The Romantic Era and the Byronic Hero. During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, literature and art as well as political philosophy were deeply influenced by new ideas about individualism and citizen rights. The American and French Revolutions illustrate the power and volatility of these new ideas. Although the term Romantic wasn't applied to this period until many decades later, the writers of this period expressed a sense of collective intellectual energy that they called the spirit of the age.Â”It was a time for questioning the status quo, challenging conventions of social hierarchy, and elevating the value of the common man and woman. Romantic writers reflected on the beauty of the natural world as a means of discovering, illuminating, and articulating their own insights about human nature. Their writing frequently included scathing critiques of social injustices, mainly associated with growing urbanization; meanwhile, they idealized rural landscapes and lifestyles.
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Many of these authors were profoundly influenced by Milton's poetic works, especiallyÂ Paradise Lost. For example, William Blake'sÂ Songs of Innocence and ExperienceÂ juxtaposes poetic visions of the world first through the eyes of a child, or innocent, and then through experienced eyes that recognize sin and inhumanity as part of the human fallen condition. As mentioned in the readings, Blake argued that Milton's Satan was the true hero ofÂ Paradise Lost, and many of his contemporaries agreed with him. Milton's Satan inspired a new figure in English literature: the Byronic Hero. In this lesson, we will read several defenses of this rebellious and misunderstood, tragic character. In particular, we will investigate how this figure informs Mary Shelley's famous gothic novel,Â Frankenstein.
During the Romantic period, the art form of the novel became increasingly popular, in conjunction with a growing reading public. Some of the most famous and influential novels of this era include Jane Austin's satiric novels of sensibility and manners, Walter Scott's historical novels, and Mary Shelley's critique of science and society inÂ Frankenstein. Most of us are familiar with the monstrous figure of Frankenstein from popular culture: film and television images. Mary Shelley's original creature was conceived in the aftermath of the French Revolution and the subsequent bloodshed that shocked and disillusioned many of the initial supporters of this revolution. Note that the name Frankenstein refers specifically to the scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who created a living Creature. The relationship between Victor and the Creature offers a complex commentary on the duties and responsibilities of both a creator and the created, which invites comparisons with Milton's depiction of the relationships between God, Adam and Eve, and Satan. Shelley interweaves the Biblical narrative of the Fall in Genesis with the Greek myth of Prometheus, another creation myth about duty, betrayal and punishment. Furthermore,Â FrankensteinÂ explores themes of pride and ambition by combining these grand epic narratives with Shelley's own personal experiences of procreation, parenting, and death.
Lesson Four - Reading Assignment
InÂ Masters of British LiteratureÂ (Longman, Vol. B), skim Â“"The Romantics and their ContemporariesÂ”," (pp. 3-28). Also read: William Wordsworth, Â“The World is too much with us"Â”; Â“"London 1802Â”" (231-2); Â“"ManfredÂ’ and Its Time: The Byronic Hero"Â” (386-7); and Coleridge, "Â“Satanic Pride and Rebellious Self-Idolatry"Â” (392-3)
In the Longman Cultural Edition of Mary Shelley'Â’sÂ Frankenstein, please read Susan Wolfson'Â’s introduction (pp. xvii-xxii) before you read the novel.
Then read Mary ShelleyÂ’'sÂ FrankensteinÂ (the 1818 edition). And, then read the excerpts in "Â“God, Adam, and Satan"Â” (301-322).
As you read the novel, consider the following questions:
What is the effect on the reader of learning about VictorÂ’'s story through the third-person, Walton, and his letters to his sister?
On page 34, Victor images the gratitude that his creation will feel towards him. How does he respond, on page 37, when he actually animates the body of his creation? How does Victor's initial vision of being a creator differ from the reality throughout the rest of his tale?
How would you describe Victor's character? How is he perceived by other characters in the novel? At various points in the narrative do you find your allegiance shift from Victor to the Creature, or vice versa? Why might the author want the reader to feel sympathy for each of these characters?
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Traditionally, a novel will have a protagonist, or hero, and an antagonist, or villain. Who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist in this work?
