Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

The Monstrosity: a Common Trait in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Shelley’s Frankenstein

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Through time, the theme of the monstrosity has been a prominent subject in many novels and plays. In the play “Macbeth,” Macbeth illustrates monstrous traits though his ambition as he strives to become the king of Scotland. Victor in Shelley’s Frankenstein also displays monstrous behaviors by using science along with his ambition to create his prodigious mammoth. Moreover, Both Lady Macbeth and the three witches imply their satanic traits by influencing Macbeth to become the monstrous king that he is while Victor become influence by both his place in time which is the Romantic Era and by the monster himself.

In addition, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth died as a result of their diabolical actions. This is comparable to the sufferings of Victor and Elizabeth because of the monster’s revenge plans and Victor himself. Thus, in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Shelley’s Frankenstein, monstrosity is apparent throughout the ambitions, influences and outcomes of the main character’s actions. In the play, the main character Macbeth has the ambition to become and remain king. In order to become king, Macbeth needs to kill Duncan who has done absolutely nothing wrong. Duncan is a very noble king.

However, Macbeth’s ambition leads him to be more abnormal and it hurts his reputation in the process. “I’ll go no more. I am afraid to think what I have done; Look on’t again, I dare not” (Shakespeare 2. 2. 53-55). Here, Macbeth intensifies his ambition and drive by trying to become the king of Scotland. Macbeth contemplates the idea that being king, he could do whatever he wants to. The truth is that to attain that position, Macbeth had to murder many innocent people like Duncan. He wants to be king so badly that he never looks back at what he did.

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By looking back at the situation, Macbeth thinks that it will bring guilt to him. Similarity, Lady Macbeth cold-bloodily expands her ambition to become queen of Scotland. Some of her ambition rubs off on Macbeth. It is she who has the idea to kill Duncan. She goes as far as to call out the spirits. “That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan under my battlements, come you spirits that tend on moral thoughts, unsex me here and fill me from the crown to the toe-top full” (Shakespeare 1. 5. 38-41). Here, Lady Macbeth wants to unsex herself. She wants to be more of a powerful, uncaring human by getting rid of her feminine side.

It allows her to achieve her ambition. Furthermore, she talks about the crown going from head to toe. Just like her husband, she needs Macbeth to be king so she can be queen. Lady Macbeth is willing to pay any price. Ambition plays a big role in both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s lives as they try to rule Scotland. In Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor and the monster show their ambition during their quest for knowledge. On the night when Victor formulates his creature, he realizes that his ambition has been a failure just by looking at his creation. Moreover, his plans became ruined.

He had expectations that kind of came to an unexpected stop. “How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wrench whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavored to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God” (Shelley 43)! Victor’s ambition has now been a catastrophe. He compares the monster to a wrench because he sees the being as a letdown and a bad accomplishment. His words displays that his feelings are monstrous. By comparing his creature to a wrench, he is being very discriminatory, making him monstrous.

He attempts to be recognized by society and from his perspective; it is impossible to achieve that. Like Lady Macbeth, Victor has also unsex himself because while Lady Macbeth gets rid of her feminine side, Victor gets rid of his world view and put aside all of the caring values at home. However, he did not intend to be evil, he did it for the purpose of science. Similar to Victor, the monster has his own ambition. The monster had the ambition to meet new people despite his ugliness. When he introduces himself to the De Laceys, they strike back. “Agatha fainted, and Safie, unable to attend to her friend, rushed out of the cottage.

Felix darted forward, and with supernatural force tore me from his father, to whose knees I clung; in a transport of fury, he dashed me to the ground and struck me violently with a stick” (Shelley 123-124). Here, the monster tries to fulfill his ambition by meeting the De Laceys. He attempts to explain his ambition. However, things turn out wrong for him. Because of the way, Felix discriminates against him and considers him a monster based on his looks. His social drive leads him to being a satanic-appearing creature in the eyes of the De Laceys. That is why Felix hits him with a stick and Safie runs away. They do not believe in him.

Likewise, Macduff sees evil in Macbeth, as he does not attend his coloration. He just like Felix thinks that he is a monster. Nonetheless, Macbeth is really evil and has evil ambitions. The monster on the other hand does not. Thus, monstrosity is portrayed in the ambitions of both Victor and the monster throughout their intentions to be accepted in society. Macbeth not only shows monstrosity through his own ambition, he also shows it as a result of other influences. One huge influence on Macbeth is none other than his wife. Although Macbeth had the ambition to become king, he does not have the drive to carry through.

