The novel Frankenstein and the play The Merchant of Venice (M of V) can both be used to question the responsibility of society for creating their monsters/outcasts. The novel Frankenstein illustrates the themes of the empowerment of man through science and its consequences and the contrasting dichotomies of religion and science. Other key themes regard Frankenstein’s monster and his struggle with society through persecution, Mary Shelley suggests that this derives from his creation by the ambitious Dr Victor Frankenstein.
Similarly in M of V the character of Shylock also struggles with prejudice and persecution and is entrapped by his lust for revenge: “If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why revenge! The villainy you teach me I will execute” this quote from Shylock’s famous “hath not a Jew eyes? ” speech vividly conveys the lust for revenge which he wishes to exact on Antonio. This aspect of revenge is seen throughout both stories where the authors use the characters to embody the consequences society’s actions have caused.Order now
The reader is also led to examine the consequences for the victim of discrimination and questions how their vengeance can have disastrous implications for themselves and society. As Ghandi once said, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind. ” Through the two stories, Shakespeare and Shelley portray Shylock and Frankenstein’s monster through the different narration and views from the two stories and explores their subjection of persecution from society.
Additionally both writers try to answer the question; is society responsible for creating outcasts? This is inferred through the suggestion that the characters’ ostracism stems from society’s treatment and prejudice against ‘inferior’ individuals. The consequences from the rejection of these individuals ultimately damage both the person and society. This is poignantly shown in Frankenstein when the creature says: “I am alone,” this loneliness is conveyed from emanating from constant persecution: “he could not sum up the hours and months of misery I endured…. Furthermore the use of multiple narrators in Frankenstein is similarly seen in M of V where the different views are shown through the dialogue of different characters which allows the reader to see how society portrays the characters through multiple perspectives. This is vividly seen early into Frankenstein when Victor describes the creature as hideous and shows his disappointment moments after creating it: “his dull yellow eyes and yellow skin scarcely covered his muscles and arteries.
Yet this description from Victor is heavily biased and leads the reader to think he is the same on the inside as his grotesqueness blinds society from his gentle nature. This eloquent narration is comparatively seen in M of V where Shylock deplores his treatment in the, “Hath not a Jew eyes? ” speech. This conveys their human emotions to the reader, their humanisation from society’s dehumanisation and above all illustrates Shakespeare’s portrayal of society’s treatment of the characters. The authors also draw attention to the racial prejudices and discrimination that both characters suffer.
The persecution and prejudice against the Jewish community has been effectively illustrated by Shakespeare and draws the reader to the sufferance Jews faced in those times. However it could be argued that Shakespeare had not intended to create empathy from the reader for Shylock. Shylock’s poignant rhetoric where he remarks, “he hath disgraced me, hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains” expresses his endurance of pain and suffering which is conveyed to the reader and Shakespeare’s poignant language effectively creates empathy from the reader.
Yet this can also be interpreted with Shylock as a villain, as his revenge blights his sufferance; “it will feed my revenge. ” Shakespeare’s possible mere illustration of Jews with no underlying message of sympathy from the reader thus creates a “villain or victim” argument that entices the reader, which shows the different perceptions that can be inferred from the character of Shylock. This is also seen in Frankenstein as the creature is seen by society as evil and despicable without prior knowledge of it: “monster!
Ugly wretch! You wish to eat me and tear me to pieces-. ” The M of V explores the racial discrimination which Jews faced; this draws similarities with the holocaust in which millions of Jews were systematically killed because of their faith. Similarly during the 16th century it was regular for Jews to be viewed as inhuman and used as scapegoats for many diseases. Comparatively Frankenstein’s monster is also subject to disempowerment by society.
This conversely leads to the empowerment of man and his scientific advances which are suggested from creating the outcast in the novel Frankenstein. Victor’s actions are suggested by Shelley to hold responsibility over the creature and his destructive streak. The authors present the characters as individuals where a large part of their identity is formed by their experiences through life. In Frankenstein, the monster is heavily influenced by his viewing and interaction with the De Lacy family.
As he watches the family he learns that: “the girl was called Agatha or sister, and the youth Felix, brother, son, I cannot describe the delight I felt when I learned these ideas” The creature’s viewing of the family shows he is effectively a child with a body of a monster, his lust for learning is blighted by his grotesqueness which instills fear and abhorrence into the family and the villagers. He is rewarded with only violence and disgust yet he does not exact revenge on his tormentors, instead he blames Victor for society’s treatment of him.
