The Rise and Fall of Frankenstein as Compared to Macbeth
Frankenstein; or, the modern Prometheus is a novel by Mary Shelly (the wife of the famous poet Percy Bysshe Shelly), first published anonymously in London in 1818. The plot wraps around Victor Frankenstein, a scientist from Geneva, who, as a result of his experiments, creates a living monster. The given essay compares and contrasts the characters of Frankenstein and Macbeth, the main character of William Shakespeare's shortest tragedy written between 1603 and 1607. The essay dwells upon the rise and fall, the surrounding and the death of Frankenstein and Macbeth, who are driven by their ambitions without full understanding of where these ambitions might lead them. When faced with the consequences of their deeds they react with fear, which takes the form of aggression in Macbeth, and first cowardice and later a wish of revenge in Frankenstein. The surrounding of the characters has played a great role in what Macbeth and Frankenstein have done. Macbeth is pushed towards evil by the prophesies of the witches and the ambitions of his wife. On the contrary, the people surrounding Frankenstein have a positive influence on him, wrapping him in care and returning him to social life.
The characters of Macbeth and Frankenstein can be considered quite similar in some respects and very different in others. They both start off as positive characters. Macbeth at the beginning of the plot is a hero. He is praised by the king for his courage in the battle with the enemies. All his comrades welcome his virtues. In the first scene we see Macbeth as a positive main hero, but soon this image changes to the opposite. Frankenstein, on the contrary, is not a hero from the beginning, he is an ordinary child. He starts the narrative of his life describing his happy childhood. He is an ordinary boy who is born to a happy family, who lives a happy though, to a certain degree, secluded life. His communication is limited only to his family and a close friend, Henry. He is fond of books by ancient alchemists and studies them eagerly, though upon seeing the power of nature in the force of a lightning he understands that their teachings are now outdated. Though both Macbeth and Frankenstein set off as positive characters, the changes they later encounter are of a different nature. Macbeth is evil in the core and in the events of the tragedy let this evil out. On the other hand, Frankenstein does not commit evil itself, he is guided by ambition, and in this the two characters are alike. Both Macbeth and Frankenstein are ambitious, they want to accomplish more than they already have, they want to become more than they already are. Macbeth is a wealthy warrior, but he wants more power, even after being granted a new title, he wants to be the king even knowing what deeds he has to commit in order to attain his goal. Frankenstein from the very childhood is fond of science and is willing to absorb its most valuable secrets. He longs for accomplishments which were not made by anyone before him, after learning the secret of life Frankenstein plays the role of God, he aims his efforts at creating a new and wonderful living being. The actions of the two characters are guided by ambition without much concern for the consequences of such action. In both stories the reader is as if warned of the future tragic events. In the case of Macbeth these are the prophesies of the witches who promise him the crown: All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor! All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter! (Shakespeare 9). In the case of Frankenstein these are his often mentioned thoughts about that or other event being the sign of fate of his future ruin: My departure was therefore fixed at an early date, but before the day resolved upon could arrive, the first misfortune of my life occurred an omen, as it were, of my future misery. Elizabeth had caught the scarlet fever (Shelly 38).
Eventually both characters face the moment when they set their ambitions free and strive for glory. Macbeth gets the crown as a result of killing the king. Frankenstein sets his knowledge in action by creating the monster. But very soon the two men learn that their aims have not granted them the desired glory and happiness. Upon looking at his creation Frankenstein realizes that he has not created a wonderful being but rather a hideous monster. He tries to run away from it and is relieved to see the monster gone when he returns home. Macbeth soon has to resort to more murders to keep the crown safe in his hands and grows more and more nervous, having visions of a ghost of his friend he ordered to kill. From these moments on the two men are guided by fear. Frankenstein tries to forget his creation, but when the monster kills his brother and Victor is faced with the necessity of revealing this deed to save a falsely accused family friend, he is afraid and the woman is executed. He is later afraid of granting the monster his wish and creating a female partner for him as he thinks that they might breed new monsters. Macbeth becomes a tyrant for his country killing anyone who might threaten his dearly held power, in the end remaining alone with his wife dead and his friend killed by his order. Frankenstein's monster kills his best friend, his brother and his beloved Elizabeth, his father dies of shock after these events. Victor is left alone and all that remains in his heart is a wish of revenge, for which he spends the remains of his life.
The ends of the lives of Macbeth and Frankenstein are not marked by much dignity. Frankenstein's last wish was to kill his creation, the pursuit led him to the North Pole. After all his efforts he does not succeed in his revenge and dies on a ship which has taken him aboard. Before death he narrates his story to the captain who describes it in the letters to his sister: I had determined at one time that the memory of these evils should die with me, but you have won me to alter my determination (Shelly 23). This way the reader learns about the life of Victor Frankenstein. Macbeth, on the contrary, dies in a battle from the hands of a man who was not given birth by a woman Macduff, the main antagonist of the tragedy: Hail, king! for so thou art: behold, where stands the usurper's cursed head (Shakespeare 72). Mad fearlessness has driven Macbeth in this battle against the English army, led by the legitimate heir to the throne Malcolm.
The surroundings played a major role in the fate of Macbeth. One of the main motivations for the regicide he has committed came from his wife. At a certain moment, her determination that it was the necessary thing to do grew even stronger than the same determination of Macbeth. At the moment when he is subdued to his doubts and finds it better not to commit the murder: We will proceed no further in this business (Shakespeare 19), she claims him a coward: Art thou afeard to be the same in thine own act and valour as thou art in desire? (Shakespeare 19). Her strong will succeeds in persuading Macbeth to kill the king and by this set in motion the future evil deeds he has committed. On the contrary, the people surrounding Frankenstein were very kind and cared much about him. When they saw him nervous for an unknown for them reason they tried to help him as much as they could. From his early childhood Victor was surrounded by love and care of his parents: My mother's tender caresses and my father's smile of benevolent pleasure while regarding me are my first recollections (Shelley 28), his beloved Elizabeth: She forgot even her own regret in her endeavours to make us forget (Shelley 40) and his dear friend Henry: I was indifferent, therefore, to my school-fellows in general; but I united myself in the bonds of the closest friendship to one among them. Henry Clerval (Shelley 31). These people were an escape for Victor from his creation, but eventually they were all taken away, leaving him all alone.
To summarize, the essay has dwelled upon the similarities and differences between Shellys Frankenstein and Shakespeares Macbeth, taking into account their surroundings and the main events of their lives. It has been shown that while Macbeth has set free the wishes of his evil soul, Frankenstein underestimated the consequences of his experiments, was afraid of them and after loosing everyone who was dear to him decided to take revenge on the monster he has created.