Summary and Analysis
Act V: Open Country
Faust's project, though not yet completed, has been successful. Philemon and Baucis, an old couple who live in the area, tell a wandering stranger about Faust's amazing achievements. It is also revealed that Faust is determined to own all the land in the region. They have refused to sell him the little cottage where they have spent their lives together, although he has offered them a great estate in exchange. The wanderer leaves and the two old people go to pray.
Faust's great project, an achievement that is of widespread and permanent value to mankind, is seen through the eyes of a simple peasant couple. Their view shows that Faust's new world of power and prosperity possesses elements that menace the peaceful and humble way of life that they have enjoyed for so long. This may be an effect of Faust's continued reliance on Mephisto's demonic help. The couple's prayer in the chapel to the "old God" is a symbolic expression of resistance to Faust's new regime. The names Philemon and Baucis evoke an idyllic old Greek legend in which a couple with the same names offered hospitality to Zeus and Hermes when the gods were travelling through the earth incognito. It is an ironic portent of events to come, but also definitively establishes the old people's virtue and innocence.