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Frankenstein: Birth of a Monster (2003)

A drama telling the story of the life of the writer of Frankenstein. Telling of her influences, her writing and her personal life.

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Himself (as Professor Robert Winston)
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Frankenstein's Monster
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Mary Shelley
Raphaella Pester ...
Young Mary Shelley
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William Godwin
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Mary Wollstonecraft
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Percy Bysshe Shelley
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Claire Clairmont
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Lord Byron
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Victor Frankenstein
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A drama telling the story of the life of the writer of Frankenstein. Telling of her influences, her writing and her personal life.

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7 December 2003 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Μαίρη Σέλεϊ, η γέννηση ενός τέρατος  »

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Harriet Walter's uncle Christopher Lee played Frankenstein's Monster in The Curse of Frankenstein (1957). See more »

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Mary Shelley's life and Frankenstein
23 April 2009 | by See all my reviews

Frankenstein can be read many different ways. There is a lot going on in the novel. Mary Shelley surely included things from her life in the novel, so we can read it as something that applies to her, such as an allegory or biography, or differently, as themes that apply to everyone. After doing some research on Mary Shelley, the basis for her novel Frankenstein became quite apparent. This book is not something Shelley dreamed up one night and put on paper; it clearly relates to her fears, anxieties, and insecurities about her creative and reproductive capabilities as a woman and mother. Viewed in this context, this book can be seen as Shelley's account of her tragedies as a mother. This is particularly evident in the passage describing Frankenstein's creation. Of course a writer cannot write about things they have not experienced, but in Shelley's case, the novel Frankenstein is an allegory of her life. Although there are other things that happen in the novel, it deals with the same themes that Mary Shelley dealt with in her real life.

The creation of Frankenstein can be attributed to dozens of different misfortunes Shelley may have endured in her life with her children. When Dr. Frankenstein digs through several grave yards in search of the perfect body parts for his creation, it expresses the imperfection Shelley may have felt at giving birth to several flawed children, and the desire to create one perfect child. She was searching herself or she felt imperfection in herself because of all these attempts at being a mother. Of the four children Shelley had before the age of twenty, only one outlived her. Two died suddenly; one died of SIDS, and the other was stillborn. Shelley could feel similar to Dr. Frankenstein because they were both trying to give birth to something and ultimately failed.

Given this knowledge, Frankenstein's creation can also be viewed as Shelley's endless search for a more ideal universe in which she has found a way to create a beautiful child not ailed by illness and healthy enough that a sudden death is not a strong possibility. This can be seen in the passage where Frankenstein's creator spots him scaling an overhanging cliff of a steep mountain: "I suddenly beheld the figure of a man, at some distance, advancing towards me at superhuman speed. He bounded over the crevices in the ice, among which I had walked with caution; his stature, also, as he approached, seem to exceed that of a man... My rage was without bounds; I sprang on him, impelled by all the feeling which can arm one being against the existence of another. He easily alluded me. (Shelley, 101 - 102)." This is a feat no vulnerable person would or should attempt.

While Frankenstein represents Shelly's romantic ideal of an impervious child, he also represents her greatest fear as a mother – the fear of losing another child. Dr. Frankenstein clearly loves Frankenstein. He painstakingly assembles his creation in the most perfect way he can. He cuts off contact with his family to dedicate himself to this task. However, in the matter of a few sentences, Frankenstein is lost to him both physically and figuratively: "I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and the breathless horror and disgust filled my heart (Shelley, 58)." The love Dr. Frankenstein feels for his creation is replaced by fear for the menacing monster he becomes after his escape. This coincides with the death of Dr. Frankenstein's infant brother, William. William's fictional death parallels the actual death of Shelly's two infant children. Much like the letter Dr. Frankenstein received from his family informing him of the terrible death of his baby brother, Shelley sent a letter to her friends and family after the death of her infant child: "My dearest Hogg my baby is dead - will you come to see me as soon as you can - I wish to see you - It was perfectly well when I went to bed - I awoke in the night to give it suck it appeared to be sleeping so quietly that I would not awake it - it was dead then but we did not find that out till morning - from its appearance it evidently died from convulsions - Will you come - you are so calm a creature and Shelley is afraid of a fever from the milk - for I am no longer a mother now." (Woodbridge)

The pain and despair brought on by William's death at the hands of Dr. Frankenstein's creation is the same pain and despair felt by Shelley from the loss of her two infant children. Just as Dr. Frankenstein blames himself for William's death, Shelley blames herself, whether correctly or not, for the death of her children.


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