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How the Concept of the Monstrosity Has Changed Over Time


William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein portray monstrous monstrosity. The authors depict monsters as creatures that performed extraordinary deeds that were adverse to human life. Nonetheless, there are changes in the image of monsters as the years pass. According to Cohen (3), the monstrous body is pure culture. In the 1500s, William Shakespeare’s play Titus Andronicus portrayed monsters as human characters with intimidating rituals that posed a threat to human life. For example, to resurrect his two dead sons, Aaron makes human sacrifices by forcing Titus to cut his hands. Despite this, it is clear that the monster’s concept has evolved. Therefore, this is evidenced by the fact that the monsters depicted in later novels were created from scientific experiments. In 1818, Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein was published. Victor Frankenstein is a scholar with a vast knowledge of chemicals who creates his monstrous creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Thus, the Frankenstein monster was created due to scientific experiments, implying that they are inhuman creatures with extraordinary abilities. As a result of the vast knowledge that humans gained during civilization, the concept of monsters shifted from human characters to inhuman scientific creatures. Monsters are depicted in William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus due to human behaviors that went against the norm and sometimes resulted in fantastic occurrences to other subjects. However, as scientific knowledge changed and advanced, the concept changed.

Part One: Gathering Ideas and Comparisons

William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus is a play filled with monstrous themes based on the way the characters acted and made the end of the play fatal since Aron was buried alive. Because of their actions leading up to the tragic demise of Titus Andronicus, the protagonists Chiron, Demetrius, Tamora, and Aaron are regarded as monstrous. Even though the play’s most monstrous protagonists are Chiron, Demetrius, Tamora, and Aaron, none of the other personalities are presumed innocent since they all contribute to the play’s horrific conclusion. A monster is believed to be a horrible creature that performs terrible activities, especially superstitions, to survive. Human characters perceived as monsters usually fail to stick to the obligations towards family relations or friends; thus, they act without regard for those related to them (Benedetti 2). The monster is described as a creature that is not weird in how they appear but has terrible behavior since they break societal standards. According to this monster’s description, these features are realized in Aaron. “If that be called deception, I will be honest and never deceive men so while I live,” Aaron says to himself after notifying Titus about certain details about rescuing the lives of his two sons (Act 3 Scene 1 Line192-193). Aaron has just persuaded Titus to cut off his palms in exchange for his two sons’ lives being spared, but his two sons are now dead and have had their heads chopped off.

Similarly, in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the novel depicts the theme of monstrosity. As the monster is at the heart of the story, the motif is evident throughout the novel. The monster is eight feet in height and ugly, and he is despised by societal structure (Mary 25). His monstrosity, even so, stems not only from his horrific image but also from the peculiar way in which he was created, which involved the covert animation of a mixture of stolen parts of the body and odd chemical products. He results from mysterious, paranormal machinations rather than teamwork science-based dedication. The monster is just one of many grotesque agencies in the novel, such as Victor’s understanding to create the monster. Victor can be considered a monster because ambition, secrecy, and selfishness separate him from society. From the inner body, he is occupied by the extreme hatred of the creation, and from the outlook, he could be an absolute monster. In summary, most critics have labeled the novel as integration of numerous tenses, texts, and voices, making it a monstrous book.

Nonetheless, there are some differences in the types of monsters seen in the two publications. In William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, the monsters are seen in the character’s actions, for instance, the superstitious rituals that Aaron does to save his sons, yet they are already dead. On the other hand, monsters in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are created and brought to life by a character. For example, Victor is a scholar who has a vast knowledge of chemicals and creates his monstrous creature. Thus, the monster in Frankenstein resulted from scientific experiments since Victor later regrets such a project because the creature subsequently seeks revenge on his creator, i.e., Victor. In addition, there is a difference in the appearance of the monsters in both books. In William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, the monsters are described as human characters such a Chiron, Demetrius, Tamora, and Aaron. Therefore, the characters are defined as monsters due to their activities that intimidate other people’s safety. On the other hand, the monster is described as a vast creature eight feet tall and has dreadful traits that threaten human life through fierce activities.

Part Two: Thesis Drafts

William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus was published in the 1500s and portrayed monsters as human characters who had intimidating rituals that posed threats to human life. For example, Aaron makes human sacrifices by making Titus cut his hands to resurrect his two dead sons. Nonetheless, the concept of the monster has changed over time. Thus, it is seen when the monsters depicted in other novels published later were a result of scientific experiments. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel was published in 1818. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor is a scholar who has a vast knowledge of chemicals and creates his monstrous creature. Thus, the monster in Frankenstein resulted from scientific experiments, meaning that they are inhuman creatures possessing extraordinary powers. Therefore, the concept of monsters changed from human characters to inhuman scientific creatures due to the vast knowledge that humans started gaining during civilization periods. William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus shows monsters as originating from human behaviors against the norms and sometimes leading to terrific occurrences to other subjects. But with time, the concept simultaneously transformed according to the change and advancement of scientific knowledge.

