Alone in her small bedroom Gretchen braids her hair and wonders about the strange man who accosted her so boldly on the street earlier in the day. Then she goes out to visit a neighbor.
Faust and Mephistopheles enter the room, for Faust has expressed the wish to see where Gretchen lives and sleeps. He is moved by the simple furnishings and asks Mephisto to leave. Alone, Faust soliloquizes about the strange sense of calm he feels among Gretchen's things and the passionate love welling up within him.
For a moment the wholesome purity of his surroundings causes Faust to waver in his plan to seduce the maiden. Mephistopheles returns with a chest of jewels, however, and quickly turns Faust's thoughts away from such moralizing. They leave the jewels and go out.
Gretchen comes in again. After commenting to herself about the oppressive atmosphere of the tiny room and the odd tension she feels, the maiden prepares for bed. While undressing she sings a charming little song, "There was a king in Thule! Was faithful to the grave . . ." Suddenly she discovers the jewels. She is so delighted by their beauty that she barely wonders about the significance of their unexplained presence in her room.
Gretchen's song, with its theme of fidelity in love, reveals her naiveté and idealism. Its innocence foreshadows the deep impression which Faust, in the guise of a handsome and generous young nobleman, will make on her, and her complete devotion to him once he has won her love.