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|Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus character|
|Created by||Mary Shelley|
|Portrayed by||Colin Clive
Jonny Lee Miller
|Family||Alphonse Frankenstein (father)
Caroline Beaufort (mother)
Ernest Frankenstein (younger brother)
William Frankenstein (youngest brother)
|Spouse(s)||Elizabeth Frankenstein (wife)|
Victor Frankenstein is a fictional character and the protagonist of Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. He is a scientist who, after studying chemical processes and the decay of living beings, gains an insight into the creation of life and gives life to his own creature (often referred to as Frankenstein's monster, or incorrectly referred to as simply Frankenstein).
Victor was born in Naples (according to the 1831 edition of the novel) and raised in Geneva. He was the son of Alphonse Frankenstein and Caroline Beaufort, who died of scarlet fever when Victor was seventeen. He describes his ancestry thus: "I am by birth a Genevese; and my family is one of the most distinguished of that republic. My ancestors had been for many years counsellors and syndics; and my father had filled several public situations with honour and reputation." Victor has two younger brothers — William, the youngest, and Ernest, the middle child. Victor falls in love with Elizabeth Lavenza, who became his adoptive "cousin" (his blood cousin in the 1818 edition) and, eventually, his fiancée.
As a boy, Frankenstein is interested in the works in alchemists such as Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Albertus Magnus, and he longs to discover the fabled elixir of life. He loses interest in both these pursuits and in science as a whole after seeing the remains of a tree struck by lightning; however, at the University of Ingolstadt, Frankenstein develops a fondness for chemistry, and becomes obsessed with the idea of creating life in inanimate matter through artificial means, pursuing this goal for two years.
Assembling a humanoid creature perhaps by the use of a chemical, apparatus or a combination of both (he avoids the question three times when asked), Frankenstein successfully brings it to life, but he is suddenly horrified by his actions as it awakens. He abandons and flees his creation, who disappears and soon embarks upon a journey of vengeance that results in the death of Frankenstein's younger brother, William. The Frankensteins' servant, Justine, is blamed for the boy's death and executed; Victor is wracked with guilt, but does not come forward with the truth because he thinks no one will believe his story, and he is afraid of the reactions he'll get.
The creature approaches Frankenstein and begs him to create a female companion for him; Frankenstein agrees, but ultimately destroys this creation, aghast at the idea of a race of monsters. Enraged, the creature swears revenge and kills Henry Clerval, Victor's best friend. Later, on Frankenstein's wedding night, the monster kills Elizabeth, keeping the promise he made the night Victor demolished the incomplete female creation.
Frankenstein pursues the "fiend" or "daemon" (as he calls his creation) to the Arctic with the intent of destroying it; he ultimately fails in his mission, as he falls through an ice floe and contracts severe pneumonia. He is rescued by a ship undergoing an expedition to the North Pole, but dies after relating his tale to the ship's captain, Robert Walton. His creature, upon discovering the death of its creator, is overcome by sorrow and vows to commit suicide by burning himself alive in "the Northernmost extremity of the globe"; he then disappears, never to be seen or heard from again.
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While many subsequent film adaptations (notably the 1931 movie Frankenstein and the Hammer Films series starring Peter Cushing) have portrayed Frankenstein as the prototypical "mad scientist", the novel portrayed him as a tragic figure.
A majority of adaptations portray Victor Frankenstein's age anywhere between his twenties or thirties to late middle age or elderly. In the book, Victor is only in his early twenties when he creates his monster.
