Faust

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Margarete/A Penitent Character Analysis

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. The two become involved in a torrid love affair, and one night Faust tells Margarete to administer a sleeping potion to her controlling mother so that the two lovers can consummate their relationship. This act, however, is the beginning of Gretchen’s end: the potion kills her mother, Gretchen becomes impregnated by Faust, and the community shuns her for her having sex outside of marriage. After Faust murders her brother Valentine, Gretchen becomes further haunted by her guilt and her yearning for innocence. She murders her newborn infant to free it from this world, and is consequently imprisoned and sentenced to death by beheading. Though Faust attempts to liberate her, Gretchen at last refuses to leave her prison with him. As Faust and Mephistopheles fly from her cell, however, a voice from the heavens announces that Gretchen is saved, to spend eternity in heaven despite her sins. At the end of the play, Gretchen’s soul, referred to as a penitent, successfully appeals to the Blessed Virgin Mary on behalf of Faust’s soul. Mary then instructs her to rise, so that Faust can follow her into eternity.

Margarete/A Penitent Quotes in Faust

The Faust quotes below are all either spoken by Margarete/A Penitent or refer to Margarete/A Penitent. 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 1: A Garden Quotes

Don’t be afraid! Look in my eyes,
let them and let these hands that now clasp yours
express what tongue can never say:
complete devotion and a sense of bliss
that must endure eternally!
Eternally!—Its end would be despair.
There must not be an end! Not ever!

Related Characters: Heinrich Faust (speaker), Margarete/A Penitent
Page Number: 3188-3194
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we see Faust falling for a beautiful, humble girl named Gretchen. Gretchen is an unusual match for Faust, since she's rather simple and ordinarily-educated (she doesn't have even a fraction of the knowledge and training that Faust does). And yet Gretchen has something that Faust can never have: she's happy and innocent--one could say that Faust and Gretchen are, respectively, like Adam after the Fall of Man and Eve before the Fall (notice that the scene takes place in a garden!).

In this scene, we see Faust wishing for happiness and eternity: because of his feelings for Gretchen, he wants to be happy with her forever. Such a desire is precisely what Faust promised never to feel when he made his agreement with Mephistopheles. And yet the poem doesn't end here: there's still a sense that Faust, in spite of saying that he wants to be with Gretchen forever, doesn't actually believe it completely. Faust is, as always, disjointed--his words don't quite match his feelings. There's still a part of him that's tired of life and eager to move on to the next thing.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Faust quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Part 1: Gretchen’s Room Quotes

My heart is heavy,
all peace is gone,
I’ll never find it,
never, again.
My breast is yearning
to be with him;
could I but clasp
and hold him tight,
and kiss him
as my heart desires,
under his kisses
I’d swoon and die!

Related Characters: Margarete/A Penitent (speaker), Heinrich Faust
Page Number: 3402-3413
Explanation and Analysis:

Gretchen is a tragic character, because she seems to love Faust whole-heartedly, and yet her love for Faust will bring her only pain and anguish, not happiness. Already, Gretchen finds herself abandoned by her lover: Faust has left Gretchen, at least for the time being. In Faust's absence, Gretchen is distraught: she cries that she'll be in constant pain unless she can see Faust again. If she could only kiss him, she goes on, she would die of happiness.

Gretchen's unbridled love for Faust signals her innocence and ignorance of the world--she barely knows Faust, after all (though the shortness of her relationship might just be part of the artifice of the play). Gretchen is, for all appearances, a totally innocent character, whose sweetness and kindness will be harshly punished (as we'll see soon enough).

Part 1: At the Well Quotes

How readily I once declaimed
when some poor girl did the wrong thing!

I’d cross myself, act high and mighty—
and now I’m prey to sin myself!
And yet, o God, what brought me to it,
was all so good, and oh so sweet!

