The nature of man is often dichotomized into good and evil; where one cannot exist without the other. In the following essay the nature of man according to the definition of evil will be explored in the classic works King Lear and Frankenstein. While the former deals with a man whose evil nature betrays his daughters to him and in turn his one loving daughter is betrayed by him, while the later delves into the psychotic stages of man trying to be God, and when their creation, their son, is less than a perfect ‘Adam’ then they reject their creation, and therein lies their evil nature.
In King Lear’s distrust of his daughters he one by ones makes himself disowned by them as can be deciphered in this speech, “I prithee, daughter, do not make me mad. I will not trouble thee, my child; farewell. We’ll no more meet, no more see one another. But yet thou art my flesh, my blood, my daughter; Or rather a disease that’s in my flesh, Which I must needs call mine. Thou art a boil, A plague sore, an embossed carbuncle In my corrupted blood. But I’ll not chide thee. Let shame come when it will, I do not call it. I do not bid the Thunder-bearer shoot Nor tell tales of thee to high-judging Jove. Mend when thou canst; be better at thy leisure; I can be patient, I can stay with Regan, I and my hundred knights.” (II.iv.1514). Just as Hagar lets her brothers, her son, husband and family falter in love because she is not brave enough to forgive them, so does King Lear allow trifle misconceptions alter his view on family.
The parallels of father-child relationships are shown in how Lear’s daughter, Cordelia, parallels to Gloucester’s son Edgar; both Cordelia and Edgar are loyal to their fathers to the end, and Cordelia is banished while Edgar is forced into hiding. King Lear’s other two daughters, Goneril and Regan, parallel with Gloucester’s son Edmund. Goneril and Regan flatter Lear, “Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter” (I. 1. 53-54).
The parallels in the deaths of Lear and Gloucester are seen in how both die in the presence of their loyal children; Lear dies with Cordelia in his arms, and Gloucester dies after Edgar has revealed himself as the Duke’s son. Moreover, Lear and Gloucester both die in “extremes of passion.” Lear dies of a broken heart. “Break heart, I prithee break!”, and Gloucester’s “flaw’d heart” bursts of “joy and grief” after his reunion with Edgar. As well both die with renewed insight. Gloucester needs to be blinded before he can see Edmund’s deceit and Edgar’s loyalty. Lear needs to suffer the rejection of his older daughters before he can see Cordelia’s loyalty, and both find that the loss of title and position humbles them.
The juxtaposition between the sub-plot and the main-plot in King Lear comprises of thematically similar plots. Shakespeare has used the characters and themes of the subplot to amplify the drama and calamity of the main plot. With two plots, perfectly intertwined and yet offering parallel lessons, Shakespeare is able to heighten the emotional effect of the tragedy. In conclusion, the subplot intensifies the emotional impact of the main plot in the areas of child-parent relationships, the corruption of political power, and the death of the protagonist.
In the perception of identity and love in that identity King Lear is redemptive but full of blame, and still hanging onto pride which presents the issue of love for a woman, albeit a daughter, has not persuasion over self-loathing. Here Shakespeare’s design in the play portends of how innocence as with Cordelia when followed is prophetic but when love is denied in Shakespeare’s plays the consequences are dire. In King Lear’s age he sees himself as beyond the measure of blame because his life is already lived, his deeds are already accomplished. It is with the hope of redemption through love that the play ends; King Lear states,
Hear me, recreant! On thine allegiance, hear me! Since thou hast sought to make us break our vow- Which we durst never yet- and with strain’d pride To come between our sentence and our power,- Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,- Our potency made good, take thy reward. Five days we do allot thee for provision To shield thee from diseases of the world, And on the sixth to turn thy hated back Upon our kingdom. If, on the tenth day following, Thy banish’d trunk be found in our dominions, The moment is thy death. Away! By Jupiter, This shall not be revok’d (I.i.178ff).
It is only with the hope of love, that these characters can be redeemed.
Victor is a product of industry and therein lies my deplorable nature. There exists in a man the reason to believe in romance in the architecture of the soul reaching for new heights and it seemed to him that in the theory of creation nothing is greater than the action of God; his decree was ultimate, ubiquitous, and undeniable. In Victor’s efforts for identity he found his monster. The monster was Victor’s Adam. Victor wanted to breathe life into him, to make the monster real not only as a father wants a child, for Victor wanted that too, the accomplishment of fatherhood, but he wanted to exude genius. If the monster is to blame anything or anyone for the monster’s existence then the blame placed on Victor can only be attributed to love in part and partly egoism.
For Victor the idea of creating a companion of seeing him and having conversations with him was a form of that father/son relationship; except the mind was damaged and Victor believed through this ill luck their twined dooming was found. The monster was supposed to be beautiful. Victor’s creation, made from his hard work, genius, spark of life, but when the monster opened his eyes, those yellow and watery orbs stared with accusation. They were appropriately snide in being awaken. In those yellow eyes Victor saw death, guilt, and a hunger to not have been born. When those yellow eye opened Victor saw the reflection of his failure. Thus is birth made horrible.
It was not the eyes alone that made Victor run: The entire entourage of pallid and blanched skin mixed with size all gave Victor the urge to flee. It was in the failure of the monster’s existence that Victor found revulsion; or rather it was the fact that his existence made Victor a failure, the fact that he had created a monster when his intentions were pure. Victor wanted to give humanity something beautiful but the monster was revolting.
Victor was sleeping and the monster approached looking for acceptance for love for the fulfilled intention of a friend and so the monster reached his enormous hand out. Victor was not ready; in his best disguise as God Victor was not ready to look upon Adam and see only blasphemy. The monster saw this not only in Victor’s actions of leaving, but in his reaction of the monster reaching toward Victor. The monster in turn disappears; banished from Victor’s love, and life, and with the close of this scene the thesis of the paper is realized in Shelley’s work; that of birth and creation as blasphemy.
Victor is robbed of his science while King Lear is robbed of hisr child and the pleasure of her love until it is too late for redemption. That is the evil nature of man in either story, they allow the events to transpire past the point of redemption and therein lies their maniacal devotion to their own twisted idea of hate.
Shakespeare, William. King Lear. Washington Square Press, New York. 2004.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus. Ed. Maurice Hindle. Penguin,
New York. 1995.