Sei sulla pagina 1di 24

Letteratura inglese – Prof.

Cattaneo – “Vendere l’anima al diavolo”

Lezione 2/10/2017

Vendere l’anima al diavolo da intendere come contratto pattuito tra “Doctor Faustus” di Marlowe e
il diavolo stesso, per proseguire nei secoli arrivando al coincidere della figura simbolica del diavolo
con la rivoluzione scientifica, le scienze, la modernità. La nostra analisi passerà per “Frankenstein”,
di inizio 1800, poi verso fine 1800 “The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mister Hyde”, in cui si ha
l’illusione che tramite la scienza si possa separare il bene dal male e controllare le pulsioni umane,
aspirazione enorme, anche qui diabolica, luciferina. Finiremo poi con “The picture of Dorian Gray”
in cui l’elemento di vendita dell’anima si attua attraverso una magia, ossia il famoso ritratto che
invecchia al posto del suo possessore e ne porta i segni delle azioni peccaminose. Tranne in
“Frankenstein”, negli altri testi vi è una fine piuttosto tragica del protagonista. L’elemento in comune
tra i testi è il loro essere diventati dei miti, mythus, perlomeno per 3 di loro. Mythus in qualità di storia
che continua ad essere raccontata in modi diversi nei tempi a seguire. Il mito fonda le sue radici
nell’archetipo. Un testo non lo diventa esclusivamente per la bravura dello scrittore.

The devil, what gender is the devil? Debated for centuries... The devil as a subject has been widely
used in literature and arts generally (“Paradise Lost”, “Divina commedia”). Much gothic literature
has got the devil even as a character. Still today it’s present in a great variety of works as movies,
books…a never-ending story. Many famous voyages to the never world, the hell, deal with this figure.
What about the name ‘devil’? There are many names for the devil. Devil comes from the ancient
Greek name, diaballo, which means slanderer, to speak hill of someone (IT = caluniare). So even
etymologically the devil is someone or something who doesn’t tell the truth, who is speaking with a
false tongue. Another word is ‘demon’, which again comes from the Greek ‘daimon’, a supernatural
being, a spirit. ‘Daimon’ was not bad originally in itself, but Socrates, the philosopher, talked about
his spirits which inspire him eventually not always good actions. Lucifer, Satan or Beelzebub,
sometimes are synonyms, others not. Beelzebub has different spelling according to its etymology,
from ancient Hebrew is ‘Beelzebul’, lord of the dung. The idea of devil comes from the idea of a
tripartite world (usual of monotheistic religions): heaven, earth and hell. The structure of the
Elizabethan theatre reminds of this usually religious tripartite idea. Other beings are present in the
universe, which are higher than men, as angels, or others lower than us, the devils. A trend in modern
society is that man can conquer everything through technology and rationality dominating other
animals and even the four elements. But at the end of the XIX century, psychology and psychoanalysis
brought back the idea of tripartite division, quite clear in Freud’s theories, where a super ego, the it
and the unconscious can be linked to forces and instincts which come we know not where from. From
a philosophical and anthropological point of view, it’s very important to be aware that there is
supressed material from the inside which can be related to evil, temptations. Traditionally devil haunts
deserted places, that’s why so many monks and early Christians went into the desert to meet the devil
face to face.

“The tragical history of the life and death of Doctor Faustus” is a famous tragedy written by
Christopher Marlowe in 1590, made famous thanks to the ballade of Goethe in 1808, and the novel
of Thomas Mann. In Marlowe’s text, it is to be found the hierarchy of devils. Is Marlowe the first
playwriter to talk/write about the devil or is he not? The medieval theatre talked a lot about the devil
through “mystery and morality plays”. As the names imply, we are dealing here not with the history
of a particular man, but with general things like religious mysteries, something which was not to be
explained through rationality. The generally import of these plays was that every man can be the
representative of the mankind. So, the main characters in such plays are allegorical characters plus a
“everyman”, plus good deeds, plus death, plus pride, plus repentance, plus the seven deadly sins, plus
angles, sometimes even God, Lucifer, and other biblical characters. These plays were based on the
struggle/fight between good and evil, a man going to die, who wants to prepare his soul for the coming
life, pulled in two opposite directions by two forces, the good ones and the evil ones. A quick look at
the iconography of devil. A mouth where flames come from represents the hell and its entrance. A
similar image appears at the end of the “Doctor Faustus”. During the Elizabethan times, it was not
that common to talk about the devil or supernatural beings in works. In Shakespeare, there were
ghosts (“Hamlet” or Prosperous -white magic- in “The Tempest”) which implied magic, sometimes
the black one which means the devil. “Macbeth” is another example: the three witches are the
projection of hell. “Doctor Faustus” by Marlowe became tremendously famous at its time.

The title stands out, the author is in minor print. The cover makes it
clear that the whole history is a tragedy. The story of Faustus was
already quite famous before Marlowe rewrote it. The picture is very
likely to present what the public was able to watch at the theatre, on
stage. àFaustus is practicing his magical art. He has just raised,
invoked the devil. He’s reading from the book where the magic
formulas are written. He’s holding something in his right hand, which
could be a magician wand. He’s wearing also his magic row. The three
elements related to magic, even prosperous in “The Tempest” wanted
them to practice his magic. The circle is the one where the magician

must enter in order to practice their magic. In addition, there are magic signs inscribed in the circle.

Marlowe was very famous, even more than Shakespeare. In fact, he was the most famous playwriter
during the Elizabethan time. He came from Canterbury, he was born in 1564, as Shakespeare. He was
the enfant prodige of its time according to his talent related to theatre art. He died quite mysteriously
in 1593, during a riot. He was a secret agent of the crown. “Tamburlaine” was his greatest success
and also his first one. So successful was the play that a sequel was required (“Tamburlaine, part 2”).
“Doctor Faustus” was performed its first time in 1594, 25 performances between 1594 and 1596.

Lezione 3/10/2017

Another success of Marlowe was “The Massacre at Paris” about the killing of Huguenot in Paris
during the religious war. The play is dated 1593 (even if about Marlowe we have no certainty of dates,
except for printings). “The Jew of Malta” is another of his few plays. The main character is a Jew,
which reminds us of “The merchant of Venice”, but unlikely in Shakespeare here there are no racial
problems. Marlowe tried his hand at almost every known genre, tragedies, even a historical drama,
“Edward II”, “Dido, Queen of Carthage”. Marlowe didn’t write any comedies, he did write six plays,
which are all tragedies. The common element among them all is the hero which has no noble origin.
In “Tamburlaine” the main character is a shepherd. Faustus himself is a scholar but is also another
low-born character (no princes, no generals as in Shakespeare). These characters both share the
ambition to control the world, an aspiration to omnipotence. They have been seen as forerunners,
anticipators of the romantic desire for greatness, infinity, superior knowledge, power, to dominate
nature. Their sin, or tragic fault is called in Greece hybris, which is the sin of excessive pride (pride
is one of the seven deadly sins for Christians, too). The pattern Marlowe uses for his play is the rise
and fall of great men. It refers to the medieval, past concept of the wheel of fortune to which men are
tied to and which brings them therefore up and down.