Related Characters: Margarete/A Penitent (speaker)
Page Number: 3577-3586
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we learn that Gretchen's affair with Faust has brought her to a state of sin. Previously, she was a sweet, innocent girl--but now that she's been with Faust, she's "sinned" by having pre-marital sex with him. Her childish state of innocence is gone forever. Gretchen seems to lament her loss of innocence, even as she celebrates its cause (her beloved Faust, and presumably sex itself). She loves Faust, and yet seems to hate him for dragging her away from her own piousness.

The passage foreshadows one of the major events of the end of Part One: Gretchen's pregnancy. The passage is also an important indication of the way Faust's nature brings ruin to everyone he crosses paths with. Gretchen has the best of intentions, but these become twisted by Faust's greed and Mephistopheles' manipulations.

Get the entire Faust LitChart as a printable PDF.
Faust.pdf.medium

Margarete/A Penitent Character Timeline in Faust

The timeline below shows where the character Margarete/A Penitent appears in Faust. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Street
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Later, in a street, Faust walks past a lovely young woman, Margarete. He takes her by the arm and offers to escort her home, but she frees... (full context)
Part 1: Evening
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Politics Theme Icon
In her small, neatly kept room, Margarete is braiding and tying up her hair. She wishes to know the identity of the... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Mephistopheles warns that Margarete is returning, so he and Faust must leave. He presents his love-struck master with a... (full context)
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Margarete enters, carrying a lamp. She is warm, so she opens a window and finds it... (full context)
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Margarete then opens her chest to put away her clothes, and at once she sees the... (full context)
Part 1: Promenade
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
...forth, preoccupied, while Mephistopheles swears vehemently. Faust asks what’s ailing the devil, who explains that Margarete’s pious mother gave the girl’s new jewels to a local priest as a donation to... (full context)
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Faust inquires about Margarete, here referred to as Gretchen. Mephistopheles says she is grieving about the loss of her... (full context)
Part 1: The Neighbor’s House
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Margarete’s neighbor, Dame Martha Schwerdtlein, is alone in her house, thinking about her husband. He has... (full context)
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Margarete enters and tells Martha that she has found yet another casket of treasures more splendid... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
...to have a message for Dame Martha Schwerdtlein. He excuses himself for interrupting, and addresses Margarete as though she were a lady of high social standing (even though she is just... (full context)
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
...is troubled: her husband left her no money? No jewelry? Mephistopheles offers his sympathies, and Margarete promises to pray requiems (masses sung for the dead) for the departed. The devil turns... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
...as a second witness to establish the truth of what he’s said. He then asks Margarete if she’ll be here too, and praises his friend (the one coming to verify the... (full context)
Part 1: A Street
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Intellectualism and the Value of Words Theme Icon
Faust wants to know how things stand with Margarete. Mephistopheles applauds his passion and tells him that he will see his beloved tonight at... (full context)
Part 1: A Garden
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Intellectualism and the Value of Words Theme Icon
...evening, and Faust and Mephistopheles are in Martha’s garden. Martha and Mephistopheles walk together, and Margarete is on Faust’s arm. She is self-deprecating in conversation with him, but Faust praises her... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
As they enjoy one another’s company, Margarete tells Faust about her and her fussy mother’s modest household. Because they don’t have a... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Faust and Margarete are deep in conversation. Faust asks if she really recognized him when he entered the... (full context)
Part 1: A Summerhouse
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Intellectualism and the Value of Words Theme Icon
Faust and Margarete run from Martha’s garden to a summerhouse. Here, the girl warns her lover that Mephistopheles... (full context)
Part 1: Forest and Cave
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Parts, Wholes, and Limits Theme Icon
...recognizes that human beings can never posses what is perfect, he also feels that in Margarete he at last has found a companion he cannot live without, who makes him swing... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
