Doctor Faustus and Mephistopheles (Satis
Dr. Johann Faust, the man who sold his soul to the Devil.
A mythical figure? Certainly not. I went to the pretty
town of Staufen via Bad Krözingen from Freiburg.
From the distance you can see the ruins of a castle looming
above the vineyards on a hill. In the town below is a
Gasthaus called Zum Löwen (To the Lion). The tavern
has a fresco on the wall by Prof. Fritz Geiges on the
front wall depicting the Devil-- Mephistopheles-in the
process of breaking the neck of a broken down Dr. Faustus.
Below the fresco is a wonderful calligraphic scripture
with the words:
In anno 1539 in Leuen-to-Staufen
Dr Faustus, an astounding nigromantic, died miserably
as a legend says, at the hands of the highest Devil named
Mephistopheles, whom he called his brother-in-law as long
as he lived, after the Pact which ended after 24 years,
who broke his neck and sent his poor, eternally damned
soul to Hell.
The only evidence regarding
the death of Faust in Staufen can be found in two texts
of the Zimmerschen Chronicle published in 1565. One source
cites the end of the magician 'in the herrschaft Staufen
im Preisgew.' The other source mentions ' in or far from
Staufen, the town in Breigew.' 'Preisgew' and 'Breigew'
relate to the district Breisgau. There is a lack of other
Nevertheless, the local
tradition and belief has it that it knows exactly where
Faust's journey which began in the realm of knowledge
and ended with his sojourn in Hell. The last moments of
Doctor Faust's journey to Hell began in the tavern called
To-the-Lion, on the third floor, in room number 5.You
can spend a night in this room and be inspired to write
a play or a sonnet on the Life of Doctor Faustus or perhaps
a modern-day Faust who lives in a metropolis like NY,
London or Berlin
Three houses away in the
Late Gothic town hall of Staufen you can find the foot-prints
of the Devil on one of the uppermost stairs. The Devil
had come in the guise of a human to pick up Faust, and
left the town of Staufen with an enormous leap.
You stars that reigned at my nativity
whose influence hath allotted death and hell
Now draw up Faustus, like a foggy mist,
Into the entrails of yon labouring cloud.
Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)
There's another story (German: Sage) which was published
by Constantin Geres in the magazine 'Schauinsland' in
1882. It connects the Faust-story with the Johannites:
It was late in the afternoon
in the year 1541 when a farmer and his son were walking
along the country road from Krözingen to Staufen.
Suddenly, the weather changed for the worse and a gigantic
bird with black wings flew over them. The appearance of
the errie big bird scared them so much that they ran to
a cross along the roadside and prayed till the scary bird
Thereafter, they set upon
their journey to Staufen, where the farmer had to do some
business at the tavern called The Lion. As they entered
the tavern, they saw a doctor and another stranger. The
stranger made a fool out of the farmer farmer and said
that he'd been scared of a big black bird and had run
in angst to a roadside cross and mumbled prayers to God.
The farmer found the words
of the stranger extraordinary, for he and his son were
the only ones who'd seen the big bird in the country road.
And he knew that this stranger had flown over them in
the form of the big black bird.
Shortly, the Doctor who
was none other than the famous Faust, was taken by the
Devil from room no. 5 of the tavern Zum Löwen.
In Christopher Marlowe's
'Doctor Faustus' Faust says:
Ugly hell, gape not! Come
I'll burn my books!
Goethe's Faust was published
in two parts in 1808 and 1832. Faust Part I is a dedicatory
ode and laments the passage of time, the passing away
of friends and shows Goethe's dedication to his work.
There are countless interpretations of Faust and the play
symbolically embraces the irony of human life, commenting
on human, social and political phenomena. He also praises
the fundamental human virtue of endeavour, striving and
endless creative activity found among poets, writers,
It was at Schiller's instigation
that Goethe began in 1797 to work again at Faust II. Whereas
Faust I contains Knittelverse, blank verse, hymnic passages
and strophic songs, Faust II has various rhyming measures,
ottava rima, terza rima and trimeters.
However, the best known
early literary version of the Faust legend came from the
Frankfurter printer Johann Spieß. In this popular
German volksbuch (people's book) Doctor Faust dabbles
from theology to sorcery, makes a pact with the Devil
for a period of twenty-four years. He lives extravagantly
and riotously. Ans when his time is up he's carried off
to Hell. Dr. Faustus is active at the University of Wittenberg
in the Volksbuch story. It is a book of stern moral intention,
with a raised index-finger, and a dreadful warning to
others who might undergo alliances with Satan. The Spieß'sches
Faustbuch is the source of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor
Faustus (1589). Goethe on the other hand was obsessed
by the subject of Faustus, almost his entire life. He
enjoyed the puppet play called 'Puppenspiel von Dr. Faust'
when he was a kid and also read the Faust Volksbuch.
Faust's Damnation (Fausts
Verdammnis) an opera by Hector Berlioz is being stanged
on October 20, 2007 at the Freiburger Theatre (Grosses
Haus) and it is an attempt to use music to illustrate
the complexities of Faust's soul. Ach, even if Faust's
love and life were a fiasco, and he was damned to Hell,
what survives is the work, the art and music.
There are English versions
of the Faust legend by A.G.Latham (1902-5), Bayard Taylor
(1908), L.MacNeice (1951) and Barker Fairley (1970) which
deserve deserve mention, but I must admit I was chuckling
with laughter, and I had tears in my eyes, when I read
Rober Nye's Faust, told by a certain Kit Wagner, Faust's
disciple. It was like reading P.G. Wodehouse in the days
of alchemy and sorcery.
Here, yours truly would
like to quote Faust as a motto for us all who're caught
in life's vicissitudes like the famous Georgio Strehler
did, when he acted in Goethe's Faust I and II at the Piccolo
Teatro with a thousand voices and 12,000 verses in the
"Ich fühle Mut,
mich in die Welt zu wagen, mich in die Welt zu wagen,
Der Erde Weh, der Erde Glück zu tragen,
Mit Stürmen mich herumzuschlagen
Und in des Schiffbruchs Knirschen
nicht zu zagen."