C. Goethe's Sources
1. The Faustbuch
The Faust stories also had a role in the Reformation, for Protestant
leaders used it to combat religious skepticism. This was
especially the case in the first published account of the magician's
life, Johann Spiess's Historia von D. Johann Fausten (1587), commonly known as the Faustbuch.
In this version Faust makes a pact with the devil Mephostophiles [sic],
offering his soul for 24 years of knowledge, wealth, and power.
It was a primary source for most later versions of the legend including
Marlowe's Tragicall Historie of Doctor Faustus (1605) and, via later versions, for Goethe's drama. (Selections from The History of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faust, the 1592 English translation of the Faustbuch, can be found in the Norton edition of Goethe's Faust.)
2. Puppet Plays
Troupes of players, traveling throughout Europe, frequently performed
versions of Marlowe's play, which was also adapted into a puppet
play. During his childhood in Frankfort Goethe saw these puppet
plays, which were very popular in the eighteenth century, and
they significantly influenced his impressions of the Faust
legend. (Extracts from such a puppet play are in the Norton
edition of Goethe's Faust.)
3. Lessing's Salvation of Faust
A third transformation of the Faust theme, preceding Goethe's, is worth
mentioning: the final salvation of Faust. This appear for the
first time in the Faust of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–81), of which drama only a fragment survives (translated in the Norton edition of Goethe's Faust).
This reflects a more sympathetic understanding of Faust's insatiable
quest for knowledge, which accompanied the advancement of science in
the seventeenth century.
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Last updated: 2005-01-12.