Changes in the concept of monsters

Monsters were initially depicted as human characters who possessed evil and specific traits against social norms. Cohen’s first thesis depicts the monsters as cultural bodies that come to existence at symbolic intersections of the social-cultural era. The monster appears at points of hesitancy with options that could result in various outcomes. According to Cohen (4), “monster inhabits the gap between the time of upheaval that created it and the moment which it is to receive to be born again.” The body of the monsters entails fantasy, anxiety, desire, and fear that foster their autonomy and give them life. There is an instance that Tamora’s sons are overwhelmed by sexual desire since they are both attracted to the same woman. According to William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, Demetrius and Chiron developed a desire for Lavinia. The instance proves the monstrosity claimed by Cohen that is usually based on the human body’s desires. To make matters worse, Aaron suggests that the two boys forcefully have sexual activities with Lavinia. In addition, Demetrius and Chiron chopped the victim’s hands and tongues to prevent the revelation of what had transpired. The events prove that the two sons of Tamora were monsters who had no mercy whenever they had specific desires to fulfill.

Referring to Cohen’s fourth thesis, his notion for monsters strengthens the idea that monsters’ behaviors are typically different from the normal person’s virtues. The fourth thesis defines “The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference.” Thus, the portrayal means that the monsters are human characters who came to dwell with us but have believes and norms that show disparity with the exemplary virtues. The monsters, therefore, represent the rebels of the sexually, economically, politically, and culturally normative. From William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, Tamora’s sons are proof that monsters performed sexually unjust deeds by promoting and propagating rape. Moreover, they committed physical assaults, which usually go against the normal cultural ethics and morals. By chopping Lavinia’s hands and tongue, they proved to be monsters in the community. This notion that cultural gap is a monstrous oddity is well-known; it is depicted in the Bible, where Canaanite natives are portrayed as threatening giants to rationalize the Hebrew conquest of the Promised Land. The heroic nature of such depictions of frontal heritage as monstrous validates the annihilation of the monstrous. The inquisition was commemorated in medieval France for turning Muslims into devilish characterizations, allowing for the cession of the East by the West.

In Cohen’s second thesis, it depicts that “The Monster Always Escapes,” but the adverse effects of monsters’ activities disappear to resurface in different times and places. Cohen describes that despite the many instances that humans try to kill the monster, they still reappear, haunting us. The monster, after reappearing, usually demands that the humans draw their attention by examining the present cultural, social and literary-historical background. In William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, revenge appears to be an endless cycle that haunts any crime character. For instance, the death of Bassianus was directly facilitated by Aaron the Moor, but he falsely implicated the two sons of Titus. “Vengeance is in my heart, death in my hand, Blood and revenge are hammering in my head. Hark, Tamora, the empress of my soul, Which never hopes more heaven than rests in thee, this is the day of doom for Bassianus. His Philomel must lose her tongue today, Thy sons make pillage of her chastity And wash their hands in Bassianus’ blood” (Act 2 Scene 3 Line 38-45). The claim by Aaron that his head is occupied by vengeance is an indicator that he was the perpetrator of the murder of Bassianus. Consequently, Titus murders the sons of Tamora and prepares a pie which he serves Tamora. Considering that initially, Tamora’s husband, i.e., Aaron Moor killed Bassianus but falsely accused Titus’ sons, Titus committed revenge by killing Tamora’s sons. The scene proves that the monster could disappear but eventually resurface in another context. Such monstrosity is shown by how Titus’ vengeance was worse considering that he baked the bodies of Tamora’s sons and made the mother a pie out of it. “Why, there they are, both baked in this pie, of whom their mother daintily hath fed, Eating the flesh that she hath bred” (Act 5 Scene 3 Line 61-63). Thus, it asserts that monsters reappear in different times and places, which is evident in William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, where different characters perpetrate revenge at different places and times.

The life of monsters is filled with fear, and according to Cohen’s first thesis. In Cohen’s first thesis, it is clear that the monster’s body is cultural and is defined by the crossroads of cultural settings. Thus, it implies that since the monster’s body is filled with fears and anxiety, normal people and individuals support and foster traits that lead to happiness, peace, and satisfaction in their daily lives. Jacobus (7), the livelihood of the individuals that uphold virtues is fundamentally pleasing. Every human being takes pleasure in anything or deed that he is described to live, considering that pleasure belongs to the soul. Similarly, the lover of justice engages in just activities, while the lover of virtues embraces virtuous acts.

