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The thinkers and authors in ‘Frankenstein’

Mary Shelley references several notable books and thinkers in “Frankenstein.” But who were they and what were these works about? A primer:

The thinkers Frankenstein references

Cornelius Agrippa

Cornelius Agrippa was a German thinker and occultist writer during the Renaissance. Branded a heretic, he thought magic was the best way to understand God and nature. 

Paracelsus was a German-Swiss alchemist known for frequently wandering the land in his search of knowledge as well as establishing the role of chemistry in medicine. He also created a version of laudanum and helped develop the clinical description of syphilis.

Albertus Magnus was a German scholar who taught St. Thomas Aquinas. Legend has it that Albertus Magnus discovered the philosopher’s stone, which could turn metals into gold or silver. He later was canonized, becoming the patron saint of those who learn the natural sciences.

Books the Creature read

John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”: Originally published in 10 books in 1667, “Paradise Lost” recounts the biblical story of Adam and Eve and their fall from grace. Milton’s sympathetic portrayal of Satan led some Romantic poets — including Percy Shelley — to consider Satan the hero of the story. The work is known as arguably the greatest epic poem in the English language.

Plutarch’s “Lives of Illustrious Greeks and Romans”: The Greek writer’s series of biographies of famous men is also known as “Parallel Lives” or “Lives.”  As a moralist, Plutarch focused more on the qualities of these great men, and less on history.

J.W. von Goethe’s “Sorrows of Werter”: This novel, first published in German in 1774, is considered the first novel of the Sturm und Drang movement (which emphasized feeling, nature and human individualism). The novel follows a passionate young man whose painful travails in life and love eventually lead to suicide.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica


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