What are Victor Frankenstein's and Macbeth's moral standards?Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Both Victor Frankenstein and Macbeth abandon their standards of virtue, instead committing moral errors that lie outside the natural order.  For, in his "vaulting and selfish ambitions," Macbeth seeks power with the intervention of the preternatural world, while Victor seeks to manipulate natural occurrences by means of scientific development.  That is, in Victor's own words, he and Macbeth both aspire to "become greater than [their] nature(s) will allow."

In Act I of Shakespeare's play, Macbeth thinks to himself,

Come what come may,
Time and the hour runs through the roughest day. (1.3.61-62)

With this attitude of whatever is going to happen will happen, Macbeth ignores the caution of his friend Banquo and is instead influenced by the witches' predictions as well as his own cupidity and that of Lady Macbeth, his wife.  In Scene 7 of Act I, he rationalizes further that if he is to become king as predicted, it will not matter that he accelerates King Duncan's death by murdering him.  This absorbing desireof Macbeth's for power leads to the phantasmagoria that alters the natural order and drives him maddeningly to commit crime after crime as his ambition "o'erleaps itself/And falls on th' other" (1.7.27-28).  Moreover, Macbeth himself recognizes his moral errors as he reflects in Act II,

Had I but died an hour before this chance,
I had lived a blessed time; for from this instant
There's nothing serious in mortality:
All is but toys; renown and grace is dead; (2.3.99-102)

Finally, at the end of the play after all his unnatural and heinous deeds, Macbeth's life "falls into the sears" (5.3.26), and he meets his end in moral turpitude.

Like Macbeth, Victor Frankenstein makes his face a "vizard [mask] to his heart" and deceives himself in his desire to scientific power.  This desire leads also to the phantasmagorical realm as his abandonment of his ethical responsibility to his creature--his greatest moral error--generates murder after murder, upsetting the natural order. Unconscionably, Victor selfishly protects himself from censure sacrificing the lives of his adopted sister Justine; his best friend, Henry Clerval; and his love, Elizabeth. When his conscience finally drives him, he projects his guilt upon his creature who has turned to malice only because of the cruelty dealt him.  Vowing revenge upon the creature for the deaths that he has himself has indirectly caused, Victor seeks the creature across frozen regions, never accepting his moral responsibility of having driven the creature to revenge:

...but I feel myself justified in desiring the death of my adversary.  During these last days I have been occupied in examining my past conduct; nor do I find it blamable. 

Thus, Victor Frankenstein, too, possesses moral turpitude in feeling himself outside the natural order. 


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