Whereas most people enjoy small details that are not satisfying by their very existence, they generate competing factions in the spirit, enthusiasts of the nobility appreciate things that are sincerely pleasurable in themselves. Virtuous activities are of this nature; as a result, they are both pleasurable for these kinds of men and pleasurable inherently. As a result, such people’s lives do not necessitate extramarital pleasures; instead, they find pleasure in themselves. It is further demonstrated that a person who does not appreciate doing noble activities would not be a decent person; then nobody would consider a person just who does not relish doing equitable deeds, or generous who does not indulge in charitable behavior, and so on.

Leaders should be involved in virtuous activities and prevent themselves from making ordinary people feel exploited. When the prince is in the authority of his armies and has many troops under his command, he must not be concerned about being perceived as cruel because, without that reputation, he will never be able to keep an army united or prepared for any combat. Counted among Hannibal’s praiseworthy deeds is the fact that there was never the slightest dissension despite commanding a large army made up of all kinds of men in foreign lands (Niccolò 4). Neither among themselves nor against their prince, both during his good and bad fortune. This could not have resulted from anything other than his inhuman cruelty, which, combined with his many other abilities, ensured that he was always respected and terrifying in the eyes of his soldiers; without it, his other abilities would not have sufficed to achieve the same effect. Thus, leaders are against monstrosity, potentially enslaving their subordinates in their jurisdiction.

Contrarily, individuals that perpetrate vices and immoral activities in society, according to Cohen’s first theme, would typically be haunted by negative aspects such as murder, death, and revenge. In William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, the revenge cycle that began by developing sexual desires by the two sons of Tamora led to vast violence and death. The two sons rape Lavinia and subsequently cut off her hands and tongue to prevent the revelation of their activities. Titus also saves the lives of his sons by chopping off his hand. After Titus’ sons are framed for murder, Titus seeks revenge by killing the sons of Tamora and offers them to the mother in a pie. It thus reveals how heartless the monsters in the play were and depicts the extent they are willing to go to avenge their enemies.

The monstrosity of characters in William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus is enhanced by the nature of man, who is typically evil and continuously yearns to do evil that pleases their soul. According to Hsun Tzu (2), human beings are fond of evil, and conscious deeds drive virtuous behaviors. A person’s phenomenon has always been founded on a desire to make money. If he partakes in this desire, it will result in quarreling and disharmony, and he will lose all sense of politeness and modesty. Man is birthed with emotions and hatred, which, if indulged in, will lead to abuse and violence and the loss of all sense of honor and trustworthiness. A human being is born with visual and auditory aspirations, as well as a deep affection for gorgeous sensory experiences. If he delights within those, he will become irresponsible and irresponsible, and then all proper fundamentals and proper structures would be forgotten. As a result, any person who describes their nature and partakes in their emotional responses would invariably become entangled in squabbling and disharmony, breaking current societal shapes and guidelines and, therefore, becoming a criminal.

Transition of monsters

The prominence of vampires inside the gothic genre seems never to fade. It also makes complete sense; they’re always naturally beautiful, and they’re crafted to be incredibly attractive to individuals, as Edward Cullen people have pointed out to his inamorata, Bella, in Twilight. Count Dracula, the magnificent of textual bloodsuckers, represented as a caution about what might occur to a pure Victorian woman who died due to the temptations of the temperamental and alluring person. Still, today’s vampire is always a remarkably different character (Backstein). The fantasy structure of the narrator has had to transition to stay alive as a constructive signifier for spectators with modern thinking, just as the everlastingly living thing inside the storyline should acclimate to the glancing millennia in costume and fashion.

After the transitions over the years, monsters are depicted as either created or humans, with supernatural capabilities. The monsters are ugly and possess animal-like traits that are dangerous to the lives of other ordinary humans. For instance, the vampires are monsters that show an extreme urge for Blood to satisfy their thirst. Also, vampires have the power to manipulate people, exceptionally normal male individuals, through their romance. Regardless of their differences and various perspectives on the fabrication of vampire existence and guidelines, these paranormal tales are mainly driven by sexual pleasure and a foreign accent. Jonathan Harker could have been required to tell the story of Dracula’s maiden Victorian ladies, but that is no longer the case. The girls already spoke for themselves after the arrival of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the episode. It’s not to suggest that vampire stories are always female-centered. Buffy has the most girl power, very seldom needing evacuation and capable of slaying numerous neck biters with a flying knee and weapon thrust, as well as mastering them monogamously.