The beginning of Faustus is a list of characters. There are characters from various strata of society
(Clown vs Emperor), the typical mix comedy and tragedy of the Elizabethan theatre. The devil
appears in three shapes, with three different names. The list is a mix between concrete beings and
spiritual ones. From a technical point of view, this list of characters implies 20/30 characters,
according to how many spirits you want on stage. Still, quite a high number, Elizabethan companies
were not so numerous. The ‘doubling’ was involved, which means an actor playing more roles,
usually the minor parts, which don’t happen on stage at the same time. The chorus was not unusual.

The tragedy is linguistically based on simple, common, everyday words, only the structure and the
images could make it a little bit difficult to understand. After the chorus introduction, begin the

monologue or soliloquy of Faustus. Faustus’s monologue is quite a long one, almost 60 lines. He’s
revising his studies, making a survey of all the disciplines he has studied. But they are not enough,
he wants more, he wants supreme knowledge, (studies > knowledge > power).

Lezione 09/10/2017

The play by Marlowe is the first modern treatment of the Faust legend, made famous by Goethe, even
if Marlowe was the first. The Faust legend was very well known in the 16th century in Europe. The
story of a famous doctor (of medicine), a German scholar, who sells his soul to the devil to gain
supreme knowledge. The story of a man who aspires to much, like Icarus. In 1587 “Faustus Buch”
was published (before that, the story had been spread orally); so just a few years before Marlowe’s
play. In 1592 a play in English came out “The Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Doctor John
Faustus”, which is likely to be the forerunner of Marlowe’s one. Famous plays were usually preceded
by less famous plays on the same topic. So, in the Elizabethan theatre it was quite common to rewrite,
restage a play (a ‘remake’, using cinematography jargon). It is also unusual to have just one version
of the text. A folio, from the Latin folium, is a big expensive volume of the time, where most
Shakespeare texts come from. The ‘quarto edition’ are similar to today pocket books. In 1604 the first
quarter of Faustus came out, while the second in 1616. The second printing of the play, the ‘B-quarto’,
is quite different from the first one, it has almost 600 lines more and it is the one still read nowadays.
These lines include some comic scenes, even if the Faustus is theoretically a tragedy, a mixture of the
genre was common.

Latin pops up often in the play. It was still the main language of learned people in Europe, also for
the two following centuries. It was the language of the church, of law, of science. Latin made also the
play understandable in different countries. The Latin showing also impressed the present public in
the theatre. The aspiration to infinity is one of the main topics and ideas of the Romantic in 18th
century, that’s why Goethe will reproduce this story. The unsatisfaction of the mere human condition
linked this story to the others we will analyse. There is also the renaissance aspiration to understand
as much as possible of nature, of the universe (ex. Vitruvian man, Leonardo DaVinci). Kaplan,
Agrippa, Descartes…all of them were looking for the secret of life examining dead bodies, the
universe, the stars, planets movements… Giordano Bruno said that a magician is a wise, learned man
who knows how to act to employ this knowledge. Another philosopher, Francis Bacon, another of the
founder of the inductive method. Plus Tommaso Campanella with his work “Del senso delle cose e
della magia”.The close analogy of science, medicine, alchemy and magic of the Renaissance à
Doctor Faustus is by no means bizarre, strange in his monologue. He just takes to the extreme the
aspiration of many men.
Good Angel and Evil Angel tend to enter together, they are even, the two forces are in balance. The
devil on stage might come in through the central door, or even come up through the trap door which
was in the centre of the stage and to make it look like more supernatural, smoke could come up from
the trap door surrounding the appearing figure.

The play is also a strong anticatholic one. There’s a short question-answer pattern in which Faustus
very curiously ask Mephistophilis about important theological topics known by everyone. The
questions and answers are naïve, very simple, maybe too simple for a learned man as Faustus.

Lezione 10/10/2018

Mephistophilis, in replying Faustus, warns him; an attitude that we couldn’t have expected from the
devil. Faustus tells the devil why he (Meph) is complaining and that he is not behaving like a man,
he even suggests him to learn from him, from Faustus.

In all the stories we will examine, the main character hesitates before signing the pact with the devil.
This makes them actually human, what they really are in the end. Such deals signed with blood didn’t
exist but in folklore legends. The formula consumatum est after the sign of the pact (which is a
reference to the words uttered by Jesus on the cross while dying in agony) would have reminded the
public of Christ sacrifice, of what a blasphemy Faustus had just ended up in/with. The formulas of
the contract are those of a real one, Marlowe was a learned man, he studied at Cambridge university,
he knew the structure of legal contracts. The time quoted in the contract is 24 years, which is a
symbolic number. The day has often been taken as metaphor for the human life. The contract is even
specific claiming body and soul of Faustus, the damnation is spiritual and physical as well, so that
during the Judgment day he will have 0 possibilities to be saved.

Lezione 16/10/2017

Doctor Faustus, Doctor Jekyll and Doctor Frankenstein are learned, all-knowing men who want to
overreach, to go higher.

According to which edition we take of the play we could have different divisions or none at all.
Usually they were not divided in acts, but just in scenes, because what the author originally wrote
was just meant to be read and performed by actors and not for normal readers. After the 1st act (where
in some edition is marked), things change. Here there’ a turning point. The magic has become
practical, but Faustus is still hesitating. Mephistophilis answers often unexpectedly, incoherently. He
discourages often Faustus, he makes him think about his condition. During Faustus’s hesitations,
good and evil spirits appear. Faustus even meditates on suicide, common in Elizabethan theatre (as

in “Hamlet”). Two sides of the pact with the devil: full power, any pleasures in the world is given
him, but the damnation is still there. Faustus often uses third person speaking of himself as if he
wanted to be another person, by being distant from himself.

Elizabethan plays were also a display of knowledge, facts that nowadays every average student,
freshmen would know, but that then were known just by learned people. They were great shows, as
well, involving music, lights, dance, action, fireworks, figures dressed like in a parade (as the seven
deadly sins enter in the play) … Why has Marlowe written this part about the seven deadly sins? They
exemplified all the things that Faustus can now do actually. This is not just entertainment, but also an
explanation of the new possibilities of Faustus. All former prohibitions are so no more for him. The
order of appearance (no good writer does thing casually) respects the theological order of the deadly
sins. In the middle ages there was an order of importance, of badness for them. A hierarchy needed
to be found in different dimensions of the human life during the medieval time. So, the hierarchy
given here goes from bigger to smaller sins. The first to appear is pride. Not casually. Because indeed
it is the reason why some people make a pact with the devil. People who wants to be equal or even
higher than God. The last two were usually Gluttony and Lechery, but still it is clear that Lechery is
the last and the smallest. Both stand for reactions to basic instincts, necessary for men for survival
and reproduction. The deadly sins are the excess of human habits as having self-confidence, eating.

