The story of the German philosopher, Dr. Faust who sold his soul to the devil in order to enjoy a life of power, riches and knowledge, is famous throughout Europe and has been told in different ways. The most famous re-tellings, however, are through plays – Goethe wrote his version of ‘Faust’ in 1832, while Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus was finished in 1616. The original stories on which the plays were based were medieval and show Faust as a wandering conjurer. In the original stories and the Marlowe play Faust is torn to pieces at the end, while devils carry off his soul; however the Goethe play shows him being given the grace to repent.
The poem is a clever monologue built on word play and rhymes and a rhythm that rattles through Faust’s life at breakneck speed. It begins with Faust as a student, as in the originals, "First things first –" and tells the story of their romance "shacked up, split up,/made up, hitched up" and their University studies "B.A. M.A. Ph.D" In one stanza which ends with the amusing suggestion that instead of kids they had "Two towelled bathrobes. Hers. His." Already there is a suggestion that material things matter most to this couple. In the second stanza, in quick succession they acquire fast cars, a yacht, a holiday cottage, computers and mobile phones. They are fast moving and upwardly mobile. The character of Faust is reflected in his face "clever, greedy, slightly mad" although the narrator concedes "I was as bad."
Things begin to go wrong in stanza three, where Mrs. Faust admits "I grew to love the lifestyle/not the life." In other words she enjoyed all the material benefits of the way she lived, but she wasn’t happy married to Faust. Similarly he enjoys "the kudos" or the money, but he doesn’t love her. As he starts visiting prostitutes there is an ambiguous reference to "chronic irritation" meaning she was both annoyed and possibly suffering from a sexually transmitted disease. Her attempts to give shape and meaning to her life are very modern "I went to yoga, t’ai chi,/Feng Shui, therapy, colonic irrigation."and recall the fads pursued by various unhappy celebrities like Princess Diana.
The lifestyle continues however, with dinner parties where Faust shows off his business acumen "doing deals out East" which are probably in oil and expensive possibly because they involved bribery of one kind or another. He would then take a cab to Soho, notorious as the haunt of brothels and strip clubs, expressed as "to say the least/to lay the ghost/get lost, meet panthers, feast." in ambiguous phrases where ‘to say the least’ can imply doing things other than speaking, or ‘to put it at the most basic’, and the verb ‘to lay’ can have a slang meaning and recalls the original story where Faust conjured up beautiful women for his pleasure. ‘To lay the ghost’ can also mean to put something to rest ‘Get lost’ also has the double meaning…