In Germany, Enlightenment was followed by a movement called “Sturm und Drang” (Storm and Stress), animated by national ideals and militating for naturalism, and affirmation of sensitivity and genius. The rediscovery of the ancient ideal and the idea of man’s accomplishment characterize the orentation represented by Schiller, Hölderlin and Herder, and which found its superior illustration in Goethe’s writings.
Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832), the greatest German writer and one of the brilliant spirits of humanity, was a personality developed in many areas, concerned with literature, art and science, excelling in all areas he had approached, and he can not be framed in a single domain.
The most important of these is his literary work, which includes lyrics, dramas and tragedies.
His masterpiece Faust is a creation whose elaboration had lasted almost 60 years, being complex and difficult to fit into a particular literary species. Goethe called it a tragedy, but we can think of it as a philosophical drama or a dramatic poem.
The subject of the man who has sold his soul to the devil appears in a medieval legend and, in the form of Dr. Faust, in folk books of the Renaissance. These sources of inspiration were used by Goethe in a original way and subordinate to a fundamental theme: the meaning of existance.
His masterpiece is preceded by a Worship and a double prologue: Prologue in Theater, an opportunity for Goethe to express his ideas about literature, and a Prologue in the Sky. Here comes a bet of God and Mephistopheles, the devil convinced that man is dominated by the principle of evil and who has committed to winning Faust’s soul.
Faust is an old scientist at the end of hsi life full of study, and he expresses his dissatisfaction with the futility of never-complete knowledge. The tought of committing suicide is eliminated by the joy of the holidays outside and the crowd’s laugh in the nature of spring.
Mephistopheles appears at Faust and the two ones conclude a pact by which the scientist gets the youth and pleasures, promising Mephistopheles to give him his soul when the happiness will cause him to ask time to stop.
The adventures of Faust symbolize the steps of man in gaining happiness. Finally, Faust find happiness in the active life, in the useful creation for people. Old again and blind, pursued by Care, Faust has the vision of creative work in freedom and asks the moment to stop:
“To live with the free people on the free fields,
At that moment I would like to say to it for the first time:
Stay, you are so beautiful !”
Faust dies, but Mephistopheles won’t get his soul becaause his generous deed has forgiven him for the sin.
from Ovidiu Drimba, Literatura universala