AT: Mary and the Monster A: Liz Lochhead Pf: 1981, Coventry Pb: 1985 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Mary's nursery in London, and villa on Lake Geneva, 1816–24 C: 2m, 3fShelley and Mary have arrived with their infant son on Lake Geneva. Shelley's unconventional behaviour and their unmarried state have already shocked some English neighbours. Meanwhile, Mary's half-sister Claire Clairmont is adding to the scandal by having an adulterous affair with Lord Byron. Byron proposes a contest to see who can ‘write the most terrifying tale’. Mary, as daughter of the freethinking Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, is reluctant to waste her talent on a horror story. However, Byron is cynical about new ideas, especially in the light of the French Revolution. Three years later, Mary has lost her son but borne Shelley two more children and has published Frankenstein. Claire has been abandoned by Byron, who has taken their young daughter with him to be brought up by his latest mistress. Travelling to visit Byron in Venice, Mary's baby daughter falls ill and dies. Mary dismisses her maid Elise for becoming pregnant (possibly by Shelley?) – rights for women are seemingly confined to the wealthy. Mary is confronted by Byron, whose daughter has died. Mary's children have all died, although at her last childbirth Shelley saved her life by plunging her in a bath of ice to stop her bleeding. Shelley is drowned, Byron dies in Greece, but Mary pushes herself to continue writing.
AT: Mary and the Monster A: Liz Lochhead Pf: 1981, Coventry Pb: 1985 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Mary's nursery in London, and villa on Lake Geneva, 1816–24 C: 2m, 3f
This is the first play by Scottish poet Liz Lochhead, premiered as Mary and the Monster and twice revised. It juxtaposes the ideals of female emancipation, preached by Mary's mother, with the reality of the social situation of women and their biological vulnerability. Like Frankenstein's monster, the breaking of conventions has the potential for new life but can equally destroy.