The narrator again implores the reader to “follow me,” asking “who told you that there is no true, faithful, eternal love in this world!” and promising “I will show you such a love!” The narrator then reveals that the master’s lover is Margarita, and that the master is completely wrong to think she has forgotten him.
The narrator’s continuing interjection sets up the premise of Book Two: that there is such thing as “true, faithful, love” and that what follows will prove it. This is the reader’s first encounter with Margarita, remarkable given that this past the halfway point. By delaying her entrance Bulgakov underscores her importance. Her name is another reference to Goethe’s Faust.
Margarita is a beautiful, intelligent woman and thirty years old. She is childless and married, though she does not love her husband. Her husband loves her, however, and she has all she needs, materially speaking, including money and a nice house. Without the master, though, she is resolutely unhappy.
Margarita, in other words, has what many others in the Moscow society lack: a life of material fulfilment. As the reader knows from chapter 13, both she and the master already had spouses when they met (though nothing is said of the master’s). Of course, Margarita’s love for the master completely overpowers any material concerns.
Margarita is angry that she left the master on that fateful night. She came back the next day but was too late, “like the unfortunate Matthew Levi.” She has been grieving all through winter, not knowing if the master is alive or dead. Today she wakes up at noon (it is the same Friday).
Margarita is thinking of the night when the master burned the manuscript of his novel. She didn’t stay because she had to return to her husband. Her reference to Matthew Levi shows the profound impact that the master’s novel had on her—she thinks in terms of his characters.
On waking, Margarita feels her spirits lift; she has had a dream of the master, which she takes to be a premonition that “something was finally going to happen.” Either, she thinks, the master is dead and the dream means she will die too; or he’s alive and she will find him.
Dreams occupy an important role in the novel, often hinting at what is to come or actively moving the story forward (as in Ivan’s dream of Yershalaim). Margarita’s thoughts of suicide echo the master’s mention of similar thoughts in chapter 13, underlining both the lovers’ suffering and the way in which their fates are linked.
With her husband away on business, Margarita goes into one of the rooms in their house and opens up a drawer, hidden in which are a photo of the master, his bank savings book, a dried rose petal, and a partially charred notebook. She takes these to her bedroom, leafing through the notebook, in which she reads a short excerpt from the master’s novel.
All that’s left of the master’s novel, it seems, are a few charred pages. Her focus on the novel instructs the reader to do the same—the novel is a representation of true art, juxtaposed with the work produced by the Massolit writers.
Putting these possessions away, Margarita decides to go for a walk. On her way out, she has a discussion with her housemaid, Natasha, who tells her gossip she’s heard about yesterday’s unbelievable goings-on at the Variety theater.
Woland’s plan to unsettle Moscow is coming to fruition—the Variety show is the talk of the town. This then informs Margarita’s mindset when she meets Azazello later in the chapter.
Margarita leaves, taking a “trolley-bus” on which she overhears two strangers talking about a “scandal” involving “mysticism”; they also mention that a dead body has had its head stolen from a coffin that very morning. She gets off and sits on a bench near the Kremlin, thinking of the master.
Bulgakov’s masterful tactic of delaying the entry of characters and the information that they are privy to functions like pieces being moved on a chess board. The reader, here, knows much more than Margarita about what she overhears. But the mention of a stolen head is gossip for the reader too, with the inference that the head is Berlioz’s.
Margarita notices a funeral procession going by. Wondering who it’s for, her thought is suddenly answer by a man by her side, who informs her that the deceased is Berlioz, chairman of Massolit. This man (Azazello) is short, red-haired, and has a fang. Berlioz’s head was stolen from the coffin as it lay the hall of Griboedov’s this morning, the man adds.
Margarita is not a fan of Massolit—they are the same group of writers that rejected the master’s novel. The fanged man is, of course, Azazello—the reader knows this, but Bulgakov is careful to point out that Margarita doesn’t. The purpose for the theft of the head—and the culprits—will become clear in a subsequent chapter.
Margarita, assuming there to be many writers among the mourners, asks the Azazello if “Latunsky” is one of them. He points Latunsky out, noticing Margarita’s hatred for the critic. The stranger shocks Margarita by addressing her by her name.
Latunsky, as the master explained in chapter 13, was his worst critic. Naturally, Margarita shares in the master’s hatred. Azazello gives Margarita a sign of his supernatural powers by using her name, also indicating that she has been specifically chosen by Woland for what is to come.
Azazello admits that he is there to speak to Margarita about some “business.” He explains that “a very distinguished foreigner” would like her company that very evening. She takes this as an indecent proposition, becoming angry. To her amazement, the man then quotes a passage from the master’s novel.
Margarita momentarily thinks she is being asked to prostitute herself. Azazello’s is offering a kind of pact between a mortal and the devil, much like the deal Faust takes up in Goethe’s text. His quotation from the novel serves a similar purpose to his use of her name, but also underscores the novel’s importance.
Margarita demands to know the redheaded man’s identity; he reluctantly explains that his name is Azazello. She implores him to tell her if the master if his alive, which Azazello confirms. If she wants to know more, says Azazello, she needs to meet with the “foreigner.”
This is a significant development for Margarita, marking the first sign that the master is still alive. This spurs her on and gives her courage to agree to Azazello’s proposition.
Azazello gives Margarita a golden box containing an ointment, instructing her to cover herself with it at “exactly half past nine.” She accepts, saying, “I agree to perform this comedy of rubbing in the ointment, agree to go to the devil and beyond!”
Margarita’s prediction earlier in the chapter that “something” would happen today proves correct, hence her energetic acceptance of the offer. She has an inkling of the “foreigner’s” identity by virtue of what she heard from Natasha and the strangers on the trolley-bus.