Faust

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Helen of Troy Character Analysis

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 Paris, and for her husband, the Greek chieftain Menelaus, raises a great army to recover her. In Faust, however, Helen and her culture of the good, the beautiful, and the true have long since departed from the world. Faust summons the phantoms of Helen and Paris to the Emperor’s court and, though no one else present truly perceives Helen’s beauty and nobility, the magician himself does, powerfully. He at once falls in love with her, but thinks that he cannot possess her until he understands Greek culture in full, so he journeys to Greece for Classical Walpurgis Night. Faust succeeds in restoring Helen to life, but Phorkyas-Mephistopheles spiritually vexes the Greek woman such that she is, although unchanged in beauty, doubtful of herself. Perhaps this is why the marriage of Faust and Helen, of Romanticism and Classicism, ends in tragedy, the death of Faust and Helen’s son Euphorion. After Euphorion’s fall, Helen leaves the world for good to be with her son in the Underworld, a phantom once more.

Helen of Troy Quotes in Faust

The Faust quotes below are all either spoken by Helen of Troy or refer to Helen of Troy . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Princeton University Press edition of Faust published in 2014.
Part 2: Act 1: An Imperial Palace: Knight’s Hall Quotes

Does some more inward sense than sight perceive
the overflowing fountainhead of beauty?
My dread ordeal is gloriously rewarded.
How circumscribed and empty was my world before!
Now, with this priesthood, it at last becomes
desirable and has a lasting basis.

Related Characters: Heinrich Faust (speaker), Helen of Troy
Page Number: 6487-6492
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Faust comes face-to-face with the spirit of Helen of Troy, the famously beautiful woman who indirectly caused the Trojan War. Helen of Troy is the embodiment of the Classical ideal: the Greco-Roman model of what is beautiful and desirable. Faust is immediately drawn to Helen of Troy; he finds her enchanting, the very thing his soul has desired all along, and he falls instantly in love.

It's been argued that Faust, the embodiment of European Enlightenment and Romanticism, is naturally attracted to Helen, the embodiment of the Greco-Roman tradition, because the former could not exist without the latter. The passage has also been taken as a symbol for the "marriage" between modern Europe and its classic past: during Goethe's lifetime, there was a tremendous revival of interest in the classical era. Other critics, such as Franco Moretti, have interpreted the scene as a veiled metaphor for the wave of colonization and imperial domination that began during Goethe's lifetime: just as Faust comes to dominate the beautiful, exotic Helen, so did the great European nations of Goethe's lifetime come to dominate the other countries of the world, from which European culture was "descended."

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Helen of Troy Character Timeline in Faust

The timeline below shows where the character Helen of Troy appears in Faust. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2: Act 1: An Imperial Palace: A Dark Gallery
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Parts, Wholes, and Limits Theme Icon
Politics Theme Icon
...the palace. The magician tells the devil that the Emperor is demanding that he summon Helen of Troy and Paris (Helen’s lover in Greek mythology) without delay. Get to work, Faust... (full context)
Part 2: Act 1: An Imperial Palace: Brightly Lit Rooms
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Politics Theme Icon
...rooms of the palace. An official tells Mephistopheles that the Court is impatient to see Helen and Paris act out a phantom scene together. The devil responds that Faust is hard... (full context)
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
...thinks that in itself it will be enough of an invitation for the ghosts of Helen and Paris. (full context)
Part 2: Act 1: An Imperial Palace: Knight’s Hall
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Politics Theme Icon
...the men criticize his coarseness, stiffness, his lowborn air, his femininity, and his boorishness. Then Helen enters. She’s pretty but not his style, Mephistopheles says. Faust, however, is enraptured with the... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
The astrologer observes that Paris is boldly seizing Helen, perhaps even abducting her. Faust orders the ghost to stop but he does not. Faust... (full context)
Part 2: Act 2: A High-Vaulted, Narrow Gothic Room (Faust’s Study 4)
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Intellectualism and the Value of Words Theme Icon
...from behind a curtain and finds his master lying on an old-fashioned bed, pining for Helen in his dreams. The devil observes that nothing has changed—there’s the pen Faust signed his... (full context)
Part 2: Act 2: Laboratory
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Intellectualism and the Value of Words Theme Icon
...the other room. Homunculus hovers over to the magician and magically eavesdrops on his dreams: Helen is there, along with woodland springs and swans. It would kill the dreamer to wake... (full context)
Part 2: Act 2: Classical Walpurgis Night: The Pharsalian Fields
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
...and its inhabitants, even the ugly ones. He asks the Sphinxes if any have seen Helen, and one suggests he speak to Chiron. The sirens attempt to tempt Faust, but he... (full context)
Part 2: Act 3: Before Menelaus’ Palace at Sparta
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
In the Underworld, Faust and Manto were granted their request that Helen be released from her ghostly afterlife to live again in a timeless moment, though Goethe... (full context)
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
Inside the palace, Helen encounters empty passageways at first, and then a monstrously strange form: it is Phorkyas-Mephistopheles, the... (full context)
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
Phorkyas-Mephistopheles sees only one way for Helen and her fellow captives to save themselves: in the hills north of Sparta a great,... (full context)
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
Although Helen senses that Phorkyas-Mephistopheles is a hostile spirit who will change good to bad, she gives... (full context)
Part 2: Act 3: Inner Courtyard of a Castle
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Politics Theme Icon
Helen and the captive Trojan women find themselves in a courtyard faced with ornate, fantastic medieval... (full context)
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Politics Theme Icon
Faust announces that he also is overwhelmed by Helen’s beauty, so much so that he acknowledges Helen as his Lady, whose coming has won... (full context)
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Parts, Wholes, and Limits Theme Icon
Politics Theme Icon
...rewarding them generously with land for their loyal service. He then takes his seat by Helen, promising her an earthly paradise and freedom. (full context)
Part 2: Act 3: A Shaded Grove
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Faust and Helen stand in a shaded grove surrounded by cliffs, obscured from view. Phorkyas-Mephistopheles tells the chorus... (full context)
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Parts, Wholes, and Limits Theme Icon
Faust, Helen, and Euphorion enter. Euphorion says that to see him dance makes his parents’ hearts dance,... (full context)
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
...Icarus whose wax wings melted in the sun. His body falls at the feet of Helen and Faust and disappears. All that remains of him onstage are his garments. The boy’s... (full context)
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
The chorus laments the beautiful youth’s death. Helen tells her beloved Faust that beauty and happiness can form no lasting union. She embraces... (full context)
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
One of Helen’s servants resolves to join her Queen in the Underworld, and accuses those who do not... (full context)
Part 2: Act 4: High Mountains
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
...serrated peak. The cloud separates from him and shapes a figure in the sky resembling Helen. Just then two huge boots plump down on the peak. Mephistopheles steps down from them,... (full context)