However shylock does not blame his heritage for his persecution, instead he wants to exact revenge on his tormentors especially Antonio. He shows this when he exclaims:”I thank God, I thank God. Is it true, is it true? ” Here Shylock expresses his delight at Antonio striking the deal and placing his life on the line, thus giving Shylock a chance at revenge. On a broader context Shakespeare and Shelley use the characters to highlight the morals which disintegrate once someone has been cruelly discriminated.
This in turn leads to an impact on the empathy the reader feels for Shylock and Frankenstein’s monster, where one response is to destroy the creator or to hold the tormentors responsible and be engulfed in a lust for revenge. Another aspect which results from society’s creation of monsters/outcasts is the self-fulfilling prophecy when a character internalises society’s stereotypes and perceptions. In M of V Shylock expresses; “the villainy you teach me I will execute” through this quote I can infer Shylock accepts Antonio’s discrimination and uses it to fuel his rage.
Shylock also uses the word “teach” to convey his belief that Antonio has made him become engulfed by revenge, which justifies his revenge as his rage has been taught to him by Antonio. This is additionally seen when Shylock exclaims; “but since I am a dog, beware my fangs. ” This exclamation shows Shylock has accepted society’s labelling of him, his “fangs” are conveyed to be his vengeance that is a result of his constant persecution. The internalisation is similarly seen in Frankenstein, where the monster describes himself as a, “fallen angel who becomes a malignant devil. This shows his internalisation of society’s perception as he uses “devil” to describe himself which expresses his own acceptance of his violent attitude against victor and his friends and family. His biblical reference of the fallen angel and the devil conveys his belief of devil to be literal truth and rightful description of him. Towards the end of both stories the characters face a miserable end. Shylock is stripped of his religion and wealth and Frankenstein’s monster is consumed by grief over the death of victor that he kills himself.
The monster is seen to show some remorse over his actions; “I have murdered the lovely and helpless; I have strangled the innocent as they slept” Even throughout his sufferance the creature ultimately finds his remorse to eventually show his affections to his creator and where his unnatural birth was created, Victor Frankenstein. Through this the creature prevented any further harm to society and the dire consequences which would have resulted from his vengeance. Yet this is not shown in M of V, Shylock’s remorse is never seen as his story falls into a sub plot into which his villain or victim argument is left for the reader to decide.
Shylock’s cruel manipulation and his tragic plan at revenge is never resolved which shows how he is now wholly responsible for his actions due to his perpetual lust for revenge which can be inferred from enduring until his death. Shylock is ultimately left far worse off than when he started his plan for revenge over Antonio, this backfire illustrates that vengeance may not always be appropriate. In conclusion, through the discussion in my essay there are many answers to the question: to what extent are we all responsible for the creation of monsters/outcasts in society?
Overall the suggestion by both authors that the character’s experience by society is determined by their actions is discarded by Shelley who conveys that heritage is to blame for a person’s problem, or accepted by Shakespeare as he shows how despicable Shylock can be once entrapped by revenge. In terms of the stories both authors have effectively created two characters that embody prominent aspects of rejection from society. Their actions have shown how cruel the people of humanity can become if entangled within the cruel and unforgiving aspects of humanity: discrimination and persecution.
The authors explore the effects of discrimination and persecution and although Shakespeare’s dehumanisation of Shylock is not as profound as Shelly’s monster, due to the creature’s lack of identity, it is apparent that both convey the consequences of inhuman treatment by society to the reader. The creature’s significant and poignant remark: “I am alone” shows Shelley’s suggestion that the possible acceptance of these individuals would cease the creation of monsters and outcasts within our society.
Apparent throughout Frankenstein as Shelley effectively shows the creature has no identity and no place in the world; this is conveyed to the reader as Frankenstein’s monster is never given a name. They are both pitied by the reader and used to great effect on foreshadowing. Yet he does not exact his revenge on his tormentors, instead he blames Victor for society’s treatment of him. Rhetoric, however, Shylock does not blame his roots for his persecution, conversely he wants to exact every ounce of pain from his tormentors- especially Antonio.
He shows this when he exclaims: “I thank God, I thank god. Is it true, is it true? ” He expresses his delight at Antonio and him placing his life on the line. On a broader context Shakespeare and Shelley use the characters to highlight the morals which disintegrate once someone has been cruelly discriminated. Another aspect which results from society’s creation of monsters/outcasts is the self-fulfilling prophecy. Beware my fangs. Fallen angel becomes a malignant devil.