Henry Frankenstein
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus character
Created by

Mary Shelley
Portrayed by

Colin Clive
Species Human
Gender Male
Occupation Mad Scientist
Title Baron

Sr. Alphonse Frankenstein (father)
Caroline Frankenstein (mother)
Ernest Frankenstein (brother)
William Frankenstein (brother)
Elizabeth Frankenstein (wife)

Peter Frankenstein (grandson)
Spouse(s) Elizabeth
Children Baron Wolf Frankenstein

Henry Frankenstein is a Swiss fictional character the protagonist of the 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, written by Mary Shelley. He is the scientist who, after studying chemical processes and the decay of living beings, gains an insight into the creation of life and gives life to his own creature (often referred to as Frankenstein's monster).


He is the son of Alphonse Frankenstein and Caroline Beaufort, who died of scarlet fever when Victor was young. He describes his ancestry thus: "I am by birth a Genevese; and my family is one of the most distinguished of that republic. My ancestors had been for many years counsellors and syndics; and my father had filled several public situations with honour and reputation."[1] Victor has two younger brothers — William, the youngest, and Ernest, the middle child. Victor falls in love with Elizabeth, who became his adoptive "cousin."

As a young man, Frankenstein is interested in the works in alchemists such as Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Albertus Magnus, and he longs to discover the fabled elixir of life. He loses interest in both these pursuits and in science as a whole after seeing the remains of a tree struck by lightning. However, at the University of Ingolstadt, Frankenstein develops a fondness for chemistry, and becomes obsessed with the idea of creating life in inanimate matter through artificial means, leaving university to pursue this goal for the next two years.

Assembling a humanoid creature perhaps by the use of a chemical, apparatus or a combination of both (he avoids the question three times when asked), Frankenstein successfully brings it to life only to be repulsed by its monstrous ugliness. He abandons and flees his creation, who disappears and soon embarks upon a journey of vengeance that results in the death of his younger brother, William. The creature approaches Frankenstein and begs him to create a female companion for him; Frankenstein agrees, but ultimately destroys this creation, aghast at the idea of a race of monsters. Enraged, the creature swears revenge and, on Frankenstein's wedding night, kills Elizabeth (his creator's new bride), as well as his best friend Henry Clerval.

Frankenstein pursues the "fiend" or "daemon" (as he calls his creation) to the Arctic with the intent of destroying it; he ultimately fails in his mission, however, when he falls through an ice floe and contracts severe pneumonia. He is rescued by a passing freighter, but dies after relating his tale to the ship's captain. His creature, upon discovering the death of its creator, is overcome by sorrow and vows to commit suicide by burning himself alive in "the Northernmost extremity of the globe"; he then disappears, never to be seen or heard from again.


While many subsequent film adaptations (notably the 1931 movie Frankenstein and the Hammer Films series starring Peter Cushing) have portrayed Frankenstein as unbalanced or insane (the prototypical "mad scientist"), the novel portrayed him as a tragic figure.

In addition, the Victor Frankenstein of the novel is not a doctor, as he is typically portrayed in adaptations, but a college dropout. Nor is he a "Baron"; and no title is given to his father, either, although they are clearly a wealthy family.

A majority of adaptations portray Victor Frankenstein's age anywhere between a man in his twenties or thirties to late middle age or elderly. In the book, Victor was only nineteen when he created his monster. Victor is portrayed as a self-serving man, who cared only about himself. He allowed a servant in his household (Justine Moritz) take the blame for the murder of his brother, William, when really the creature killed him, although he attempted to argue in Justine's defence and only kept the truth secret because he believed that nobody would believe in his creation's existence.

