Historical References to Faust
Prologue in Heaven
· The scene begins with the Three Archangels, Raphael, Gabriel, andMichael, confessing their inability to comprehend the awe-inspiringworks of God.In the Christian tradition, archangels are angels of thehighest rank and are associated with certain functions orresponsibilities.In “Prologue in Heaven,” they personify the cosmos:Raphael describes and represents the heavens, Gabriel the earth, andMichael the elements.
· Mephistopheles.Goethe’s devil is inspired by a number of differentliterary sources, not just Christian.
· The basic structure of the dialogue between the Lord andMephistopheles is inspired by the first two chapters of The book ofJob, in which Satan obtains permission from God to try and tempt Jobto do evil.
· Faust. The real Georg (or Johann) Faust was born in 1480 and died in1540. Although contemporary sources suggest he was quite well known inGermany during his lifetime, his fame and notoriety is the result ofan incredibly popular collection of (barely believable) anecdotes andstories about him called Volksbuch, which was published in 1587. TheVolksbuch was an important source of inspiration to Goethe and otherauthors as they wrote about Faust.
· The opening monologue is an indirect adaptation of ChristopherMarlowe’s The Tragical history of Doctor Faustus.
· Faust has in his possession a book by Nostradamus (1503-66), theFrench astrologer, physician and prophet.
· When Faust first opens the book by Nostradamus he sees the sign ofthe macrocosm, which is a diagram of the organization of the cosmos.
· The vision that the sign of the macrocosm inspires echoes Jacob’sdream in Genesis 28,…
…hab,so that Ahab could seize his subject’svineyards. By referring to Naboth, Mephistopheles is preparing us toexpect the deaths of Baucis and Philemon.
· In Medieval literature, allegorical figures symbolize the approachof death. The allegorical figures in “Midnight” also parallel the fourhorsemen of the Apocalypse: death, war, famine, and plague (seeRevelations 6:1-8).
· In the original Faust legends, Faust is dragged off tohell.Mephistopheles is unable to do so this time because Faust wasnever so satisfied with the results of his striving that he wantedtime to stand still.Mephistopheles is only able to seize Faust’s soulthrough trickery.
· The Anchorites – Pater Ecstaticus, Pater Profundus, and PaterSeraphicus – are religious hermits who represent the mysticaltradition of early Christianity.