Summary and Analysis
Part 1: A Walk
Faust is pacing back and forth, deep in thought, when Mephistopheles enters. The devil angrily reports that Gretchen's mother has learned about the jewels and, suspicious of their origin, has turned them over to the priest as an offering. He comments that
The Church has an excellent appetite.
She has swallowed whole countries and the question
Has never risen of indigestion.
Only the Church . . . can take
Ill-gotten goods without stomach-ache!
The theme and conclusion of this poem are religious, but Goethe believed that man's salvation was dependent on his own efforts and individual relation with God. Faust's life illustrates this doctrine. Therefore, Goethe felt, there was no need for a church to act as an intermediary for man. In addition, he despised the Church because of its corruption, materialism, and worldliness. He felt it maintained a religious facade but was irreligious and rotten at its core. Mephisto's remarks here are typical of many anti-clerical gibes and accusations throughout the poem.
In this scene Faust asks Mephisto to get new jewels to replace those which were given away by Gretchen's mother. This definitively establishes Faust's guilt for the tragic events to come, and shows that the second thoughts he had while meditating were not very sincere. The action of Gretchen's mother and the priest has given him a chance to give up his attempt to seduce the maiden, but Faust decides to go ahead with his original plans.