This is where Lady Macbeth comes in. She is the one who drives Macbeth into killing Duncan, becoming a temptress in the process. “We fail? But screw your courage to the sticking-place, And we’ll not fail. When Duncan is asleep, Whereto the rather shall his day’s hard journey soundly invite him, his two chamberlains will I with wine and wassail so convince that memory, the warder of the brain, Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason a limbeck only” (Shakespeare 1. 7. 59-67). Here it shows that Lady Macbeth takes an enormous role in Macbeth’s ambition. Through her words, Lady Macbeth displays her gruesome traits.

She is willing to take the initiative and kill Duncan for Macbeth. Sadly, Macbeth falls for it. The thought of murdering someone is indeed monstrous. The three witches additionally have influence Macbeth in a way that drives Macbeth to become king. When Macbeth first listens to the predictions of the three witches, he is in shock. He later realizes that it can be a reality. The witches are temptresses in Macbeth’s eyes. “All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Glamis. All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor. All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter” (Shakespeare 1. 3. 46-48).

Here, the three witches are predicting the future of Macbeth as they tell him that he will become king one day. This evil influence propels Macbeth to do whatever it takes to become king. They make Macbeth believe that he can be king. This influence kick starts Macbeth’s plans to kill Duncan. Thus, monstrosity is demonstrated as both Lady Macbeth and the witches act like temptresses to Macbeth while he strives to become king. Victor also had some influences that cause him to display some monstrosity. The Romantic Era could be a huge influence on Victor as he thrives to create his creation.

His society is described as a revolutionary and rebellious one. As scientists in the Romantic Era make new and new discoveries, it thrusts Victor into creating his own. When the professor reveals that Victor wrong about his theory on why the tree lit up, it causes Victor to revolutionize the world of science. “As I stood at the door, on a sudden I beheld a stream of fire issue from a old and beautiful oak which stood about twenty yards from our house; and so soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stamp.

When we visited it the next morning, we found the tree shattered in a single manner” (Shelley 26). Here, Victor sees a tree being shattered by lightning. A modern philosopher introduces Victor about his ideas on electricity and galvanism and why the tree completely shattered. He proves that all the scientist Victor follows like Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Albertus Magnus were wrong. As the science professor proves Victor wrong, it causes Victor to create and do something bigger so that he can top him one day. He has the thirst for knowledge, knowing that in the Romantic Era, anything is possible.

This era also poses some supernatural and mystical effects that might cause Victor to create his monster. It foreshadows that Victor would isolate himself from his family in order to modernize the science world. The isolation of Victor proves that his is monstrous. Victor gets hints from the Romantic Era similarly to Macbeth getting hints from Lady Macbeth and the witches. The monster has also influence Victor to becoming more atrocious throughout the back and forth affair with the two. The conflict between Victor and the monster starts to take its course.

Victor promises the monster to make him a female companion so that the monster would not feel lonely. Conversely, Victor destroys the monster, thinking that it would take over and corrupt the world. This causes the monster to be angry. Additionally, he tells Victor that he will be there on his wedding night. Victor becomes paranoid to the point where he starts bringing out weapons. “In the meantime I took every precaution to defend my person in case the fiend should openly attack me. I carried pistols and a dagger constantly about me and was ever on the watch to prevent artifice, and by these means ained a greater degree of tranquility” (Shelley 182). Victor’s one mistake of abandoning the monster at birth has cause the monster to seek revenge by killing William and Justine. Victor sees this and accepts the monster’s request of creating a female companion, but later destroys it. This triggers the creature to strike back at Victor on his wedding night. At his wedding night, he carries around weapons in case the monster shows up. Victor becomes paranoid ever since the monster utters that he will be there on Victor’s wedding night. However at the same time, Victor is scaring Elizabeth with all his weapons.

In Elizabeth’s eyes, Victor seems more evil. Victor is being more horrific to Elizabeth even though he is protecting her. Plus, she does not even know that the monster coming; Victor hides this information it from her. This shows that Victor is worried more about the monster (self-protection) than Elizabeth, which makes him monstrous. Thus, Victor displays monstrosity, as he becomes influence by the Romantic Era and the monster. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth both illustrate their monstrous personality, which leads to some key outcomes during their ruling as king and queen.

