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Frankenstein

Mary Shelley
Main Ideas

Allusions

Main Ideas Allusions

Author’s Introduction

Literary

His gigantic, shadowy form, clothed like the ghost in Hamlet, in complete armour, but with the beaver up, was seen at midnight, by the moon’s fitful beams, to advance slowly along the gloomy avenue.

This is an allusion to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, when the ghost of Hamlet’s father, dressed as the king in full armor, appears to Hamlet.

Literary

Poor Polidori had some terrible idea about a skull-headed lady who was punished for peeping through a key-hole—what to see I forget: something very shocking and wrong of course; but when she was reduced to a worse condition than the renowned Tom of Coventry, he did not know what to do with her and was obliged to dispatch her to the tomb of the Capulets, the only place for which she was fitted.

This passage contains two allusions: the first to the Old English legend of Lady Godiva, who rode naked in protest of excessive taxation, and Tom of Coventry, the man who was struck blind for “peeping” on her, and the second to the family tomb of Juliet Capulet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Literary

Everything must have a beginning, to speak in Sanchean phrase; and that beginning must be linked to something that went before.

This is an allusion to the character Sancho Panza from Miguel de Cervantes’s novel Don Quixote, who is known for his humorous, sometimes ironic, and witty sayings.

Historical/Political

In all matters of discovery and invention, even of those that appertain to the imagination, we are continually reminded of the story of Columbus and his egg.

This is an allusion to a story recounted in Washington Irving’s The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus.

Historical/Political

They talked of the experiments of Dr. Darwin (I speak not of what the doctor really did or said that he did, but, as more to my purpose, of what was then spoken of as having been done by him), who preserved a piece of vermicelli in a glass case till by some extraordinary means it began to move with voluntary motion.

This is an allusion to Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin, and his experiments and theories of “spontaneous evolution.”

Religious

Frightful must it be, for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.

This is an allusion to the Judeo-Christian allegory of God and the creation of the world.

Preface

Historical/Political

The event on which this fiction is founded has been supposed, by Dr. Darwin, and some of the physiological writers of Germany, as not of impossible occurrence.

This is an allusion to Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin’s grandfather, and his experiments and theories of “spontaneous evolution.”

Literary

I am going to unexplored regions, to “the land of mist and snow;” but I shall kill no albatross, therefore do not be alarmed for my safety, or if I should come back to you as worn and woeful as the “Ancient Mariner?”

This is an allusion to the ancient mariner of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

Literary

You have hope, and the world before you, and have no cause for despair. But I—I have lost everything, and cannot begin life anew.

This is an allusion to Satan’s words in John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost”: “The world was all before them, where to choose / Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.”

Chapter I

Historical/Political

The father of their charge was one of those Italians nursed in the memory of the antique glory of Italy—one among the schiavi ognor frementi, who exerted himself to obtain the liberty of his country.

Italian for “slaves always fretting,” this is a reference to the Italians who rebelled under the Austrian domination of Italy during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Chapter II

Literary

He tried to make us act plays, and to enter into masquerades, in which the characters were drawn from the heroes of Roncesvalles, of the Round Table of King Arthur, and the chivalrous train who shed their blood to redeem the holy sepulchre from the hands of the infidels.

This quote contains two allusions: one is to the medieval French hero and military leader Roland, who died at Roncesvalles, and the second is to King Arthur, the legendary King of Britain, and his Knights of the Round Table.

Historical/Political

Ah! Cornelius Agrippa! My dear Victor, do not waste your time upon this; it is sad trash.

This is an allusion to Cornelius Agrippa, a sixteenth-century German physician who was persecuted for his occult beliefs.

Chapter III

Literary

I loved my brothers, Elizabeth, and Clerval; these were “old familiar faces;” but I believed myself totally unfitted for the company of strangers.

This is an allusion to the Romantic writer Charles Lamb’s poem “The Old Familiar Faces.”

Literary

Chance—or rather the evil influence, the Angel of Destruction, which asserted omnipotent sway over me from the moment I turned my reluctant steps from my father’s door—led me first to M. Krempe, professor of natural philosophy.

The phrase “Angel of Destruction” is an allusion to Milton’s Satan in “Paradise Lost,” who is presented as a fallen archangel of God who pledges to destroy God’s new creation: man.

Mythological

The modern masters promise very little; they know that metals cannot be transmuted, and that the elixir of life is a chimera.

This is an allusion to the chimera, a female monster in Greek mythology that had a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail, and breathed fire.

Chapter IV

Literary

I was like the Arabian who had been buried with the dead, and found a passage to life, aided only by one glimmering, and seemingly ineffectual, light.

This is an allusion to the Arabian sailor Sinbad of The Thousand and One Nights.

Chapter V

Literary

I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then; but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.

This is an allusion to Dante Alighieri’s (1265–1321) depiction of the circles of Hell in his long narrative poem “The Divine Comedy.”

Literary

My heart palpitated in the sickness of fear; and I hurried on with irregular steps, not daring to look about me:— Like one who, on a lonely road, Doth walk in fear and dread, And, having once turned round, walks on, And turns no more his head; Because he knows a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread.

This is an allusion to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

Literary

You may easily believe,” said he, “how great was the difficulty to persuade my father that all necessary knowledge was not comprised in the noble art of bookkeeping; and, indeed, I believe I left him incredulous to the last, for his constant answer to my unwearied entreaties was the same as that of the Dutch schoolmaster in the Vicar of Wakefield:—‘I have ten thousand florins a year without Greek, I eat heartily without Greek.’

This is an allusion to the stubborn schoolmaster in Oliver Goldsmith’s novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766).

Chapter VI

Literary

Justine, you may remember, was a great favourite of yours; and I recollect you once remarked, that if you were in an ill-humour, one glance from Justine could dissipate it, for the same reason that Ariosto gives concerning the beauty of Angelica—she looked so frank-hearted and happy.

