In a niche in the wall there is a shrine with the image of 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 on her in her distress. Racked by pain, Mary is raising her eyes to her son Jesus’s death. Only she can understand Gretchen’s pain, the sorrow that causes her to weep constantly. Gretchen says that the flowers she placed in the jars she watered with her own tears. She asks Mary to save her from shame and death.
Gretchen feels guilty and seeks forgiveness for her sins. Mary is a figure of purity and innocence, and therefore represents what Gretchen was before she had sex, and what she hopes to be restored to through her penitence. As Marys’ son (Jesus) died, so too does Margarete’s. But Margarete kills her son, and so her story becomes a tragic parody of the Bible.