In its six seasons to date the period drama has won plaudits for its writing and its visual style in depicting the s and s. But what has its lead character Don Draper Jon Hamm told us about men and masculinity? He clutches everything, he holds nothing fast, but soon loosens his grasp to pursue fresh gratifications. On one reading Don Draper, and Mad Men, presents a recurring kind of American masculinity: insistent, insatiable, forward-looking.
Weaned on the abundance of the s, it has been challenged by the upheavals of the s. Across the six seasons already aired, the inscrutable Don roves through various work and social spaces, tangling with the women he finds and brings there. At the end of season six, Don stood in front of a decrepit building, showing his kids the site of his lowly upbringing — in a brothel.
He was raised poor by his imperious father and a strict Christian stepmother in Depression-era rural Pennsylvania. Dick saw his father killed when a startled horse kicked him in the face. He stole his identity by switching their dog tags. Somehow, they began a mutually fulfilling relationship. It also coincides with the changing nature of labour in the United States since the Second World War.
No longer can men strike it out on their own, as did Benjamin Franklin. Corporations become larger. Managerialism reigns. In the growth of these large bureaucracies mid-level managers report to supervisors, becoming the links in what the American sociologist C. What a lucky man, indeed—chronically restless, temperamentally anxious, a man in constant motion to prove what ultimately cannot be proved: that he is a real man and that this identity is unthreatened by the action of other men.
Mendelsohn objects to arbitrary plot movements and characterisations that lack a certain coherence and stability. The way the s is represented — what Mendelsohn calls a smug self-positioning — is as a televisual memory weighted by an era and American identity in tumult, where the thing remembered is increasingly mediated by television itself.
This frames history in a melodramatic way. But these languors are punctuated by explosive expressions of desire: sex and violence; suicide and revenge; the revelation of traumatic and bogus pasts. The American masculinity of the s, shot down with the smiling Cold War warrior, JFK, keeps trying to assert itself as an itch that fewer people want to scratch. Previous seasons have looked westward to resolve issues in old New York. And the solution to his questioning and disillusionment does not appear likely to be a religious one, at least not conventionally so. He is after a direct intuition of essential truths, that formal knowledge does not give him.
Choked by the dusty cell in which he exists, far from the beauty of moonlit Nature, he suffers, and turns to Magic as a route to a different grasp of reality. Viewing the symbol of the Macrocosm, the wider Universe, Faust revives his heart and senses, the natural man. What he sees is some sort of cosmic diagram of interpenetrating angelic, or perhaps stellar and planetary energies, and the diagram alone has the power to delude him and calm him, so that he thinks he sees more clearly into universal Nature.
Nevertheless Faust quickly admits it as a mere picture. Nature itself is otherwise, its fountains of energy flow from some unseen source, and to drink from that source is what the frustrated Faust desires. Goethe plays here to the very real sense most of us have, even those of us well-versed in modern science, of an intuitive gap between our still inadequate understanding of how energy flows through the universe and what energy is, or rather how it feels to be part of the complex of energies that forms our reality. What we understand is not what we feel.
And that gap fuels a strange quasi-belief I think that somehow we might bridge it, by some combination of knowledge and perception that would render us closer in our relationship to Nature and Being. A belief designed to be ultimately thwarted. Faust the isolated spirit is here seeking relationship, with Truth, with Nature, with the Cosmos.
And that lack of relationship, truly felt relationship is the source of his distress. That same lack and that same distress are at the root of Existentialist thinking. We believe the Universe should be in a deeper relationship to us than that of blind laws. We almost demand empathy from it, that same empathy which our own brain functions have, not just with other human beings but also with physical objects and processes. We expect it to be returned: an unreasonable expectation. He now line turns to the symbol of the Earth-Spirit instead.
