In her small, neatly kept room, Margarete is braiding and tying up her hair. She wishes to know the identity of the debonair, noble gentleman she met earlier in the day, who was none other than Faust. When she exits her room, Mephistopheles and Faust enter, the former snooping about. Faust, enraptured, welcomes the twilight glow that permeates the room, and asks the sweet pain of love to possess his heart. He sits in a leather armchair and announces that Margaret’s hand is godlike enough to make this cottage into paradise. He lifts one of the bed-curtains and becomes ecstatic. He came here for immediate enjoyment, but instead he’s fallen in love.
Faust does not merely lust after Gretchen, but truly is in love with her. Love gives him a sense of eternity and creative power, the ability to transform the ordinary world into a paradise. In the witch’s kitchen, Mephistopheles sits down in an armchair like a king, but Faust rules here, indicated by his sitting down in an armchair. Gretchen, by metaphorical extension, is his queen and equal in power.
Mephistopheles warns that Margarete is returning, so he and Faust must leave. He presents his love-struck master with a little casket of treasures and tells him to put it in Margaret’s drawers, the better to win her love. Faust wonders whether he should do this after all, so the devil does it for him. Mephistopheles observes that Faust looks glum and gray. The two exit in a hurry.
The image of a casket of treasures darkly suggests the idea of a burial casket, and indeed Gretchen’s death is set into motion by the treasures Mephistopheles leaves for the girl. Love transforms Faust, so that he no longer wants to prey on Gretchen like an animal, but wants to encounter her soul honestly.
Margarete enters, carrying a lamp. She is warm, so she opens a window and finds it cooler outside. A feeling she can’t describe comes over her. She starts trembling, feeling silly and timid, and she wishes her mother would come home. Margarete sings a song about a faithful king in Thule whose dying mistress gave him a cup of gold, which he cherished until his death.
Margarete’s indescribable feeling is an erotic one—she is developing sexual desire, but she is so innocent that she does not yet understand this. Perhaps seeing Faust in the street has brought this feeling about. Margarete’s song is about an ideal lifelong love—something she won’t have the fortune to enjoy.
Margarete then opens her chest to put away her clothes, and at once she sees the casket Mephistopheles planted there. She opens it and finds beautiful jewels inside, which she tries on. She laments the fact that women are valued only for the wealth they have. And if we’re poor, that’s just too bad, she says.
Margarete is absolutely innocent, and so she cannot even imagine the jewels in her drawer as being sinister or ominous. She does understand the social fact, however, that financial interests often get in the way of love.