Plays of Frankenstein

Frankenstein is best known today through the many films based on the novel, although the most famous movie Frankenstein came after more than a century of popular stage adaptations. As early as 1823, Frankenstein had been adapted for the stage: Peake’s Presumption appeared on the stage only five years after Mary Shelley’s novel was published. In response to its success, William Godwin published the second edition of Frankenstein in the same year.

Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein

Peake’s adaptation was not, however, the last. As Steven Earl Forry, the best authority on this dramatic history, has catalogued nearly one hundred dramatic adaptations between 1821 and 1986. He writes in “Dramatizations of Frankenstein, 1821-1986: A Comprehensive List“:

Pre-Karloffian dramatizations played an important role in disseminating popular conceptions — and misconceptions — of Mary Shelley’s novel, from the incipient gothic melodramas such as Peake’s Presumption, Henry M. Milner’s The Demon of Switzerland (1823) and The Man and the Monster (1826), and Merle and Antony’s Le Monstre et le magicien (1826) to their burlesque counterparts — Humgumption; or, Dr. Frankenstein and the Hobgoblin of Hoxton, Presumption and the Blue Demon, and Frankin-Steam; or, The Modern Promise to Pay — through political burlesque in the form of William and Robert Brough’s Frankenstein; or, The Model Man (1849), the musical comedy of Richard Butler and Henry Chance Newton’s Frankenstein; or, The Vampires Victim (1887), the farce of Paul Dickey and Charles Goddard’s The Last Laugh (1915), and finally Peggy Webling’s drawing room melodrama Frankenstein: An Adventure in the Macabre (1927). (p. 65)

His comprehensive catalogue of adaptations includes details on performances and publications for ninety-six plays, including the 1927 play of Frankenstein by Peggy Webling, which was the basis of the 1931 movie Frankenstein, directed by James Whale and starring Colin Clive and Boris Karloff.