Frankenstein exciting production marks 200 years since publication of mary shelley’s work – world socialist web site

The final scene is acted with much pathos. Frankenstein has shown us that the creature was not born “evil” but was treated inhumanely, a tortured soul condemned to live alone. His natural inclination towards kindness was not nurtured. A grave injustice was done, his villainy fashioned by the cruelty of men.

This fresh, energetic production of Frankenstein does justice to Shelley’s novel, employing theatrical devices to dramatic effect. It looks darkly gothic, is well choreographed, and moves elegantly from scene to scene thanks to the combined efforts of director Matthew Xia, the actors and technicians. When the actors take on multiple roles it is barely noticeable.

They become the different characters and take the audience with them, maintaining both pace and tension.

Mary grew of age against the backdrop of immense societal changes. The French Revolution of 1789 left the European ruling class reeling in horror and fear, while inspiring the oppressed. France suffered final defeat in the Napoleonic wars at Waterloo in June 1815, and the rule of monarchy was bolstered throughout Europe in the following decade.

At the same time, the influence of religion, already undermined by the materialist philosophy of the Enlightenment, was to suffer further blows at the hands of science. On the cusp of great developments, the possibilities for progress in science seemed infinite.

The influences of the age were refracted through Mary Shelley’s remarkable parents. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, born in 1759, died just 11 days after Mary’s birth in 1797. Wollstonecraft is best remembered as the author of The Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) , though she also wrote a polemic against Edmund Burke in support of the French Revolution ( The Vindication of the Rights of Men ). Courageous and free-spirited, she travelled to France during the upheavals.

Godwin was a well-known radical, educated in the works of the revolutionary Thomas Paine and author of Inquiry c oncerning Political Justice and its influence on Morale and Happiness. In the latter, he argued that human progress was impeded by private property, marriage and monarchy.

The young radical poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, sought Godwin out and this is how Mary met him. The same year, 16-year-old Mary and the already married Shelley eloped to France. Godwin’s response was to sever contact until they were able to marry in 1816—after the death of Shelley’s first wife.

Both Byron and Percy Shelley’s work were read widely and avidly by the working class. Byron was a fearless critic of modern society—a defender of the Luddites and Irish Catholics, and later a fighter for first Italian, then Greek independence. Shelley’s poem The Masque of Anarchy, which execrated the Peterloo Massacre in 1819—in which 15 were killed and hundreds injured in Manchester by government troops—was adopted by the revolutionary Chartist movement.

As tradition has it, one stormy night in 1816 found this extraordinary company sitting in a candle-lit drawing room, with a view over the lake to the mountains lit up by lightening, when talk turned to the supernatural, science and the possibility of reanimating a corpse.

To return to the contemporary relevance of Frankenstein , it is worth quoting from Percy Shelley’s review of the book: “Nor are the crimes and malevolence of the single Being, tho’ indeed withering and tremendous, the offspring of any unaccountable propensity to evil, but flow inevitably from certain causes fully adequate to their production. … Treat a person ill, and he will become wicked. … It is thus that, too often in society, those who are best qualified to be its benefactors and its ornaments, are branded by some accident with scorn, and changed, by neglect and solitude of heart, into a scourge and a curse.”

These Enlightenment ideas speak forcefully to a modern audience. We can empathise with something created as an articulate rational being that is reduced by society to a “monster.” It is no surprise that the Murdoch press attempted a hatchet job to undermine the novel in its anniversary year. A March 5 article in the Sun sneered at “snowflake” students who, quoting Professor Nick Groom of Exeter University, “are very sentimental towards the being. But he is a mass murderer.”

If society’s wealth remains under the ownership and control of the profit-driven ruling elite, disaster will ensue. Scientific knowledge is increasingly misused to build weapons of mass destruction and to oppress, rather than solve the world’s problems. The very existence of life on this planet is under threat due to global warming and, more immediately still, nuclear war. This raises the necessity to take the productive forces out of the hands of the capitalist oligarchy and to establish a socialist society run for the benefit of all.