At the beginning of the third act, the chorus let us know that Faustus is flying, heading to the
Olympus’s top. Flying has always been one of the most aspirations of men. We then have a survey
of Europe which he makes by flying starting from Trier in Germany, then Paris in France, Rhine at
the border France-Germany, and then straight to Italy: Naples, Venice, Padua and at the end Rome.
But why a protestant wants to go to the Pope? He wants to disrupt the paper court, he wants to bring
disorder, as he is invisible and has powers. A strong anticatholic stain is in this part. The Pope will
be beaten by a man who sold his soul to the devil. This was such a strong thing that even Faustus is
afraid of the consequences.

Lezione 17/10/2017

Fireworks were among the stage properties of every company of actors, (stage props: cartoons, rocks,
etc…). Doctor Faustus is a mixture of theology and supernatural forces, tragedy and comedy and the
compresence of fiction characters and historical and real ones.

The time of the play is not realistic in the modern sense of the world. The first scene takes place one
night in Faustus’s study, one day roughly for the first act. The central part of the play, till act five, in
which we have seen Faustus flying across Europe and the universe before performing his tricks, must

have lasted 24 years. We have on one hand the realistic time, life recording, one day at the beginning
and one day at the end, or better nights. Both of the scenes (first and last) happen at evening. Time
and space are blown up, delated in the central part. At the end, time for reckoning comes. At the last
moment, Mephistophilis gives him a sword because he wants him to kill himself, so that he will be
damned forever and he can’t repent at the very last minute. But Faustus comes to that point, the one
of repentance, as Dr Jekyll and Dorian Gray as well will do.

Lezione 23/10/2017

The last part of the play, according to its time dimension, is live, live action. It’s Faustus’s last night,
last few hours. Marlowe doesn’t follow the Theatrical unities. A quite modern use of time, as
Shakespeare does, like the time of “The merchant of Venice”. The speciality here is that the interval
in the middle last 24 years (already talked about its symbolical function).

Last scene: ‘Thunder and lightning’ were performed on the stage during Elizabethan theatre with
fireworks. Thunder and lightning were thought to be a clue for magical scenes which usually involved
the devil itself. The same weather condition plays an important role in the other three works we will
analyse, especially in “Frankenstein”. In the last scene, the infernal threesome enters, Lucifer,
Belzebub and Mephistophilis. They have come to claim Faustus’s soul. Lucifer by talking always
goes straight to the point. When there’s the dialogue between Faustus and the scholars (his colleagues
who care about him), he keeps talking of ghosts and visions. But as in “Hamlet”, he’s the only who
has seen and can see them, treated as hallucinations therefore. The scholars represent Faustus’s past,
his colleagues at Wittenberg. So, what had might be if he hadn’t signed the pact with the devil. Faustus
is faced with his past. They are a reminder of what had could be. Everything goes circular, the initial
setting gets back.

Below the roof in Elizabethan theatres, there was heaven, which means the lower part of the ceiling
with pictures of saints, stars, angels, zodiacal signs… Gods, and angels too, were lowered (descending
and ascending as well) to the stage be mean of a machine (deu ex machina). Devils pop up from the
trap door. The hell was usually represented on the background. Wide open curtains gave the idea of
the so called “hell’s mouth”, with flames coming out of it, sometimes even real. Every possible
theatrical effect was used to make people wonder.

After the good and evil angels got off the stage and the hell disappeared, the clock strikes eleven.
This effect creates suspense. It means that midnight is coming soon, which represents Faustus’s end,
death. Then a countdown takes place. Marlowe is the first to put on stage such a stressed scene as the
countdown. The end is approaching and it’s inequivalve. Our hero, main character is going to die and

no matter what he does against it, he will be damned for ever. He is gasping for life, even few minutes
more would mean something to him. The last monologue is almost just exclamations. There is an
ultimate degradation, Faustus beg to reborn as soul even in a beast’s body. At the very end of his live
he would settle for being less than a human which is in strong opposition with the beginning when he
wanted to become more than a normal human being. Faustus even begs three of the four elements to
let his soul live eternally (earth > to eat him, air > to make him clouds, water > to lost him as a drop
in the ocean). Unfortunately, the fourth element, fire, will be the one who will harbour him, in hell.
His very last words are an invocation to Mephistophilis. Faustus will be brought out, away by devils.
There’s a tragical climax in the last scene, because of the central theme: death. However, at the end
of such plays (Shakespeare’s ones as well) there is always someone who makes clear the restauration
of order, a new one just achieved. Order must be restored so that social life can go on. In this case,
the scholars bring it back, warning all Christians in conclusion. The chorus will then end the play,
giving it a circular flow. Faustus must be an exemplum of what people shouldn’t do. His misfortune
should teach us that women and men shouldn’t want more than what heavenly powers permit, like
trying to be super human.

How far can mankind (with scientific discoveries) go in trying to reproduce nature? Which is exactly
what technology, science, biology and medicine will do in the following centuries with a great speed
and acceleration after the XVIII century. à Good point to bridge with the following work
“Frankenstein”, where scientific discoveries would make us think about the same questions presented

Lezione 24/10/2017

We have to make a long jump From Marlowe to Mary Shelley, we are at the beginning of the 19th
century. In between many revolutions have taken place: the French revolution; industrial, scientific
and technical revolution, but as well the romantic one, with its artistic movement Romantic. During
this time, medicine and science overwhelmed other disciplines.

In 1816 “Frankenstein” is written. It is not just a novel, it will also become a myth, a modern one
(such as Faustus or Robinson Crusoe). One good indicator for a myth is the fact that it rises when the
story goes by itself, when it leaves the author’s hands through rewritings, film adaptations... This
myth, as Dr. Jekyll, is so powerful that the two main characters’ names have been exchanged and
made the whole nebulous and unclear. The myth jest prevails on everything.

“Frankestein” has been written by an almost-18-year-old woman. At that time, women were not
supposed to write, and even if they did, they published their works under pennames or pseudonyms.

The discovery of the real identity of the author was a quite striking event. “Frankenstein” is a ground-
breaking book, because it’s one of the first great books to be published under a woman name. It will
path the way for other books written by women. It is a horror story, or better a gothic story. But even
in the previous century, 18th, gothic novels had already been written by women.

It all starts in the summer of 1816. Mary Shelley had just married one of the major romantic poets,
Percy Shelley. Their story is complex (the way they met, the fact he was already married…). During
that summer they joined Lord Byron in Switzerland, near Genève, on the shore of a lake. That summer
was untypical, because it was the coldest in centuries. 1816 has therefore been called “the year without
summer”. The sky was most of the time grey, apparently everything was due to the eruption of Mount
Tambora in the west Indies, which produced the black cloud which covered Europe. The bad weather
brought Shelley and her friends to remain confined at their place. The gloomy weather inspired Lord
Byron to group his friend and suggest writing each a horror stories. So, they met up, but Byron and
Percy didn’t come up with a good story. Polidori and Mary Shelley wrote instead lasting story, (“The
vampire”, the first tale ever about a vampire was right in that occasion written by Polidori). A
question follows spontaneously: how a so young woman could come up with such a good story?!
Reading the preface of Mary Shelley to the publication of 1841 (which is more complete than that of
the first publication of the novel in 1818), where she talks about the meeting in Switzerland and how
the story came: She presumably took inspiration from Galvanism1 which is quoted referring to the
possibility to give life through electricity. From these facts her imagination started running. She had
the first idea of Frankenstein, she hardly dreamt of it, she saw that story whose core she describes in
the introduction. However, a moral comment follows the plot-describing lines. After the vision,
there’s a slide to the reality, with Mary Shelley haunted by that obsession. She will get rid of it, just
by writing it, which she actually would do in a very short time. The title related to the very recent
scientific discoveries, as those of Darwin or Galvani; while the subtitle “The modern Prometheus”
refers to the old traditions and myths, in that Dr Frankenstein and his deeds defined him as a modern
Prometheus. “The last man” by Mary Shelley is the first novel about the last man on earth facing
ecological disasters as only survivor of the planet.