The Earth-Spirit seems to represent Earthly energies, a closer aspect of Nature, the microcosm rather than the macrocosm. But faced with its real presence, he is unable to endure its intrinsic play of energies, is challenged by it and forced to respond, and in the end as he tries to compare himself with it the Spirit rejects the comparison. Human understanding comprehends its own concepts, not those inherent in Nature. Sceptical Philosophy with a vengeance! Shelley who admired Goethe, and translated scenes from Faust though Goethe had little knowledge of Shelley came up against that same barrier to human understanding indicated in the philosophy of Hume and later Kant, which he was too honest a thinker to evade.
The Enlightenment forever distanced the world from us, and yet…. Much of the scene so far is done for dramatic effect, and I doubt Goethe had any more belief in the Earth-Spirit than he did in the Lord God who appeared in the prologue. But it is there to make a crucial point, that the world itself is sacred energy, and that Faust cannot directly reach that energy, and so cannot achieve direct intuition of Nature, through mysticism or magic. Note that Faust has now traversed the world of highest knowledge and failed to satisfy his yearning.
Neither conventional knowledge nor magic yield him access to universal Truth. His subsequent use of magic will give him access to a far lower, if still fascinating, world. It is a fundamental artistic problem of the Faust story as a Christian morality tale that its middle part tends to strike a lower note, because the spiritual energies are most visible at the beginning and end of the work. Marlowe did not avoid the problem either.
His beginning and ending elicit his greatest verse. Note the stage direction. Wagner is coming from the house of sleep, with a little light of knowledge, while Faust has been bathed in the glow of the Earth-Spirit. Faust is here a potentially tragic character, his situation created by the fatal human condition and he himself morally flawed in various ways. Goethe of course intended no such reading.
Faust in such scenes is weak and flawed still, and only on his first faltering way towards the light even towards the end of the play. The lines here are superficially true, but their gleam has dulled to an age that has heard many fine speeches but seen less fine action to go with them. In fact Goethe immediately counteracts his words with a plea for sincerity that is music to our ears It is Easter eve, the night prior to the Resurrection.
Faust first must enter the darkness of self-recognition and attempted suicide. He realises that his failure to relate fully to the Earth-Spirit is a sign of his own lack of power , his inability to make the Spirit stay, a familiar enough feeling to the poet whose inspiration fades, as to the mystic whose vision dies.
His self-destructive action is fortunately interrupted by the Choir who celebrate the risen Christ as Easter Sunday dawns. And the Christ celebrated is He who atoned for Original Sin. Goethe is, at least here, subscribing to traditional formulae, and we are still in the morality play. It is typical of Goethe, and works beautifully here, that he should stress the Resurrection and not the Crucifixion. He is sensitive to the liberating moment, and the tender effect of the role of the women, with Christ as the Bridegroom. While failing now to subscribe to the faith, Faust is still prompted by childhood feelings to experience that spiritual sense of liberation and tenderness, and it recalls him to life, to emotion, to the age of sensibility rather than sense, to the age of pre-Romanticism rather than the age of Enlightenment.
Yet it is Earth, not Heaven that claims him. It allows Goethe to re-emphasise Nature as a complex value-set. And it serves to introduce Mephistopheles disguised as a black dog! Faust and Wagner now appear and Faust gives a speech extolling Nature resurrected from winter, and Humanity liberated from work and the city. Goethe is striking a note that he will return to at the end of the play, Faust relating to and identifying with the human race, and being embraced by, enfolded into, the community of human spirits.
Nature in spring, the resurrected Christ, and liberated Humanity are here identified as one. The Nature identity stems from Rousseau perhaps, the resurrected Christ as a vegetation God from early comparative mythology studies that Goethe may have read. Goethe though is proclaiming human sexuality as a valid part of experience, and life. He enjoys his descriptions of sexuality throughout Faust, and they reflect his view of sexuality as a generally fruitful and valid part of loving human experience.
