• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Romantic Hero in Goethe's Faust

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Ashley Williams November 4, 2005 HIST 218 - Ramsey The Romantic Hero in Goethe's Faust Long hailed as the watershed of Romantic literature, Goethe's Faust uses the misadventures of its hero to parallel the challenges that pervaded European society in the dynamic years of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Faust is the prototypical Romantic hero because the transformation of his attitudes mirrors the larger transformation that was occurring in the society in which Goethe conceived the play. Faust's odyssey transports him from adherence to the cold rationale of the Enlightenment to a passion for the pleasures that came to define the Romantic spirit. Faust not only expresses the moral contradictions and spiritual yearnings of a man in search of fulfillment, but also portrays the broader mindset of a society that was groping for meaning in a world where reason no longer sufficed as a catalyst for human cultural life. The period of German Romanticism in which Goethe wrote Faust was plagued with the same intrinsic turmoil that Faust himself felt prior to making his deal with Mephisto. The destruction that the French Revolution had exacted on the European consciousness was evident in the attitudes of the people most touched by the tumult of the era - people who came to realize that absolution was no longer a pertinent intellectual goal. ...read more.

Middle

He rejects the popular deism of the Enlightenment with the attitude that "feeling is everything" (line 3521). Happiness, God, and the heart form a mysterious single entity that flows through the universe. Faust's choice to venture into the occult parallels the trend towards mysticism seen in Romantic culture. He summons the power of the supernatural through declaring himself a God. This act embodies the Romantic attitudes that glorified the primacy of the individual. Faust supports the idea of individual primacy when he tells Wagner that the self is the place from where everything originates (line 590). The context of Faust's statement that he is "the one made in the very image of God" conveys the Emersonian notion that because God is invested in every man, a man rules his own moral universe (line 635). Faust's rejection of Enlightenment principles is evident in throughout the play. The contrast he makes between the rational world and the world of imagination (line 660) is a typical Romantic complaint about the rationalist period from which he was emerging. Like Goethe's Romantic contemporaries, Faust glorifies the culture of past eras, where art expressed a mode of life driven by imagination - a far cry from the formulaic restraint of the Enlightenment. ...read more.

Conclusion

He feels remarkably guilty about what he has done to Gretchen and blames his lust on her downfall, exclaiming, "I wish I had never been born!" (line 4688). The tragic irony of the situation is that Faust only becomes capable of true love after it is too late to save Gretchen from her fate. The lesson of Gretchen's heavenly salvation espouses the quintessentially Romantic notion of the spirituality of true love. This attitude allows for her redemption, despite her sins, because "all her crime was love" (line 4501). Goethe's Faust is a work in which a new type of hero emerges to satisfy the needs of a changing society. With Faust, Goethe succeeded in representing a microcosm of the tensions that accompanied the shift from rationalism to Romanticism. Complex and dynamic, Faust, like the great men of his era, is a hero whose most notable achievement is his transformation of the lives of others as well as his own. In this respect, the lesson of the Romantic hero is comprised less of romance than of utility. Following the trends of the Goethe's contemporary evolving society, the means by which Faust succeeds in accomplishing his goals are largely selfish, brutal, and unethical. This is perhaps Goethe's single greatest reflection on the modern nature of heroism. ?? ?? ?? ?? 5 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Other Authors section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Other Authors essays

  1. The ending of The Yellow Wallpaper. Breakdown or Breakthrough

    meaning - 'It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you'. This violent action of the wallpaper is the first time it is described as active, showing her growing belief that it is harmful and 'torturing', i.e. how the restrictions of patriarchy are destroying to everyone.

  2. In the writing of Edgar Allan Poe, we see investigations into abnormal psychological states ...

    Poe incorporates Gothic elements into both stories and provides a fitting backdrop for the exploration of abnormal psychological states. The setting in 'The Cask of Amontillado', in particular, shows this with its subterranean passages, "a long and winding staircase", "the damp ground of the catacombs", "piled bones", "inmost recesses of the catacombs" "deep crypt", glowing flambeaux.

  1. Compare and contrast Shakespeare and Defoe's presentations of the characters of Robinson Crusoe and ...

    his domination of others to fulfill his superciliousness - it is obvious to the reader that a slave would only complete his "kingdom", giving him subjects to rule over. Friday's arrival upon the island is eagerly and frightfully anticipated by both Crusoe and the reader.

  2. 'It is possible to defend the idea that Satan is the true hero of ...

    Paradise Lost; it can simply be inferred that God is spiritually high, whilst conversely, Satan is spiritually low. It is unusual that Milton helps the reader to understand Satan's feelings when he is on his diabolic quest and how he doesn't fit in with the scenery ('houses thick and sewers').

  1. Sympathy for the betrayers and the betrayed. Cresseid and Madame Bovary are dissimilar ...

    story, a victim of psychological determinism, rather than Madame Bovary's societal determinism and Cresseid's cosmic determinism. Both Emma Bovary and Cresseid share an existence in a patriarchal world, which Emma from Betrayal is not a part of. Madame Bovary, for example, is blessed with artistic gifts that cause Charles to

  2. Flamineo in the prominent revenge tragedy John Webster play, The White Devil.

    ''Come, my lord attends you; thou shalt go to bed to my lord'' Camillo thinks Flamineo is talking about him when he actually means Brachiano. The critical of view of Flamineo willing to do 'anything, anytime, to advance himself, regardless of the cost to others'' certainly comes across when Flamineo kills Camillo.

  1. A Critical Analysis of 'The Yellow Wallpaper' by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

    The imagery of this situation is described when "the pattern strangles [the women] off and turns them upside down, and makes their eyes white!" The woman's attitude of her husband has been increasingly deteriorating and she is beginning to realise that he is not as loving and caring as he likes to believe.

  2. Italo Calvino's use of a suit of armor in "The Non-Existent Knight" to satirize ...

    with a periwinkle robe.5 Subsequent to this event, however, Raimbaud glimpses the knight when the 'poleyns and cuisses were taken off', and

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work