The Emperor is surrounded by princes and courtiers hustling and bustling through brightly lit rooms of the palace. An official tells Mephistopheles that the Court is impatient to see Helen and Paris act out a phantom scene together. The devil responds that Faust is hard at work making this happen.
The Emperor’s court wants only pleasure, and they don’t have any sense of how much dangerous labor is required to produce real pleasure—like the dangerous quest Faust is now on.
Several women then approach Mephistopheles and ask for remedies to their problems: blemishes, swellings of the foot, and unrequited love. The devil recommends nasty, painful solutions: rub frogspawn and toad tongues on your skin; let me kick you; mark your lover with charcoal and swallow it. People begin to crowd about the devil asking for favors.
People are so vain and so eager for quick solutions to their problems that they are willing to take devilishly bad advice without question, just as the Emperor did in solving the financial crisis. The devil’s proposed solutions are worse than the problems themselves.
To get rid of the crowd, Mephistopheles orders the Mothers to release Faust from their spell. Candles dim, and the Court starts to move and assemble in the old Knights’ Hall. This hall is richly hung with tapestries and filled with armor, and the devil thinks that in itself it will be enough of an invitation for the ghosts of Helen and Paris.
The devil is quickly bored with tempting people who are easily tempted, like the members of the Emperor’s court. Only Faust’s soul is a big enough catch to hold Mephistopheles’ attention and energy in the drama.