The Chance Meetings of Prospero and Dr. Frankenstein
When the king and his party returned from that wondrous island, all of Naples rejoiced. The kingdom’s joy doubled when they heard that their beloved prince Ferdinand had finally found a bride. The happiness flowed in Milan, too. The people cheered when they heard the tale of the two brothers united again. Moreover, Prospero’s first official act as Duke of Milan was to hand the throne to his brother, Antonio. Prospero declared that he had no desire to rule and only wished to live the rest of his life in a position of peace as Antonio’s chief councilor. With Miranda now living in Naples, Prospero often went on long journeys to visit her, and during these times of travel Prospero would frequently find himself steeped in boredom. So once again he began reading some of his books on wizardry and alchemy.
It was during one of his stays in Naples that Prospero found himself enjoying a brisk morning walk near a collection of homes. A woman’s painful wail sounded from one of the houses, and Prospero rushed in to see if he could be of some assistance to the lady. Therein he found a man accompanying a woman who was about to give birth. “Kind, sir,” the man started, “help us. My wife is about to give birth and the midwife has not yet shown herself this day. Go and find another. Please, I beg of you.”
“Fret not,” replied Prospero. “Many o’ my books do explain the art of birthing. Well versed are my hands in the precision that shall be their deed.” Then, with the ease only a magician can have, Prospero delivered the child and handed the young boy to his mother.
“I shall call him Victor; for he has come into being despite all of the hardships Beaufort and I have endured. He represents not only a victory for us, but for the whole Frankenstein family. We are forever in debt to you, sir, and blessed by your arrival.”
“Find thee welcomed. Yet, I do foresee in this imp much angst. Guardest him with thine life and save him from the dangers that shall spring from thy fountain in his head. He will create for himself trouble more tumultuous than kind nature would present to him.”
With that, Prospero left the family to their bundle of joy.
Many years later, Prospero decided to finally fulfill the promise he had made so long ago: he was determined to completely give up his wizardry and prepare to die. However, he did not wish his books to fall into the wrong hands and thus, instead of destroying his collection of knowledge, Prospero decided to scatter his books so that no one person could ever again have magic such as his. As the last stop of his travels, he ventured to a city in southern Germany by the name of Ingolstadt and opened up a shop in order to sell a portion of his books. There, he planned to rid himself of the last of his books, the ones that dealt with alchemy and the study of natural philosophy. After weeks of little success, a young man entered Prospero’s store. He was obviously one of the students from the local university, and by sheer coincidence, was the very child to whom years ago Prospero had played midwife. He had grown into a fine man with a diligent mind. However, with all of his magic gone, Prospero was unable to recognize the man. Victor meandered around the shop for hours, picking up random books and reading a sample of each text. It was drawing near to closing time when Prospero finally approached him.
“Sir, what is it thou quarry for?” questioned the aged sorcerer.
“Leagues of knowledge,” replied the man. “All of these books are glorious in their detail and I stand much to learn from all of them. I ask of you then, how much for all of them?”
“Thou wishest to obtain them all? What marvelous void must fill thy wit such that thou wishèd to be filled by these texts? I must query what thou dost propose to do with this foison of knowledge.”
“Everything! Some of these books far surpass the works of Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Albertus Magnus, while others delve so deeply into physiology that I believe one can begin to understand the very fabric that composes our lives. I beg you, sir, do not be harsh on me, for I need these books.”
“My eyesight assures that thou hast great eagerness to consume these volumes, and thus it shall be that they become transferred onto you. Let us not even be mindful that they once belonged to me.”
“Oh, what a generous man you are!”
“But heed this warning: the knowledge therein includes as many thorns as it does roses.”
“In what way? How can too much knowledge be ill to one’s mind? I do not care for your warning. You are a foolish old man to be ridding yourself of such marvelous texts instead of passing them on to your kin. I shall use this knowledge to create magnificent works and to overcome the challenges that so many before me failed to even imagine.”
“If a mule you must be, I will not drive you farther. I pray then for those thou dost love, for I have witnessed what the sower of such deeds does reap. Mine eyes have witnessed the tears that do flood as consequence to irresponsible power. ‘Tis for this very reason I purge myself of these charms.”
“I understand your view. Yet, I do not seek the power you mention. I wish only to create and understand, so as to further the understanding of mankind.”
Prospero looked deep into Victor’s eyes and they mirrored the ambition Prospero had felt in his youth. “Then let it be. Take these books and gather much from them.” Not long after, Prospero, weak from a mixture of old age and lack of magic, passed away.
Victor could not remember just now long it had been since he had last seen green. Hues of gray surrounded him endlessly, and he often caught himself staring at one of the red ropes used to hold the sled together. It was the only thing in his icy world that did not shout out for him to just sit down and die. Instead, the deep dark redness reminded him of the blood that he had brought his loved ones to shed. And when he wasn’t transfixed on this bright thread, he looked straight forward, hoping to grasp a glimpse of his sinister opus.
The nights got longer and longer the farther north he headed, and the wind would got colder and colder. All but one of his dogs were gone now, so he pushed that lone mutt even harder to make up for the loss. His provisions were low, and he was on the edge of destruction when a thick fog rolled in. Determine to continue on, Victor pushed himself to his extremes and he eventually fainted from exhaustion.
In his delirium, a silvery glare swept across his field of vision, and in an odd flash of light, an old man appeared before him. Immediately, Victor became very alert and confused. “Demon?” he screamed. “You must truly be ignorant to approach me with such disregard. Prepare for the revenge that shall flow from me and consume your life!”