Dr Frankenstein got sick and spent almost all nights studying how he could create a living creature.
Once he succeeds, but from the very beginning he realizes that he had created a monster, ‘the thing’,
and not a human.

Galvani, an Italian scientist, who did experiments infusing electricity in frogs causing automatic motion.
Lezione 30/10/2017

“Frankenstein” even though it was written in the romantic era by a 17-year-old and supposedly
unexperienced girl, is technically modern. It has the structure of a frame story. Its frame is an
epistemological one. Letters are sent by Dr Walton (to his sister in England), a scientist on an
expedition on a ship to the North Pole, still partly unexplored and not yet mapped out. Walton and
his crew see a sled led by dogs with a gigantic figure in it. They cannot make him out, because he
disappears shortly after that. Later another sled comes with a man almost dying due to cold. They
take him on board and recover him. This man, who is Dr Frankenstein, will tell the whole story about
the creation of his creature and how it went out of hand, killed people and that it is a threat to
humanity. The doctor had therefore sworn he would kill it, that’s why he was following him. So
begins the story… The reader will face three different points of view, Dr Walton reporting the account
the one of Dr Frankenstein and the perspective of the monster. With the frame, the story is handed
out from one person to another, something which has to be retold.

Chapter 2: We have Frankenstein talking about himself, his family (a rich one apparently, set in
Geneva, with more children), and his studies and all the subjects he had learned and mastered. It
seems as a reformulation of the first monologue of Dr Faustus, some quoted scientists or learned men
are even the same (as Agrippa, medieval Italian alchemist). Albertus Magnus is quoted, he was one
of the master of Saint Thomas of Aquinas. He was a great philosopher and a practitioner in magic,
alchemy and science. He is reputed to have created a speaking head made of brass. He is the first
name on a long list of people trying to create living creatures.

Frankenstein is obsessed with biology and chemistry, and particularly with one question: where does
life come from? He’s obsessed with the principle of life. He realizes that life and death have
something in common, that they are not so far apart. If death is the end of life, he wants to catch the
moment when life goes into death. That’s why he starts analysing dead bodies, decaying things
(plants, animals…). Frankenstein researches all his life long to discover the secret of life. And he will
almost succeed in it. He knew how life works, but above all he was even able to reproduce it.

Before telling how he put life in dead bodies, he warns Walton who is taking notes of the story, not
to learn from him, or better to do so, but that it is extremely dangerous. Frankenstein sins of pride, as
Faustus. He aspires as well to become superior than the Creator. The moral warning poses the
question: how far can men go? Should they be just part of nature or should they try to
conquer/subjugate/create it? à one of the reasons why this book is a modern myth. This is a question
we are still facing nowadays.

Most of the scenes as in Faustus take place at night with thunder and lightning outside. Frankenstein
hates his creature by the very moment it comes to life. Its first description is comparable to that of a
dying person, who has dull yellow eyes, who breathes hard and who has convulsive motions. He is
disgusted and scared by what he has created that he literally runs away. He goes cross the street
outside, not turning back.

This novel is also a romantic tale, not just because of the quotations present, but because it can be
read in the light of many themes which were dear to the Romantic, like the aspiration to infinity, the
belief of the existence of a dark, diabolic, evil side of life. The three characters embody the obligation
to flee from mankind, who carry an obsession and who will tell stories about it, as mariners.

After that, Dr Frankenstein will fall hill for four months, trying to forget the creature. He will receive
a letter from his father with bad news. His infant brother has been killed. Frankenstein has the intuition
that the monster is involved in this. He will be sure of it once arrived at home, in Geneva. On the way
back home, he enjoys the show of a storm, thunder and lightning (romantic theme). As soon as he
sees the gigantic figure of his creature (Hulk ante litteram), he realizes that it is the murderer. This is
the first time he sees his creature after the night of the creation. From here on, the doctor will persecute
his creature, the wretch. However, Frankenstein does something little ethical for us: he doesn’t
denounce the murderer, otherwise he could have been accused, or better no one had believed him and
the story he had “created” a living being from parts of dead bodies with life infused in. The excuse
seems very logical, rational, not to denounce it. On the other hand, he is deserting the fact he has
created the creature. He has abandoned it. This will be reproached to him by the creature. The monster
will even use it as explication for his wretchedness, evil behaviour. The monster makes some
statements which are not expected from it. That’s how we have a double point of view.

[The ethical problem which arises here is also to be found in Asimov robots stories. Metaphorically
Asimov points attention to the scene in which Adam and Eva want to eat the fruit of the tree of
Knowledge (same sin of Faustus) being then expulsed and to the myth of Prometheus who wanted to
steal fire from gods in order to give it to humanity. During 18th century toy soldiers, toy bodies could
become automata thanks to mechanical devices more powerful than clock mechanisms. These devices
were what kept alive these toys, as mechanical ducks. So, life could be created apparently. Robots
looking like human beings were searched, new topic: the replicant.]

Lezione 31/10/2017

The whole story takes place around Europe ending up in the North Pole. The creature, which is also
a romantic hero, is bound to wander. Creature is the typical romantic wanderer. He flees society and

men taking refuge within the mountains. Creature confesses its crimes, its deeds. Here we have the
criminal’s point of view. Dr Frankenstein always uses negative names, words to refer to his creation,
hardly never he uses positive or even neutral terms, for example before the monster began to tell its
tale it becomes an ‘odious’ companion. It’s the first time Frankenstein realizes to have responsibilities
towards his creation, to be responsible of and for it. The monster’s tale is a typical romantic one of a
man who is despised by everyone, who cannot find refuge in any kind of society. The creature reacts
after its birth killing people and destroying, because it doesn’t feel loved, because it is not wanted. At
a certain point he will find refuge in a hovel in the garden of an old man who he’s blind, reason why
he accepts it. The rest of the family of the blind man will get horrified by the sight of the creature (it
will set fire on their house). Another murder will occur after its attempt to save a little girl’s life who
were drowning in the river. The creature will cause death to many people, especially those who were
very close to Frankenstein, because it wants to take revenge on him. His little brother and also his
best friend will die. A significant change, or step forward comes when the creature asks Frankenstein
for a mate, or better a woman. The creature (Adam) asks his creator (God) to give him a female
companion (Eva). Frankenstein does refuse, because he’s afraid of a world populated just by monsters
in a hypothetical future, they might endanger it or the man as a species. Frankenstein managed to
create a female, but then he destroys it (her). As reaction, the creature gets very aggressive. The way
it answers him turns everything upside-down. The monster states that it is stronger, that it is the real
master. No way the devil can be overreached or kept under control, at some point the evil side takes
over, as in Faustus and Dr Jekyll. The monster has supernatural powers.