Percy Shelley, Mary's husband, served as a major influence for the character. Victor was a pen name of Percy Shelley's, as in the collection of poetry he wrote with his sister Elizabeth, Original Poetry by Victor and Cazire. There is speculation that one of Mary Shelley's models for Victor Frankenstein was Percy, who at Eton College had "experimented with electricity and magnetism as well as with gunpowder and numerous chemical reactions", and whose rooms at Oxford University were filled with scientific equipment. Percy Shelley was the first-born son of a wealthy country squire with strong political connections and a descendant of Sir Bysshe Shelley, 1st Baronet of Castle Goring, and Richard Fitzalan, 10th Earl of Arundel. Victor's family is one of the most distinguished of that republic and his ancestors were counsellors and syndics. Percy had a sister named Elizabeth. Victor had an adopted sister, named Elizabeth. On 22 February 1815, Mary Shelley delivered a baby two months premature; the child died two weeks later. Soon after, Percy left with Claire, Mary's stepsister, with whom he was having an affair. The question of Victor's responsibility to the creature – in some ways like that of a parent to a child – is one of the main themes of the book.
Obsession plays a major role in the development of Victor's character. First, as a child, he is obsessed with reading books on alchemy, astrology, and many pseudo-sciences. Later, as an adolescent/young adult, he becomes enthralled with the study of actual sciences - mainly dealing with death and the reanimation of corpses. Finally, after the monster is created, Victor is consumed with guilt, despair, and regret, leading him to obsess over the nature of his creation. Obsessive behaviors can be seen from the beginning of the book until Victor dies.
In other media
Beside the original book the character also appears or is mentioned in other books from pastiches to parodies.
In the book Frankenstein's Aunt, the Baron's aunt comes to Frankenstein's Castle to put it back in order, following the chaos caused by her nephew's experiments. In the novel Frankenstein's Aunt Returns, the doctor has created a child for the monster and his bride.
In Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein – now going by the alias of Victor Helios – has survived into the present, now living in New Orleans while arranging for the creation of his 'New Race' to replace the 'Old Race' of humanity, so focused on his work to perfect them physically and mentally that he completely ignores the evidence that his creations are spiritually stilted, constantly aware that they are missing something that they cannot define, to the point that many of them try to destroy themselves by rendering themselves unable to complete their tasks – such as a butler gnawing his own fingers off – so that Helios is forced to kill them. He is opposed in his 'quest' by his original creation – now called Deucalion, who has mastered the ability to teleport due to the unique circumstances of his creation – and two New Orleans detectives (recruited as all of Helios's creations are 'programmed' to be unable to attack him directly).
The character's first significant film appearance was in Universal Pictures' 1931 film adaptation, directed by James Whale. Here, the character is renamed Henry Frankenstein (a later film shows his tombstone bearing the name "Heinrich") and is played by British actor Colin Clive opposite Boris Karloff as the Creature. Clive reprised his role in the 1935 sequel, Bride of Frankenstein, which reunited Clive, Whale and Karloff, as well as first giving Frankenstein the official title of Baron. Although not present in the following sequels due to Clive's death in 1937, Henry made a cameo appearance in 1939's Son of Frankenstein, as an oil painting in the Frankenstein family library, and was the title character, in spite of having only a cameo, in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942). It is in these films that the character became known as "Dr. Frankenstein," as the novel's character never finished his education.
The character gained new life in 1957 when Peter Cushing first essayed the role in Hammer Films' The Curse of Frankenstein, opposite Christopher Lee as the Creature. Cushing went on to star as Victor Frankenstein, again identified as a Baron, in five more films for the studio.
Unlike most adaptations and sequels to the novel, Hammer decided to focus its Frankenstein franchise on the Baron rather than the Monster, to distance itself from the Universal series, and to perhaps remind audiences that Frankenstein is the name of the creator, not the creation.
After 1969's Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, in which Cushing had temporarily retired from the role, Hammer had decided to reboot the series for the 1970s. The Horror of Frankenstein was a tongue-in-cheek black comedy remake of The Curse of Frankenstein, which featured Ralph Bates as a younger, "hipper" Baron in the sinister mold of Cushing's interpretation. After the film failed to be the success Hammer had hoped for, they brought Cushing back for one final film, in 1974's Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell.
