Article
Allan Davey
Frankenstein

This thrilling adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic horror story is paired with an editorial about the possible ramifications of developing super-smart artificial intelligence.

By Spencer Kayden; Based on Mary Shelley’s classic novel
From the October 2018 Issue

Learning Objective: to read a play and an editorial and then consider the implications of creating intelligent life

Lexiles: 970L
Other Key Skills: inference, interpreting text, key ideas, synthesis, author’s craft

Bookmark & Share

Story Navigation

Presentation View

Read the Play
AS YOU READ

As you read the play, study the illustrations, and read the captions, think about who the monster is in this story.    

Scene 1

SD1: From the darkness comes a deafening crash of thunder and a flash of lightning.

SD2: The curtain rises, and a spotlight reveals Mary Shelley, our storyteller, standing in a corner.

Mary Shelley: Long ago, in the German town of Ingolstadt [ING-guhl-shtaht], a young scientist had a dream.

SD3: The stage lights slowly come up on Victor Frankenstein standing in his cluttered laboratory. Candles struggle to illuminate the gloom.

SD1: Victor is surrounded by body parts—legs, arms, heads, eyeballs.

SD2: On the table before him is the body of an enormous man. He is 8 feet tall.

SD3: Shelley slowly walks across the stage. Victor does not see her.

Shelley: For two years, Victor Frankenstein has been collecting bones and organs, stitching together muscles and arteries. He has been constructing this creature from a collection of corpses.

SD1: Rain lashes against the roof.

Shelley: And now, in the dead of night, his quest to create a living human being is nearly complete.

Victor (whispering): Will nature reveal to me the secrets of life?

SD2: The candles flicker.

Victor (louder): If my experiment is a success . . .

SD3: Wind rattles the window.

Victor (very loud): . . . I will be able to bring back the dead!

SD1: Thunder rumbles through the room.

Victor (shouting): And a new species will bless ME as its creator. ME!

SD2: Lightning cracks violently, shaking the table.

SD3: Just then, the creature opens his eyes and parts his lips.

Creature (gasping for breath): Guuuh!

SD1: The creature’s limbs twitch.

SD2: Victor jumps back, a look of disgust on his face.

Victor: Watery yellow eyes, sallow skin, misshapen arms and legs . . . You . . . you were supposed to be beautiful . . . but . . .

SD3: Another clap of thunder!

Victor: You are hideous!

SD1: Victor runs out of the room and the lights fade.

Scene 2

SD2: Victor wanders along a dark, empty city street. He is soaked by rain.

Victor (muttering): What have I done?

SD3: He looks up at the black sky.

Victor: So quickly my dreams have turned into a nightmare.

SD1: He continues to walk as the lights brighten—the sun is rising.

SD2: He stops in front of the door of the apartment building where he lives.

SD3: He stares at the door for a few moments. Then he slowly withdraws a key from his pocket and lets himself in.

SD1: Quietly, he closes the door behind him and disappears into the building.

SD2: A minute later, he opens a window on the top floor. Resting his palms on the sill, he drops his head in relief and exhaustion.

Victor: The creature is gone!

Scene 3

Shelley: Months later, Victor is at his family’s home in Geneva, Switzerland.

SD3: In a small parlor, Victor sits with his fiancée, Elizabeth, and his father.

Father: Victor, I have terrible news—the worst news ever. Your little brother, William—

SD1: Tears stream down Father’s face.

Elizabeth (to Victor): William has been murdered.

Victor: What?! How?

Elizabeth: He wandered off one evening and was later found . . . strangled.

Victor: Who would do such a thing?

Father: Justine, the nanny, was accused of the crime.

Elizabeth: But she is innocent—I am sure of it!

Victor: Where is she now?

Father: She was sentenced to death and executed. But Justine could not have done this. This was the work of a monster!

SD2: Just then, the creature’s face appears at the window. Only Victor sees it.

Victor: The eyes! The hideous yellow eyes!

Elizabeth: Eyes? What eyes, Victor?

SD3: Victor rushes to the window, but the face is gone.

Victor: So much death. Is it all my fault?

Elizabeth: How could it be your fault?

Father: Poor Victor. He is mad with grief.

Scene 4

Shelley: Despair presses on Victor’s heart. He roams the mountains above Geneva like a restless ghost.

Victor (muttering): My intentions were noble. But I am the author of a terrible evil.

SD1: Just then, Victor sees a large figure approaching at superhuman speed.

Victor (trembling with rage): It’s you! The abomination!

SD2: The creature towers over Victor.

