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4 - Converging Magical Legends: Faustus, Paracelsus, and Trithemius

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 May 2013

Urs Leo Gantenbein
Affiliation:
University of Zurich
J. M. van der Laan
Affiliation:
Illinois State University
Andrew Weeks
Affiliation:
Illinois State University
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Summary

Introduction to an Old Association

As early as 1834, two years after Goethe's death, the apparent resemblance of his Faust figure with Paracelsus led John S. Blackie, in the preface to his rendition of Goethe's tragedy into English verse, to the following statement: “There is much in all that is told of him [Faust] that recalls to our mind the biography of Paracelsus.” By the end of the nineteenth century, this assumption acquired a degree of certainty for Goethe scholars. In 1870, Gustav von Loeper remarked that Goethe's Faust is a physician and a physician's son, as is Paracelsus. Both figures detested the medicine of their time and had a predilection for the German language. Von Loeper's second edition (1879) added that the historical Faust and Paracelsus were both traveling scholars. Karl Julius Schröer in 1879, 1881, and 1886; Calvin Thomas in 1892; and Jacob Minor, in 1901, added to or qualified the assessment.

The efforts to shed light on the origins of the Faust character culminated in 1911 with Agnes Bartscherer's Paracelsus, Paracelsisten und Goethes Faust, which remains by far the most important study of this theme. Based on a profound knowledge of the Paracelsian works, she treats the metaphysical subjects that occur in the Faust tragedy: magic, demonology, alchemy, astrology, witchcraft, mantic arts, and cosmology. Bartscherer gives positive proof of the evident fact that the more the student of Goethe knows about Paracelsus, the more she discovers links to Faust.

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The Faustian Century
German Literature and Culture in the Age of Luther and Faustus
, pp. 93 - 124
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2013

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