Summary and Analysis
Outside the City Gate
It is Easter Sunday afternoon. The townspeople are all strolling into the countryside to welcome the advent of Spring. Their mood is gay and youthful. It is as if they are celebrating the world's resurrection from winter, Faust remarks to Wagner, for the two scholars have joined the throng on this beautiful day.
Faust eagerly attunes himself to the holiday atmosphere and shares the peoples' happiness, but Wagner is too stiff and formal to enjoy himself. They stand watching while a group of youngsters sing and dance. Faust says:
Here is the plain man's real heaven — Great and small in a riot of fun;
Here I'm a man — and dare be one.
A peasant comes by and respectfully praises Faust's skill as a physician. This reminds Faust of his own feelings of futility. He tells Wagner that he is torn between two currents in his soul; one is tied to the pleasures of the world, but the other reaches out to the stars. Faust says he would forego all earthly joys if he could satisfy his lofty, spiritual desires. Wagner is frightened by Faust's talk of spirits and warns him against such thoughts.
The men return to town. On the way they notice a mysterious black poodle following them. To Wagner it seems only a harmless little dog, but Faust senses something occult about it.
The simple and joyous life of the common people depicted in this scene is the result of their humble, unthinking acceptance of the world. Faust envies them, but is prevented from following their example by the highly developed spiritual side of his character.