According to Cohen’s sixth thesis, monsters indulge in scaring and causing fear among normal individuals. The notion is evident in vampires who typically live like normal beings but momentarily transform into fatal neck-biters who suck human Blood. A monster is often associated with illegal activities, and it scares people. The monster, on the other hand, is attractive. Terrifying monsters influence individuals since they depict items that society and culture inform you not to do. The monster could reflect both liberty and the prospect of the expedition. Monsters are both repulsive and attractive. Humans occasionally admire a monster’s power and freedom. Furthermore, being scared by monsters can be entertaining if done in a safe setting. While humans believe in monsters, humans are both terrified and intrigued, which is why they will always be prominent.

After moving from Phoenix to Washington, Bella finds herself in between a family of her vampire lover. Bella graciously provides her parents the room, time, and ability to travel with her current boyfriend as he chooses to pursue his professional life; the relocation is nothing short of selflessness, engendered by her mom’s second marriage. Bella, who was previously an outcast, finds herself the focus of attention at college just about instantaneously, with a network of people and plenty of male attention. But her gaze is attracted inexorably to Edward Cullen and his 4 brothers and sisters, all of whom are incredibly gorgeous and aloof. Bella is taken aback once Edward retaliates her appearance with antagonism. Nevertheless, the details will come out when she realizes that his sensation was a ruse: he is so profoundly attracted to her that he resisted his emotions out of fear of harming her in the heat of passion. Because Edward and his entire family are vampires, albeit vampires who would like to live peacefully with human people, their love seems to be star-crossed. Bella and Edward’s romantic life becomes ever more enthusiastic, but Edward is trying to instill in Bella a rational distrust of who he is. The real threat is from another cohort of neck-biters, such as a “tracker” who tracks down people indefinitely until he captures the bait he desires. He also has his sights set on Bella.

The change in how the monsters are defined is also evident in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The monster in the novel is described as a huge creature eight feet tall and has an ugly orientation. Victor Frankenstein created the monster, which is made up of old anatomical structures and peculiar chemical products and is brought to life by an enigmatic sense of excitement. He is eight feet tall and tremendously potent when he is born, but his thoughts are a newborn. He incorporates himself into the societal structure after being neglected by his founder and is ubiquitously disowned. He recognizes his corporeal goriness in the reflective surface, a factor of his protagonist that deceives the community to his initially delicate, compassionate nature. To exact vengeance on his creator, he murders Victor’s brother. The monster murders Victor’s closest mate and his new wife after Victor ruins his tasks on the female monster intended to alleviate the monster’s loneliness.

Despite Victor’s unwavering resentment for his conception, the monster demonstrates that he is not evil. The monster’s incisive account of the incident discloses his extraordinary responsiveness and goodness. He helps a cohort of peasant farmers and will save a lady from sinking, but he is only compensated with violent attacks and revulsion due to his physical attributes. Riven between vengeance and kindness, the monster wound up alone and traumatized by grief. Even for the death of his creator-turned-would-be-destruction brings only sorrowful reprieve.


In summary, there is a distinction between how the monsters were depicted in the early ages and the later ages. The monsters in William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus can be seen in the characters’ actions, such as Aaron’s superstitious rituals to save his sons, who are already dead. On the other hand, monsters in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are created and brought to life by a character. Victor, for example, is a chemist with extensive knowledge who ends up creating his monstrous creature. As a result, the monster in Frankenstein was created from scientific experiments, which Victor later regrets because the creature seeks revenge on his creator, Victor. Furthermore, the appearance of the monsters in both books is different. The monsters in William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus are human characters named Chiron, Demetrius, Tamora, and Aaron. As a result of their actions, the characters are labeled as monsters, posing a threat to other people’s safety. On the other hand, the monster is described as a massive eight-foot-tall creature with dreadful characteristics that threaten human life through violent activities.

Works Cited

Backstein, Karen. “(Un) safe Sex: Romancing the Vampire.” Cineaste 35.1 (2009): 38-41.

Benedetti, C. (2020). The Misunderstood Monstrous: An Analysis of the Word “Monster” in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The Yale Undergraduate Research Journal1(1), 15.

Cohen, Iefirey Jerome. “Q 1 Monster Culture (Seven Theses).”

Cohen.2005. Monster Culture (Seven Thesis)

Hsun Tzu.2012. Man’s nature

Jacobus, Lee A. A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers (pp. 1015-1020). Bedford/St. Martin’s. Kindle Edition.

Mary Shelley .1818. Frankenstein

Niccolò Machiavelli. 2010. The Qualities of the Prince

Shakespeare, William. “Titus Andronicus, ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine.” (2005).


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