Nighttime. The cabinet of the aging scholar and philosopher, doctor Faust. Faust is in deep thought. He is tormented by doubt in the power of knowledge, in the possibility to understand the mysteries of life. He decides to end his life by taking poison. He hears the sounds of citizens greeting the new day. The will to live reawakens in him. He curses the impotence of both science and God, their inability to return his youth, his love and hopes; and despairingly he summons the devil. Mephistopheles appears and promises Faust to return his youth, in exchange for the scholar’s soul. Faust hesitates. Mephistopheles seduces him with a vision of a beautiful girl – Marguerite. Enchanted by her beauty, Faust signs the contract with the devil, and he is turned into a handsome young man.
A festive day in the town square. Wagner and Siebel and other students, are celebrating their friends’ departure to war. Valentin, who is to depart as well, comes with his sister Marguerite. His friend, Siebel, promises to look after Marguerite in his absence. Mephistopheles appears. He sings verses lauding the power of gold, mocks Valentin predicting his death, and toasts for Marguerite. Valentin is indignant; to protect his sister’s honour, he unsheathes his sword and attacks Mephistopheles, but his swords breaks in half. The students are seized by superstitious terror. They cross themselves and pray, but powerless before Mephistopheles, they retreat and disperse. The square is empty. Faust appears. He reminds Mephistopheles of the beautiful vision and demands a date with Marguerite. The sound of waltz attracts Marguerite to the square. Siebel greets her happily. But Mephistopheles lures the young man aside. Dazed by the girl’s beauty, Faust offers to see her home, but the girl refuses. Mephistopheles promises to help the distressed Faust.
The garden in front of Marguerite’s house. Siebel, who is in love with her, brings a bouquet of flowers. He asks the flowers to convey his feelings to Marguerite. Mephistopheles and Faust quietly enter the garden and eavesdrop on Siebel. Mephistopheles taunts the amorous student and offers to find expensive gifts that will surpass Siebel’s modest bouquet. In private, Faust daydreams about Marguerite. Mephistopheles comes back, carrying a small chest full of precious jewellery. Marguerite cannot resist the temptation to try them on. Her neighbour Marthe assures the girl that the jewellery is the gift of a rich magnate. Mephistopheles appears and casts a spell on the night and the flowers to awaken the love in Marguerite’s heart. Marguerite’s heart is filled with the passionate love for Faust.
In the church. Marguerite, abandoned by Faust, is praying fervently. Mephistopheles’s voice reminds her that by giving up her honour, she has given herself up to the devil. Marguerite faints.
Soldiers are returning from war. Only Siebel came to greet Valentin. Valentin hurries to his sister, to learn of the events that happened during his absence. Mephistopheles sings a serenade, calling Marguerite to come out on a date with Faust. Marguerite confesses to her brother. The enraged Valentin rushes out of his house and sees his sister’s lover. After a short fight, Valentin falls, transfixed with a sword. Before he dies, he curses his sister. Marguerite cannot bear the heartache and goes mad.
Marguerite, having killed her baby, is imprisoned in a dungeon. Mephistopheles and Faust enter, with intention of saving her from the impending execution. The sound of Faust’s voice restores Marguerite’s sanity and reminds her of their first encounter. Mephistopheles urges them to flee. But the girl recoils from Faust in terror – her sanity fades again, and she falls dead. Mephistopheles and Faust disappear.