House of Restless Spirits Quelled by Neighbors
There is no sexual horror or brooding in Goethe. Then we have a scene with the Farmer and the crowd that draws Faust into relation with them. It appears he and his father had been involved in saving people from the plague, and Wagner praises him accordingly once the people have moved on. But Faust in a burst of honesty, influenced by the liberating moment, confesses that his father had in reality employed alchemy to produce useless remedies, and that they had killed rather than cured their patients. Wagner gives a wonderful reply, straight from the realms of thoughtless and unfeeling experimental science.
It was all good practice, and each generation learns more and gets better at it! We then have a piece of pure Romantic yearning, as Faust longs for wings of the spirit to lift him above the Earth and let him follow the Light. Wagner in turn dismisses Nature in favour of learning, allowing Faust a speech identifying his dual nature in true Romantic fashion, his earthbound persona and his restless spirit, where he longs for a magic carpet, something that Mephistopheles will eventually provide!
Wagner sounds a valid warning here: in talking about the deceitfulness of the airborne spirits he alerts the reader to the potentially deceitful nature of what they will witness next. Wagner will usually fail to put into practice what he has learned.
And the scene ends with Wagner unwittingly ridiculing himself. With deep irony the opening lines of the scene show us Faust refreshed by Nature, his restless spirit temporarily at peace, and filled with love of Humanity and the Divine. Yet here is Mephistopheles in the form of the dog about to destroy his tranquillity. Faust soon experiences his usual fall from the heights of emotion to a new feeling of deficiency, but in this quieter, religious mood turns to the Bible and begins to translate.
The black dog, irritated no doubt by all this religious thought, amusingly disturbs him, then gives a hint of its infernal Nature. And Mephistopheles appears, in the form of an itinerant scholar, as Wagner had unwittingly implied! The concept will cause us, and Goethe, some problems though. It suggests that if there is the possibility of ultimate evil and sin, then Mephistopheles is not the traditional Devil proper, since his activity drives towards the good. Alternatively if there is no Devil proper, and no ultimate possibility of evil, then Mephistopheles is already doomed to failure and Humanity always saved.
Goethe has trouble with the Christian trappings of his story, which he inherited from the old morality play, and yet it is all too much fun for him to let it go. It is dangerous therefore to try and read Faust as some sort of ethical Divine Comedy, which it patently is not, despite the lingering atmosphere of the morality play. Goethe is circling around the central Romantic, and subsequent modern, issue. If there is no substance to traditional religion, then what is the foundation of morality, other than arbitrary social rules?
The Romantics will follow this through to the shifting relativity of values, existentialist despair and ultimately nihilism. Philosophy and Theology will meanwhile attempt a re-valuation of values, or reinterpret the divine relationship. This is both a more limited and a more consistent approach. It acknowledges the human for us, neo-Darwinian position as a part of nature, with a biological history, but understands morality as primarily an assertion of our inner selves, rather than a set of rules imposed from outside our nature, society and biology.
Mephistopheles goes on to identify himself as the spirit of denial, of destruction, of darkness and of whatever human beings mean by sin and evil. Though, he concedes, his efforts are always frustrated by the creative energies of the world. Mephistopheles now wishes to leave but is trapped by the unfinished pentagram drawn on the floor, in which the dog-form was accidentally caught. Faust hints at a pact, and Mephistopheles agrees to the possibility.
Promising to stay and then lulling Faust to sleep with Spirit-singing, he calls up the insects, rodents etc to complete the pentagram and allow his escape. Faust wakes thinking it all illusion, a dream. So Mephistopheles, the seductive and witty spirit who will continually tempt, lead, serve and seduce Faust has been introduced. And Goethe has also set the scene for the pact between Faust and Mephistopheles that will now follow. Mephistopheles returns, and invites Faust to experience Life with him.
Faust indulges in a complaint regarding the claustrophobia, indifference and torment generated by his existence. Goethe is here allowing Faust to state the Romantic position, while Mephistopheles undermines it. Faust now launches into a comprehensive curse of everything that he claims deceives the mind and heart: thoughts, sensations, aspirations, possessions, wealth, wine women, faith, hope and patience!
