Prometheus and Faust: The Promethean Revolt in Drama from Classical Antiquity to Goethe

Prometheus and Faust: The Promethean Revolt in Drama from Classical Antiquity to Goethe

Prometheus and Faust: The Promethean Revolt in Drama from Classical Antiquity to Goethe

Prometheus and Faust: The Promethean Revolt in Drama from Classical Antiquity to Goethe

Synopsis

The comparison made between Prometheus and Faust occurs so frequently in modern scholarship as to seem commonplace. However, while each figure has been investigated separately, no recent full-length study has brought the two characters together and examined the association. The present volume explores the Prometheus myth from its preliterary origins through treatments in Greek by Hesiod, Aeschylus, Plato, and Lucian, as well as in Latin literature and Roman theatricals. The investigation continues into hitherto unexplored connections with the Greek figure and the magus and occult scientist types of late antiquity, the Middle Ages, and Renaissance. The Prometheus and Faust traditions met in literature and art soon after the emergence of the historical Faustus. The traditions continued to exist independently through the 16th and 17th centuries, until Goethe began to write a play about each character. Ultimately Goethe abandoned Prometheus; however, Faust absorbed much of the Promethean persona.

Excerpt

This book is a comparative study of Prometheus and Faust, two of the most fascinating characters in the history of dramatic literature. Scholars often refer to a connection between the Titan Prometheus and Doctor Faust but rarely pause to consider either the validity or the precise implications of such a comparison. The cultures of Archaic Greece and Reformation Germany are separated by time, geographical location, language, world view, and religious outlook. Yet, Prometheus, the polymath, creative genius, and philanthropist who rebels against the supreme being and is punished for his hubris, is a character whose story seems to match point for point the story of the German character Faust.

Poets have used the Prometheus and Faust legends in a variety of genres. Prometheus figures in Hesiodic epic, the dialogues of Plato and Lucian, the philosophical writings of Heraklides, and the pastoral poetry of Vergil. Faust, or Faustus as the character was first called, who seems to have been an historical person, receives first mention during the sixteenth century in written records such as letters and journals before becoming the central figure of the popular, episodic Faust-Bücher. The two characters find their most elaborate, most profound treatment in drama: Aeschylus Prometheus Bound, Marlowe Doctor Faustus, and Goethe Faust.

In the pages that follow I examine first the Prometheus and then the Faust tradition in order to determine how and at what time the two traditions began to converge. I start with the various Greek Prometheus myths from Hesiod, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Plato, and Lucian (to name only the most obvious) and move to the radically different Roman conception of Prometheus. The medieval and Renaissance periods . . .

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