Lezione 06/11/2017

Who is the master? Who is the servant? In all the stories dealing with people selling their soul to devil
this question is asked. The mere fact to be the creator doesn’t necessarily imply you are the master,
as well. So, these questions are both ethical and practical. Always think about consequences before
to act. The practical dimension of them becomes clearer almost two centuries after, when the
machines we create are almost powerful than us (1940s the first robots were commercialized in the
USA). Asimov, as a writer with a scientific background, was the first one to formulate the so called
three laws of robotic, they were introduced in the short story “Run, run!”.

1. “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to
è (the most important one. It’s the basic law. A robot can not commit a crime through its
actions or not by succouring someone, as stated in the basic rules of criminal laws).

2. “A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would
conflict with the First Law.”
3. “A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the
First or Second Laws.”

So, Frankenstein already raises questions which are still with us.

In this story, little by little, one by one, people dear to Frankenstein are killed by the creature. The
last murder is that of his wife. The creature casts a curse on Frankenstein’s marriage, who was not
married yet. After this dialogue, initially about the impossible creation of the female mate for the
creature, a duel between the two main characters begins. When unbearable feelings come over
Frankenstein, he falls senseless, sick, he gets fever. He reacts physically as many romantic heroes.
He has a psychosomatic reaction. What goes on in his soul is expressed by his body as well. The
changes in weather display often the changes in the story. The presence of the moon is a typical
romantic feature for tragical scene (for ex. Right after his wife’s murder, when Frankenstein sees the
monster in the moon beam). Almost at the end, Frankenstein denounces all to a magistrate who is
incredulous. Frankenstein will even accuse him of pride, which is actually part of his own sin.

The way the story is told is almost melodramatic, very romantic. At the time we do not have Dickens,
French and Russian great novelists yet, so the novel is still very romantic. Revenge is another
romantic topic present in the novel. This feeling will lead Frankenstein to chase his creature around
the world. He will quit Geneva for ever as a volunteer exile.

The letters at the end of the book are dated 17- which could indicate any year in the 18th century. The
periods more likely to be the right ones are 1780s, 1790s, because it was the period of the Romantic
movement and of the experiments with electricity by Galvani and several other European scientists,
and the years of the automata as well (like the mechanical duck).

At the end, the monster revenges even above the corpse of dead Frankenstein. It asks him for pardon,
for forgiveness. Walton seems to be moved by the scene, but the creature is so ugly looking that he
doesn’t dare look into its eyes. The last words of the creature are a confession: he briefly retold the
story form his point of view. The final sentences are very long. The end is quite effective, short, but

Suicide is a point raised by all these stories dealing with people selling their soul to the devil. Indeed,
selling the soul to the devil is already a suicide, at least spiritually. One of the half of the main person
kills the other, in this case the evil one takes over the other.

“Frankenstein” has been rewritten, filmed and generally adapted many times. Even a comic version
has been written.

In 1886 “The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” comes out, a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
(Scottish, very attached to his country). The two names remind us of ‘kill’ and ‘hide’. In the novel
there is the point where it’s referred to this assonance (“If he is Mister Hyde, I’ll be mister Seek” by
Utterson, à nascondino). ‘Case’ implies something which can have a universal value, as political
case, scientific case, medicine case… So, something not so common. The book is made up of ten
chapters with significant titles (which recall a political case structure, a report, especially thanks to
the expression ‘Full Statement’). As in crime stories, there’s lots of paper, written statements and
documents behind it, as the titles suggests. This is intentionally a crime story then. It was already in
the author’s intentions when he wrote it, period in which crime stories got very popular, the first
thrillers appear becoming a real genre. Stevenson wrote it on commission of a crime story for the
director/publisher of a magazine. Apparently, Stevenson as M. Shelley had a vision and he drew from
there the idea for the story. His wife didn’t like though the manuscript, after a short time of rage he
agreed with her. The basic idea was good for a sensational story, but it had much greater potential, a
mythical one, which he hadn’t realized yet. At the end, he rewrites it coming up with the text we read

Lezione 07/11/2017

The novel has the structure of a thriller, an immensely popular genre at that time. Crime stories and
thrillers were preceded by other works of the tradition, for example by Edgar Allan Poe, who is the
real forerunner, the modern beginner of this genre. Even some plays by Shakespeare can be labelled
as crime stories. But structure and intensions were different. Generally, stories which are meant to
shock. In England, the milestone is a novel by Charles Dickens “Little Dorrit” which has got the
atmosphere of a thriller. Another mystery story is the one left unfinished “The mystery of Edwin
Drood” a strange story about a split, double personality (which links to Dr Jekyll). Other professional
authors for the Victorian reader are Wilkie Collins for the first detective novel in 1860 “The woman
in white” and the Irish writer Sheridon Le Fanu, 1864 “Uncle Silas”. But the horror story tradition
dates back to 1840s with the “New Gate Novels”. New Gate was London prison house, so they were
stories about criminal. Another famous series was “Mysteries of London”, edited by John W
Reynolds, similar to “Les Mystéres de Paris”. So popular were these stories that they were often
turned into comic books, as “Jack the ripper”.

Chap I: The ‘door’ is central to the whole story. Hyde will be often hiding behind a door. The whole
novel is about what goes on behind a door, behind the conventional side of a person… The first person
presented is Mr Utterson, Jekyll’s lawyer and confident friend. He oversaw Jekyll’s will. He’s the
bridge between the two sides of him, the conventional one and the dark one. Mr Utterson had no
family, he was a typical Victorian age bachelor. He is walking with a friend through London. Dr
Jekyll’s house is a Victorian age mansion on a square, but the back door opens on a narrow street
badly lit. (Details by Stevenson create the atmosphere). Before hearing of Jekyll in the novel, we hear
of Hyde, the criminal. The description of him, which follows, is actually a non-description. There’s
something inhuman and deformed in him, people sense that he is dangerous, evil. More details about
his figure will be given, but generally speaking he is not carefully described. In this chapter we have
learned something about the crime and the criminal.

