Faust

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Heinrich Faust

The intelligent, learned, and nature-loving Faust begins the drama as a scholar bitterly dissatisfied with the limitations of human knowledge. He wants to be nothing less than a god, and he knows that his… (read full character analysis)

Mephistopheles

Mephistopheles is the devil himself, who offers his services to Faust in the hopes of winning the great man’s soul. He has a gentlemanly if antagonistic relationship with the Lord God, acknowledging that, though he… (read full character analysis)

Margarete/A Penitent

Also known as Gretchen, a shortening of her given name, Margarete is a beautiful, innocent, poor young woman with whom Faust falls madly in love and who in turn falls in love with him… (read full character analysis)

Wagner

Wagner is Faust’s assistant in scholarship, a bright, clear, and striving man. Unlike Faust, however, Wagner has faith in the power of knowledge, reason, and science to satisfy humankind’s deepest needs, and he prefers… (read full character analysis)

Homunculus

The Homunculus, unnaturally synthesized by Wagner in the laboratory, is a little flame-like man who lives in a glass vial. Ironically, this creature, who represents the highest achievement of Enlightenment science, is more… (read full character analysis)
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Helen of Troy

Helen of Troy is the ideal of beauty in Classical Greek culture and one of the main characters in Homer’s epic poem the Iliad. In the Iliad she is kidnapped by the Trojan prince… (read full character analysis)

Euphorion

The son of Faust and Helen, Euphorion is a beautiful, brilliant boy, a pure figure bathed in light. Euphorion represents the union of Faust’s striving, Romantic culture and Helen’s harmonious Classical Greek culture—but the… (read full character analysis)

The Emperor

The Emperor is young, pleasure-loving, and surrounded in his court by fools, fakes, and flatterers. He impulsively welcomes short-term solutions to problems that threaten to ruin his realm, like printing paper money at Faust’s… (read full character analysis)

The Manager

The Manager, along with the Dramatic Poet and Player of Comic Roles, is staging a production of Faust for a German theater in the “Prelude on the Stage” scene. He advocates presenting plays with… (read full character analysis)

The Dramatic Poet

The Dramatic Poet, along with the Manager and Player of Comic Roles, is staging a production of Faust for a German theater in the “Prelude on the Stage” scene. He believes, in contrast to… (read full character analysis)

The Player of Comic Roles

The Player of Comic Roles, along with the Manager and the Dramatic Poet, is staging a production of Faust for a German theater in the “Prelude on the Stage” scene. Like the Dramatic Poet… (read full character analysis)

The Earth Spirit

The Spirit to whom Faust prays while reading from Nostradamus’ book of magical symbols, the Earth Spirit oversees the constant change of the physical world, working at the loom of time to fashion the living… (read full character analysis)

The student/the baccalaureate

A dull, warm student just beginning his studies under Faust, the student comes knocking at his professor’s study seeking wisdom but is instead received by Mephistopheles, who is disguised as a scholar in… (read full character analysis)

Valentine

Margarete’s brother and a soldier, Valentine is outraged by the knowledge that his sister has compromised her honor by taking on a secret lover (Faust). Outside of his mother and sister’s house… (read full character analysis)

The Chancellor-Archbishop

A political realist and high-ranking Catholic official who hides his true motives under a mask of piety, the Chancellor-Archbishop tells the Emperor that evils afflict his realm. He is also the only counselor who openly… (read full character analysis)

The Astrologer

One who divines the future from the positions of the planets, the astrologer is a trusted counselor in the Emperor’s court who in the “Throne Room” scene of Part II claims that buried gold… (read full character analysis)

Paris

Paris is a character from Homer’s Iliad, who initiated the Trojan War by kidnapping the Greek beauty Helen, and who appears in Faust as a phantom after being summoned to the Emperor’s… (read full character analysis)

Erictho

A witch from Thessaly. She surveys the field where Julius Caesar defeated Pompey in the Great Roman Civil War, and reflects on how human beings arrogantly assert their power over one another even though they… (read full character analysis)

Chiron

A centaur (a creature with the upper body of a man and the lower body of a horse) who leads Faust to Manto’s temple on Classical Walpurgis Night. Chiron is a great educator and… (read full character analysis)

Manto

Manto is a healer and seer who lives in a temple at the base of Mount Olympus, home to the Greek gods. She approves of Faust’s desire for ideal beauty as personified by Helen(read full character analysis)

Anaxagoras

Anaxagoras is a pre-Socratic philosopher whom Homunculus consults about achieving a proper existence. In contrast to Thales, Anaxagoras believes that nature was created violently, by fire and volcanic explosion (a theory called Vulcanism). He… (read full character analysis)

Thales

Thales is a pre-Socratic philosopher whom Homunculus consults about achieving a proper existence. In contrast to Anaxagoras, Thales believes that nature was created tranquilly, by water (a theory called Neptunism). He leads Homunculus to… (read full character analysis)

Proteus

Proteus is a shape-shifter who helps Homunculus ride out into the midst of the Aegean Sea, where the unnatural creature transcends his vial and reconciles himself to the natural world. Proteus represents, in contrast to… (read full character analysis)

Menelaus

Menelaus is a Greek chieftain and Helen’s husband, who, in Homer’s Iliad, successfully leads the Greeks to war against the Trojans after Paris kidnaps his wife. In Faust, Menelaus leads an army… (read full character analysis)

The Three Mighty Men

Goethe derives the Three Mighty Men from the Bible, where they assist the Biblical hero David defeat the Philistines. In Goethe’s drama, one of the Three Mighty Men is young and eager for bloodshed, one… (read full character analysis)

Baucis and Philemon

Characters whom Goethe derived from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Baucis and her husband Philemon own an estate that includes a cottage, a grove of linden trees, and a chapel, where the couple happily lives in peace… (read full character analysis)

