Margarete and Faust enter Martha’s garden together. Margarete wants to know her lover’s religion, but he hushes her. He tells her that he’d die for those dear to him, and implies that he does not believe in faith or church. This upsets her. Faust says that he feels the immensity and blessedness of the universe, and knows this feeling to be everything. He says that names for it, like God, are just sound and smoke. Margarete finds this acceptable, because her priest says something similar but in slightly different words. Faust says that all hearts everywhere say this in their own language.
Faust’s spiritual sense comes from his recognition of the universe’s immensity, which is grand to consider and stirs intense feelings within him. It is this feeling, moreover, which Faust boldly declares to be the what words like “God” and “love” are actually referring to. This is a very Romantic conception—that what we call God is actually something inside of us. It’s also an idea that evolves in the drama as Faust experiences more.
There’s a hitch, however, for Margarete. Faust doesn’t hold to Christianity, and she’s distressed by the company he keeps. She finds Mephistopheles repellent and dreadful, with his expression half of mockery, half of anger. He seems to have no interests and to be incapable of love. Faust praises Margarete for her angelic intuitions. She goes on: when Mephistopheles is around, she thinks she no longer loves Faust.
Margarete is being rather tolerant in overlooking Faust’s neglect of society’s religious customs and conventions. Unlike Martha, who flirts with the devil, Margarete perceptively senses that Mephistopheles is dangerous. She is the only character spiritually sensitive enough in the play to be repulsed the devil at first sight.
Margarete announces that she must go. Faust asks when he will be able to stay and rest upon her heart and join souls with her. Margarete is worried, however, that her mother might catch the two in the act of lovemaking. Faust offers her a vial of potion. He tells her that three drops in anything her mother drinks will harmlessly put her into a deep sleep. Margarete says that whenever she looks upon her lover something makes her do whatever he desires. She exits.
We later learn that this vial of potion contains a poison, which ends up killing Margarete’s mother. It is unclear whether Faust knows this now, or whether he too is being deceived by Mephistopheles into thinking the potion is safe, but the latter is more likely to be true. Margarete trusts Faust unconditionally, and she is too innocent to even be suspicious of the potion.
Mephistopheles enters. He has been watching the conversation and heard Faust lecturing about God and religion, and he hopes this will do Faust some good. Faust 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, and relishes Margarete’s sense that he is in fact the very devil. He is very excited for what will happen in the coming night.
Faust says that words are empty, which is perhaps why the devil mocks him for saying so many words about subjects of which the scholar is, by his own admission, ignorant. Margarete quite rightly worries about the fate of Faust’s soul. Stirred by lust, he goes out to seduce her after this scene, even knowing that the satisfaction of his lust means Gretchen’s doom.