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Thread: Goethe vs. Faust - A Faustian Debate

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    Goethe vs. Marlowe - A Faustian Debate

    I'd like to open a thread devoted to the discussion and debate of Marlowe and Goethe's renditions of the story of Faust.

    I am aware, this debate is age old, but I find it scintillating nonetheless and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Hence, I've started this thread for all those that wish to engage in structured discussion about both the texts' merits and faults. And for the slightly more daring, I invite you to share which of the two you favor.

    Personally, I found much more depth Marlowe's Faust. His insight into the characters of Dr. Faustus and Mephistopheles surpassed Goethe's I believe. I found Goethe's Mephistopheles almost limp and impotent, and his Faust didn't do justice to the character's torturous plight.

    I must add that I cannot read German, hence I've based my statements on a translation. I could not shake the feeling I missed out on Goethe's poetical brilliance due to my inability to read German, but unfortunately this is obviously immutable.

    Debate away!
    Last edited by phillipgr; 07-20-2011 at 10:57 PM.

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    Marlowe would need to be quite something to surpass Goethe's Faust. Goethe deserves wider reading ( right translation--there are many trash translations of Faust--see Stuart Atkins/Walter Kauffman). a little sample for friendly refutation of ur point. Anything in Marlowe this good? Faust's last speech, age 100 , after which Faust drops dead, and Mephistopheles post mortem:

    Faust: "To this I hold with devout insistence, wisdom's last verdict goes to say.
    He only achieves both freedom and existence who must reconquer them each day.
    And so, ringed all about by perils here, youth, manhood age will spend its strenuous year.
    Such teeming would I see upon this land, on acres free among free peoples stand.
    I might entreat the fleeting minute,
    Oh tarry yet, though art so fair.
    My path on earth, the trace I leave within it
    Eons alone cannot impair.
    And so, foretasting such high happiness to come,
    I savor now my striving's crown and sum
    (falls back, Lemurs catch him and lay him on the ground).

    Mephistopheles: No joy could sate him, no delight but cloyed.
    For changing shapes he lusted to the end.
    He who fought me off so well.
    Time triumphs. Stranded lies a whitened shell.
    The clock is muted...

    Chorus: Mute, like midnight it is stilled.
    The hand has fallen...

    Mephistopheles: fell. it is fulfilled.

    Chorus: it is all over.

    Mephistopheles: Over, stupid name.
    All over and pure nothing just the same.
    What has this constant doing ever brought,
    and what is done is raked away to nought.
    So, it is all over, how to read this clause?
    All over is as good as never was.

    And yet, it whirls about as if it were.
    The eternal empty is what I prefer.

    This is Act 5 Part II Norton/Walter Arndt translation.

    add--if u read Nicholas Boyle unbelievably great biography of Goethe u more understand significance for Goethe, who lived his whole life under benign but authoritarian governments in Frankfurt and Weimar, full meaning to Goethe of "on acres free among free peoples stand.".
    Last edited by fb0252; 07-19-2011 at 01:37 PM.

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    Indeed, Goethe displays some beautiful verse craftmanship. The translation I read I suspected wasn't too well done (firstly it was in prose) and that quote only reassures me of that notion.

    However, I still feel that Marlowe's plot and representation of Faust and Mephistopheles is better. Goethe's Faust is too fixated on Gretchen and doesn't fall into a storm of unabashed hedonism, as I expected of his character. Also, his Mephistopheles was quite weak (as I mentioned before). Obviously it is only fiction, hence neither Goethe's nor Marlowe's plot is the 'correct' one, however I believe Marlowe's is truer to human nature and the greed of man. I encourage you to read Marlowe's, its excellent.

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    xxxxxx--just lost my reply. try later.
    Last edited by fb0252; 07-22-2011 at 02:20 PM.

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    Both are exceptional but what gives Marlowe the edge is the fact that Part 2 of Goethe's Faust is so inferior to Part 1.
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    Both are exceptional but what gives Marlowe the edge is the fact that Part 2 of Goethe's Faust is so inferior to Part 1.

    hahahahahaha!

    WE have some good comic writers here.
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    Funny, Bioy Casares and Borges despised Goethe's Faust and considered Marlowe a better poet. This considering how much prude Borges can be while considering Marlowe sexual options. To them, Goethe was some short of lucky charlatan.

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    Oh, It seems like I made a typo on the title of this thread. I meant to name it "Goethe vs. Marlowe - A Faustian Debate" NOT "Goethe vs. Faust - A Faustian Debate". I'm sure you already realised this. I would change it if I knew how.

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    To them, Goethe was some short of lucky charlatan.

