Visions of the Fantastic: Selected Essays from the Fifteenth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts

By Allienne R. Becker | Go to book overview

15 Frankenstein and Dracula: The Question of Influence

Elizabeth Miller

Of all the monsters brought to the screen by Universal Studios in the 1930s and 1940s, the most popular were the Frankenstein Monster and Dracula, now linked together in the public consciousness to such as extent that one can hardly be encountered without the other. This phenomenon is of special interest to the literary scholar, not only because these two monsters were borrowed (with free adaptation) from the two landmark Gothic novels of the nineteenth century, but because the text of Dracula shows the influence of the text of Frankenstein.

What definite links between these texts actually exist? First of all, there is the one with which almost everyone is familiar: the fact that the vampire in British fiction shares its genesis with the Frankenstein monster, both the results of the famous 1816 house party on the shores of Lake Geneva. Soon after the appearance of Frankenstein in 1818 and Polidori The Vampyre in 1819, both monsters found their way to the English stage (The Vampyre being the most successful, undoubtedly because of the commonly held belief that the story had been written by the notorious Lord Byron). But what is especially interesting is that the Frankenstein monster and the vampire began to appear in tandem. As early as 1826, the English Opera House in London was presenting a pair of melodramas entitled Frankenstein and The Vampire with the same actor playing in both features. Later the two characters appeared in a single work entitled Frankenstein, or the Vampire's Victim ( Frayling, 38). Thus began an association that continues to this very day, as the 1992 movie Bram Stoker's Dracula was followed by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Bram Stoker's private library, which was auctioned at Sothby's in 1913, included a copy of Shelley's novel. That Stoker had read Frankenstein by the time he wrote Dracula is highly likely, especially considering that his own mother drew a comparison with it when writing her son soon after the publication of Dracula: "No book since Mrs. Shelley Frankenstein . . . has come near yours in originality, or terror" (quoted in Ludlam, 127). Now, this is rather flimsy evidence on which to argue

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