Pushkin’s “Scene from Faust” was published in 1828, twenty years after Goethe published the first part of his Faust. At the time Pushkin’s poem appeared, Goethe, nearing eighty, was the undisputed king of European letters.
Pushkin’s relation to Goethe is a matter of some controversy. He didn’t read German, but he would have seen translations of Goethe’s lyrics made by his friend and mentor the poet Vasily Zhukovsky. Pushkin probably read in French the admiring writings of Friedrich Schlegel and Mme. de Staël that established Goethe’s European reputation.
He obviously knew Faust. In his scene, the character of Mephistopheles, the Gretchen story, and the verse form all point to Goethe specifically, not just to the Faust legend as a whole. But Pushkin’s Faust is Byronic. He suffers, not so much from an insatiable desire for knowledge and experience, as from pure spleen. ...
Alan Shaw recently finished translating Pushkin’s little tragedies, and is currently working on Boris Godunov
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