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8 - Marriage in the Historia von D. Johann Fausten (1587)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 May 2013

Paul Ernst Meyer
Affiliation:
University of Illinois
J. M. van der Laan
Affiliation:
Illinois State University
Andrew Weeks
Affiliation:
Illinois State University
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Summary

The Historia von D. Johann Fausten marks the beginning of a widely received rendition of the Faust legend. Although written anonymously, the Faust book is generally presumed to have been created by a sophisticated proponent of the Lutheran cause during the mid-sixteenth century. At first examination, its components often seem irreconcilably diverse: sophisticated theology, bawdy sexual exploits, provincial religiosity, crude pranks, and extensive excerpts from contemporary reference sources all appear in the text. Yet, within this varied environment, there are observable consistencies. This chapter focuses on the closely related themes of marriage and sexuality within the Faust book and the way they contribute to the structure and content of the Faust book as a unified work.

There are two points in the Historia at which Faust is accused of violating the terms of his pact with the devil, and the devil deals with him violently until he complies with his dictates. The first incident occurs very early in the text, in the tenth chapter. After concluding the pact and then setting up house with the riches to which he now has access, Faust proceeds as one might expect of a newly established early modern Protestant man: he seeks a wife and announces to Mephostophiles his intention to marry. Arguing that Faust had promised to be an enemy of both God and all Christians in his contract, that since one is incapable of serving two masters, and that marriage is a work of God, Mephostophiles attempts to dissuade him: “wirst du dich versprechen zuverehelichen/soltu gewiβlich von vns zu kleinen Stücken zerissen werden” (if you promise yourself in marriage, you shall certainly be ripped into small pieces by us).

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The Faustian Century
German Literature and Culture in the Age of Luther and Faustus
, pp. 197 - 214
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2013

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