In Mel Brooks' 1974 comedy Young Frankenstein, Gene Wilder portrays Frederick Frankenstein, grandson of Victor, who inherits the family estate but is at first repelled by his grandfather's work (to the point of insisting that his name is pronounced "Fronk-en-steen"). He is ultimately inspired to take up the work, eventually creating his own monster (Peter Boyle).
In 1992, a made-for-TV film was produced by David Wickes for Turner Pictures. It starred Patrick Bergin as Victor and Randy Quaid as the Monster. In this film, Victor clones himself instead of creating the creature from the dead. The major differences from the novel are the cloning and William's death. William is riding a horse and the Monster pushes it over and the heavy horse kills William. The servant Justine commits suicide after seeing the horrid creature. On Victor's wedding night the Monster kills Victor's father Alphonse and sticks a coat hanger through his friend, Henry Clerval. Victor and the Monster are part of each other; the monster shares a psychic link with Victor and they can sense each other. The film is titled simply, "Frankenstein".
In the 1999 animated film, Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein, Victor (referred as "Dr. Frankenstein") is the main antagonist voiced by Michael Bell. After secretly creating the monster in a roller coaster, his lab is discovered by the Chipmunks and sends his creation after them. After the creature had not returned, he goes to the Chipmunks' house and kidnaps Alvin. He then uses a formula that makes Alvin go out of control. After Alvin is returned to normal, Victor in the disguise of the park's mascot tries to electrocute him, but is electrocuted by his own creation, causing the suit he was using to become stuck on him when he can't remove the mask. Later near the end of the film, he appears as the theme park's entertainer.
In the 2004 film Van Helsing, Victor Frankenstein (portrayed by Samuel West) is hired by Count Dracula to create the monster for Dracula to use to bring his offspring to life. When Victor refuses, Dracula kills him only to be attacked by the monster. The monster takes Victor's body to the windmill, but an angry mob outside of the castle sees the monster and chases it to the windmill. They set fire to the windmill in order to kill the monster, but are chased off by Dracula and his brides. The monster survives when the floor on top of the windmill caves in. The monster – which refers to Frankenstein as his/its father – is later used to bring Dracula's offspring to life, only to escape from the castle with help from monster hunter Gabriel Van Helsing.
The 2004 independent movie Frankenstein features a Victor Frankenstein known as Victor Helios, who has used his own research to extend his life into the modern day, where he continues his experiments to create life with the goal of replacing humanity with his own creatures. He is opposed by his original creation, who is determined to defeat his creator while being hampered by a mental 'block' Helios has installed in all his creatures to prevent them harming him.
The 2004 made-for-TV film is a Hallmark production featuring Alec Newman as Victor Frankenstein opposite Luke Goss as the monster. It is likely one of the most accurate adaptions of the novel to date.
The 2007 film Frankenstein introduces Victoria Frankenstein. Instead of making the creature out of corpses, she uses stem cells, intending to use her experiment to save her dying son. The experiment goes wrong however, and the Creature escapes. When Victoria catches up with the monster, she comes to love it because it is her only remaining link to her son who has since died.
In the 2012 film "Frankenweenie", a film that greatly resembles the story of Frankenstein, the main character is named "Victor Frankenstein", implying that this was Victor Frankenstein when he was a child. Additionally, a character named Edgar "E" Gore resembles Igor.