Consider how this narrative evokes the story of the Garden of Eden, the Forbidden Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, the desire to be godlike, and the Fall from Grace. What is the effect of these allusions?
How does this novel view science and the quest for knowledge?
Does Walton learn anything from Victor'Â’s tale? Is it significant that he acquiesces to his menÂ’'s desires to return to England?
Lesson Four - Writing Assignment
Select one of the following essay prompts. After considering how you would answer each of the questions in the prompt, craft a thesis based on your answers and write a 5-page essay, supporting your selected topic.
In Chapter VII of volume II, the Creature finds a bag of books, including Milton'Â’sÂ Paradise Lost. How is the Creature affected by reading this epic poem as Â“true historyÂ” (98)? Shelley invites us to compare Victor's creation with Milton's retelling of Genesis. How does this comparison influence our interpretation ofÂ Frankenstein?Â Is the Creature more similar to Adam or to Satan? Does ShelleyÂ’'s novel encourage us to view Satan as a heroic rebel or the arch-fiend? Explain your answers with evidence from bothÂ Paradise LostÂ andÂ FrankensteinÂ and additional readings about the Romantic poets.
Milton embellishes much of the Genesis story, but regarding the punishment of Eve, he restates the King James Bible text (Genesis 2:16) with almost no alteration or addition; Milton's God decrees to Eve:
Thy sorrow I will greatly multiply By thy conception; children thou shalt bring In sorrow forth, and to thy husband's will Thine shall submit, he over thee shall rule. (Book X, lines 193-6)
Mary Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was a famous feminist who died from complications of childbirth soon after Mary was born. Mary Shelley suffered miscarriages and the early deaths of several of her own children. Many critics hypothesize that Shelley's experiences of birth and death greatly influenced her creation ofÂ Frankenstein. They argue that Victor's obsession with creating a human represents a desire to possess and/or circumvent human reproduction. In your essay, connect Victor's desire to supplant human procreation to Eve's temptation to possess knowledge and become godlike. How are their transgressions similar and different? How are their punishments similar and different? You might consider the theory of the Fortunate FallÂ” in your discussion.
Discuss how the Romantic Poets interpreted Milton'sÂ Paradise Lost. Explain the political and social events that influenced their ideas about God and Satan.Â Refer to at least two examples from the poets' writings in the Reading Assignment, as well as the scholarly commentary.Â Then, consider Mary Shelley's incorporation ofÂ Paradise LostÂ intoÂ Frankenstein.Â Does her adoption of Milton reflect or challenge the ideas of what Susan Wolfson terms "Romantic Satanism" (p 301 in the Longman Cultural Edition ofÂ Frankenstein)?Â In other words, how does Shelley's novel respond to the Romantic Poets' interpretation of Milton's epic poem?
"Paradise Lost" (Paradise Lost) revealed human sin and corruption. The poem describes the rebellious angels of Satan. Adam and Eve were possessed by Satan, ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that God prohibited eating. Finally, Satan and his cohorts were turned into snakes. Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden of Eden. The poem reflects the poet's freedom to pursue the lofty spirit.
Satan had gathered many rebel angels under him. The poem describes how Satan and his angels fall into hell by the thunder and the heat of fire, after a while, he wakes from dizziness. Satan awakens all the same angles in Heaven, and they got up. Satan comforts them in the speech, inspiring them, finally he told them, according to an ancient prophecy or report in heaven, there is a new world and a new creature to be created. So they decided to hold a plenary session of the prophecy, and discussed countermeasures.
At the beginning of the meeting, the first question is debated: it is necessary to take a risk of war to restore the kingdom of heaven. The final three take a proposal, which is Satan mentioned, to explore whether the prophecy or hagiography is correct. According to legend, the God is creating a new world and a new species, a creature with not much difference between them. The difficult question is who will be sent to do the difficult exploration. Their leader Satan alone bears the task, winning people's admiration and applause. After the meeting, other members pursue pleasure randomly. In the journey of Satan through the hell gate, the door is closed, the person in charge of the gate talked with Satan. Finally, the man opened the door. Satan saw a big pit between the hell and the heaven, which is "chaotic world". Under the guidance of the ordeal, he only went to see what he's looking for in new world.
