Goethe’s Mephistopheles’ Conception.

“It is a moot question whether Goethe at first conceived Mephistopheles as the Earth-spirit’s envoy, sent for the express purpose of showing Faust about the world, or whether the Devil was thought of as coming of his own accord. Be that as it may, Faust is an experience-drama, and the Devil’s function is to provide the experience. And he is a devil, not the Devil, conceived as the bitter and malignant enemy of God, but a subordinate spirit whose business it is, in the world-economy, to spur man to activity. This he does partly by cynical criticism and opposition, but more especially by holding out the lures of the sensual life. At first Mephistopheles was not thought of as working solely for a reward in the shape of souls captured for eternity, but as playing his part for the diabolical pleasure of so doing. In the course of time, however, Goethe invested him more and more with the costume and traits of the traditionary Devil.”

The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume I. Masterpieces of German Literature Translated into English. In Twenty Volumes. (1913).

INTRODUCTION TO FAUST
BY CALVIN THOMAS, LL.D.
Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures, Columbia University

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