What similarities do the characters of Faust and Peer Gynt have in Goethe's Faust and Ibsen's Peer Gynt?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Faust and Peer Gynt, in Goethe's Faust and Ibsen's Peer Gynt, are not alike in character traits though they are alike in some of their actions taken. Faust is an accomplished and respected academic who is looked up to and admired. He takes false steps in life because he is frustrated with the limits to knowledge and his inability to find what needed is known:

FAUST: What a man knows not, that he doth require,
And what he knoweth, that he cannot use.

Peer Gynt, on the other hand, is a worthless fellow who has no participation in seeking anything of value that might give betterment to his life. In fact, he kidnaps Ingrid for her money.

This leads to one way in which the actions of Faust and Peer might be said to be similar. Faust, after becoming enamored with the image of Helen of Troy and thereafter being convinced by Mephistopheles (Mephisto) to take a youth and love potion, transfers his enamored and newly lustful feelings to Gretchen, whom he passes on the street. This attraction is soon to lead to seduction through Mephisto's coercion and intervention. Similarly, Peer kidnaps Ingrid on her wedding day though he feels no love for her. Though he seems a harmless sort of braggart and day-dreamer

PEER: Peer Gynt he rides first, and there follow him many.—
His steed it is gold-shod and crested with silver.
Himself he has gauntlets and sabre and scabbard.

his greed and spite lead him to act for his own selfish means without thought of others, as is seen when he abandons Ingrid--and prefers the woman in green!

Faust and Peer both have many adventures, for example Walpurgis Night and the encounter with the mountain king, but for Faust, his adventures are associated with seeking knowledge (while Mephisto entraps him in pleasure) while Peer's adventures are only for self-serving gain. In addition, both Faust and Peer have wealth at times. However, Faust dies with his wealth ever increasing while Peer returns home empty handed having lost all his wealth several times. In the end though, each of them find true wealth. Faust finds salvation through Gretchen's love, and Peer finds the wealth of the love of Solveig.