Chap II: it follows that in the second chapter a search for the criminal takes place. It begins with Mr
Utterson, which appears as a sort of counterpart of Jekyll. All the men involved in the story are all
sober bachelor, with no family. They have a well-organized life, well structured. They keep
themselves down. They are afraid of their instinctive side, that is why everything in their life is almost
fixed, under control. Self-control is one of the predominant features of these men as well. Stevenson
himself grew up in a repressive family, which made him hide his animal side. So, Dr Jekyll can be
seen as a reaction to it. Stevenson has thought all his life long that the human being is split in two,
that he has a double nature: good and evil. (“We know what we are, but not what we may be” –
“Hamlet”) …

Lezione 13/11/2017

… Both chapters begin with Utterson. He gets home after having discovered something about Hyde.
Jekyll and Hyde are linked from the very beginning through Jekyll’s will. So even if Jekyll doesn’t
die, after an absence of three months everything he possesses must go to Hyde, whose name is the
same of the apelike ugly-looking man who trampled a child. Utterson is afraid Jekyll is being
blackmailed by this Hyde. He also fears that Hyde would kill Jekyll. The novel is both a thriller and
a police story, so the solution of the whole case can pop up just in the last or in the penultimate
chapter. Dr Lanyon is a medicine doctor as Jekyll and highly reputed as him as well. The former two
are not in terms any longer, Utterson thinks it is just because of a quarrel about scientific topics.
Utterson, obsessed with this new person, Hyde, begins to settle outside the door of the first chapter
where Hyde disappeared. At last he encounters him, obviously at night. Hyde knows everything about
Jekyll, Utterson should have meditated about this fact. Utterson defined Hyde as ‘troglodytic’,
something uncivilised, primitive. So, the idea conveyed through the novel is that Hyde is not at all
human, he is more apelike, at an undeveloped degree of evolution according to the already well-
known theories of evolution. The building in to which Hyde disappeared and the house of Jekyll are
linked, one is the back side of the other. The architecture is a metaphor of Jekyll’s personality, it
mirrors the double personality he owns. Hyde has access to Jekyll’s house. Dr Jekyll we haven’t met

Utterson is a man of the law. He lives and works halfway between the world of the criminals and
conventional society. He is Jekyll’s lawyer and what’s more he is a detective. Utterson is the
forerunner of the unprofessional detective, who is even today the main character of crime stories. The
most famous is Sherlock Holmes, is an amateur, a scientist, who in fact makes fun of professional

Chap III: we finally meet Dr Jekyll who is questioned by Utterson by the will.

So far, we have had a general atmosphere of unease, just a general description.

Chap IV: the real story begins here. A murder by Mister Hyde is witnessed by a woman. The victim
turns out to be a member of Parliament. A proper investigation is conducted in this chapter. Utterson,
before going to the police station, takes his breakfast, no matter what, this is realistic, this was a
common habit of Victorian gentlemen. When Utterson and the inspector co-work, we have the typical
Sherlock Holmes’s scene, plus usually the investigator is not the smartest between the two.

Chap V: We are taken inside the house of Jekyll. His cabinet is the part of the house where Hyde gets
into it. Jekyll is in the house, he looks sick and he promises he is done with Hyde, that this is at an
end. However, as simple readers, we still can’t get the whole sense when Jekyll says so. We still don’t
know that they are the same person. …

Lezione 14/11/2017

… Things get serious in this chapter. Utterson is given a letter signed by Hyde, Jekyll states that the
letter was sent by a messenger. But Poole, the servant, states that no one arrived with letters on that
morning. The letter was to be found in the cabinet indeed. à another mysterious sign. The wealthy
world, in which Utterson is described in company of Mr Guest, contrasts with the chaos going on
outside. Guest is the typical assistant of an amateur detective. Utterson wants him to see the letter
because he is an expertise in handwritings. Guest suggests the handwriting belongs to Jekyll as well.
The two are identical, one is just a little more sloped, so they have different inclinations.

Things change quickly from a chapter to another. It’s one of the several short stories by Stevenson.
Most part of the story is not live, but communicated by letters which create a magical, mysterious
atmosphere. (à realistic: in that period in London there were four mail deliveries per day).

Chap VI: Hyde has disappeared, and Jekyll gets more involved in his social life, he has got back to
his habits. Jekyll will disappear for 6 days. Utterson gets to Lanyon’s and he is ill. Lanyon doesn’t
want to hear or talk about Jekyll anymore (even if he were present at his place some days ago to
dinner). Jekyll becomes a accursed topic for Lanyon who doesn’t give any explanations though. In a
week time Dr Lanyon dies. …

Lezione 20/11/2017

“Dr Jekyll” is conceived as a crime story from the beginning. It is commissioned to Stevenson, a
‘shilling shocker’ is wanted. We, the readers are supposed to be given clues to find out the murderer
on our own, if smart enough. But not knowing the story, reading this text, it won’t be sufficient just
what the author writes. Till the half of the novel, we have no clues about the supernatural
transformation. We are just given mysterious signs about an eventual disappearance of Jekyll. So
according to the rules of the game, this is not allowed in crime story. In Sherlock Holmes there is a
very logical, even if not always accessible, succession of facts, consequences. This mystery story by
Stevenson however is therefore meant to show something else, something more magical than

… Doors, closing them and locking them play a particular role in this story. As in Victorian society,
most things happened within closed doors, behind them, as secrets.

Chap VII: Presumably Dr Jekyll, seen from the street by Enfield and Utterson, has transformed into

Chap VIII: For the first time mister Poole goes to Utterson house. He is scared to death and he can
hardly explain himself. Poole wants Utterson to go home with him. There are many signs which could
be clues, but don’t see so because we still don’t know the whole story. Letters, papers, envelopes are
quite a lot. The last two chapters are in the form of written statements indeed. At the end of the chapter
Utterson gets back home with the envelopes in his pockets in which the mystery is explained, where
the solution is.

The solution won’t be live. We read about it, from two different perspectives. It was wanted by
Stevenson, because firstly he wants us to see Jekyll turning into Hyde from the eyes of someone else,

as in Lanyon’s statement. This is just more effective to have it narrated by the involved person
himself. And secondly by Jekyll, who obviously knows everything better.

Chap IX: we have the report of Lanyon when Jekyll transformed (actually HydeàJekyll) in front of
him. This is the highest point (especially in the film adaptations of the novel).

The fact that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person is explained by science thanks to a mix of chemical
elements. There are not bad angels, devils, or spiritual forces involved. Science is the master of the
evil side. Stevenson wanted to write a story of a doubled being. Crucial point: temptation to surrender
to the dark side comes to every person, but not everyone gets in to that. According to Stevenson
everyone lives these instincts. Once published, some people were fascinated by it, seeing in it a moral
advice. Others among the public were shocked, judging it as immoral. If repressed, anyone could be
on the edge to give life to a Hyde. The text could be also interpreted as a critic towards science which
has made human beings more and more inhuman. So, if the reader is already wavering, hesitating
between his two sides, reading “Dr Jekyll” could have been dangerous. No man is pure good, Hyde
was already there, he just got stronger. We must accept it and live with it.

Chap X: Jekyll’s confession. Even by writing his last confession, he can’t acknowledge he did those
crimes. He still considers himself a different, a separated person from Hyde. The last chapter is useful
to give his version. We know yet everything, but by reading it we can understand ‘why’, the ‘how’
have already been explained. The chapter recalls when Dr Frankenstein introduce himself, as well as
Dr Faustus did (University, studies, provenience…). All of them presented all the reasons why they
have could be just honourable, learned happy men, but still…they wanted more. Jekyll tried to keep
down his pleasures, he repressed too much his inclinations. He is obsessed with the struggle between
good and evil, that is why he will make scientific experiment to separate them.