Victor: Monster! Get away from me!

Creature: I have come to ask something of you.

Victor: After what you’ve done?

Creature: Oh, misery! Even you, my father, hate me.

Victor: I am no father to you. You are a hideous mistake.

SD3: Victor turns to flee, but the creature grabs his arm.

Creature: Listen to my tale before you judge me.

SD1: Reluctantly, Victor nods, and the lights fade. 

Scene 5

SD2: The lights come up on a small, cheerful village nestled in a lush green hillside. Men and women go about their chores—sweeping, hanging laundry, chopping wood—as a group of children laugh and play.

SD3: In the distance, snow-topped mountains sweep into the bright-blue sky.

Shelley: The creature’s tale begins in the hills of Ingolstadt, after Victor abandoned him.

SD1: The creature stumbles onstage. He approaches the children, who scream and run away.

SD2: Next he walks over to a shepherd, who scoops up two lambs and sprints off in horror.

SD3: One by one, everyone onstage sees the creature and flees, until the creature is completely alone.

SD1: He crawls into a small shack.

SD2: The front walls of the shack and of the cottage beside it lift away.

SD3: The audience now sees the creature peering through a hole into the cottage next door, where a blind old man and his grown children move about.

Shelley: Day after day, the creature watches the family. He learns to speak by listening to them. He grows fond of them and secretly does them favors.

De Lacey: Agatha, dear, could you put another log on the fire, please?

Agatha: Of course, Father.

Creature (quietly): Fah-thurrr.

SD1: Agatha opens the front door to find a pile of chopped wood.

Agatha: Felix, what a grand pile of firewood!

Felix: I didn’t chop that.

Agatha: Then who did?

De Lacey: It must be our guardian angel.

Creature: Gar-dee-uhn ayn-jell.

Scene 6

Shelley: Months have passed. The creature has learned to speak. He now thinks of the De Laceys as his friends. One day, when Mr. De Lacey is home alone, the creature musters the courage to knock on the door.

Creature (to himself): The old man cannot see me. Maybe he will not hate me.

De Lacey: Who’s there?

Creature: A traveler needing rest.

De Lacey: Please, come in and sit by the fire. What brings you here?

Creature: I am here to visit friends, but they’ve never met me in person. I fear they will reject me.

De Lacey: Most people are friendly—unless they are blinded by prejudice.

Creature: You are wise and kind.

SD2: He puts a hand on Mr. De Lacey’s shoulder.

SD3: Just then, Felix and Agatha arrive home.

Felix: Aaaaaagh!

Agatha: Get away from my father, you monster!

SD1: Felix raises a stick to strike the creature.

SD2: The creature flees the cottage.

Creature: I have no friends. No family. Am I not human?

SD3: He sinks to his knees, his head in his hands.

Creature: Why am I alive?

Scene 7

Shelley: Back on the mountaintop near Geneva, the creature confronts Victor.

Creature: All I wanted was friendship. But all I was given was hate.

Victor: How did you find me?

Creature: I took a coat from your laboratory before I fled. There were papers in the pocket with your name, and I decided to look for you.

Victor: But . . . why did you kill my brother?

Creature: I didn’t mean to. I thought he might be my friend because he was too young to have prejudices. When he called me an ogre, I got angry and . . .

Victor: What do you want from me?

Creature: I want you to make me a companion—someone as hideous as I am.

Victor: I will not bring more evil into the world.

Creature: I am evil because I am shunned by the entire world! Should I have no chance for joy?

SD1: Victor softens.

Creature: If you make me a companion, we will live far away. We will bother no one.

Victor: I will agree if you promise to leave the human world forever.

Creature: I promise. No one will see us again.

Shelley: The creature speeds off down the mountain, leaving Victor with a heavy heart. 

Scene 8

Shelley: Victor travels to a remote island in Scotland and sets up his lab in a small hut. For weeks, he stitches together a new creature.

SD2: Victor looks down at the body on his table.

Victor: Maybe they will truly disappear. . . . But what if they have children? There could be a whole population of monsters.

SD3: Victor looks up and sees the creature in the doorway, a ghastly grin on his face.

Victor: No! I won’t do it! I will not unleash more horror on the world!

SD1: Victor tears the body to pieces.

Creature: How dare you!

Victor: I will never make another demon like you!

Creature: You will be sorry. I will have my revenge!

Victor: I am not afraid of you.

Creature: You should be. You are my creator, but I am your master. 

Scene 9

SD2: Victor and Elizabeth sit on a sofa at a small inn.