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When Satan went into the new world, God seated on a throne saw. The God refers to the prophecy that Satan will seduce human, and his plot will succeed. Human beings are free, and there is resistance to temptation, sweeping all slander to justice, the ability of wisdom. He also claims; people commit crime because of many reasons. Satan is wandering edge of a wasteland for a while in the new universe. Seen from what is called "empty border" place, people and things soaring; then, he would fly to the sun. He first pretends to deform for junior angels, sincerely, to see a new world and live in one of these people. Under Youlie's guidance, he flies to paradise.
Satan finally reached the new world, and it landed in a survey of the garden of Eden place, where it has been close to his destination, he alone takes bold adventure, to be against God, man. The moment he got into all kinds of confusion, his heart occupies many strong emotions: jealousy, fear, despair and so on. But in the end he decided to implement the evil plans, along the radial paradise. He crossed the border, into a cormorant, squatting on the tree of life -- the highest office park, looking around. It is his first sight of Adam and Eve. His wonder at their beautiful appearance and the happy scene make him determined to make them fall. After eavesdropping on their conversation, knowing they were forbidden to eat the fruits from the park tree of knowledge, which can let them under penalty of death. He decided to start, entice them to transgress. He leaves here, trying to further understand the situation. As night falls, Adam and Eve want Gabriel to send an angel, sending two powerful angels to Adam's house, to protect the sleep of Adam and Eve, lest suffering from evil. They found him on the ear of Eve, in her dream to seduce her. The devil was arrested on the spot, brought before Gabriel. When questioned, his attitude is very strong; but for the warning, flies out of paradise.
After snooping the Satan has sinister motives, like a lost soul in the night and returns to paradise, into the inside body of sleeping serpent. In the morning Adam and Eve are out to work, and each person does the job by their own. Adam did not approve of it, worrying about the danger, which had been previously warned the enemy will seduce her at her when she was alone. Eve would not be as strong and decisive enough, so she wants to separate labor, to test her ability. Adam finally gave in. Seen her alone, snake skillfully came to her, close to her; at first look, then opening, said a lot of flattery, flattering her how outstanding she is. Eve, listening to what the snake spoke, became very curious, asking how he can speak like human beings, but also can also understand so well. The snake answered, that is because of eating fruit from a certain tree in the garden, which can also make people more rational. Eve asked him to have a look of that tree. She looks, what is unexpected is that this tree is the right tree of the knowledge that the God forbids her to eat. The snake is of strong courage, using many reasons to persuade her to try. She finally tries, feeling very delicious. She thought to let Adam have a taste of this thing. But she hesitated, finally decided to give him this fruit, and advised him to eat. Adam was frightened at first because this is forbidden. But finally he decided to eat the fruit. The forbidden fruit in the two persons takes effect, they feel ashamed; and they find something to cover their nakedness. Then two people quarrel with one another.
God said: they are unable to prevent Satan going into the park. "Sin" and "death", sitting in the gate of hell, are excited to find Satan succeeds in the new world of conspiracy, so they are determined to follow their father Satan. They followed their path according to Satan, building a road or bridge on the chaotic world. As they prepare to leave back to hell, they meet Satan, returning after a conceited triumphant. Satan successfully indulges in verbiage before all the people for human conspiracy. Audience only applauds. And they, like in the paradise, are suddenly transformed into a snake. In their eyes, the scene of the forbidden tree appeared, they stretched to pick the fruit, but full of dust."Sin" and "death" still continue their work. Adam came to know of his degraded condition, deeply sad, and Eve comfort is also rejected by him. Eve adheres to persuade him. In order to avoid the curse fallen to his descendants, she advised Adam to use violence; he strongly opposed, but reminded her of her sons to revenge snake, thereby holding good hope, encouraging her to pray with him to appease the anger of god. Then Satan, in the snake's image, committed a terrible, hateful deception behavior in the garden.
Milton has been very clever in describing this story. He uses the story to deliver a spirit of freedom. And he makes full use of this story to show his ideas.