Goethe’s Faust Essay
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Scene vii of Faust ii act v takes place in a steep, rocky side of an unspecified mountain. The scene is dominated by female characters and takes place on earth. It starts with a chorus of nature spirits, in which the nature is describes the mutually interdependent processes taking place. The idyllic conditions described by the chorus of nature are the celebration of processes like plant and animal life, earth and water. Then enter the four “anchorite fathers,” who seem to represent progressively increasing degrees of spiritual attainment.
First there is Pater Ecstaticus who is hovering up and down in the air. Then there is Pater Profundus who apparently lives in the depth of the earth. He marvels at the creative processes of nature and describes lightning, trees which strive to reach heaven and water flowing from heaven to earth. His heart is however is not at peace and he asks for a divine illumination from the Lord “Oh, God! Calm my thoughts, pacify us/ And bring light to my needy heart! ” The third father is Pater Seraphicus. He lives in the middle regions, (probably between the air and earth).
He invites the spirits of young boys who died at birth and had not thus experienced earthly life to come and experience the world through his body. Then a group of angels pass by carrying the soul of Faust and relate why they rescued Faust’s soul. We learn that Faust soul was saved because he struggled so much in developing his projects (“Whoever strives, in his endeavor, we can rescue from the devil. ”). In this instance we are also told of the other reason why Faust’s soul was saved which is that Gretchen was interceding for him to Mother of God.
The Younger Angels say of how they distracted the Mephistopheles by using roses of holy love. The More Perfect Angels also say that even though the heart of Faust has “escaped the flames” it is still impure and that the bond between the soul and body is left for “Eternal Love” to unwind. The angels then take Faust’s soul to the blessed boys above who “Joyfully receive Him as a chrysalis” after all the ‘threads that surround him’ disappear since ‘divine love has found him. ’ Then we meet the fourth anchorite father, Doctor Marianus who resides in ‘the purest cell’.
When he sees “womanly shapes” floating around he starts praising Mater Gloriosa and together with the choir of penitent women, Magna Peccatrix, (the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet), the Samaritan woman who met Christ at the well and Mary of Egypt together plead to Mater Gloriosa not to begrudge the true soul of Gretchen. They plead that she transgressed without knowledge of her fall. The Gretchen herself goes to Mater Gloriosa and pleads on behalf of Faust asking Mater Gloriosa to allow her, Gretchen, to teach him the new ways there since he is still blinded by the bright light.
She says that Faust is a completely new person having “thrown off every bond/ Of his old earthbound integument,” The scene ends when Mater Gloriosa accepts Faust’s soul and beckons Gretchen and all the others to follow her into the higher sphere. This scene takes place by the Aegean Sea where the Sirens are addressing the Moon. The Nereids and Tritons are also swimming around and even swim to the Greek mythological island of Samothrace, ‘the domain of the mighty Cabiri’ in an effort to show that they are more than fish.
Meanwhile, Thales and Homunculus have gone to visit the sea god, Nereus for advice on how Homunculus can be reborn completely. Thale tells Homunculus that though Nereus is stubborn and a grumbler, people respect him because of his wisdom. They then meet Nereus, who is angry and wants to send them away, he tells them of how men can never heed advice and tells them of how Paris laughed at him when he told him of the future he saw, he also tell them of how he warned Ulysses of ‘Cyclops’ horrors and of Circe’s wiles’ but the advice brought Ulysses no gain.
He tells them finally to go to Proteus, the shape changer since he is waiting for Dorides and Galatea. Nereids and Triton arrive then carrying Cabiri in a turtle-shell and Thales and Homunculus watch the procession. Proteus, who is hovering near is so attracted by the light that that homunculus emits. He draws near and Thales asks for advice on Homunculus’ behalf. Proteus suggests that homunculus can repeat the human birth process by starting in the sea and then develop to a full being. They then all (Thales, Proteus and Homunculus) leave together to go and watch the sea festival.
In the procession, the Telchines, the nine dog-headed Children of the Sea, pass by and boast that they were the first to shape gods in the image of man. Galatea finally arrives and Nereus, the Sirens and Thales comment on the doves of Paphos which accompany Galatea. Galatea comes closer to her father. And in the process Homunculus drawn near and smashes the glass that holds him at the feet of Galatea and all marvels as the light of Homunculus mixes with the waves in a symbolic marriage with the sea.
Analysis of the acts In both these two acts there is a strong reference to the female presence. The female presence in act v is represented by Mater Glorioso, Gretchen, Choir of Female Penitents, Magna Peccatrix, The Woman of Samaria, Mary of Egypt and the female forms that hover in the sky which Dr. Marianus. The strong women influence in this act, as in the rest of the drama, shows the empathetic face of women. The three repentant women plead for Gretchen while Gretchen pleads for Faust.
The women are a strong symbolism to life givers. Mater Glorioso gives Faust soul another life by uttering few words. In this act we also know that the soul Faust is received by the young boys in a ‘pupal’ stage. This is so like Homunculus, who is a half being and only survives in a bottle. The rebirth of Homunculus takes place when he joins with the Galatea in a sea wedding. This is what completes Homunculus. Faust soul is also completed by the love of Gretchen.
It is Gretchen’s love that finds him and is to lead him in the new place since ‘The new light still blinds him. ’ In act ii, there is also an overwhelming female presence. The sirens, Nereids and Tritons, Galatea, Dorides are all representative of female personalities. Generally this act is one in which the three, Homunculus, Faust and Mephistopheles are on a search of what completes them, which in the three cases happen to be the female personality. References Wolfgang, Johann von Goethe. Faust. Berlin: Bernhard Tauchnitz, 1867.