Published in 1852, this playscript is described as ‘A peculiar romantic melo-dramatic pantomime spectacle’ founded principally on ‘Mrs Shelley’s singular work’ and ‘partly on the French Piece Le Magicien et Le Monstre’. The novel was adapted by H M Milner, a popular writer of melodramas and tragedies. Milner’s version of the scene in which Frankenstein brings the monster to life, draws out the full melodramatic potential of the animation and of Frankenstein’s horrified reaction:
FRANKENSTEIN: […] Courage, Frankenstein! Glut thy big sould with exultation! Enjoy a triumph never yet attained by mortal man! (music – he eagerly lays his hands on the bosom of the figure, as if to discover whether it breathes) The breath of life now swells its bosom. (music) As the cool night breeze plays upon its brow it will awake to sense and motion. (music – he rolls back the black covering, which discovers a colossal human figure, of a cadaverous livid complexion […] Frankenstein […] starts back with horror) Merciful heaven! And has the fondest visions of my fancy awakened to this terrible reality; a form of horror, which I scarcely dare to look upon […]
How close is the play to Mary Shelley’s original?Some parts of the plot and actions are close to those in the novel Frankenstein – the family in the cottage, the young man killed by the Monster, the fact that the Monster’s circumstances turn him to violence after his rescue of a young woman leads to his being shot. However, there are major differences: Frankenstein, now under the patronage of a prince, is married and the father of a child; both mother and child are captured by the Monster. The Monster does not speak, his actions and motivations being carefully described in the stage directions.
There is a comic strain contributed by Frankenstein’s servant Strutt; much talk of alcohol; and the action is moved away from the Swiss Alps to such diverse locations as a forest, the inside of a mountain and a hermit’s cave. Ultimately mob violence leads to the demise of the Monster, who leaps into the erupting crater of Mount Etna, on stage.
Note that the Monster is given no name, echoing Frankenstein’s, and Mary Shelley’s, unwillingness to name him. The part was played by T P Cooke, who had previously played the role of Ruthven in an adaptation of John Polidori’s The Vampyre.
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