Elizabeth: We are finally married. So why is there sadness in your eyes?

Victor: I’m sorry, darling. It’s just . . . there is something I need to tell you, and—

SD3: They hear a rustling sound.

Elizabeth: What was that?

Victor: Stay here.

SD1: Victor grabs a sword and leaves the room.

SD2: Elizabeth sits tensely. Suddenly, she turns her head toward a sound in the corner.

SD3: The lights go out.

Elizabeth: Ahhhhhhhh!

Victor (from offstage): ELIZABETH!

SD1: Victor bursts back into the room, but he is too late. Elizabeth has been murdered.

Victor (in shock): No. Oh, no. No, no, NO!

SD2: Victor faints.

Scene 10

SD3: A massive wooden ship rests on the stage, surrounded by ice.

Shelley: Captain Robert Walton and his crew are in the Arctic, searching for a passage to the North Pole.

Sailor 1: Look! Out on the ice!

Captain: What is that?

Sailor 2: It’s a dogsled.

Sailor 3: The driver is enormous. He must be 8 feet tall!

SD1: The crew watches, perplexed, as the sled disappears over the horizon.

Sailor 1: Captain, another sled—stranded on that piece of ice, just ahead.

Captain: The driver is unconscious. Quick! Pull him up!

SD2: The sailors drag the man onto the ship.

Sailor 2: He’s near death, Captain.

Captain: What is your name, sir?

Victor (mumbling): Victor Frankenstein.

Sailor 3: We must get him warm. Let’s take him below. 

Scene 11

SD3: Inside the ship’s cabin, Victor lies on a bed under a pile of heavy quilts. The captain sits beside him.

Captain: What happened to you?

Victor (weakly): I unleashed . . . terrible evil . . . terrible.

Shelley: Victor tells Captain Walton everything. The captain listens intently.

Victor: . . . and I’ve been chasing the fiend ever since.

SD1: A spasm of coughing racks Victor’s body.

Captain: Rest easy, friend.

Victor: It is my duty to destroy the monster I created. But I am dying. I beg you—if you ever see it, you must kill it, Captain. You must!

SD2: Victor coughs and sputters . . . and dies.

SD3: A groan comes from the corner of the room.

Creature: Noooooo!

SD1: The captain looks up and sees the creature standing in the shadows.

Creature: I came to ask forgiveness. I killed those he loved most and caused him terrible suffering.

Captain: Your remorse is meaningless. He is dead.

Creature: You don’t know the misery I have endured.
I have only ever desired one thing. And I never got it.

Captain: What was that?

Creature: Love.

SD2: The creature gently puts a hand on Victor’s chest.

Creature: But no. The world fed me hate, and hate filled me up. I hated him. I hate myself.

SD3: The creature turns and leaps from the cabin window onto a raft of ice.

Shelley: And with that, Frankenstein’s monster is carried away by the waves and lost in the darkness of the sea. 

This article was originally published in the October 2018 issue.

Audio ()
Activities (14)
Quizzes (2)
Quizzes (2)
Answer Key (1)
Audio ()
Activities (14) Download All Quizzes and Activities
Quizzes (2)
Quizzes (2)
Answer Key (1)
Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

Close Reading, Critical Thinking, Skill Building

1. PREPARING TO READ

2. READING AND DISCUSSING THE PLAY (30 minutes)

3. READING AND DISCUSSING THE EDITORIAL

4. SKILL BUILDING

Differentiated Writing Prompts
For On-Level Readers

The year is 2050, and a super-intelligent robot has just been created. Should the robot be switched on? Answer from either Frankenstein’s or the creature’s point of view. Your response may be in the form of a one-page written letter or a one-minute video.

For Advanced Readers

The full title of Mary Shelley’s novel is Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. Read the Greek myth of Prometheus. In an essay, explain why Shelley may have chosen this title.

For Struggling Readers

At the end of the play, the creature says, “The world fed me hate.” Find three examples in the play that support this statement.

CUSTOMIZED PERFORMANCE TASKS
For Future Lawyers

Put the creature on trial for the murders he committed. Make sure that the lawyers on both sides, the witnesses, and the creature take time to prepare what they will say in advance.

For Newscasters

Imagine that the events of Frankenstein occur today. Make a short news program about what has happened. Be sure to include interviews!

Literature Connection: Texts that explore genetic engineering and scientific ethics

“Flowers for Algernon”  
by Daniel Keyes (short story)   

The Giver 
 by Lois Lowry (novel)    

Uglies 
by Scott Westerfield (novel)