Historical Context in Frankenstein
Publication: First published in 1818, Frankenstein was written by Mary Shelley, wife of author Percy Bysshe Shelley. Inspiration for the story’s setting came from her travels throughout Europe, while the motivation for writing arose from a competition between Mary, Percy, romantic poet Lord Byron, and novelist John Polidori to write the best horror story. While Percy’s and Byron’s stories were never finished, the competition produced two of the most famous horror novels in history: Polidori’s The Vampyre and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Mary’s story was published, initially to mixed reviews, but would later go on to be a defining novel in both horror and science fiction.
Romanticism: In the early 1800s, romanticism was the dominant literary movement. Its main ideas—prioritizing emotion over reason and glorifying individualism and nature—can be seen throughout many texts written during this time.
Industrialization: In terms of scientific advancements, electricity was being studied for many applications, including galvanism, which seeks to produce movement through applying electrical currents to deceased flesh. This may, in part, have served as a real-world scientific basis for Frankenstein’s experiments.
Historical Context Examples in Frankenstein:
"Two other friends (a tale from the pen of one of whom would be far more acceptable to the public than anything I can ever hope to produce) and myself agreed to write each story founded on some supernatural occurrence...." See in text (Preface)
"The Iliad, the tragic poetry of Greece—Shakespeare, in the Tempest and Midsummer Night's Dream—and most especially, Milton, in Paradise Lost, conform to this rule..." See in text (Preface)
"Under the guidance of my new preceptors, I entered with the greatest diligence into the search of the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life; but the latter soon obtained my undivided attention. ..." See in text (Chapter II)
"heroes of Roncesvalles, of the Round Table of King Arthur, and the chivalrous train who shed their blood to redeem the holy sepulchre from the hands of the infidels...." See in text (Chapter II)
"I was like the Arabian who had been buried with the dead, and found a passage to life, aided only by one glimmering, and seemingly ineffectual, light...." See in text (Chapter IV)
"“We rest; a dream has power to poison sleep. We rise; one wandering thought pollutes the day. We feel, conceive, or reason; laugh or weep, Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away; It is the same: for, be it joy or sorrow, The path of its departure still is free. Man's yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow; Nought may endure but mutability!”..." See in text (Chapter X)