The Stage History of Frankenstein1
Theatrical history, as well as that of empires, sometimes repeats itself. The last few years have witnessed on the screen a double bill--"We double dare you to see this double scare show of the century"--of Dracula and Frankenstein. On the London stage of 1823 Presumption; or the Fate of Frankenstein trod on the heels of The Vampyre and was crowded off the boards in its turn by Der Freischütz. "Terrific! Mysterious!" shouted the playbills of the 1820's. "Fearsome! Ferocious! Frightful!" scream the advertisements of the 1940's.
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the creator of Frankenstein and his Monster, could hardly have anticipated the numerous dramatic versions of her novel. Interested in the theater from her childhood, so that the prospect of seeing a play was a pleasure exquisite enough to take away her appetite for dinner, she wanted to write for the stage. No manuscript of hers in dramatic form has apparently survived, however, except those of Proserpine and Midas; none was printed except Poserpine, which appeared in one of the annuals; no play by her found its way to the stage.
But if her desire had been only to see the creatures of her imagination in action, it would have been amply satisfied from the time that she returned to England in 1823 until the time of her death, and the ghost of that "sedate-faced young lady" whom Hunt described might have come back many times to sit in her box and watch Frankenstein and his Monster. Whether she would always have retained that sedateness, as she seems to have done in the face of some dramatic incidents in her life, it is hard to say. What she thought of some of the burlesques of her novel or even some of the serious melodra-____________________