Compare & Contrast the Theme of Horror in Frankenstein and Macbeth

1651 Words Nov 24th, 2011 7 Pages
Michelle Cardwell

English Literature – Understanding Literature

Compare & Contrast the use of ‘horror’ in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

The gothic horror genre is a favourite for many readers. We love the suspense and mystery, the desperation, the doom and gloom, the claustrophobia, even the blood. But most of all we love the fear - the feeling we get that gives us pathos with the protagonist that keeps us on the edge of our seats and propels us to turn the page. How do Shelley and Shakespeare provoke our reactions when reading Macbeth (Shakepeare,1606) and Frankenstein (Shelley, 1818)? When comparing and contrasting the two texts an awareness of the different formats is necessary: Macbeth is a play and
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Walton then changes subject making the previous subject seem indifferent, however the reader is left wondering what unnatural event has been foreshadowed. In chapter four Victor tells Walton of his obsessive behaviour but will not divulge his secret, leaving the reader in as much suspense as Victor’s audience.

“I see by your eagerness, and the wonder and hope which your eyes express, my friend, that you expect to be informed of the secret with which I am acquainted; that cannot be” (Ch 4, pg 54)

Like Shakespeare, Shelley uses elements of supernatural forces, the monster seems to appear from nowhere at various stages – always foreshadowing tragedy, much the same way as the witches do in Macbeth. She is keen to inform us that, unlike the characters in Macbeth, Victor is not affected by superstition,

“I do not ever remember to have trembled at a tale of superstition, or to have feared the apparition of a spirit” (Ch 4, pg 53).

This is a complete contrast to the eponymous hero in Shakespeare’s play. Macbeth is traumatised by the appearance of several apparitions including that of Banquo’s ghost:

“thou canst not say I did it; never shake thy gory locks at me!” (III, 4, 50-51).

Although Shakespeare’s play is predominantly supernatural, Shelly focuses on the unnatural rather than supernatural. The very ‘birth’ of the monster is unnatural, but the same can be said of Macbeth, being born by caesarean section. Macbeth’s creation is completely
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