to a family or community or religious faith. Faust is one of the early modern heroes, who are isolated from other human beings, and charge about the world seeking their own private ends, often causing disaster to others. Choose a more traditional hero you have read about from an earlier time and compare him to Faust. What "heroic" qualities, if any, do they share? How are they profoundly different. Be sure to give examples from BOTH stories to support your ideas. 
two chili peppersCompare Mephistopheles in Faust to Satan in Hugo's "Et nox facta est." Which of these devils seems more like the traditional Christian devil? Or are both romantic rewrites of the fellow? Compare/contrast them, using examples from each text to support your points. And don't forget the SO WHAT?
graphic of three chili peppersMephistopheles is a sophisticated, deceitful, cold-hearted and manipulative fellow. Look through the play for some good examples of how he deceives Faust as well as Margaret/Gretchen and others.  Now go back to Tartuffe and look at the devilish hypocrite himself. Can you see any ways in which Mephistopheles is more "modern" than Tartuffe in his evildoing? What are the interesting similarities and differences between them? And, of course,  SO WHAT? Give specific examples from both plays to support your ideas.
graphic of three chili peppersDouble Credit Option: Watch a video of a Faust opera: either Berlioz' Damnation of Faust or Gounod's Faust. Compare/contrast the opera to Goethe's play. Which do you prefer and why? Use specific details form both the opera and the play to support your ideas. (Potential for double credit if very well done.)
graphic of three chili peppersDouble Credit Option: Read Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe and compare/contrast it to Goethe's Faust. (It also is in Volume I of the Norton Anthology World Masterpieces.)  What interesting similarities do you see in the two plays? What even more interesting differences? Support your ideas with specific examples from both plays. (Potential for double credit if very well done.)
graphic of three chili peppersDouble Credit Option: Read Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse. It tells another "faustian" story of a highly educated modern (1920's) German man who cannot appreciate what life has to offer; where Faust complains of having two conflicting souls, the character in this novel (Harry Haller aka Steppenwolf) discovers that he has a multitude of souls or personas. Rather like Faust, the Steppenwolf is near despair and suicide at the opening of the story, and he has to learn to accept both his own dark side and the complex unreality of the world. If this intrigues you, read both Faust and Steppenwolf and compare/contrast their main characters (Faust and Haller) as they painfully seek enlightenment through discovery of their senses and feelings. (Potential for double credit if very well done).


© Diane Thompson: 8/1/1998; last updated: October 13, 2013