Mephistopheles responds through the voices of the seductive spirits, calling Faust back to life, though it is a false life Mephistopheles plans for him not the true life, and offers to serve Faust. Faust in return demands the basis for that service. Mephistopheles replies that it will be a reciprocal arrangement with Faust returning the services in the afterlife that Mephistopheles provides in this one. Faust replies with another Romantic dismissal of this world and a willingness to ignore the consequences of the next, and Mephistopheles again pursues the logical outcome.
Now Faust condemns in advance whatever Mephistopheles can offer, wealth, love etc as snares, and his bravado leads him to the pact. If Mephistopheles can ensnare him and seduce him until his own self is a joy to him, and the Moment a blessing, then Mephistopheles can have him. Perversely Mephistopheles will agree to this though it places Mephisto in the position of working counter to his own role, that of being a spur to restlessness and fresh activity.
He will accept human sensation and experience, become one of the mass, and absorb the whole, despite Mephistopheles scepticism. Mephistopheles suggests that given human inadequacy and the shortness of time, he might like to employ a poet to help! The poet can roam in imagination, and speed up the process! The scholar is a person after all who is isolated from reality. And here one comes, or rather a student. Mephistopheles changes roles with Faust, putting off his own wit, he declares , for that of the sterile, witless teacher of others.
Theory is grey, says Mephistopheles, but the tree of life itself is green Goethe will make Mephistopheles a true heir of the Enlightenment. The scene ends with Faust feeling uncomfortable already in his new role , and off they float on a cloak filled with hot air! We might consider Faust to be influenced by Rousseau, Mephistopheles by Voltaire: Faust as the product of the age of Romanticism or at least the age of Sentiment, Mephistopheles the product of the Enlightenment.
Faust is mind deranged by emotion, Mephistopheles is reason distorted by lack of it. Goethe has also forged their pact, the complement to Mephistopheles wager with God in Heaven. Win or lose, Faust will be saved. Goethe gives us no clues. A curious wager, since it puts the Devil in the place of one trying to prove the blessedness of life on earth, not one trying to destroy the moral fabric. Mephistopheles is a very strange devil. And we remember that his role is as a goad and spur to Mankind, as one who dabbles with the bad, but inexorably creates the good. Mephistopheles will harry and seduce Faust, but ultimately Goethe will not let him deflect Faust from the creative path.
Rejecting temporarily the attempt to aspire to the realms of the Spirits, and proclaiming the sterility of knowledge and learning, Faust will now descend into the pleasures and pains of human experience. Mephistopheles himself is unrecognised by the drinkers, despite his limping disguised cloven foot, and now conjures up various founts of drink for the tavern regulars, and adds a bit of hellfire for fun.
His magical incantations have an Elizabethan quality that Goethe perhaps learnt from Shakespeare The drinkers now have the illusion of being in a land of vineyards, and as the vision dissolves are left grasping each other by the nose. Cheap pursuit of sensuality is unlikely to win his attention for long. Her creatures meanwhile entertain Mephistopheles with fragments of wisdom, limited pieces of human scepticism about life, and silly jests. Faust has found a magic mirror in which he sees the vision of a beautiful woman Helen and Mephistopheles holds out a teasing promise of bringing her to Faust.
Since Truth has failed him so far, Love and Beauty will clearly be areas of experience that a rejuvenated Faust will have to traverse in search of contentment and the exalted Moment. The Witch now arrives down the chimney, and Mephistopheles mocks her chant and taunts her for not recognising him, though he concedes that modern Northern devils are men about town, gentlemen, and dandies, and so indistinguishable among the rest! The Witch at his instigation prepares the potion for Faust, and Mephistopheles chides the dour Doctor for his inability to enjoy the fun of witchcraft and incantation.
