Contents Index

Another Monster in Frankenstein?

Mark Loveridge

Notes and Queries, December 1990, 418-19

{418} Near the beginning of the story, Victor Frankenstein is talking to the mariner Robert Walton, who has rescued him from the ice-floes. Musing, or rambling, on the human condition, he tells Walton that 'we are unfashioned creatures, but half made up, if one wiser, better, dearer than ourselves -- such a friend ought to {419} be -- do not lend his aid to perfectionate our weak and faulty natures'.1 Men are monsters, until they can be rescued from themselves; and Frankenstein's words echo those of another monster, who introduces himself to his audience in lines which contain this description of his own monstrous birth:
Deform'd, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world scarce half made up --
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them: --2
Taken by itself, this is merely another neat piece of the 'patchwork of bits and pieces from other books'3 which Mary Shelley weaves into her tale. But there is also a series of coincidences between the names of the characters in Frankenstein and those of the cast-list of Richard III. Frankenstein's cousin and, very briefly, wife, is Elizabeth Lavenza: in Act IV, Richard woos his niece Elizabeth via her mother, Queen Elizabeth Woodville. Walton's correspondence is addressed to his sister Margaret, the ostensible reader of the narrative: Queen Margaret, the widow of Henry VI, views the actions of Richard III from the less detached perspective of old age. Richard's final adversary is the Tudor hero, Henry of Richmond: the monster kills Frankenstein's admirable friend, Henry Clerval. One might add to these the parallel between the monster's initial double crime of the murder of two juvenile innocents, William and (indirectly) Justine, and Richard's killing of the two young Princes in the Tower. No wonder Frankenstein finds English history as interesting as he does. The ultimate English historical fiend is not as present to the mind of author or monster as Milton's Satan is, but he is none the less lurking quietly in the text.


1. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, ed. M. K. Joseph (London, 1969), 28.

2. William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Richard the Third, ed. Antony Hammond (London, 1981), 126.

3. David Ketterer, Frankenstein's Creation: The Book, the Monster, and Human Reality, ELS Monograph Series, No. 16 (Victoria, B.C., 1979), 15.