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

Summary

This is the room which was Faust's study in Part One. Mephisto brings him here and puts him, still unconscious, on the bed. Wearing Faust's academic gown, Mephisto summons Nicodemus, the new famulus who has replaced Wagner. Wagner, in turn, has replaced Faust at the university. Mephisto asks the servant to call his master.

Meanwhile, a baccalaureus (graduate) enters. It is the freshman whom Mephisto teased in Part One. Now he has completed his studies and has a proud, complacent attitude about his knowledge and understanding. He still thinks Mephisto is a professor and engages in an argument with him. He praises his own academic stature and insults Mephisto. After the graduate leaves, Mephisto comments that he is still quite young, and one has to be old to understand the devil.

Analysis

The return to the scenes of Part One indicates that Faust is still far from his goals and is now about to start on an entirely different means of attaining them. Mephisto's final words imply that true insight can be the result only of experience and experimentation. The baccalaureus is Goethe's caricature of a new intellectual trend in his day which he felt carried pragmatism and faith in human omnipotence to dangerous lengths. The graduate's inability to recognize the devil is an example of the inherent limitations and artificiality of his kind of knowledge.

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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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