Mephistopheles is the spirit of Voltaire, Faust that of Rousseau. Mephistopheles is the Enlightenment, Faust the proto-Romantic. Wit, reason and poise are not enough for human beings: Faust demands a deeper goal, a higher aim, a profound activity on which to stake his life.
He drinks the potion and is rejuvenated. Faust now meets Margaret Gretchen and we are moving into the main tragic content of Part I, a classic seduction of the innocent girl, followed by her downfall engineered unwittingly by Faust and deliberately by Mephistopheles.
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This is after all originally a morality play, in the versions that Goethe derived his Faust from. Goethe may have added to it his own memories and guilt over his brief affair with Friederike Brion in October She was the daughter of the pastor at Sesenheim, twenty miles north of Strasbourg. Their short-lived relationship ended in August , and Goethe apparently felt an acute sense of guilt at betraying and deserting her.
The Devil is caught preaching morality! Faust shows no regard for the deeper possibility of Love at this stage, and is the pure sexual sensualist, the rake, the seducer Don Juan. Goethe has made no effort at this point to show Faust in anything other than an unacceptable light. Nevertheless, and despite the tragedy of Gretchen, Faust will eventually be saved. We are here at the heart of the question as to whether Goethe is essentially an immoralist, condoning immoral and callous behaviour: an amoralist who believes that we may cause destruction, and that the destruction is unavoidable in some way, while our other motives and actions may offset or redeem the destruction with creation: or a moralist who is making a subtle case for the variability of human conduct and personality, the ability to develop and learn, and the worth despite his flaws of a human being who does not cease to strive for what might be higher.
There are issues here which we will pursue later about the nature of consequential loss, and the degree to which collateral damage is the fault of and attributable to the human agent, regardless of their motives. We expect the good and decent man or woman to control passion and selfishness, apply foresight, and show a benevolent empathy towards others. Faust clearly reveals none of those things in this small scene.
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However we do also allow mitigating circumstances, for example the effect of drugs or drink, though those do not fully excuse the consequences. The cynical Mephistopheles is now contrasted with Faust the sentimentalist. He is one of those incapable of separating sexuality and desire from deeper emotions, a desirable quality but with tragic consequences in this case.
The Romantic urge is forever seeking to deepen experience and give it weight, a weight that it often seems incapable of carrying, hence the often theatrical quality of Romanticism, and its susceptibility to parody and ironic attack. Mephistopheles leaves behind a casket of jewels, to tempt the girl.
He is the devil of seduction, and so the denier of morality. Gold and jewellery will be symbols of potential or actual corruption throughout the play. They exit, and Margaret Gretchen enters and finds the jewels. So Goethe subtly sets the scene for what will follow. Gretchen concludes the scene with her thoughts about the transience of youth and the power of wealth. Goethe allows Mephistopheles to poke fun at the greed revealed in organised religion, in the state and in the money-lending class. The seduction is however still progressing well, and the Faust-Mephistopheles relationship is developing into that of master-servant, with Mephistopheles subtly following his own agenda of luring Faust towards acceptance of the Moment.
Mephistopheles now enters, and Goethe provides a comic interlude while Mephisto deceives Martha in order to create an opportunity to introduce Faust as his friend and second witness. Mephisto successfully sets up a meeting. Faust jibs at the false-witness Mephisto requires of him. To which Mephistopheles replies with a nice piece of sophistry, indicating that many statements are made on less true knowledge than Faust has. Mephisto sees the sophistry in that! And Faust concedes the inevitability of his sensual desire for Gretchen regardless.
The meeting takes place, and Faust flatters poor Gretchen who expresses her own humility and self-knowledge.
