Book Review: Urfaust by J.W. von Goethe

Urfaust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Published: 1772-1775

Summary: (taken from Wikipedia) – “Faust is a tragic play in two parts: Faust. Der Tragödie erster Teil (translated as: Faust:The First Part of the Tragedy) and Faust. Der Tragödie zweiter Teil (Faust: The Second Part of the Tragedy). Although rarely staged in its entirety, it is the play with the largest audience numbers on German-language stages. Faust is Goethe’s most famous work and considered by many to be one of the greatest works of German Literature.

Goethe completed a preliminary version of Part One in 1806. The 1808 publication was followed by the revised 1828–29 edition, which was the last to be edited by Goethe himself. Prior to these appeared a partial printing in 1790 of Faust, a Fragment.

The earliest forms of the work, known as the Urfaust, were developed between 1772 and 1775; however, the details of that development are no longer entirely clear. Urfaust has twenty-two scenes, one in prose, two largely prose and the remaining 1,441 lines in rhymed verse. The manuscript is lost, but a copy was discovered in 1886.

Goethe finished writing Faust Part Two in 1831. In contrast to Faust Part One, the focus here is no longer on the soul of Faust, which has been sold to the devil, but rather on social phenomena such as psychology, history and politics, in addition to mystical and philosophical topics. The second part formed the principal occupation of Goethe’s last years. It appeared only posthumously in 1832.”


I did not read this in German, even thought the teacher said it was recommendable since we would be able to improve our German. But, as usual, I was too lazy to do it, so I just read it English. I should have read this book on November, but I only read it on Sunday while I was on the plane, thank heavens (got it? heavens? plane? ha-ha).

Anyway, I must admit I enjoyed reading Erlkönig also by Goethe and Rat Krespel by Hoffmann and other German literature books, but this one, was not one I liked… It was quite boring, simple and a bit silly. Perhaps it’s because it’s the Urfaust, which means, “before Faust”, it’s a manuscript to the actual book, the Faust. I don’t understand why my teacher didn’t make us read the Faust, I’m sure it is a lot more interesting… But anyway, it was this one.

This book is manly about two tragedies, the tragedy of the (I don’t know the name in English so I came up with this one) “wise man”, which is about Faust, who is a very learned man, yet he feels he doesn’t know nearly enough, that he must know everything. He can’t though, so he tries to contact the Earth Spirit to beg for knowledge, which doesn’t really work out. So like every sane man would do (please note sarcasm), he summoned the Devil. The Devil offers him a deal, knowledge in exchange of his soul. The part where he summons the Devil does not appear. Faust just walks into a bar and Mephistopheles (the Devil) is with him.

The second tragedy, is the Gretchen tragedy. Gretchen is a young, beautiful, innocent girl, who becomes greedy. Faust gives her jewelry and seduces her. Their love was quite fast, even faster than on YA books (and that’s pretty fast xD). Soon, poor Gretchen gets pregnant, kills her son (somehow! I have no idea how that happened, but it does), and then, when Faust finally tells Mephistopheles to back off, he tries to save Gretchen from the prison where she’s being held. However, the poor girl doesn’t wish to be saved.

All in all, Gretchen dies, the baby dies, Faust and the Devil are no longer buddies, etc…

I really don’t know how to rate this…

1 Chibi

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