    Well that's the kind of luck we'd all like to have because it would seem he got lucky on more than a few occasions.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
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    oh, well. They certainly had that kind lucky too, so who am I to discuss. I did not kept track, but I think Goethe is easily the non-spanish/latin american writter more times mentioned under bad lights by them in the Bioy's diary. And it is not just a matter of original, since Borges knew german and Faust is somehow important (Facundo's version) on their story. (He likes the elegies, however)

    But then, it should go as how it is not a matter of knowledge favoring Marlowe's over Goethe. Those didnt lack either and they preffered the english dude.

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    Well I don't think Faustus is close to being Marlowe's greatest play. There's far more spirit in The Jew of Malta where he can just be outrageously, ridiculously over the top and vulgarize and mock everyone, or even in the Tamburlaine plays, which he can overload with bombast and rhetoric, than there is in any character study of his. Whether Marlowe himself was tormented is hard to gauge, but I don't think he had the gift for depicting someone who was. The moments in which Faust is entranced (Is this the face that launched...) are far greater than those which build to his final demise, which are undramatic and also seem written less naturally. You don't even need to look at Goethe for comparison: compare with the final few acts of Macbeth (which also has a dagger reverie far greater than Faust's of Helen). Shakespeare's play becomes more disturbing, but stays as believable as ever. With Faustus you know what is being depicted, but the interest of it fades as it narrows its scope. Goethe by a mile.

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    Proof in pudding for the Goethe's weak Mephisto posters, and also the inferiority of Part II. would make echo St. Luke Guild, except with Goethe, u never know the translation. Consider this one:

    Mephistopheles exhorting his devils to take Faust's soul. M has wagered with God that this will happen. We know how this will turn out.

    From Faust Part II, Act V:

    "Step lively, make your paces double long.
    Knights of the straight, knights of the crooked horn.
    Chips off old Nick’s block, to the manner born.
    Bring up Hell's jaws. Hell's jaws are many many to be sure.
    It swallows them by rank and etiquette.
    Yet, on this final guided tour, we’ll all become less formal soon I bet.

    (Ghastly jaws of Hell open at left)

    With tusks agape the arching gullet breathes, a raging cataract of flame eternal.
    See in the smoldering distance fumes and seethes, a citadel of flame in blaze infernal.
    Up to the fangs the scarlet flood tide surges.
    A few of the damned swim up on rescue bent;
    The vast hyena mauls them and engorges
    And they resume their anguished hot descent.
    The corners to are worth exploring,
    Brim full of greatest horrors in least space confined.
    Try as you might to terrify the sinful, they count it fraud and
    figment of the mind.

    (To the fat devils with the short straight horns)
    You paunchy rascals with your cheeks all burning who
    Flushed with hellish sulfur fairly glows.
    You clumsy cloddish bullnecks never turning,
    You search for glint of phosphor there below.
    There goes the little soul, winged psyche, land her.
    And pluck the wings, it leaves a sordid worm.
    And with my brand of lordship I will stamp her,
    And off with her in whirling fiery storm.

    To patrol the lower station, you bellows is your duty mark.
    If that’s her chosen habitation,
    And the matter’s somewhat in the dark.
    The belly’s where she likes to stay, take care or she’ll give you the slip that way.

    (To the thin devils with the short crooked horns)
    You guardsmen, loons, great jack-a-napes unsteady
    You rake the air with unremitting tries.
    Arms held aloft, sharp talons at the ready
    To catch the fluttering flibet as it flies.
    She’s ill at ease in her old house I’d say,
    And genius seeks the straight and upward way.

    Chorus of angels singing:
    Ye heavenly envoy, in heaven born convoy, on leisure wing coast.
    Sinful one’s shriving.
    Dust to enliven.
    Bountiful giving to all things living.
    Vast in its striving.
    The hovering host.

    Mephistopheles: A tuneless jangling, noisesome and churlish,
    Comes from above with the unwelcome day. A kind of mincing medley,
    Boyish, girlish, as unctuous taste may relish I dare say.
    You know how we in heinous hour allotted annihilation to the human brood.
    The darkest infamy we plotted, just suits their bland beatitude.

    Look at the canting holy oilers,
    And thus they have snatched from us so many a prize.
    With our own weapons they would foil us. They too are devils only in disguise.
    If you want shame eternal lose today;
    Onto the gravesite, hold it come what may."

    The nihilism in
    "If u want shame eternal lose today" compares interestingly with Henry V St. Crispin's Day speech before battle of Agincourt.
    Last edited by fb0252; 07-27-2011 at 02:17 PM.

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