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Meanwhile Mephistopheles has an amusing knowing conversation with Martha. Faust stresses the beauty of innocence, an innocence he is out to corrupt! Goethe plays out a delicate and amusing little contrast between the two pairs. Gretchen seeks love, and Faust declares his love for her. Is he genuine? Or is he merely intoxicated by the feeling, able to conjure it up and work himself into the part required? The degree of emotional selfishness involved here is interesting. Is Faust seeking the sensation of love rather then committing himself to another human being, Gretchen being the handy vehicle?
Does he feel any care or regard for her as an individual? Faust and Gretchen now appear as lovers without yet having achieved full sexual union. As Faust and Mephisto depart, Gretchen voices her doubt and her grasp of the reality. What can Faust find in her but sensual indulgence?
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His conquest of her is merely an exercise of his male status, knowledge and power, and therefore an easy victory. The girl is inevitably doomed, within the society of that time, if the liaison becomes public knowledge and he fails to stand by her. A panegyric to Nature and the Earth Spirit now follows. The Earth-Spirit has given Faust all in the sense of allowing a human being to participate through feeling and sensation in the natural world. Faust feels in an exalted state of empathy and communion with the world, a Romantic state, even though he is aware that the negative Mephisto is also in some way a gift of the deeper reality to him.
He perceives that though Mephisto is a spirit of denial, impertinent and chilling, he also holds out the prospect of sensual beauty, beauty of form, to Faust. The banter between Mephistopheles and Faust now intensifies Mephisto prompts towards restlessness and dissatisfaction, spurring Faust into activity, while Faust frets at being returned from the spiritual state of communion with Nature, in solitude, to the vulgar reality and community with mankind. Faust is once again here the proto-Romantic spirit, seeking the deeper and higher states of being, and disgusted by ordinary experience, while at the same time attracted to the sensual world, with woman as its loveliest expression.
The tension is between the mind and the heart, or at least between the spiritual aspects of the mind and its sensual and emotional aspects. It is the unresolved conflict of modernity. Mephistopheles mocks the pathetic fallacy that leads Faust to identify himself with the superhuman It is, he suggests, an overflow of mental power and pride, and a self-deceit.
He conjures up a picture of the girl in love to needle Faust, and succeeds. Faust is tortured by the sensual, and even uses a semi-blasphemous expression concerning the transubstantiation to encapsulate the fusion of the spirit with the flesh that the relationship with Gretchen signifies. Once again Faust is seen to be not without deep human feelings, but wholly self-centred in his perceptions. Faust here seeks to spiritualise his carnal relationship with Gretchen, Mephistopheles to de-spiritualise it and reveal the carnality.
Mephisto is here the Enlightenment realist while Faust is the Romantic image maker conjuring up a Byronic portrait of the individual as a restless wanderer, still seeing it all in terms of self and not other. And faced with the possibility of normal relationship here, conscious of his own failings, Faust prefers an apocalyptic finale where both she and he are destroyed, than any renunciation of his personal aims. In a modern world that has seen the full working out of the Romantic impulse, through Existentialism and Nihilism, into a reluctant and uncomfortable scientific semi-acceptance, it is easy to dismiss Faust as a caricature of Romantic foolishness and excess.
Your nihilism is just frustration, says Mephisto. It is deservedly famous, for its simplicity, economy of effect, and resonance within the context of the play. He then expresses a Pantheistic vision of the creative, interwoven world, using natural imagery. It is a powerful evocation of a universe where all the parts are in communion with the whole, fundamentally benevolent: inexplicable and nameless.
Joy, Heart, Love and God become interchangeable words for an ineffable and fundamental Creative drive. He is word spinning in the true Romantic tradition. The question is whether he believes what he is saying or is merely pacifying her, or a combination of both. Once more Goethe keeps the position ambiguous and fluid, not allowing us to judge Faust too clearly.
Gretchen has identified Mephistopheles instinctively as a negative and corrupting force, one with no love within, a force that oppresses her and stifles her own feelings of love. Faust defends him complacently. Faust now gives her a sleeping draught with which to dose her mother, assuring her that it will do no harm. Goethe is not explicit as to whether the sleeping draught has come from Mephisto or is of his own devising.
