Faust, Parts 1 and 2 By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Summary and Analysis Part 2: Act II: Laboratory

Summary

In a nearby laboratory Wagner is hard at work. He tells Mephisto, who has joined him, that he is about to create a human being. After some manipulations, a tiny humanoid figure appears in the bottle Wagner is tending. It is Homonculus ("little man").

The tiny figure begins an animated conversation with Mephisto and Wagner. Seeing Faust on the bed in the next room, Homonculus floats to his side and eavesdrops on his dreams. He suggests that Faust should not be awakened in his present state of mind. Instead they should take him to Greece to participate in the Classical Walpurgis Night. Mephisto has never heard of this event and asks what it is. Homonculus explains that the Classical spirits are the only true ones and describes the differences between the gloomy northern witch's fête to which Mephisto is accustomed and the joyous warm southern festival. Mephisto is dubious, but finally accepts the invitation when Homonculus tells him about the erotic pleasures he can enjoy with the Thessalian witches who will also be there.

Mephisto lifts up Faust's unconscious body and goes out with Homonculus. They leave Wagner behind, telling him to continue his studies and predicting that someday perhaps he will find fame and virtue.

Analysis

Wagner's creation is the high point of conventional scholarly attainment; it bears the semblance of life but is not real flesh and blood. Homonculus is an archetypal figure, representing the vital life spirit in man and Nature. He is driven by an intense desire to find the secret of existence so that he can become truly alive. In some ways Homonculus is a miniature Faust, but their goals are different: Faust is trying to overcome his physical nature and find peace on a spiritual level, while Homonculus hopes to find fulfillment through an enhanced physical existence. Homonculus also seems to be a personification of Intellect, and is always conscious of his limitations because he possesses none of the emotions that lead real human beings into false impressions or aspirations.

Wagner is left behind because he has already fulfilled his noblest function — the creation of Homonculus. In other words, learning is valuable but not sufficient in itself. It must be abandoned for other means when no longer useful in the struggle to comprehend the ultimate.

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At the beginning of Part Two, what solution does Mephistopheles, dressed as a jester, give for the kingdom's financial problems?




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