How does Goethe characterize God and Mephistopheles in the Prologue in Heaven? Why do they bet? What is God’s motivation? What is Mephistopheles?

Watch: Prezi lecture on the Satanic Hero and Goethe’s Faust
Rd: Goethe’s Faust Part One Dedication, Prelude on Stage, Prologue in Heaven p.2036-2047, First Part of Tragedy p. 2047-2056 (up to the Choral Bells), and Faust’s Study and Witch’s Kitchen p. 2062-2085
Longman Anthology of World Literature, The, Compact Edition Paperback – February 8, 2007
by David Damrosch (Author), April Alliston (Author), Marshall Brown (Author), Page duBois (Author),
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Faust Part 1
Prologue for the Theatre
Prologue in Heaven
Part I. Night
more details
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How does Goethe characterize God and Mephistopheles in the Prologue in Heaven? Why do they bet? What is God’s motivation? What is Mephistopheles? What are the parameters of the bet that the Lord makes with Mephistopheles and, then, that Faust makes with the devil? Is the phrase “sells his soul to the Devil” an accurate description of Faust’s narrative? Why or why not?
In the play, Mephistopheles describes himself as:
“Part of that force which would
Do evil evermore, and yet creates the good….
I am the spirit that negates.”
Discuss Mephistopheles (feel free to use my mom’s nickname for him: Messy, if you don’t want to type out his name all the time) as a character and as a devil. Is he an anti-hero? Why or why not? How does he compare to our cultural notions of the devil (Christian or otherwise)? Is he simply Faust’s temptation, or is it more complex than that, as the quote above suggests? Explain and explore Messy’s purpose in the narrative.

What are the main conflicts of the play as revealed in the “Night” scene? What do Faust’s speeches in these early scenes reveal about the nature of human knowledge, education, and experience? Why has Faust’s career as a doctor (scholar) proven so unsatisfactory to him?
Please post any questions you have as you read and discuss Faust here, in the comments to this post. I will do my best to provide answers to the questions, but you should also check back into this discussion post to see if you can answer another’s question or even just help them critically work through a source of difficulty.

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