Faustis a play written by the German writer and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Gretchen is the main female character in this play. Faust falls in love with her and wants to win her affections. He succeeds, as Mephistopheles gets involved and helps Faust to seduce her.
Faust is a play written by the German writer and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Gretchen is the main female character in this play. Faust falls in love with her and wants to win her affections. He succeeds, as Mephistopheles gets involved and helps Faust to seduce her.
You could definitely argue that Gretchen, especially with regard to the way she is treated during the play, portrays the way women were typically treated during the Romantic period. Like the ideal woman during the Romantic era, Gretchen is portrayed as a girl of virtue and innocence. We can see that when she initially shows no interest in Faust’s advances, for example.
However, Faust and Mephistopheles abuse this innocence for Faust’s own personal gain. Whilst they are not openly mistreating Gretchen, you could argue that they are emotionally abusing her by persuading her to enter a relationship with Faust, despite the fact that they are fully aware of the consequences. Gretchen does not give in to this temptation straight away, but because Faust is so persistent, she eventually ignores her own moral guidelines and ends up in a relationship with Faust.
This is typical for the way women were often seen during the Romantic period: women were seen as weak and easy to persuade. They were not regarded as equal to men. Instead, they were seen more like objects and as the property of their husbands. A woman’s main purpose was to please their husband and to keep him happy without asking questions. We can see this view reflected in the play when Gretchen eventually gives in to Faust’s advances. She even sleeps with him, which she mainly does in order to keep him happy and to please him.
In the Romantic period, women were expected to be virtuous and pious. Therefore, having sex before marriage would have been considered as very morally questionable indeed. This is why it is very scandalous that Gretchen, despite the fact that she is a devout Christian, sleeps with Faust without being married to him. We can see that in her brother’s reaction: when he finds out that Gretchen is pregnant, he feels that her honor has been destroyed and wants to fight Faust in order to revenge this. However, he does he does not show any sympathy for his sister. Even as he lies dying, he shows his contempt for his sister’s actions when he says “now that thou art a whore indeed.” You could argue that this verbal abuse towards his sister sums up the way women were seen in the Romantic period. Once a woman had engaged in premarital sex, the woman was regarded a whore and therefore lost all social recognition.
You could also argue that the poor treatment of women within society can be seen in the fact that Gretchen totally agrees with her brother’s view of her. She feels very ashamed of what she has done and ends up killing her child. She is not fighting back, she is not blaming anybody else. Instead, she feels solely responsible for what has happened and blames herself for everything. She feels that it is all her fault, as she has failed to behave the way society would have wanted her to behave.