Apr 12: Talk to the Chair

It is difficult to get psyched for today's passage, in which Faust begins his campaign to woo Gretchen, in uninteresting 19th-century verse. What I imagine I'll remember from it is this:

(He throws himself on the leather arm-chair beside the bed)
Receive me thou, who hast in thine embrace,
Welcom’d in joy and grief the ages flown!
How oft the children of a by-gone race
Have cluster’d round this patriarchal throne!

That's right, Faust starts talking to the armchair. He snaps out of it, though, so I don't guess the passage is long enough for an "Addresses to Furniture" anthology, but still.

The plot, however, is, as they say, corking. Faust has set his eye on Gretchen and Mephistophles (which I typed without looking at the passage...now I'm going to go see how I did on the spelling) Mephistopheles, I mean, places some jewels in her dresser, because you know how it is with the ladies and the bling; and, indeed, it does its magic in a passage that needs a little more stage direction in it:
Here by a ribbon hangs a little key!
I have a mind to open it and see!
Heavens! only look! what have we here!
In all my days ne’er saw I such a sight!
Jewels! which any noble dame might wear,
For some high pageant richly dight!

With poetry like that you see why they had to invent Modernism. Also, you want that golden light effect, like when they opened the briefcase in "Pulp Fiction" (Tarantino doing Faust would be great).

So far so good, but immediately -- one of the things that's kind of shocking is how short Goethe keeps his scenes -- Mephistopheles is P.O'd:

I’d yield me to the devil instantly,
Did it not happen that myself am he!

There's got to be a funnier way to say that. It turns out Gretchen's stupid mom has given the jewels to the Church, because they might be unholy. So get more jewels, Faust says. OK, says Mephistopheles. But as a consequence of this up-and-back seeming incident, Gretchen takes her new jewels over to her neighbor Martha's for safekeeping; and, to get in good with Martha, Mephistopheles manages to come up with evidence that her long-missing husband is dead -- basically, by getting Faust to join him in witnessing to this fact, which results in the four of them, all mixed up. What happens next I don't know (even though I have allegedly read this book), but it's some good plotting.

No comments: