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Knowledge is a bit of a double edged sword. On the one hand, you’ve got a new understanding of yourself, your surroundings, and the power of cause and effect. On the other hand, you’re also aware of how all the hookers are infected with terrible diseases which, I imagine, has a tendency to ruin any good times you might have had planned.

It’s like, yeah, with all of that knowledge you could go about curing syphilis, but why even bother? What is the point? They’re just going to pick up some other disease. Might as well just curl up and die, right? Why even wait for the terms of the contract to be up?

While Faust may not be the first story to play with the idea of selling one’s soul to the devil, it is certainly one of the most famous, becoming the foundation for hundreds of tales and twists on the classic concept. Everything from basic Christian morality stories to the legends of Robert Johnson, the musician who sold his soul for mastery of the blues, have been influenced and inspired by the tragic tale of Doctor Faustus. While Goethe’s version of events may be the most well known to us in this day and age (having been printed on paper and distributed widely) it is not the original.

The story of Dr. Faust was originally a Germanic legend made famous in print in the late 16th Century (though it was likely told as a folktale for some time before that) that had a slightly different take on the character, though there are many versions of events. The major difference between the original folklore and Goethe’s more poetic edition is in the redemption of the good Doctor, something that doesn’t really occur in the original mythos. In the 16th century take on the story, Dr. Faust is a doomed man, and at the end of his contract with the devil, he is carried off to hell to be tormented for all eternity.

The whole affair is largely meant to be a sort of morality tale about the dangers of seeking human knowledge (ie-medical, alchemical, or otherwise) over seeking divine knowledge (ie-that which brings one closer to god). The people of the time clearly thought that by leaving the Doctor stuck to his contract and subsequently dragged to hell for his offenses left a much less palatable taste in the mouth with regards to soul-selling. Goethe’s Faust, unlike the folktales that gave shape to it, is more a journey from the selfish pursuits of the hero (which would lead to his damnation) to the divinely inspired path he comes to at the end, leading to his own salvation.

Goethe’s Faust also makes a different sort of deal, wherein he acquires the services of the demon Mephistopheles for a period of years, rather than the more generalized deal of acquiring knowledge and earthly pleasures found in some of the legends.

I think we see which Faust got the better deal, in the end.

It just goes to show that when making deals with the Devil, you’d best be prepared to deal with the consequences. Whether that’s the loss of your soul or dealing with the knowledge that the hookers have all got diseases is largely up to how you weight them.

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