Faust





The legend of Faust is well known in Germany and western Europe. The hero of the tale, a German magician named Faust, or Faustus, agreed to sell his soul to the devil in exchange for youth, knowledge, earthly pleasures, and magical powers.

The legend is based on a historical figure, a wandering German scholar who lived between about 1480 and 1540. Contemporary accounts describe him as a magician with an evil reputation who was associated with black magic. Although a relatively minor figure, he inspired many stories that developed into the Faust legend.

To acquire greater wisdom, power, and pleasure, Faust turned away from God and made a pact with the devil, Mephistopheles. But in selling his soul, he gained eternal damnation. Faust's tale serves as a warning for those seeking to fulfill their earthly desires without the help of God.

The legend became the basis for Doctor Faustus, a 1604 play by English writer Christopher Marlowe; Faust, a two-part drama by German poet Johann von Goethe, published in 1808 and 1832; and Doctor Faustus, a 1947 novel by German author Thomas Mann. The story has also inspired musical works, including the operas The Damnation of Faust (1846) by Hector Berlioz and Faust (1859) by Charles Gounod.

See also Devils and Demons ; Hell .

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.



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