Hideous Progenies: Dramatizations of Frankenstein from Mary Shelley to the Present


After reading Mary Shelley Frankenstein upon its publication in 1818, William Beckford turned to the fly-leaf of his copy and wrote: "This is, perhaps, the foulest Toadstool that has yet sprung up from the reeking dunghill of present times." 2 Fortunately not everyone shared Beckford's opinion, and the novel went on to enjoy immediate although not unequivocal success. 3 However, not until the production of Richard Brinsley Peake's Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein in 1823 would the tale of Frankenstein again stimulate the general public enough for a publisher to issue a second edition of the novel. 4 Moreover, Peake's melodrama instigated not only the 1823 edition by G. and W. B. Whittaker, but an equal interest in dramatizing Shelley's novel. Within three years of the first performance of Peake Presumption, fourteen other English and French dramatizations had utilized the Frankenstein theme. To date over ninety dramatizations of Frankenstein have been undertaken.

This study of Frankenstein dramatizations contains an historical introduction and the texts of selected dramatizations. The historical introduction charts the development of the dramas from 1823 to 1930, the dawn of the celluloid image made famous by Universal Studios' 1931 production starring Boris Karloff. These chapters isolate three movements in the dissemination of the myth: 1823 to 1832 are years of transformation and proliferation during which fifteen dramatizations were performed and the myth was mutated for popular consumption; 1832 to 1900 am years of dif-


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