This is an allusion to Orlando from Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem “Orlando Furioso” (1532), who becomes fascinated with the beauty of the married Angelica.

Chapter VII

Literary

I contemplated the lake: the waters were placid; all around was calm; and the snowy mountains, “the palaces of nature,” were not changed. By degrees the calm and heavenly scene restored me, and I continued my journey towards Geneva.

This is an allusion to the phrase “the palaces of nature,” which is taken from Lord Byron’s narrative poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” (1812).

Literary

The road ran by the side of the lake, which became narrower as I approached my native town. I discovered more distinctly the black sides of Jura, and the bright summit of Mont Blanc.

Though the reference is to the actual mountain in Europe, these lines also contain an allusion to Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Mont Blanc,” in which the author uses the mountain to represent the actuating power of the universe.

Chapter XI

Literary

But I was enchanted by the appearance of the hut: here the snow and rain could not penetrate; the ground was dry; and it presented to me then as exquisite and divine a retreat as Pandæmonium appeared to the dæmons of hell after their sufferings in the lake of fire.

This is an allusion to Pandæmonium, the new kingdom Satan and his troops build in Hell in Milton’s “Paradise Lost.”

Chapter XII

Literary

It was as the ass and the lap-dog; yet surely the gentle ass whose intentions were affectionate, although his manners were rude, deserved better treatment than blows and execration.

This is an allusion to the Aesop fable of the ass and the lapdog, in which the lapdog is rewarded for fawning over its master but the ass is punished for doing so.

Chapter XV

Literary

‘The path of my departure was free’; and there was none to lament my annihilation.

This is an allusion to Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Mutability,” in which the line “the path of its departure still is free” appears.

Mythological

Induced by these feelings, I was of course led to admire peaceable lawgivers, Numa, Solon, and Lycurgus, in preference to Romulus and Theseus.

This is an allusion to the ancient Roman myth of Romulus and Remus and the founding of Rome and to Theseus, the mythical king and founder of Athens.

Religious

Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence; but his state was far different from mine in every other respect.

This is a biblical allusion to Adam, the father of man.

Literary

I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition; for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me.

This is an allusion to Milton’s Satan of “Paradise Lost,” who looks upon Adam and Eve with envy for still having God’s love.

Literary

Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred.

This is an allusion to Milton’s Satan in “Paradise Lost,” who falls to Hell with his army of rebel angels.

Literary

But it was all a dream; no Eve soothed my sorrows, nor shared my thoughts; I was alone. I remembered Adam’s supplication to his Creator.

This is an allusion to Adam’s request to God in Milton’s “Paradise Lost” to make him a companion.

Chapter XVI

Literary

I, like the arch-fiend, bore a hell within me; and, finding myself unsympathised with, wished to tear up the trees, spread havoc and destruction around me, and then to have sat down and enjoyed the ruin.

This is an allusion to Satan in Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” who pronounces, “Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell.”

Chapter XVIII

Literary

He was a being formed in the ‘very poetry of nature.’

This is an allusion to a quote from the poem “Rimini” by the Romantic poet Leigh Hunt, but it is also a subtle allusion to the work of the Romantic poet William Wordsworth, who was proclaimed the “Poet of Nature” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley’s husband.

Chapter XIX

Historical/Political

It was here that Charles I had collected his forces. This city had remained faithful to him, after the whole nation had forsaken his cause to join the standard of parliament and liberty.

This is an allusion to King Charles I, whose authoritarian rule led to his execution in 1649.

Historical/Political

The memory of that unfortunate king, and his companions, the amiable Falkland, the insolent Goring, his queen, and son, gave a peculiar interest to every part of the city, which they might be supposed to have inhabited.

This is an allusion to two royalists—Viscount Falkland and George Baron Goring—who supported King Charles I in the seventeenth century.

Historical/Political

We visited the tomb of the illustrious Hampden, and the field on which that patriot fell.

This is an allusion to John Hampden, a seventeenth-century parliamentarian and patriot who famously challenged the authority of King Charles I and was killed defending his beliefs.

Chapter XXII

Religious

Sweet and beloved Elizabeth! I read and re-read her letter and some softened feelings stole into my heart and dared to whisper paradisiacal dreams of love and joy; but the apple was already eaten, and the angel’s arm bared to drive me from all hope.

This is an allusion to Eve’s eating of the forbidden apple and her and Adam’s subsequent banishment from Eden.

Chapter XXIII

Religious

Man,” I cried, “how ignorant art thou in thy pride of wisdom! Cease; you know not what it is you say.

These words are an allusion to Jesus’s proclamation to God before his crucifixion during which he asks, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Chapter XXIV

Historical/Political

The Greeks wept for joy when they beheld the Mediterranean from the hills of Asia, and hailed with rapture the boundary of their toils.

This is an allusion to the deliverance of more than ten thousand Greeks who were led to safety after their Persian rebel leader was defeated.

Walton, in Continuation

Literary

All my speculations and hopes are as nothing; and, like the archangel who aspired to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell.

This is an allusion to Milton’s Satan in “Paradise Lost,” who was condemned to dwell in eternal “adamantine chains” in Hell.

Literary

The die is cast; I have consented to return if we are not destroyed.

This is an allusion to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” when the figures Death and Life-in-Death cast dice for the mariner regarding his fate.

Literary

Evil henceforth became my good.

This is an allusion to Milton’s Satan in “Paradise Lost,” who declares, “Evil, be thou my good” after he is cast from heaven.

Literary

Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone.

This is an allusion to Milton’s Satan in “Paradise Lost,” who still had the support of a legion of rebel angels who fell along with him as he was cast out of heaven.