Summary and Analysis
Act III: Inner Courtyard of a Castle
Mephisto-Phorkyas instantaneously transports Helen and the women to Faust's medieval castle. The Gothic setting is in sharp contrast to the Classical one of the last scene. The movement from Sparta to the castle seems to have transcended Time, for it is now the Middle Ages and Faust appears as a Germanic knight.
Faust greets Helen with warmth and flattery. He calms the fears she and the women feel, and shows his trust in Helen by giving her the responsibility for the prisoner Lynceus. There is some elaborate medieval pageantry, organized by Mephisto, which successfully diverts the women and they soon feel at ease. Faust begins to woo Helen in earnest, much in the manner of a medieval troubadour. He declares himself her vassal and pledges his undying love. Up to this point Helen's speeches have all been unrhymed, in the Greek manner. Now Faust teaches her how to rhyme and they join together in a love duet, while the chorus praises their union.
Suddenly Mephisto-Phorkyas warns that the army of Menelaus is coming. Faust assembles his soldiers and sends them to meet the enemy, speaking proudly of German military prowess. He goes on at length in praise of the glories of Greece's Golden Age, then urges Helen to flee with him to Arcadia, where they will find bliss and freedom together.
Faust's role as a northern conqueror symbolizes the destruction of Greek civilization by barbarism, followed by the desire of the conquerors to possess the classical serenity and beauty of the earlier culture, here personified by Helen. Lynceus represents the disorganized wanderlust and lawlessness of the northerners which can be quelled by submission to Greek principles of order and restraint; thus his fate is determined by Helen. The marriage of Faust and Helen will combine Germanic energy and vitality with Greek moderation and sensitivity. It is a poetic representation of the rediscovery and absorption of Classical culture by the northern peoples during the Renaissance, and a prophecy of a new cultural synthesis which will merge the best of the two earlier civilizations to form a new and better one. The legendary Eden of Arcadia to which Faust and Helen go is a physical image of the youth of humanity. In Arcadia there are no established rules or conventions, and life can begin afresh. It is the only place where Faust and Helen can find the freedom in which to combine and give birth to their new principle of civilization.