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Frankenstein and King Lear: A look into religion, politics and literature

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Shakespeare's conception of tragedy in King Lear.
    1. An insintric quality of Shakespeare's plays.
    2. King Lear's battle with the limitations of his own mortality.
    3. King Lear's decission to retire.
    4. The coming of the storm.
  3. The idea of 'salvation' in its Christian context.
  4. The idea of the division of sovereignty in Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein.
    1. Frankenstein - often referred to as the 'modern Prometheus'.
    2. Prometheus's desire to bestow more power upon humankind.
    3. This division of sovereignty.
    4. The pursuit of light.
  5. Conclusion - debating the ethics of scientific developments.

Religion has foundation in our lives whether we choose to identify it or not. By recognizing the literary works of Mary Shelley and Shakespeare, we can intellectually inherit the limitations of our power as human beings and the important role the Judeo-Christian God plays in our political, social systems and psychological conditions. Both stories pose the question: Did God create man in his own image or did man create God in his image? Yet both cautionary tales take different route in answering it. Frankenstein delves into the baseness of existence without the intelligent plan of God, and the dangers of replacing God with flawed mortals. King Lear, on the other hand, represents the embodiment of God through a mortal king, and the dangers of bestowing absolute sovereignty into one person.

[...] (Nagy, 98) Frankenstein is likewise a cautionary tale of man and his desire to obtain advantage, playing the role of God. In the case of Victor Frankenstein, his vice is his selfish want of knowledge. The battle between science and religion plays a specific factor in the theme of this novel in addition to the context in which it was written. During the time when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, many new developments in the field of science were being made. [...]


[...] Because of the division, the kingdom, once united by a set of rules and moral standards, fell. Lear can neither decent into heaven or hell, the symbolic Roman Catholic purgatory, because he blames himself for the fall of his kingdom. (Wilson, 20) During the ever-symbolic storm in the climax of the play, taking place on the heath, Lear makes his deepest decent into the inner-terrain of his being, pronouncing not only that he will consider his actions, "I'll pray, and then I'll sleep? (Line 27) but later that he feels responsible for the political upheaval blasphemed by his transgressing daughters Gonerill and Regan. [...]


[...] Christian concept of ?salvation? and each sect of Christianity at odds with one another in the Elizabethan period had a different idea of how to achieve it. King Lear must battle with the limitations of his own mortality when he realizes the destruction left by attempting to distribute sovereignty among his three daughters. If you consider that in the time, the crowned King or Queen was considered to have been elected by the divine to rule over his/her kingdom, then the idea of the Judeo-Christian monotheistic God, giving supreme power to three, while still equally divine by blood, would yet be troublesome. [...]

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