Lezione 21/11/2017

In Jekyll’s confession, last chapter, we discover why he did go that far. He has always been obsessed
with the presence of evil tendencies in human beings. So even innocent things related to having
pleasure weren’t well seen by him. (The author resented of his past. As an adult, Stevenson tried to
break away from the strict severe Calvinist atmosphere he grown up in.) Hyde has become for Jekyll
somebody else, like a brother, a friend, but a wild one. He even tries to repair his wrong doings. But
the temptation is always there, slumbered. Hyde’s wrong deeds are so great that Jekyll must choose.

The question of double personality: at a personal level, Stevenson had always been concerned with a
certain split of personality, due to Calvinist background. Even Victorian people were very prudish,
almost extreme. These kinds of repressions were not healthy for the human personality. (Anecdote:
Stevenson, when a young boy, dressed as another person with a friend and went around behaving a
bit wilder). At the end of the 19th century, scientists, doctors of medicine and psychologists were
investigating exactly this problem: double personality. Friedrich W. H. Myers, a very well-known
scientist and poet, in 1886 wrote “Multiplex personality”. He was one of the first founder of psychical
research in Europe. He was interested in how far can go a split personality without affecting a sane
personality. (Myers investigated the case of Luis B, making experiments on his brain). Lombroso in
Italy carried out similar experiments. He had a theory according to which persons’ lineaments could
reveal whether they are criminal or not. Atavism, from the Latin atavus, grandfather, ancestor, is a
modification of a biological structure whereby an ancestral trait reappears after having been lost
through evolutionary changes in the previous generations (àDarwin’s theory). Darwinism was a
shock at that time, some people rejected it, because they believed themselves superior beings, not at
the same level of the animals, it was just unthinkable for some that humans descended directly from
animals. Recidivism is another important concept for the context in which the novel was written. It
is a relapse into crime. Recidivism multiplied in England after the Theories of Darwin spread. A
Victorian obsession was the return to an ape’s state, a primitive state. They wanted to be pure,
immaculate. Everyone could fall into atavism, recidivism, a too serious risk for the perfect Victorian

Jekyll’s mind moves in a ‘reverie’ state of mind. He oscillates between wakefulness and sleepiness.
The devil here takes the contours of not-developed men.

Lezione 27/11/2017

Jekyll realizes, by waking up as Hyde, that he can’t control what he created. Usually, all who sell the
soul to the devil, lose control of it in the longer. Jekyll must choose between them, he feels it. There’s
a linguistic dislocation through the novel, Jekyll of himself as if he were talking about someone else.
Linguistically the author played with the duality through the pronouns ‘I’ and ‘he’, pronounced by
Jekyll referring once to him and sometimes to Hyde. Once the bounds of the personality have been
opened up, it becomes difficult to say who is who. The transformation is due to a potion, drug, Dr
Jekyll drinks. As Hyde, he enjoys the murders, as a beast, not talking as a person. The involuntarily
transformations occur more often… when Jekyll is not completely aware, while dozing or sleeping,
Hyde comes up. The Dr will die as Mr Hyde. Will he be caught by the police or will he kill himself?
Jekyll doesn’t care, because he decides to bring his life to an end.

The last chapter is the typical final explanation of the genre, crime story. However, this chapter is one
of the points of view we have: Utterson’s, Lanyon’s and Jekyll’s which maybe is the most complete.

So, thanks to this chapter we see the things from the keyhole, we spy them, they come from inside.
Hyde is not concerned with writing, it’s not part of his world.

The novel impact should not to be limited to the late 19th century. It still has influences today. It has
to do with the concrete possibility that we might regress to animal state. The story has a lot to do with
Darwin and his theories of the descent from animals and the following evolution. According to the
19th century mentality, the western man was the last stage of evolution, while others as natives, tribal
and indigenous groups were inferior and needed to be civilized. As already pointed out, atavism and
regression were the most fears of the time.

“Dracula” by Stoker has to do with the fear that the best part of the Europeans could be contaminated
(human pollution) by beings, as vampire, coming from eastern Europe.

“The picture of Dorian Gray” was published in 1890 in a magazine and in the following year as a
book. It’s a short novel and when he came out, it contained several cuts by the publisher because he
thought they might be immoral. So, the cut version came out in the magazine, but even if it was cut
it raised a great interest.

It’s the story of a young man who owns a portrait of himself, painted by a famous painter, Basil
Hallward. And by a strange twist of magic forces, the portrait ages while the young man keeps young.
The core of the story is an old fable with rots in folklore, myths. In Greek mythology, we have
examples of persons who want to be immortal with eternal youth. Dorian Gray’s wish at the beginning
of the story ( = I wish that I could stay young forever, as beautiful as my portrait. For that I would
give everything on the world, like my soul) turns out to be almost the same of Faustus’s,
Frankenstein’s and Jekyll’s. In 1841, the French comedian, Balzac wrote “La peau de chagrin”, a
story in which by every wish come in fulfilment a piece of the skin is cut, which means that every
wish shortens the life of the main character (as in Faustus, for example, who runs from pleasure to
pleasure, but with a time limit).

There are three men characters, Dorian, Basil the painter and Lord Henry. This last puts forward the
Decadence theory of Wilde, according to which beauty, art and pleasure should be the only goals in
life and that morality is for the lower kind of people. Once Dorian Gray has been granted what he
wanted he had a life of pleasures. He becomes quite indifferent what other people feel or what he
might cause to other people. At the beginning of the novel, Dorian is the only unspoiled person, is
like a tabula rasa.

Lezione 28/11/2017

Homosexuality at that time was illegal in England, as in most countries, and was a gross indecency.
Oscar Wilde was accused by a man, the father of a young man who he was supposed to go with. It is
clear in the novel that the two older men are very attracted by the young men, Dorian.

The novel is divided in 20 chapters. In chapter 2 Dorian is introduced to Lord Henry, the reflection
of Oscar Wilde. The author became famous in London for his hedonistic philosophy firstly, for his
works as well and for his eccentric lifestyle. Wilde knew how to shock and charm his readers. The
same philosophy of life is shared by Lord Henry in the novel. He is an Aestheticism promoter. Dorian
Gray in a sudden is influenced by him and his idea of life. The first turning point in the novel it’s
when Dorian takes a look at his portrait and realizes how beautiful and young and handsome he is,
wishing he could stay so for ever, even for the price of his own soul. The wish expressed by Dorian
if become fixed, an obsession, turns to be inhuman, because it aspires to go beyond, to overreach the
bounds set to human life. Dorian uses the same words of Faustus. Something magic takes place here,
that makes the wish come true. The relations between Dorian and his painting is an obsession. After
the shocked reaction of the boy, Basil even proposes to destroy it, but Dorian stops him because
destroying it would be a murder. So, from the very beginning the picture is filled with life apparently.

