This sample essay on Macbeth And Frankenstein Comparison provides important aspects of the issue and arguments for and against as well as the needed facts. Read on this essay’s introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.
Michelle Cardwell English Literature – Understanding Literature Compare & Contrast the use of ‘horror’ in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein The gothic horror genre is a favourite for many readers. We love the suspense and mystery, the desperation, the doom and gloom, the claustrophobia, even the blood.
But most of all we love the fear – the feeling we get that gives us pathos with the protagonist that keeps us on the edge of our seats and propels us to turn the page. How do Shelley and Shakespeare provoke our reactions when reading Macbeth (Shakepeare,1606) and Frankenstein (Shelley, 1818)?
When comparing and contrasting the two texts an awareness of the different formats is necessary: Macbeth is a play and Frankenstein a novel written in the epistolary format.
In a novel the use of descriptive language, often including metaphor “her hair was the brightest living gold” (Ch I, pg 35) or simile “one vast hand was extended , in colour and apparent texture like that of a mummy” (Ch 24, pg 204) enables the reader to visualise the scene. When Victor Frankenstein is describing the monsters ‘birth’ he tells us: it was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out” (Chapter V, pg 59) In a play, the scene will be set by a director.
We take clues from the dialect regarding environment, “so foul and fair a day I have not seen” (I, 3, 36), we know the battle is won so foul must refer to the weather. Thoughts are conveyed through asides “Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor: The greatest is behind” (I, 3,115-116), Macbeth has thoughts which he cannot share with Banquo, but Shakespeare needs to make the point that the seed is planted.
Another contrast between the two works is the date; In Elizabethan times the genre of horror was not referred to. The works of authors such as Shakespeare, Sackville, and Webster were referred to as ‘Tragedies’ although they had many gothic elements. They were based on history, mainly Greek mythology – interesting to note as Shelley’s novel is based on the tale of Prometheus, the titan who was challenged by Zeus to form a man from clay, (Theoi Greek Mythology, 2010). The main ingredient of the gothic novel is the atmosphere of mystery and suspense. Shelley and Shakespeare use similar techniques to create this atmosphere.
Shelley, writing in an age of discovery, uses the fear of the unknown; whereas Shakespeare bases Macbeth on the fear of the supernatural. Frankenstein was written in a time when scientists were going crazy in the quest to find answers to everything – the concept of a mad scientist would not be so unbelievable. In the mid 1700’s Franklin discovered that lightening was electrical, Volta invented the battery in 1800 and in 1818 Blundell performed the first human blood transfusion (Bone, 2007) – three relevant discoveries that demonstrate the novels appeal.
When Shakespeare wrote Macbeth human thinking was very different to today; every misfortune was blamed on supernatural forces, hence the popularity of superstition. There are many elements of superstition in Macbeth, including the owl, the raven and of course numerous references to the power of three – three witches, three prophecies and the use of “thrice” in the witches incantations: “ thrice to thine, and thrice to mine, and thrice again, to make up nine” (I, 3, 33-34). Shelley builds a fear of the unknown through vagueness in several parts of the story.