Percy Shelley, Mary's husband, served as a major influence for the character. Victor was a pen name of Percy Shelley's, as in the collection of poetry he wrote with his sister Elizabeth, Original Poetry by Victor and Cazire.[2] There is speculation that one of Mary Shelley's models for Victor Frankenstein was Percy, who at Eton had "experimented with electricity and magnetism as well as with gunpowder and numerous chemical reactions", and whose rooms at Oxford were filled with scientific equipment.[3] Percy Shelley was the first-born son of a wealthy country squire with strong political connections and a descendant of Sir Bysshe Shelley, 1st Baronet of Castle Goring, and Richard Fitzalan, 10th Earl of Arundel.[4] Victor's family is one of the most distinguished of that republic and his ancestors were counsellors and syndics. Percy had a sister named Elizabeth. Victor had an adopted sister, named Elizabeth. On 22 February 1815, Mary Shelley delivered a two-month premature baby and the baby died two weeks later. Percy did not care about the condition of this premature infant and left with Claire, Mary's stepsister, for a lurid affair.[5] When Victor saw the creature come to life he fled the apartment, though the newborn creature approached him, as a child would a parent. The question of Victor's responsibility to the creature is one of the main themes of the book.

In other mediaEdit


Beside the original book the character also appears or is mentioned in other books from pastiches to parodies.

In the book Frankenstein's Aunt the Baron's aunt who comes to Frankenstein's Castle to put it back in order, following the chaos caused by her nephew's experiments. In the novel Frankenstein's Aunt Returns the doctor has created a child for the monster and his bride.



The monster (1910 film)

Victor Frankenstein's first unofficial appearance on screen was in a 1910 film (produced by Thomas Edison) in which he seemed more a magician.

The character's first significant film appearance was in Universal Pictures' 1931 film adaptation, directed by James Whale. Here, the character is renamed Henry Frankenstein (a later film shows his tombstone bearing the name "Heinrich") and is played by British actor Colin Clive opposite Boris Karloff as the Creature. Clive reprised his role in the 1935 sequel, Bride of Frankenstein, which reunited Clive, Whale and Karloff, as well as first giving Frankenstein the official title of Baron. Although not present in the following sequels due to Clive's death in 1937, Henry made a cameo appearance in 1939's Son of Frankenstein, as an oil painting in the Frankenstein family library, and was the title character, in spite of having only a cameo, in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942). It is in these films that the character became known as "Dr. Frankenstein," as the novel's character never finished his education.

The character gained new life in 1957 when Peter Cushing first essayed the role in Hammer Films' The Curse of Frankenstein, opposite Christopher Lee as the Creature. Cushing went on to star as Victor Frankenstein, again identified as a Baron, in five more films for the studio.

Unlike most adaptations and sequels to the novel, Hammer decided to focus its Frankenstein franchise on the Baron rather than the Monster, to distance itself from the Universal series, and to perhaps remind audiences that Frankenstein is the name of the Creator, not the Creation.

After 1969's Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, in which Cushing had temporarily retired from the role, Hammer had decide to reboot the series for the 1970s. The Horror of Frankenstein was a tongue-in-cheek black comedy remake of The Curse of Frankenstein, which featured Ralph Bates as a younger, "hipper" Baron in the sinister mold of Cushing's interpretation. After the film failed to be the success Hammer had hoped for, they brought Cushing back for one final film, in 1974's Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell.

Udo Kier played Baron Victor Frankenstein in 1973's Flesh for Frankenstein.

Leonard Whiting played Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein: The True Story.

Robert Foxworth played Victor Frankenstein in another Frankenstein television adaptation.

In Mel Brooks' 1974 comedy Young Frankenstein, Gene Wilder portrays Frederick Frankenstein, grandson of Victor, who inherits the family estate but is at first repelled by his grandfather's work (to the point of insisting that his name is pronounced "Fronk-en-seen"). He is ultimately inspired to take up the work, eventually creating his own creature (Peter Boyle).

Sting appeared as "Charles" Frankenstein in 1985's The Bride opposite Clancy Brown as the Monster.

Stage actor Raul Julia portrayed the Baron in Roger Corman's Frankenstein Unbound.

Kenneth Brannagh reinterpreted the character along the lines of Shelley's portrayal in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein opposite of Robert De Niro as the Monster.