We also remember his aborted attempt at suicide by means of a potion. Either way the act is reckless, and pushes the responsibility for its consequences on to the girl. They appear as conspirators. Mephisto mocks the previous conversation between Faust and Gretchen, suggesting that women use conventional morality as a means to power over those they love, within the war of the sexes. Faust replies that Gretchen quizzed him about religion out of loving concern for his salvation, an argument that Mephisto finds ridiculous in a seducer , and encapsulates Gretchen as a Mary Magdalen, that is already a fallen woman but with religious overtones , and one who has recognised him, as a devil, behind the mask.
Faust and Gretchen have met at night, and the sexual union is complete. Goethe now makes the social situation clear for us. Gretchen now feels her own fallen status, something she had despised in others previously, but she is still possessed by the sweetness of the fatal attraction that has led her to it. What would now condemn her socially of course would be his failure to stand by her. Gretchen now makes her touching prayer to the Virgin, the grieving mother, the Mater Dolorosa. Her words will echo again at the conclusion of the whole drama.
Goethe is willing to use the conventional religious scenario, and at a moment of deep emotion, which leads us inevitably to consider the play or at least these aspects of it in the light of Christian morality. Faust and Mephistopheles appear, Faust preoccupied with himself as usual, comments on the waning light, while Mephisto enjoys the night like a tom-cat, and sets up our expectation of Walpurgis Night soon to follow.
Faust requires a gift for Gretchen, while Mephisto proposes to serenade her. Valentine accosts them, breaking the zither, and is struck down in the fight that follows.
Mephistopheles calls on Faust to flee, with a quick jibe at the corrupt police, but in fear of the less corrupt courts! Valentine now gives his dying speech, condemning Gretchen, to her great grief. Is Faust guilty? Valentine after all attacked the pair, though Faust has seduced Gretchen. The ambiguity Goethe presents us with makes us uncertain as to whether Faust might not have stood by the girl, though we are right to be doubtful. The killing of Valentine, not deliberately engineered by Faust, but a fatal unintended consequence of his actions, now forces the rupture from Gretchen.
Or does it? Goethe may well have been indicating his own early inability in his pre-Classical years to find fulfilment, and his tendency to flee to the next situation offered. Faust is not prepared to suffer the consequences of his actions at this stage of his development, and that immaturity condemns him morally in Part I. Goethe now uses the Cathedral scene and the singing of the Requiem Mass, to display Gretchen tormented and in pain. The Evil Spirit, an aspect of her own conscience, assails her.
Goethe partly employs prose to indicate the lapse from the divine presence. He has been involved in the deaths of her brother and her mother, and yet the consequences are even now not fully worked through. Goethe has deftly posed us a moral problem. Both of them have broken the conventional moral code, but for reasons of feeling. That is sufficient for a true Romantic! In one sense Faust and Gretchen are free of intentional guilt, but the outcome that has ensued by this stage is certainly serious, and by seeking to flee the consequences, in a way that Gretchen does not or cannot, Faust is certainly not a shining example of virtue.
The unintentional nature of the fatal incidents, so far, does to some extent justify the name of tragedy in the Classical sense of an unwished-for and unsought disaster through adverse circumstances, as well as the later Shakespearean sense of the result of flawed character, but Goethe is certainly stretching the concept. Faust must be condemned at this moment for his failure to face the music, or show remorse.
His flaws at this stage of his development are his lack of moral foresight, his carelessness of consequences, and his evasion of responsibility for his actions. That does not make him a fundamentally evil or immoral character, merely manipulative, irresponsible and elusive. Not a noble character for sure, but not a total villain. And Goethe depends upon our going along with his portrait, and not condemning Faust too harshly at this point, if we are to maintain sympathy with him later.
However he first shows us Faust on Walpurgis Night, to force us to a full assessment of his character in Part I.