In chapter 4 Dorian falls in love with an actress (Sibyl Vane) whom he sees in a theatre of the poorest
quarter of the city, while she is playing in “Romeo and Juliette”. Lord Henry is cynical about love.
He warns Dorian not to think that she shall be the love of his life. Lord Henry deflates Dorian’s new
strong sentiment, love. He states that life-long love doesn’t exist. The following day he goes to the
theatre with Lord Henry and Basil, Sibyl would be playing. Unfortunately, she will play the role of
Juliette so poorly (because now she knows what real life and real love are, and she can’t continue
pretending and playing them) that Dorian will react very badly to her. He’s ashamed of the
performance she showed in front of his two estimable friends. Which will have tragical
consequences… The first tragical thing of Dorian’s life is when he becomes a murderer, partially due
to Lord Henry. He was in love with her profession, with her art.

Lezione 04/12/2017

From the beginning of the novel we are told that Lord Henry badly influences people, he spoils them.
In a certain way, Basil and Lord Henry are a sort of “good angel and evil angel”. Basil tries to keep
Dorian on a straight line, while Lord Henry tries to convince him to let his deepest impulses free. The
borders between good and evil are not well defined, this is not a moral play. The devil, or the forces

of evil are always ready to catch us when we wish for something which is beyond human reach à
Dorian’s wish is granted all in a summon.

From chapter 4 to 8th, things change a lot. Sibyl will commit suicide, who is just the first victim.
Dorian Gray, as Jekyll and Faustus, changes. He has abandoned his good side. Chapter 5 is all about
the girl, none of the three men characters appear. While chapter 6 is the central section of the novel.
Once shown us meanness, corruption, evilness, unfaithfulness of Dorian, everything can happen.
That’s why all of this is shown at the beginning. Dorian has an unrealistic approach to love, but the
real one may be his only possibility of “redemption” from Lord Henry.

In chapter 7, we finally have the play in which Sibyl plays Juliet (part of the chapter is based on the
Shakespeare’s play). Unfortunately, she doesn’t convey any passion, she is artificial. Her acting is a
failure, and Dorian reacts like a child, shuttering, while his friends are ashamed. He responds
melodramatically. The reason she gives to the bad acting is that she now finally knows what real love
is and she can’t continue mocking it. At the end of chapter 7, the painting is found in Dorian’s
apartment, but a little bit altered. There is a change in his expression, that is a expression of cruelty
in his mouth. A mental dialogue takes place between Dorian and the figure in the painting, which
makes him think about his cruel actions. Dorian gradually repents what he has done. He wants to
reform, because the picture keeps staring at him. The picture is the reflection of his soul, its
projections, as if he were watching himself in the mirror. Dorian realizes here for the first time that
the picture will bear the weight of the years and evil things. Initially he reacts as a spoiled boy,
blaming Sibyl for the cruelty he has done. After that he realizes it was his own fault and that the
picture carries the consequences (in a concrete way, but through a magic way). His thoughts often
reach the top of his vanity (as in the end, we will see). In order not to spoil or ruin his perfect and
beautiful image, he swears he would never sin again and be a good boy.

In chapter 8, Dorian falls into the trap he will follow for the rest of his life, which is to do whatever
he wants, following any instincts, letting the picture age and worsen. There’s a dialogue between
Dorian and Lord Henry based on a huge misunderstanding. Dorian doesn’t know about her suicide
yet. However, after a short conversation with Lord Henry, once discovered the fact, Dorian already
forgets it, he seems to be over it just in a time lapse of few minutes. The dialogue shifts on the topic
tragedies and Lord Henry philosophies on it, going cynical. He is the mephistophilian figure, who
brings Dorian to talk like a criminal. Dorian then reanalysed the picture realizing that it alters in the
very moment when something bad happens (as on the night before as Sibyl took the poison). Dorian
has to choose, as Faustus and Jekyll did. He chooses life, pleasures, eternal youth and infinite passion,
because he won’t bear the bad consequences right after he commits any bad action. So, when we are
not the direct affected person of a deed, we tend not to care about it, to be indifferent. Wilde has to
do with a very modern sense of guilt.

In chapter 11, the famous yellow book appears, which is the same book present in the second chapter.
It’s a book by a French writer, Joris Karl Huysmans, named “À rebours” (1884). It became the bible
of Decadence. It is a novel centred on the life of someone who retires from an aesthetic life. It was a
present by Lord Henry. Dorian will have nine copies bound in different colours in order to use each
of them according to his daily mood. At the end of the chapter, the book is said to have poisoned
Dorian, as it were a snake, something which tempts. The book is at the centre of hedonistic, aesthetic,
decadent philosophy. The focus of the novel is the decadent taste. In this chapter, Dorian studies
perfumes, jewels, clothes (collecting them). Wilde became in his country a famous person first
because of his lifestyle, due to his being a dandy and then because of his works. He was a witty,
fashionable, charming person. He became extremely popular in the USA and London.Wilde’s style
is characterized by wit, smart Q-A pattern. No morality or no moral comments are made by the author,
which contrasts with the common attitude of the Victorian society. However, people had double
standards (most girls were poor, but there were 1 mln prostitutes).

Lezione 05/12/2017

“The picture of Dorian Gray” has become a myth, which is something that can be told and retold.
It’s a dense novel, with lots of images with symbolical functions.

At the beginning of chapter 12, it’s Dorian’s 38th birthday. In the previous chapters he was just 25
years old. As in Faustus, the time is compressed and delated. In this particular case, during these years
there is no record to be done or no news simply, because all the time was taken up by Dorian for
pleasures. At this point, he met again Basil who before heading to Paris wants to see him last because
he is worried about Dorian’s reputation. Dorian has acquired it in London after many years of double
life. Dorian has two selves. Dorian does and the picture pays the price. We know now about different
scandals. Basil admits he should have seen his soul before, which only God can do. As reaction,
Dorian takes Basil to see the portrait. Basil will shutter, he can’t recognize the face he painted once.
Dorian kills the painter and from now on Dorian’s degradation has no more limits. He gives himself
to all form of evil doings: drugs, prostitution, he even blackmails a friend of his, a chemist who helps
him melting the body of Basil (Campbell, who eventually will either commits suicide). Another
suicide of a friend will occur. Dorian has initiated a long chain of crimes.

By the end of the book, we see something unexpected happening. He is both pleased with any kind
of pleasures possible to him and tired with life, as well, same as Faustus. In chapter 19, Dorian tries

to reform. He confesses to Lord Henry to have killed Basil, after Lord Henry mentioned casually the
portrait. The quote of Shakespeare is the central point of the novel. They start talking about the soul,
quite unusual for them. Lord Henry is the same old Lord Henry, he mocks Dorian who now repents
and wants to be good.

In chapter 20, after many years of pleasures he worries about his soul. He feels the urge to take a last
look at the picture, because he has changed, and therefore also the picture should have changed in
good. The murder of Basil, was the only one he could be accused of. The others were suicides of
which he had been the trigger, but not the murderer. Basil murder dogs his mind. He intended to get
rid of the portrait as he did with its author. He would destroy it to be free again.

The end is quick, but narratively is one of the best written. Short, but dense and rich in meanings.


Potrebbero piacerti anche