Marguerite





FAUST



In five acts by CHARLES GOUNOD.





The subject of this piece is taken from the first part of Goethe's

greatest drama--"Faust".



Faust, a celebrated old Doctor, is consumed by an insatiable thirst for

knowledge, but, having already lived through a long life devoted to the

acquirement of learning and to hard work as a scholar, without having

his soul-hunger appreciably relieved, is dissatisfied and in his

disappointment wishes to be released from this life, which has grown to

be a burden to him. At this moment Mephistopheles, the incarnation of

the Evil One, appears and persuades him to try life in a new shape.

The old and learned Doctor has only known it in theory, Mephisto will

now show it to him in practice and in all the splendor of youth and

freshness. Faust agrees, and Mephisto endows him with youth and

beauty. In this guise he sees earth anew. It is Easter-time, when all

is budding and aglow with freshness and young life and on such a bright

spring-day he first sees Margaretha and at once offers her his arm.



But this lovely maiden, pure and innocent, and well guarded by a

jealous brother, named Valentin, refuses his company somewhat

sharply.--Nevertheless she cannot help seeing the grace and good

bearing of the fine cavalier, and the simple village-maiden is inwardly

pleased with his flattery. A bad fate wills it, that her brother

Valentin, who is a soldier, has to leave on active service and

after giving many good advices and warnings for his beautiful sister's

wellfare he goes and so Mephisto is able to introduce Faust to the

unprotected girl by means of a message, which he is supposed to have

received for an old aunt of Margaretha's "Frau Marthe Schwertlein".

This old gossip, hearing from Mephisto that her husband has been killed

in battle, lends a willing ear to the flatteries of the cunning Devil;

and Margaretha is left to Faust, who wins her by his love and easy

manners. She is only a simple maiden, knowing nothing of the world's

ways and wiles, and she accepts her lover's precious gifts with

childish delight.



By and bye, her brother Valentin returns victorious from the war, but

alas! too late! He challenges his sister's seducer; Mephisto however

directs Faust's sword, and the faithful brother is much against Faust's

own will slain, cursing his sister with his last breath.



Now Margaretha awakes to the awful reality of her situation and she

shrinks from her brother's murderer. Everybody shuns her, and she

finds herself alone and forsaken. In despair she seeks refuge in

church, but her own conscience is not silenced; it accuses her more

loudly than all the pious songs and prayers. Persecuted by evil

spirits, forsaken and forlorn, Margaretha's reason gives way, and she

drowns her new-born child.



Meanwhile Mephisto has done everything to stifle in Faust the pangs of

conscience. Faust never wills the evil, he loves Margaretha

sincerely, but the bad spirit urges him onward. He shows him all the

joys and splendors of earth, and antiquity in its most perfect form in

the person of Helena, but in the midst of all his orgies Faust sees

Margaretha. He beholds her, pale, unlike her former self, in the white

dress of the condemned, with a blood-red circle round the delicate

neck. Then he knows no rest, he feels that she is in danger, and he

bids Mephisto save her.



Margaretha has actually been thrown into prison for her deed of madness

and now the executioner's axe awaits her. She sits on the damp straw,

rocking a bundle, which she takes for her baby, and across her poor

wrecked brain there flit once more pictures of all the scenes of her

short-lived happiness. Then Faust enters with Mephisto, and tries to

persuade her to escape with them. But she instinctively shrinks from

her lover, loudly imploring God's and the Saint's pardon. God has

mercy on her, for, just as the bells are tolling for her execution; she

expires, and her soul is carried to Heaven by angels, there to pray for

her erring lover. Mephisto disappears into the earth.





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