At this point, apparently, Faust has given half a lifetime to his project of driving back the ocean. A traveler enters a broad natural landscape, intent on visiting old acquaintances who live in a nearby cottage. He gives a shout and a little, very old woman called Baucis enters, along with her husband Philemon. Philemon tells the traveler that the godless Faust has succeeded in creating paradise-like new lands on the Empire’s coast, as well as a palace built not without human sacrifice and torment. The three sit for a meal in the couple’s garden, where Baucis goes on to say that Faust covets their cottage. He’s even offered an estate in new land, adds Philemon. But the pious couple refuses to trade.
After securing his fiefdom (the lands he rules as a feudal lord under the Emperor), Faust has now succeeded in creating new lands. More than that, he has learned how to rule so that his kingdom thrives—in stark contrast to the Emperor. But Faust is also a harsh ruler, for in building his palace he caused much human suffering. In keeping their estate, Baucis and Philemon are setting a limit to the expanse of Faust’s kingdom. Faust never accepts limits gracefully, however, and that will be the case here, too. Baucis and Philemon are characters from Greek mythology, a pious couple rewarded for being hospitable to a god in disguise.