According to the witches, Macbeth gets paranoid that either Banquo or his son Fleance might become the next king. So he calls out three murderers to kill them. He does not have this drive before, but once he is king, he wants to remain king and is willing to do anything. Moreover, he calls murderers to kill the family of Macduff since he poses as a threat to him. “I have no words, my voice is in my sword, thou bloodier villain than terms can give out to thee” (Shakespeare 5. 8. 6-8). This shows that Macbeth’s immoral actions done on the family of Macduff have made him angry. Macbeth causes his angriness due to what transpired.

Macduff calls Macbeth a villain because he is the one who kills Lady Macduff as well as his son. From the looks of it, Macduff really want to get his hands on Macbeth and kill him. Macduff has the quest for revenge and is eager to go the distance. In the end, the outcome is that Macbeth’s actions has cause him to die in the hands of Macduff because of his monstrous traits. Lady Macbeth also dies as a result from her own monstrous actions. Before she commits suicide, she realizes that it is her fault that Banquo died. She is the one who built Macbeth into more of a devilish being, thus making herself monstrous. Wash your hands, put on your night-gown, look not so pale. I tell you yet again, Banquo’s buried; he cannot come out on’s grave” (Shakespeare 5. 1. 54-56). This shows that Lady Macbeth has guilt for what she has done throughout the play. Lady Macbeth just like Victor creates her own monster in Macbeth and now, she suffers the consequences. She cannot even wash away her sins. She feels that it is her fault that Banquo dies. Furthermore, she commits suicide as a result because she can no longer handle he guilt. Lady Macbeth immoral actions have become a weight of guilt on her to the point where she commits suicide.

Hence, the deaths of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were as an outcome of their monstrous actions done toward Scotland. Likewise, the conflict between Victor and the monster causes them to be horrific and as a result of their actions, both died which is similar to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Ever since Victor abandons the monster at his house, the monster always wants to seek revenge against Victor. He even kills all of Victor’s family members. He soon realizes that killing all those innocent people was not the right thing to do. “That is also my Victim! He exclaimed.

In his murder my crimes are consummated; the miserable series of my being is wound to its close! Oh Frankenstein! Generous and self-devoted being” (Shelley 209). The monster now has guilt in him. He believes that his monstrous traits would be the main force towards the death of Victor. The monster put Victor through so much as he tries to reach the North Pole. He calls Victor his own victim even though he never really kills him. The monster realizes his corruptive mistakes, but it is too late. This also foreshadows the death of the monster. Like Lady Macbeth, the monster has a weight of guilt on his shoulders.

He dies so that he could avoid that guilt. Also, because of Victor killing the female companion of the monster, it sparks the monster so much to the point where he uses monstrous traits to kill Victor’s female companion, the harmless Elizabeth. “Great God! Why did I not then expire! Why am I here to relate the destruction of the best hope and the purest creature on earth? She was there, lifeless and inanimate, thrown across the bed, her head hanging down and her pale and distorted features half covering by her hair” (Shelly 186). Here, this displays that the monster uses his scandalous individualities to kill Elizabeth.

This is comparable to Macbeth as he kills the members of the Macduff family. This is probably because Victor himself demonstrates some monstrosity by killing the monster’s female companion. In a way, it was Victor’s own satanic actions that cause the monster to kill Elizabeth. Also, Victor shows his monstrous traits as he objectifies Elizabeth. Elizabeth is been treated as an object according to Victor. Elizabeth had been objectified her whole existence by Victor. Thus, the monster and Victor proves they have monstrosity and as a result, Victor, Elizabeth, the monster and others die.

Therefore, ambition, influential actions, and outcomes are three aspects of the main characters that display monstrosity in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Shelley’s Frankenstein. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have the ambition to become king and queen, but they use monstrous actions like killing Duncan in order to get these positions. In comparison, both Victor and the monster uses monstrosity to achieve their goals on gaining knowledge. Furthermore, temptresses like Lady Macbeth and the three witches have influence Macbeth to be king by using scandalous characteristics of their own.

Both the monster and the Romantic Era itself has cause Victor to further pursue his goal of gaining knowledge but in the process, he portrays monstrosity. Macbeth’s and Lady Macbeth’s shameful characteristics has also resulted in the deaths of countless others including themselves. The lurid conflict between Victor and the monster has also cause their deaths, as well as the deaths of the other members in the Frankenstein family. Thus, the monstrosity is recognized in both Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Shelley’s Frankenstein throughout the main protagonists and antagonists.

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The Monstrosity: a Common Trait in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Shelley’s Frankenstein. (2017, May 26). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/monstrosity-common-trait-shakespeares-macbeth-shelleys-frankenstein/

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