Four men, Frosch, Brander, Siebel, and Altmayer, are drinking in a tavern in the city of Leipzig. Mephistopheles has offered to show Faust the pleasures that can be gotten from convivial company and good cheer. They enter and join the others.
After observing their coarseness and watching Mephistopheles befuddle them with magic tricks, Faust realizes that this is not the answer to his longing. He voices his disgust and urges that they go. Before they leave, Mephisto works another spell, to demonstrate to Faust the inherent bestiality of human beings.
For the significance of Auerbach's Tavern as the setting for this scene, see the section on "The Faust Legend in European Thought," page 8. The mood of this scene is comic, but there is an undertone of seriousness, for in their drunken revelry the four men are desperately seeking an escape from frustration and boredom. Faust's disgust with their bestiality is an ironic portent of the low state to which he will fall before the play ends. Faust's intellect and conscience are too highly developed for him to find satisfaction in the animalistic "freedom" and irresponsibility of drunkenness, but this is not because his moral sense is so secure; rather, he has not yet been tempted at his real weak spot — lust. This episode establishes the pattern of all the events in Part One, where, except for the restoration of Faust's youth (which can be interpreted symbolically), Mephisto does nothing for him that he could not have done himself.