In the 1999 animated film, Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein, Victor (referred as "Dr. Frankenstein") is the main antagonist voiced by Michael Bell. After secretly creating the monster in a roller coaster, his lab is discovered by the Chipmunks and sends his creation after them. After the creature had not returned, he goes to the Chipmunks' house and kidnaps Alvin. He then uses a formula that makes Alvin go out of control. After Alvin is returned to normal, Victor in the disguise of the park's mascot tries to electrocute him, but is electrocuted by his own creation, causing the suit he was using to become stuck on him when he can't remove the mask. Later near the end of the film, he appears as the theme park's entertainer.

In the 2004 film Van Helsing, Victor Frankenstein (portrayed by Samuel West) is hired by Count Dracula to create the monster for Dracula to use to bring his offspring to life. When Victor refuses, Dracula kills him only to be attacked by the monster. The monster takes Victor's body to the windmill, but an angry mob outside of the castle sees the monster and chases it to the windmill. They set fire to the windmill in order to kill the monster, but are chased off by Dracula and his brides. The monster survives when the floor on top of the windmill caves in. The monster- which refers to Frankenstein as his/its father- is later used to bring Dracula's offspring to life, only to escape from the castle with help from monster hunter Gabriel Van Helsing.

The 2004 independent movie Frankenstein features a Victor Frankenstein known as Victor Helios, who has used his own research to extend his life into the modern day, where he continues his experiments to create life with the goal of replacing humanity with his own creatures. He is opposed by his original creation, who is determined to defeat his creator while being hampered by a mental 'block' Helios has installed in all his creatures to prevent them harming him.

The 2007 film Frankenstein introduces Victoria Frankenstein. Instead of making the creature out of corpses, she uses stem cells, intending to use her experiment to save her dying son. The experiment goes wrong, however, and the Creature escapes. When Victoria catches up with the monster, she comes to love it because it is her only remaining link to her son who has since died.


The humorous TV series Frankenstein's Aunt features a doctor Frankenstein that creates a typical Frankenstein's monster. Similar to the Universal Pictures' 1931 film adaptation the character is renamed to Henry Frankenstein.

The Adult Swim animated series Mary Shelley's Frankenhole features Dr. Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Jeff B. Davis) and other characters from both the novel Frankenstein and other classic horror films. Frankenstein is depicted as being narcissistic, egotistical person who after drinking the an immortality syrup he invented has lived for more than a thousand years. He has developed the technology to connect his village in Western Europe to various points in time, called Frankenholes, that allow various people from history to time travel to visit Dr. Frankenstein in the hopes he will do some sort of miraculous surgery to fix physical and mental flaws.


The 2007 Off-Broadway musical, Frankenstein - A New Musical portrays Victor as the naïve young student of Mary Shelley's original novel.

Computer and video gamesEdit

Victor Frankenstein appears in the 1995 graphic adventure computer game Frankenstein: Through the Eyes of the Monster played by Tim Curry in live-action footage that is integrated into the gameplay graphics.

Victor Frankenstein's in universe analog or ancestor, it's never made clear, "Friedrich von Frankenstein" is mentioned multiple times through out Castlevania: Lords of Shadow's main story, the Vampire Lord during their life had promise to make him suffer for his creations and had carried it out after becoming undead. One of his creations appear as a boss, but unlike the famous one it's metal scorpion like creature that has no hint of humanity but a large amount of durability.[6] In the first DLC extension of the main story you find Friedrich's decayed fingers in jars spread out in the Vampire Lord's manor, you only find 6 of them.

Frankenstein RebootEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus Chapter 1 (first sentence)
  2. Sandy, Mark (2002-09-20). "Original Poetry by Victor and Cazire". The Literary Encyclopedia. The Literary Dictionary Company. Retrieved 2007-01-02. 
  3. "Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)". Romantic Natural History. Department of English, Dickinson College. Retrieved 2007-01-02. 
  4. Percy Shelley#Ancestry
  5. "Journal 6 December—Very Unwell. Shelley & Clary walk out, as usual, to heaps of places...A letter from Hookham to say that Harriet has been brought to bed of a son and heir. Shelley writes a number of circular letters on this event, which ought to be ushered in with ringing of bells, etc., for it is the son of his wife." Quoted in Spark, 39.
  6. Summary of the story of Frankenstein in Lords of shadow and his creature in action
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