Faust, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, is a dramatic adaptation of the German legend of Faust. It was published in two parts, Part I in 1819 and Part II in 1821. It is sometimes regarded as the greatest of Germany's contributions to world literature.
The following summary was adapted from the text as translated by George Madison Priest and presented in the Great Books of the Western World.
The play begins a discussion among a stage manager, a poet, and a jester. The poet seeks to express the great intensity and variance of emotions he feels in nature and other topics. The jester seeks only to entertain briefly and be entertained, believing that common people are incapable of understanding the poet. The stage manager rebukes both, ordering them to leave as the audience needs something to see from one of them.
This is followed by a second prologue, the prologue in heaven, as a discussion between the Lord and Mephistopheles, observed by the three great archangels, Michael, Gabriel, and Rafael. Mephistopheles speaks of the doctor, Faust, and his plan to tempt Faust, whereas the Lord asserts his continued control, in a discussion similar to that in Job or Ludlul-Bel-Nimeqi.
This is moved to Faust, who is found in his Gothic study, deep in thought, uncaring for the many, many papers and books and machines in the room. He leaves at the acquaintance of a friend, and they walk about the world, passing many people of the small town who are chatting carelessly. Faust and his friend wander out to a field, where they spy a large black poodle, and Faust is amazed that it seems to leave a fiery trail behind it. His friend does not see this illusion.
Faust later finds the poodle at his doorstep - he lets it in, and it grows, to the size of an elephant, and then is revealed to be Mephistopheles.
- The New York Public Library Student's Desk Reference. Prentice Hall, New York: 1991.
- "Faust". Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed.
- Complete text translated from German, presented in segments