One of the aims of Loony Literature is to use Literature as a springboard for our own creativity. We hope to encourage people to read great Literature creatively and then to go on to write, film, act, paint or make music from their own impressions of the piece. In this post, I want to show you how not only an author’s work can inspire us but the life of the author itself.
Over a year ago, I decided to write a play which would encourage children to embrace Frankenstein. I think it is a great text for children as it demonstrates how harmful prejudice is. I also wanted to demonstrate that the monster of the book is actually eloquent in his speech as nearly all popular films depict him as a mindless grunter. Before I set out to write the play, I decided to do some background research on Frankenstein’s author Mary Shelley.
Her life story is much more intriguing than a lot of fiction. I hungrily devoured page after page of this great woman’s life as if it was a page turning novel. By the time I had finished reading about her, she was firmly ensconced in my mind and sitting on my shoulder defying me not to put her in my play. Her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley was no better, his voice was ringing in my ears. I did not have to think about it, the idea for the play shouted at me, it walloped me around the head and then I gave in – okay Mary, I will write a really funny play for children which demonstrates what happens when Dr Frankenstein meets his creator, Mary Shelley. The play Frankenstein’s Revenge will be published in the next couple of months, along with teaching ideas.
Okay, so that was what Mary Shelley did to yours truly. I’m not sure if something a bit cosmic has been happening but at around the same time the playwright Helen Edmundson was writing the play Mary Shelley. Obviously, I was intrigued. I went to see it last night and I was totally transported into the lives of Mary Shelley and her family. I am not going to give a synopsis of the play as this is a piece about creative writing and not a review. I do however, want to point something out which particularly delighted me and is a writing point
.Mrs Godwin is Mary Shelley’s (Wollstonecraft Godwin before her marriage to Shelley) stepmother. When I have read about Mrs Godwin in the past, I have not had much sympathy for her. She is often depicted as being jealous of Mary and not up to the intellectual heights of Mary and her father, William Godwin. Helen Edmundson intelligently depicted Mrs Godwin as a woman who was caught on all sides, a woman who lived in fear of being sent back to the debtor’s prison. She had really and truly thought about this woman’s position in life. Subsequently, she successfully brought to life someone who had always been depicted as a two dimensional character before. The point I want to make is that when we are inspired by author’s lives, we must make sure that we don’t simply focus on how the events of their life affect them but we must do it with all the other characters around them. If we do that, we are on our way to creating what I could only deem as a masterpiece by Helen Edmundson.
Looking into the life of Mary Shelley and her family will inspire anyone. For those interested there is a wide range of letters and papers from the family on-line.
The journal kept by Mary and Percy Shelley when they eloped to France has been published as: The Journals of Mary Shelley, ed by Paula R. Feldman and Diana Scott-Kilvert (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press; Clarendon Press, 1987) Mary went on to keep the journal up after the return from France.
William Godwin’s dairy is available on-line at http://godwindiary.bodleian.ox.ac.uk
Schools with A level students studying English or History associated with the Shelley-Godwin circle can get in touch at:firstname.lastname@example.org
A copy of the Mary Shelley script can be purchased at: www.nickhernbooks.co.uk
- Let’s Talk About FRANKENSTEIN 1 (loonyliterature.com)
- Mary Shelley – review (guardian.co.uk)
- Mary Shelley: Frankenstein’s mother (independent.co.uk)
- Mary Shelley (petitefeministe.wordpress.com)
- Let’s Talk About Frankenstein (2) – Walton’s First Three Letters. (loonyliterature.com)
- Mary Shelley’s resting place (kimbofo.typepad.com)
- Frankenstein (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- On the Gestation of Great Ideas (patospapa.wordpress.com)