Summary and Analysis Part 2: Act IV: The Rival Emperor's Tent



After the battle the Emperor's troops carry off booty from the defeated enemy's camp. The Emperor and his courtiers enter his former rival's tent, and the sovereign distributes rewards to his loyal followers. The Emperor and the Archbishop argue about the morality of accepting diabolical help in the battle and the size of the share of loot to which the Church is entitled. The Emperor is forced to submit to the prelate's greedy demands because of the Church's great power. Afterwards he rewards Faust by giving him a large strip of coastal land, most of which is under water, and which everyone considers worthless.


This scene reiterates Goethe's low opinion of the established Church, which has already been noted in the Commentary to Part One. The Emperor's indiscriminate rewarding of his courtiers and his neglect of his kingdom's real problems emphasizes the decadence of his Empire and any other human institution that is not organized according to sound and harmonious moral principles. In payment for his services, the Emperor gives Faust a large strip of what he thinks is worthless land. This is an additional demonstration of the Emperor's lack of imagination and good sense. It also serves to call attention to Faust's courage and dedication in attempting to reclaim the land for human use.