The best-known work of the Enlightenment literary giant Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust took a lifetime to write. For more than sixty years, Goethe worked on his masterpiece and ultimately divided it into two parts, the second of which was published in 1832, the year of his death. Hailed as Germany's greatest contribution to world literature, Faust drew upon the legends surrounding a sixteenth-century sorcerer as well as Marlowe's Dr. Faustus. But Goethe's epic interpretation further explores the tension between learning and experience, and in this version Faust sells his soul not simply for magic powers but also for a heightened sense of existence.
Part One of the dramatic poem concerns the magician's devilish pact with Mephistopheles and his seduction of Gretchen, an innocent girl. Part Two incorporates a vast array of influences — theological, mythological, philosophical, political, musical, and literary—to relate Faust's life at court, his romance with Helen of Troy, and his salvation. This edition features the acclaimed translation by Bayard Taylor.