The Eternal War between Director and Playwright

Goethe's Faust: the Director, Dramatist, and Comedian in the First Scene.

The Relationship of Faust’s Opening to the 8 Basic Motivations

As part of my journey to read 100 books in 1 year, I just began reading Goethe’s renowned play Faust, and despite the small amount of information that I had previously known about the play, the beginning surprised me. Pretty sure the story is about a scientist who sells his soul to the devil, so when a Director, Dramatist, and Comedian came on stage and began discussing the best way to create a play, I was pleasantly surprised. And to my greater pleasure, the three characters embodied three of the 8 Basic Motivations: Hospitality, Story, and Fun.

The Dilemma

Goethe’s Faust opens with a Director, Dramatist, and Comedian discussing the best way to create.

The director argues for something flashy, distracting, and universally pleasing, while the playwright takes the complete opposite stance: “Oh, don’t speak to me of that varied crew [the audience], the sight of whom makes inspiration fade.”

Goethe's Faust: the Director, Dramatist, and Comedian in the First Scene.

While the director finds the fulfillment of his craft in pleasing his audience, the playwright (or dramatist) must forget about the audience in order to satisfy his own inner overflowing of creation – he is not writing something merely for the people of today, but for all of time.

Then the Comedian interjects, renouncing posterity and claiming the immediate moment as his perfect environment. He claims that the Foolishness [of the moment] must not be forgotten when speaking of the transcendent majesty of all the other experiences of humankind, and the three carry on an involved argument.

The 8 Motivations

There are 8 Basic Motivations, but Goethe here hits upon three very specifically: Hospitality, Story, and Fun.


Hospitality motivates the Director, who wants to make his audience feel comfortable. Those motivated by hospitality do not care to solve people’s problems, help them find deep meaning in life, or even to help them find the happiness they are looking for: they want to provide an environment for relaxation, forgetfulness, and community. They provide something for everybody, especially those things that are crowd-pleasers: food, a place to sleep, a shelf of books or movies, etc. They let their ‘guests’ choose the thing that will bring them bliss.

For example, the Director states at one point: “Each one, himself, will choose the bit he needs: Who brings a lot, brings something that will pass: And everyone goes home contentedly.” He is warning the Dramatist against trying to give a complete story, full of nuance and subtlety, for he argues that no one else will gain anything by the subtlety. The audience will only appreciate the forgetfulness that an entertaining story brings to them.

While the Director is a bit cynical, he is ultimately motivated to bring pieces of an entertainment from which the audience can choose for themselves: he does not intend to bring foolishness, deep wisdom, or a complete story: in a sense, he is too wise for that. He knows each audience member is looking for something unique and separate from his neighbor, so he only seeks to offer something grand and entertaining, which his audience can choose to appreciate or not, at their leisure. His line “doesn’t a full house make you happy?” is the catch phrase for those motivated by hospitality.


The Dramatist shares my own motivation, Story, and I found myself particularly drawn to his point of view as, I believe, Goethe himself was. The Dramatist is full of noble passions, and is the most positively portrayed in this scene, but he has his own issues. He wants the story to be great, to span centuries, to get at the very heart of humanity’s meaning, purpose, experience – he shoots for the stars! But in doing so, he paralyzes himself, falls back into self-doubt, and struggles to create anything at all.

“I had nothing, yet enough:/ Joy in illusion, thirst for truth./ Give every passion, free to move,/ The deepest bliss, filled with pain,/ The force of hate, the power of love,/ Oh, give me back my youth again!”

He idealizes his past creations and thinks that he stagnates in the glow of popularity, experience, and expectation, and yet, no doubt, in his youth he fantasized that popularity and experience would better his art. He is an idealist, and gets lost in his fantasies, his ‘what ifs.’

Story looks at the world, life, and humanity as a whole, sort of from a ‘meta’ point of view, and can struggle to see any moment as it stands on its own. Story people are motivated to live their own story, to help others figure out how to live theirs, and to solve the dilemma of the world’s over-arching story. This is why both history and futuristic ‘what-if’s’ appeal to them, as well as fantasy worlds, where an entire history can be laid out and solved within one life-span of the writer. Think Tolkien’s Silmarillion.


In this dialogue, the Comedian bounces back and forth between opinions, agreeing with the Director and Dramatist as each voices their side, but he is ultimately trying to discover the best way for he and his audience to have a good time.

Those motivated by Fun like to make people laugh, to find the ridiculous and irreverent in everyday situations, and to enjoy individual moments to their fullest. Wit, foolishness, dance, jokes, and cheer are the driving features of their life. The Comedian says, “Be brave, and show them what you’ve got,/ Have Fantasy with all her chorus, yes,/ Mind, Reason, Passion, Tears, the lot,/ But don’t you leave out Foolishness.”

My brother is motivated by fun, which does not make him a shallow person only interested in light matters, but rather one who finds meaning and purpose in working hard so that he can find moments of fun, excitement, and laughter. For the Comedian and for my brother, life is pointless if it has not laughter.

The Strengths of These 3 Motivations

Goethe's Faust: the Director, Dramatist, and Comedian in the First Scene.

These three arguments of the Director, Playwright, and Comedian are eternal. It is the war fought between producer and screenwriter, publisher and author, actor and director, in every age. And with a splash in the middle is the Comedian, at once dedicated to his art (like the Dramatist) and to his audience (like the Director), but ultimately useless when it comes to bringing together the play as a whole. He needs the Director and Dramatist for that.

The Director, Dramatist, and Comedian Solve their Dilemma

I believe Goethe wrote this opening so as to debate within himself which is the best of the three opinions. As a playwright who depends on the income from the audience, he is well-aware of the draw the director’s opinion has for the production, but all the while he is pulled toward the Dramatist’s point of view and holds his audience in contempt. How can they ever understand his art? His art stands on its own, it is perfection on its own, and answers neither to him, nor to the vapid eyes of the staring audience. And yet, how can his art, administered through his weak hands, ever attain such true purity of story? Must he fall back upon the Director’s wide-open, something-for-everyone hospitality? Their dilemma appears irreconcilable.

Goethe's Faust: the Director, Dramatist, and Comedian in the First Scene.

At last, the Director cries out, “That’s enough words for the moment,/ Now let’s see some action!/ Tomorrow won’t do what’s undone today,/ We shouldn’t waste a minute, so/ Decide what’s possible, and just/ Grasp it firmly like a hoe,/ Make sure that you let nothing go, and work it about because you must.”

The answer, in the end, appears to be the director’s, because the director calls a cease fire on the argument, and declares that the Dramatist must write. But I actually think the true answer is the Comedian. All along he has encouraged each side to give what it can give, to live in the moment, to cease to dream and begin to act! “Grasp the life of man complete!” he agrees with the Dramatist, and with the Director, he cries, “They’ll gain now this and now that from your art,/ So each sees what is present in their heart./… They’ll admire your verve, and enjoy the show:/ what’s finished you can never alter after:/ Minds still in growth will be grateful though.”

Like the fool of Shakespeare, the Comedian – for all his emphasis on the absurd – finds the positive in each viewpoint and reveals to his companions that by ceasing to overthink it, they can succeed through the doing in the moment, rather than stewing on the perfect. And thus the Comedian brings about the creation and presentation of an actual play.

And now I am very excited to see what other surprises Faust holds in store!

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