“Be still. I am not the mooncalf that thou hast fashioned,” replied the figure. “I am Prospero, he who brought thee into this globe and warned twice of the dangers thou would create. I was the magician at thine entry of whom your parents informed you. I, too, was the merchant who provided thee, a stranger at the time, with the knowledge and, yea, the power that allowed thee to be in this situation now.”
“But how can that be? Your frail body certainly could not have traveled this far north.”
“Mortals can never grasp the power of the dead until they, too, have taken up their last communion.”
“No more! Harken to me now as thou never hast previous. I warned thy parents of thy dangers in thee mind but they did not receive. Instead, they spoiled thee, anchoring thee to believing that none was out of reach. Alas, thy lesson should never have been what is or is not reachable, but what thou should or should not dare. Yet, they bare no charge; they knew not the monster they had created.
“However, thou knew’st always the treachery that sprang from thy hands. I warned thee when I delivered up the intelligence. ‘Create and understand’ thou cried. Bah! Thou amassed the power to create life and in doing, securely took it from thy loved ones.”
“Spirit,” replied Victor, “with your unbounded wisdom, tell me then what now can be done except to exterminate the beast that is the work of my hands?”
“Share what thou hast learned with others. Many o’ men in the world busy themselves with quests for knowledge and wisdom. Most obtain the former, but few grasp the latter. Go then, and let thy drama be told. Relinquish the pursuit of this monstrosity and return to humanity so that others may profit from what thou hast suffered.”
“I shall never surrender my hunt for that wretched being. I will go to the ends of this Earth to destroy him. I will forever continue in his shadow and, if need be, my memories shall die alongside of me. Spirit, be gone! For surely you are the servant of the devil”
“If a mule you must be...” and with that Prospero disappeared. Quickly, the fog lifted away, and Victor could tell it was already near morning. Depression and the imminent sense of disaster filled his heart until in the distance he saw a large looming shadow in the shape of a large ship. He immediately decided to approach the ship since his provisions were low.
Explanation of Character Actions
This section started with a brief description of what I thought would happen following the plot of The Tempest so as to set up a background for my story. It seemed natural enough that the two kingdoms would be excited to see their leaders returned in good health. However, it seemed that Prospero would not even want the position upon his return for a couple of reasons. One, there is a common notion that humans often enjoy the desire more than the actual possession. This would have been the case with Prospero. After being completely devoted to regaining his dukedom for so many years, he would probably find himself at a loss when he actually regained it. In addition, Prospero respected Gonzalo in his position as chief councilor. It was a position that demanded vast wisdom and Prospero would have undoubtedly considered himself qualified. Moreover, as chief councilor instead of duke, Prospero would have more flexibility to travel to Naples to see Miranda. With Prospero making frequent visits to Naples, it followed then, for the sake of the paper, that he should be at Victor Frankenstein’s birth.
Also, it was not only the idea of the boring journeys between Milan and Naples that sprouted the idea of Prospero’s return to magic, but also his overall habit of not fulfilling promises. Throughout The Tempest, Prospero often promised Ariel his/her freedom and then immediately sent him/her on another chore. Prospero seems to often put off promises he has made in order to keep his life easy. For this reason, Prospero probably would not have immediately given up his magic upon returning to Milan. His possession of magic, then, allows him to accurately foresee young Victor’s future woes.
Section II occurs approximately twenty years after Section I, and so by this time Miranda and Ferdinand would be in their late-30’s or early-40’s and Prospero, still alive by the wonders of his magic, would finally come to grasp the fact that his little girl no longer needs him to watch over her. Therefore, it is time for him to fulfill his promise. This coincides with his character since Prospero eventually carries out the promises he makes in The Tempest. However, before he leaves this world, Prospero would want his texts spread out because towards the end of the play he seems to have realized how a person can abuse the sorcery of the books. Therefore, for the sake of my plot again, I had Prospero travel to Ingolstadt where he could meet Victor while he was a student at the university there.
Victor would be in the prime of his ambitions to learn. To gather the knowledge that he eventually would use to create his monster, Victor surely researched and read many books. For this reason, it seemed natural that Victor would enter Prospero’s bookstore and begin sampling the texts. Victor would probably not hesitate at buying all of the books since during those days he was a bit deranged and obsessive to his task.
Victor also called Prospero a “foolish old man” since he is “ridding [himself] of such marvelous texts,” and then went on to state his intentions. This part of the dialogue was inspired by the passage on page 50 of Frankenstein where Victor states:
“...how many things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our inquiries.”Victor had the bravery and the determination to use this knowledge to its full potential and felt disgust for anyone who argued otherwise.
Finally, Victor ignored the advice of Prospero because throughout Frankenstein it seems as if Victor refuses to confide in anyone and never asks for an opinion. For this reason, Victor’s character becomes one that refuses council and advice no matter how sound the giver may be. In addition, it also appears that early on Victor did not have the intention for anything to go wrong. Therefore, to him, Prospero’s warning would only seem like another incident of society being afraid of advancements in technology.
In the true spirit of Shakespeare, I decided that Prospero should come back as a ghost in Section III. When Prospero first appears, Victor thought it was the monster since certainly no one else could be that far north. It serves, then, as a brief glimpse into what would have occurred if Victor actually had been able to catch up with the monster.
Again, Prospero presents wisdom from his past experience and shows Victor a wiser path. Even though Victor has now learned how to listen, he still does not take the advice to heart. He is now obsessed with tracking down the monster, and once more Victor’s obsessive tendencies cause him more trouble than anything else does.
Moreover, Victor’s initial refusal to share his story stems from Victor’s
words on page 28: “I had determined at one time that the memory of these
evils should die with me.” It is not until later, when he befriends Captain
Walton, that he decided that his tale should be known.