Study Help Essay Questions


1. What is the purpose and meaning of the "Prelude in the Theatre"?

2. Discuss the meaning of the "Prologue in Heaven" and its similarity to the biblical Book of Job.

3. In what ways does Goethe's Mephisto differ from traditional portrayals of the devil? What philosophical principle does he represent? What is his function in the divine plan and in regard to Faust's ultimate attainment of salvation?

4. Discuss the characterization of Faust and the spiritual dilemma that causes his despair at the beginning of the poem. In what ways is his role that of an archetypal symbolic figure? Why is he willing to associate himself with Mephistopheles? What prevents him from committing suicide?

5. Analyze Faust's religious beliefs as they are explained by him to Gretchen. Do Faust's ideas on this subject reflect those of Goethe?

6. What is the attitude toward the Church and institutionalized religion that Goethe reveals in both parts of Faust? Cite scenes that support your answer.

7. Discuss the characterization and function of Gretchen. Why is she a tragic figure? What responsibility does she have for her own downfall? Why is she received into Heaven at the end of Part One?

8. What is the symbolic meaning of the "Walpurgis Night" scene? What change in Faust's outlook becomes evident in this scene?

9. Is the "Walpurgis Night's Dream" episode related to the rest of the drama? What, if anything, is its function? Why is the scene that follows it written in prose?

10. Why is Faust unwilling to separate himself from Mephistopheles in the Prison scene at the end of Part One? Why does he refuse Gretchen's advice to ask for God's mercy?

11. What are the terms of the pact between Mephisto and Faust? What is the significance of the change in the original wording that Faust makes? What does he really have at stake?

12. Do Goethe's doctrines about sin, salvation, and the nature of the universe as presented in Faust conform to orthodox Christian theology? What use does Goethe make of Christian symbolism in Faust?

13. Discuss the relationship between the two parts of Faust. In what ways do they differ? In what ways do they serve a similar and interconnected purpose?

14. Discuss the functions of Wagner, Martha, and Valentine.

15. Discuss the function and meaning of Homonculus. What is the symbolic meaning of his creation by Wagner? What role does he play in the "Classical Walpurgis Night"?

16. Discuss the use of allegory and Classical mythology in Part Two, citing scenes in which this use is most prominent.

17. Act III of Part Two, the "Helena," is often treated by critics as an independent unit within the larger drama. Discuss its style, the meaning of Faust's love for Helen, and its philosophical message concerning the synthesis of Classical and Romantic culture.

18. Discuss the characterization of Euphorion. What does his birth symbolize and what is the meaning of his strange and premature death? What English poet does he resemble?

19. What is the symbolic meaning of Faust's land reclamation project? Why does it reflect an important change in his moral outlook?

20. Why does Faust assist the Emperor in the war? Who are the Three Mighty Men and what is the significance of Mephisto's use of magic in the battle?

21. Why does Faust crave the cottage of Philemon and Baucis? Why is he sorry after their deaths? Why is he visited by the spirit representing Care?

22. Does Faust undergo any kind of moral rejuvenation or change immediately before his death? Does he fulfill the terms of his pact with Mephisto?

23. What is the meaning of Faust's acceptance into Heaven? Why did Mephisto fail to win Faust's soul? What is the doctrine of "Eternal Womanhood" and who is Una Poenitentium?

24. Is Faust suitable for theatrical production? In what ways does it differ from the usual play? In what ways is it a tragedy, despite its happy ending?

25. Compare Christopher Marlowe's treatment of the Faust legend with that of Goethe.

26. In what ways does Faust change during the course of the drama? In what ways, if any, does he remain the same?

27. Part One of Faust is often treated as a work complete in itself. What misconceptions about Goethe's philosophical views and the ultimate ends of the main characters can this result in?

28. Discuss Goethe's life and his place in the history of German literature.

29. Identify: Microcosm, Macrocosm, Nicodemus, Arcadia, Doctor Marianus, Mater Gloriosa, Earth- Spirit, Harz Mountains, Pharsalus, Lisbeth, Phorkyas, Mater Dolorosa.