Goethe's Faust: An Interpretation

Goethe's Faust: An Interpretation

Goethe's Faust: An Interpretation

Goethe's Faust: An Interpretation

Excerpt

The needs of English-speaking undergraduates formed the starting-point of this work. The symbolism and metaphysics of Goethe's Faust are not capable of full appreciation unless the reader is first brought to grips with the real progress of events in the poem, the interlocking of character and action, the factual details of the story. There are very few major works in English upon Goethe's tragedy as a whole; fewer still which provide this necessary information. The invaluable Goethe and Faust byF. M. Stawell andG. L. Dickinson, the most complete study to date, appeared over a quarter of a century ago and has not been replaced. Discerning though it is, its interpretation is defective, to my mind, by reason of its very merits, inasmuch as it breaks off its commentary, frequently at critical points, and quotes instead its excellent translation of Goethe's poem, thus leaving the reader admiring but unsatisfied. In attempting, therefore, to elucidate the essential content of Goethe's masterpiece, the present work will, it is hoped, prepare its readers to face the immense and often confusing mass of Faust literature. It can safely be said that scholarship, particularly in Germany, has approached the subject from every conceivable angle, but too often, in my opinion, has led to alluring generalizations which must be studied with great caution. The method which I have adopted has been to allow the text of the complete poem to tell its own story. Undue preoccupation with the Urfaust and Fragment and with biographical affiliations have seemed unnecessary to my purpose, illuminating though occasional parallels have been.

My pupils have raised questions which have proved of great value to me. To them and to those friends and colleagues who have assisted me in discussion and in other ways in preparing this work my thanks are due. The manuscript has benefited very substantially from my Wife's patient and constructive criticism.

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