When Walton describes his first encounter with the monster, “We perceived a low carriage, fixed on a sledge and drawn by dogs, pass on towards the North, but at the distance of half a mile: a being which had the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature, sat in the sledge, and guided the dogs. We watched the rapid progress of the traveller with our telescopes, until he was lost among the distant inequalities of the ice” (Letter IV, pg 26) No explanation is given about where he came from or how he got there herefore we are forced to look at the implicitness of this inclusion. Walton then changes subject making the previous subject seem indifferent, however the reader is left wondering what unnatural event has been foreshadowed. In chapter four Victor tells Walton of his obsessive behaviour but will not divulge his secret, leaving the reader in as much suspense as Victor’s audience. “I see by your eagerness, and the wonder and hope which your eyes express, my friend, that you expect to be informed of the secret with which I am acquainted; that cannot be” (Ch 4, pg 54)
Like Shakespeare, Shelley uses elements of supernatural forces, the monster seems to appear from nowhere at various stages – always foreshadowing tragedy, much the same way as the witches do in Macbeth. She is keen to inform us that, unlike the characters in Macbeth, Victor is not affected by superstition, “I do not ever remember to have trembled at a tale of superstition, or to have feared the apparition of a spirit” (Ch 4, pg 53). This is a complete contrast to the eponymous hero in Shakespeare’s play. Macbeth is traumatised by the appearance of several apparitions including that of Banquo’s ghost: thou canst not say I did it; never shake thy gory locks at me! ” (III, 4, 50-51). Although Shakespeare’s play is predominantly supernatural, Shelly focuses on the unnatural rather than supernatural. The very ‘birth’ of the monster is unnatural, but the same can be said of Macbeth, being born by caesarean section. Macbeth’s creation is completely natural and within Gods laws, in Shelley’s novel Victor is playing the role of God by creating a living being that is not conceived and nurtured in the womb. The monster although designed by Victor to be “beautiful” (Ch 5, pg 59) is actually quite the opposite: his yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriance’s only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight, black lips. ”(Ch 5, pg 59) The imagery the reader conjures up is of a horrid, hideous zombie-like creature. The witches in Macbeth are also described as unnatural; What are these, so wither’d and wild in their attire,That they look not like th’inhabitants o’th’earthAnd yet are on’t? Live you, or are you aughtThat man may question? ” (I, 3, 37- 41) What both works definitely have in common is the element of madness brought on by ambition. However the subject of the ambition is a huge contrast; Frankenstein wishes to create a life, while Macbeth wishes to destroy a life. The reasoning for both is the same; they believe they are acting for the good of mankind; Macbeth believes that if the witches have proclaimed it then it must be so; the king’s murder is a necessity.
Macbeth is an ambitious man who on hearing the witches prophecy, seeks the opinion of his wife and takes advantage of her ruthfulness. However after the murder, Macbeth becomes indifferent to his wife’s and determines to hold on to his greatness. He murders anyone who stands in his way, including children. Throughout the play hallucinations and apparitions haunt Macbeth, and we get a sense that his lack of sleep and his conscience are sending him mad. In Frankenstein, Victor is driven by his ambition to “banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but violent death! (Ch 2, pg 41). He becomes obsessed with his quest and like Macbeth his sleep suffers: “I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health” (Ch 5, pg59) The main difference here is Frankenstein loses sleep prior to the event due to his obsession to reach his goal; Macbeth loses sleep after the event as a result of his conscience and paranoia: “sleep no more, Macbeth does murder sleep’, the innocent sleep” (II, 2, 38-39). Both works use many elements of gothic horror within their texts.
Shelley’s Frankenstein also meets the criteria of the science fiction novel through its focus on fear of the unknown. Both have elements of stormy weather, settings within castles and macabre, explicit descriptions. The use of extreme emotion is apparent in both, with both Lady Macbeth and Victor fainting at crucial moments. Both protagonists attempt to play God, Frankenstein even acknowledges this, “A new species would bless me as its creator” (Ch 4, pg 54). The tragic hero is evident in both works – both built up then brought down by a tragic flaw, their obsessive ambition.
The tragic irony is that both can only be redeemed by their own deaths. Both works are didactic pieces, intended to make the reader take haste when pursuing unrealistic ambitions, as Walton does and abandons his quest. The moral of both stories is a classic basis for the gothic horror: “El suano del la razon produce montruos” – Francisco Goya 1797(The sleep of reason produces monsters) Bibliography Bone, M. 2007. Timeline of Scientific Discoveries. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www. wattpad. com/22971-timeline-of-scientific-discoveries. tml. [Accessed 23 February 11]. Goya F, 1797. The Artchive. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www. artchive. com/artchive/G/goya/goya_sleep_of_reason. jpg. html. [Accessed 20 February 11]. Shakespeare, W 2009 . Macbeth: Oxford School Shakespeare. Oxford University Press, UK. Shelley, M 2001. Frankenstein (Cliffs Complete).. Cliffs Notes. Wiley. New Jersey Theoi Greek Mythology. 2010. Prometheus: Greek Titan. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www. theoi. com/Titan/TitanPrometheus. html. [Accessed 20 February 11].