Introduction IV:

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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