Summary and Analysis Part 1: In Martha's Garden



In the garden behind Martha's house, Faust courts Gretchen, and Mephistopheles courts Martha. The two couples stroll back and forth, on and off stage, so that only parts of each conversation are overheard. Gretchen tells Faust about her life at home and her love for her baby sister. Faust is charmed by her tale and the general tone of the scene is idyllic, although this mood is repeatedly broken by bits of the cruder conversation between Mephisto and Martha.


This unique scene is known as the "quartet." Through the device of the alternating conversations, the outlooks of Faust and Mephistopheles are contrasted. The devil is cynical and materialistic, but Faust still possessed some degree of spirituality and idealism. These are momentarily reinforced by his exposure to Gretchen. As he comes to know her virtues, Faust's original lust is transcended by feelings of real love. At the same time this scene reveals that Gretchen is already deeply in love with Faust and ready to do anything he asks her. The differences between them as individuals contrast the peace of mind produced by natural innocence and a simple life with the mental turmoil caused by a complex, introspective mind and familiarity with a vast body of knowledge.