Faust

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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 his books to nature. Though Mephistopheles soon replaces Wagner as Faust’s assistant, Wagner makes another appearance in Part II of the drama. By that point, Wagner is himself the master at the university, rivaling even the great Faust in brilliance and fame. He is also working on an experiment in his laboratory, the unnatural creation of life from inorganic materials. Accelerated by the devil’s presence, the experiment is a success, yielding Homunculus. In the end Wagner remains (like Faust) isolated and troublingly concerned with violating the laws of nature. He represents the relative successes and dramatic human failures of the Age of Enlightenment.

Wagner Quotes in Faust

The Faust quotes below are all either spoken by Wagner or refer to Wagner. 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: Night (Faust’s Study 1) Quotes

Is parchment then the sacred fount,
and does one drink from it forever to slake our thirst?
There’s nothing you can gain refreshment from
except what has its source in your own soul.

Related Characters: Heinrich Faust (speaker), Wagner
Page Number: 566-569
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Faust has an argument with his assistant, Wagner, about the value of knowledge and education. The two men's positions have been interpreted to reflect the two dominant intellectual positions of European thought at the time, the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Wagner argues that book-learning is useful because it fills the mind with useful knowledge; one could argue that his point of view is characteristic of the Age of Enlightenment (the era when the encyclopedia, the dictionary, and the modern school system came into being). But Faust disagrees with his assistant: it's not enough, he claims, for books to fill the mind with information--they must nourish the soul as well. Faust argues that the best books don't really introduce new information at all; instead, they merely provide the answers to questions that the mind, or rather, the soul, has already posed in some way.

Faust's observations, complicated though they are, suggest why his pursuits of knowledge so far have failed. Faust has gotten a lot of information from his books, and yet there's a sense, deep down, that he hasn't really satisfied his soul's desires yet. Faust doesn't yet know what he wants to know; he's out of touch with what his soul is "thirsty" for.

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Part 1: Outside the City Gate Quotes

Alas! it is so hard to find corporeal wings
that match those of the human mind.
Yet in all of us there is an innate urge
to rise aloft and soar along
when, lost in the blue space above us,
the lark pours forth its vibrant song,
when high above fir-covered crags
the eagle floats on outspread wing,
and when above the plains and lakes
the crane seeks out its native place.

Related Characters: Heinrich Faust (speaker), Wagner
Related Symbols: Nature and the Earth Spirit
Page Number: 1090-1099
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Faust and his assistant, Wagner, go outside Faust's study to survey the city they live in. Outside, Faust notices an entire city of people walking outside, socializing, and having a good time. The scene prompts Faust to note that all human beings feel a desire to "soar" in some way or other. For animals like the eagle, soaring is a literal affair--the eagle flies overhead, savoring the vistas of Earth. For ordinary people, it's implied, "soaring" is a matter of ambition, but also being around other people, enjoying the city and nature, drinking, etc.--such interpersonal interactions bring joy and comfort to the soul.

The passage seems to suggest that Faust can find some happiness and comfort in socializing with his fellow human beings. And yet there's also a suggestion that for Faust, socializing and enjoying the city simply aren't enough. Because of Faust's massive intellect, he feels apart from other human beings, even when he's around them--he wants to "soar" in a way that others don't.

Part 2: Act 2: Laboratory Quotes

[Homunculus’s vial is] rising, flashing, piling up—
another moment and it’s done!
A grand design may seem insane at first;
but in the future chance will seem absurd,
and such a brain as this, intended for great thoughts,
will in its turn create a thinker too.

Related Characters: Wagner (speaker), Homunculus
Related Symbols: Faust’s Study and Wagner’s Laboratory, Prisons and Keys
Page Number: 6865-6870
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're introduced to Homunculus, the tiny man that Wagner, Faust's former pupil and assistant, is developing in his laboratory. Homunculus is a human being, and yet he has no true parents, except for Wagner, who has produced Homunculus using "crystallization," rather than the usual process of procreation.

Homunculus has been interpreted as a symbol for the scientific innovations of Goethe's lifetime, an era during which interest in science exploded. Others have noted that the Homunculus--a bizarre, satanic, motherless human being--might symbolize modern, isolated human beings. Homunculus, in any event, represents the unnatural qualities of Wagner's experiments: Wagner has gone against "God's will" by creating a living, breathing creature on his own (although the devil's presence was seemingly necessary to give him the spark of life). Wagner, one could say, has eclipsed even Faust as a scientist and a thinker--he seems almost as restless and arrogant as Faust in his desire to understand the mysteries of the universe and overreach the bounds of human knowledge and pride.

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Wagner Character Timeline in Faust

The timeline below shows where the character Wagner appears in Faust. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Night (Faust’s Study 1)
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
Politics Theme Icon
...of most plentiful visions. Faust opens the door, and it is the gowned and night-capped Wagner, Faust’s assistant in scholarship, who heard his master thundering out what he supposes was a... (full context)
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Intellectualism and the Value of Words Theme Icon
Faust disparages the pretty speeches that Wagner admires, and the two begin debating the values of learning and knowledge. Faust says that... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Intellectualism and the Value of Words Theme Icon
It is getting late, and Faust proposes that the two stop their debate for now. Wagner would have liked to stay up longer discussing learned matters. He asks Faust if tomorrow,... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Parts, Wholes, and Limits Theme Icon
Intellectualism and the Value of Words Theme Icon
Alone, Faust thinks about how greedy for superficialities Wagner is, and resents him for knocking when he, Faust, was surrounded by inspiration. He is... (full context)
Part 1: Outside the City Gate
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Faust and Wagner enter the scene. Faust observes that the rivers and brooks are thawing as old Winter... (full context)
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Intellectualism and the Value of Words Theme Icon
Wagner tells his master that to walk with him is both an honor for him and... (full context)
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
An old peasant comes upon Faust and Wagner. He tells Faust that it is good of him to be out and about with... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Faust and Wagner resume their walk. Wagner is impressed by how much the villagers respect Faust. The two... (full context)
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Intellectualism and the Value of Words Theme Icon
Wagner wonders how Faust can be disturbed at all by his father’s actions, seeing as how... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Faust retorts that Wagner only knows one desire, whereas he himself has two souls at once: a sensual one... (full context)
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Faust sees something that holds his interest: a black dog. Wagner says he saw the dog a while ago but thought it unimportant. He identifies it... (full context)
Part 2: Act 2: A High-Vaulted, Narrow Gothic Room (Faust’s Study 4)
Intellectualism and the Value of Words Theme Icon
...chord, summoning from a dark corridor the famulus (an attendant), later called Nicodemus, who is Wagner’s assistant in scholarship. The famulus is frightened of the giant wearing Faust’s old woolen gown,... (full context)
Intellectualism and the Value of Words Theme Icon
Mephistopheles orders the famulus to lead him to Wagner, but the famulus explains that Wagner is deeply involved with a great project and has... (full context)
Part 2: Act 2: Laboratory
Reason and Passion Theme Icon
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Intellectualism and the Value of Words Theme Icon
Wagner is in his alchemist’s chamber, a laboratory that is filled with a cumbersome apparatus designed... (full context)
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
...is Homunculus, a very small human or humanoid creature, making dainty gestures. It speaks, addressing Wagner as its daddy and stating that it would like to begin working right now. Mephistopheles... (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
Intellectualism and the Value of Words Theme Icon
...witches will be there, as Mephistopheles has a lecherous interest in them. So it’s decided: Wagner will stay and attend to his studies while his creature escorts the devil and the... (full context)