Faust

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Summary
Analysis
Faust and Mephistopheles enter a dark gallery in 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 tells his servant. The devil says it will be costly, for pagans like Helen and Paris live in their own special hell where he doesn’t have power. He explains that Faust must enter the timeless, spaceless sphere of strange and majestic goddesses known as the Mothers by enduring dreary solitude. He says Faust must enter Nothingness, and Faust responds that it’s there he hopes to find his All.
Impressed by Faust’s fiery spectacle during the Masquerade, the Emperor orders the magician to summon Helen, the ideal beauty of Classical Greece, and Paris, the Trojan man who kidnapped her from her Greek husband Menelaus’s palace. This started a war—just so that Paris could sexually enjoy Helen. These two figures thus represent perfect beauty and sensual enjoyment at the expense of political duty, respectively.
Themes
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Parts, Wholes, and Limits Theme Icon
Politics Theme Icon
Mephistopheles gives Faust a tiny key that begins to grow in his hand. It has special properties, the devil says. Faust must follow its lead down to the Mothers; the word “Mothers” makes Faust shudder. Descend or ascend, the devil says—it makes no difference. Faust becomes enthusiastic, eager to get underway. Mephistopheles says that he will know he has reached the Mothers when he comes to a glowing tripod. In its light the Mothers will be sitting, standing, or walking. All is form in transformation, he says. Faust stamps his foot and sinks out of sight. Mephistopheles is curious to see if he’ll return.
The devil has control over illusion but not over myth, which is the world of Helen and Paris. To access that world, Faust must go into eternal nothingness, where the immortal mythical images dwell guarded by the Mothers. The descent into the realm of the Mothers is portrayed like sexual penetration: Faust uses his phallic key to unlock new life from nothing’s womb. In Helen’s case, this new life is superior to the life that exists in Faust’s current society.
Themes
The Human Desire for Meaning and Transcendence Theme Icon
Pleasure and Love Theme Icon
Politics Theme Icon