Want, Debt, Distress, Care, and Death

Five dark siblings who personify the afflictions for which they’re named, these figures approach Faust’s palace toward the end of the play. Of the sisters—Want, Debt, Distress, and Care—Care alone gains entrance. She threatens… (read full character analysis)

Pater Ecstaticus, Pater Profundus, and Pater Seraphicus

In English, the Ecstatic Father, the Father of the Deep, and the Angelic Father, these three are religious hermits who live in the mountains and gorges. Faust’s soul flies past them as it ascends… (read full character analysis)

The Blessed Virgin Mary

In Catholicism, the Blessed Virgin Mary is a saint and the mother of Jesus Christ. She represents love and forgiveness. Margarete prays to a statue of Mary after being corrupted by Faust, and in… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
The Lord
God, the creator of earth and heaven who permits Mephistopheles to attempt to tempt Faust to his damnation, confident that a good man’s intuitions will not permit him to stray from the path of righteousness.
Raphael
One of the three archangels in the “Prologue in Heaven” who behold and celebrate the mysterious splendor of the Lord’s creation. Raphael sings of the sun.
Gabriel
One of the three archangels in the “Prologue in Heaven” who behold and celebrate the mysterious splendor of the Lord’s creation. Gabriel sings of the revolutions of the earth, night, day, and the surging of the sea.
Michael
One of the three archangels in the “Prologue in Heaven” who behold and celebrate the mysterious splendor of the Lord’s creation. Michael sings of the storms that sweep from land to sea and back again.
Frosch
One of the four revelers whom Mephistopheles tricks in Auerbach’s wine-cellar. Frosch enjoys singing and Rhine wine. He tries to fluster the devil, but the devil gets the better of him.
Brander
One of the four revelers whom Mephistopheles tricks in Auerbach’s wine-cellar. Brander is a simple-minded, merry man who sings a song about a rat that is fatally poisoned, which makes it feel like it is falling in love.
Siebel
One of the four revelers whom Mephistopheles tricks in Auerbach’s wine-cellar. Siebel was recently made a fool of by his promiscuous lover and pities the poisoned rat in Brander’s song.
Altmayer
One of the four revelers whom Mephistopheles tricks in Auerbach’s wine-cellar. Altmayer is the most skeptical of the devil’s promise of wine.
The witch
In her kitchen, the witch brews elixirs with the assistance of a group of apes. Mephistopheles and Faust come to her to acquire an elixir that will make Faust thirty years younger, which she provides.
Dame Martha Schwerdtlein
A wealthy gentlewoman and neighbor of Margarete. Mephistopheles deceives Martha, telling her that her perhaps philandering husband is dead and buried in Padua. While Faust seduces Margarete in the garden, Martha makes a pass at the devil, but without encouragement or success.
Lieschen
A village girl who gossips with Margarete while the two draw water from the well together. Lieschen sharply criticizes a girl named Barbara for getting impregnated out of wedlock. She represents how mercilessly harsh and judgmental society can be when its members violate social conventions.
Oberon
The king of fairies, taken from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, featured in the play Faust and Mephistopheles watch together on Walpurgis Night in Part I.
Titania
The queen of fairies, taken from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, featured in the play Faust and Mephistopheles watch together on Walpurgis Night in Part I.
Plutus
The stately, confident Greek god of wealth who flies in during the Emperor’s Masquerade in the “Great Hall” scene of Part II, Plutus is really Faust in magical disguise. He brings with him gold that turns to fire, a trick for which the Emperor forgives him readily.
Pan
The horned and goat-legged Greek god of flocks and herds, Pan is really the Emperor in disguise, led by gnomes to a fountain of fire during the Masquerade in the “Great Hall” scene of Part II. He represents secular authority tempted by earthly pleasures, like wine and revelry.
The Mothers
Mythical beings who dwell in the realm of eternal Nothingness, the Mothers protect the immortal images from ages past. Faust bravely descends to their realm, armed with a key that he uses to liberate the phantoms of Helen of Troy and her lover Paris.
Nicodemus the Famulus
Wagner’s loyal assistant in scholarship, just as Wagner himself was earlier in the play Faust’s assistant. Nicodemus shows Mephistopheles to Wagner’s laboratory, where the scientist is attempting to produce Homunculus.
The Phorcides
Three witch-sisters who share one eye and one tooth between them, born in darkness and related to all that is nocturnal, the Phorcides transform Mephistopheles into Phorkyas after he flatters and entreats them. They are the embodiment of absolute ugliness.
Phorkyas
A monstrously ugly and hermaphroditic hag, Phorkyas is really Mephistopheles in disguise. Phorkyas-Mephistopheles convinces Helen that her husband Menelaus intends to kill her and the Trojan women in her company, and offers to transport Helen and her companions to Faust’s fortress.
Nereus
A prophetic sea-god, Nereus advises Homunculus to speak to Proteus in his quest to achieve a proper existence. Nereus complains, justifiably, that people never take his advice, because they’re too eager to become gods themselves.
The Anti-Emperor
After the Emperor neglects his duties and his realm falls into anarchy, the Anti-Emperor emerges as the figurehead of the rebellion launched to overthrow him. However, the Anti-Emperor’s forces are defeated by the Emperor with the aid of Mephistopheles’s black magic.
Doctor Marianus
An aged hermit and theologian dedicated to the cult of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Doctor Marianus is present during Faust’s ascent into heaven.
Magna Peccatrix, Mulier Samaritana, and Maria Aegyptica
Derived by Goethe from the Biblical tradition, these three women lived in sin but achieved salvation through penitence. In the final scene of Faust, they successfully appeal to the Blessed Virgin Mary on behalf of Margarete’s soul.