...Faust as a hypocrite for being so modest. He goes on to tell Faust that Margarete is in town, sitting in gloom with her overpowering love for him, and he advises... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Mephistopheles warns Faust that Margarete thinks he has run away, and adds that for all intents and purposes this is... (full context)
Part 1: Gretchen’s Room
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Gretchen, a.k.a. Margarete, is alone in her room, sitting at her spinning-wheel. She sings about her... (full context)
Part 1: Martha’s Garden
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
Intellectualism and the Value of Words Theme Icon
Margarete and Faust enter Martha’s garden together. Margarete wants to know her lover’s religion, but he... (full context)
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
There’s a hitch, however, for Margarete. Faust doesn’t hold to Christianity, and she’s distressed by the company he keeps. She finds... (full context)
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Margarete announces that she must go. Faust asks when he will be able to stay and... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Intellectualism and the Value of Words Theme Icon
...calls the devil a monster, incapable of understanding how such a loyal loving soul as Margarete suffers in regarding her lover (Faust) as a lost soul. Mephistopheles calls Faust a sensualist,... (full context)
Part 1: At the Well
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Gretchen and a girl named Lieschen are at the well with their pitchers. Lieschen gossips about... (full context)
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
After Lieschen exits, Gretchen walks home. She says that once she would have criticized a girl for doing wrong... (full context)
Part 1: By the Ramparts
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
...the Mater Dolorosa, the Blessed Virgin Mary in her sorrows, surrounded by jars of flowers. Gretchen enters and places fresh flowers in the jars, then prays to Mary to have mercy... (full context)
Part 1: Night
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
This scene is set in the street outside Gretchen’s house. Her brother Valentine, a soldier, enters. He recalls how his comrades used to get... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Parts, Wholes, and Limits Theme Icon
Martha, Gretchen, and some townspeople pour into the street, bringing light, and they discover that a brawl... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Parts, Wholes, and Limits Theme Icon
...and kill her, he’d hope to get abundant pardon for his sins. He demands that Gretchen not shed tears. He tells her that she gave his heart the fatal blow. Valentine... (full context)
Part 1: Cathedral
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Parts, Wholes, and Limits Theme Icon
...in progress. Surrounded by people, and with her Evil Spirit behind her, stands the fallen Gretchen. Her Evil Spirit torments her with memories of innocence. It reminds her of Valentine’s death,... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Parts, Wholes, and Limits Theme Icon
Gretchen wants to escape the thoughts the Evil Spirit inspires in her. The choir sings the... (full context)
Part 1: Walpurgis Night
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
...in Mephistopheles that he saw a deathly-pale lovely girl who looks like his own dear Gretchen (whose fate he has no knowledge of at this point). Leave that alone, the devil... (full context)
Part 1: An Expanse of Open Country
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
...Mephistopheles enter an expanse of open country under an overcast sky. Faust has learned that Gretchen is miserable and despairing in prison—for killing her newborn child, Faust’s own. Speaking in prose... (full context)
Part 1: Prison
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
...keys. A long-forgotten sense of horror makes him tremble, for behind the iron door is Margarete. Inside she sings in the persona of her dead child, singing about the whorish mother... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Parts, Wholes, and Limits Theme Icon
Faust enters the cell and Margarete cowers, afraid that her execution is about to take place, even though it is scheduled... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Parts, Wholes, and Limits Theme Icon
When Faust calls her name, Margarete recognizes his voice. She feels free and embraces the man she loves. Happy memories of... (full context)
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Margarete tells Faust to leave without her, to save his poor child, and she imagines her... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Parts, Wholes, and Limits Theme Icon
Mephistopheles enters and tells Faust and Margarete to come away, or else both of them will be lost. Margarete begs Faust to... (full context)
Part 2: Act 5: Mountain Gorges
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Parts, Wholes, and Limits Theme Icon
...heaven’s High Queen, the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is surrounded by other women ascending upward, penitents anxious for mercy. Three sinful women who have achieved redemption—Magna Peccatrix (the Biblical Mary Magdalene),... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Parts, Wholes, and Limits Theme Icon
The penitent (Gretchen) clings to the Blessed Virgin Mary, asking her to look down on Faust, the... (full context)