In The World's Greatest Super Friends episode "The Super Friends Meet Frankenstein," Dr. Frankenstein (voiced by Stanley Ralph Ross) is depicted as a mad scientist, monster maker, and great great grandson of the original Dr. Frankenstein. He is assisted by an Igor-like henchman named Gork (voiced by Michael Bell). Dr. Frankenstein used his monsters to take revenge on the Transylvanians for what they did to his great great grandfather. First he unleashes the classic Frankenstein monster to attack Transylvania. The Super Friends were called in to investigate. When Batman and Robin attack Frankenstein's monster, Dr. Frankenstein ordered his monster to lure Batman and Robin to Frankenstein's Castle in order to trap them. When Batman and Robin short circuit Frankenstein's monster, Dr. Frankenstein arrives and traps them while thanking them for giving him an idea for his next creation more powerful then the original one. First Dr. Frankenstein transfers Batman's abilities to the target body. Robin manages to escape, but Dr. Frankenstein isn't bothered by this as Robin is only bringing the others. When Superman and Wonder Woman are called in by Robin, they are attacked by a tentacled tar creature with Kryptonite in it enabling Superman and Wonder Woman to be captured. Dr. Frankenstein then transfers Superman and Wonder Woman's abilities into the target body thus creating a composite monster that has Batman's head, cape, and genius-level intellect, Superman's body and super abilities, and Wonder Woman's magic lasso, magic bracelets, and telepathic powers. Dr. Frankenstein sends his Super-Monster to attack Europe while Robin and Gleek free Superman, Batman, and Robin. With help from the Austrian Energy Research Institute, Robin ends up going through the same technological experiment enabling him to have the powers of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in order to fight the Super-Monster. Robin and the Super-Monster are evenly matched until Robin dons a lead suit and exposes the Super-Monster to Kryptonite. Robin defeats the Super-Monster while Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Gleek apprehend Dr. Frankenstein and Gork and then regain their powers from the Super-Monster by reversing the experiment.
The humorous TV series Frankenstein's Aunt features a doctor Frankenstein who creates a typical Frankenstein's monster. As in the Universal Pictures' 1931 film adaptation, the character is renamed Henry Frankenstein.
The Adult Swim animated series Mary Shelley's Frankenhole features Dr Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Jeff B. Davis) and other characters from both the novel Frankenstein and other classic horror films. Frankenstein is depicted as being a narcissistic, egotistical person who, after drinking an immortality serum he invented, has lived for more than a thousand years. He has developed the technology to connect his village in Western Europe to various points in time, called Frankenholes, that allow various people from history to time travel to visit Dr Frankenstein in the hopes he will do some sort of miraculous surgery to fix physical and mental flaws.
Viktor Frankenstein appears in ABC's Once Upon a Time played by David Anders. Viktor (spelled this way on the show) comes from a black-and-white world that is separate from Fairytale Land (where the other characters come from). Also in this show, as seen in flashbacks, his brother Gerhardt is reanimated as this show's version of Frankenstein's monster. In Storybrooke, he appears as a physician named Dr Whale. The name is a tribute to James Whale, the director of the 1931 Frankenstein film.
Computer and video games
Victor Frankenstein appears in the 1995 graphic adventure computer game Frankenstein: Through the Eyes of the Monster played by Tim Curry in live-action footage that is integrated into the gameplay graphics.
Victor Frankenstein's in-universe analog or ancestor (it's never made clear) "Friedrich von Frankenstein" is mentioned multiple times throughout Castlevania: Lords of Shadow's main story. Before he died, the Vampire Lord had promised to make him suffer for his creations and had carried it out after becoming undead. One of his creations appear as a boss, but unlike the famous monster, it's a metal, scorpion-like creature that has no hint of humanity but a large amount of durability. In the first DLC extension of the main story you find Friedrich's decayed fingers in jars spread out in the Vampire Lord's manor, although you can only find 6 of them.
- Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus Chapter 1 (first sentence)
- Sandy, Mark (2002-09-20). "Original Poetry by Victor and Cazire". The Literary Encyclopedia. The Literary Dictionary Company. Retrieved 2007-01-02.
- "Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)". Romantic Natural History. Department of English, Dickinson College. Retrieved 2007-01-02.
- Percy Shelley#Ancestry
- "Journal 6 December – Very Unwell. Shelley & Clary walk out, as usual, to heaps of places...A letter from Hookham to say that Harriet has been brought to bed of a son and heir. Shelley writes a number of circular letters on this event, which ought to be ushered in with ringing of bells, etc., for it is the son of his wife." Quoted in Spark, 39.
- Summary of the story of Frankenstein in Lords of shadow and his creature in action