Faust Questions and Answers

Johann Goethe

Read real teacher answers to our most interesting Faust questions.

How does subjectivity inform the modern conception of tragedy?

Goethe's work is powerful because of its introduction to the modern definition of tragedy.  Faust is a character who seeks to appropriate the world in accordance to his own subjectivity.  Goethe renders a characterization in which the individual's own subjective is how reality is perceived.  For Faust, there is a desire to fulfill his own subjective consciousness in controlling everything.  Faust sees his own subjective as the means through which he will appropriate reality.  This is critical in reading his characterization.  Through it, Goethe demonstrates a tragic condition of humanity. 

The subjective being the filter through which all interaction with the world is executed is critical to Faust's characterization.  It is a theme that is seen in Shelley's Frankenstein and Flaubert's Madame Bovary. Goethe is genius in his ability to demonstrate how human subjectivity can be far from glorious, and can actually sow the seeds of both individual and social destruction. His vision strikes at both the Romantic and Classical notions of the good, synthesizing both in repudiating both through demonstrating their limitations in their relentless valuing of the individual.

In being able to demonstrate how the individual seeks to appropriate the world in accordance to their own subjectivity, Goethe is able to explore how creation and destruction are similar to one another.  The creative capacity of Faust's dreams end up resulting in destruction, reflective from the very arrangement that fueled his dreams to the closing idea of hoping to "tarry a moment."  In the appropriation of the world in accordance to one's own subjectivity, there is the implicit understanding that creation and destruction go together.  Such an idea represents an intellectual ushering in of the modern setting.