In Mary Shelley’s novel ‘Frankenstein’ (1818) the creation of the monster is presented as an unsurpassed feat of scientific discovery, yet one which brings only sorrow, terror, and devastation to his maker. In a sense, the creation of the monster is a punishment inflicted upon Frankenstein for his unrelenting pursuit and lust of knowledge. This reflects themes presented in Marlowe's pre-gothic play ‘Doctor Faustus’ (part A), in which Faustus is condemned to hell for his overreaching ambition to usurp God and become himself a deity. These aspirations of Faustus and Frankenstein appear to be beyond the range of information available to mortal, even infringing upon knowledge meant to be held only by God and both Marlowe and Shelley use their texts as warnings of the consequences of transgression. In the case of Frankenstein, he has usurped the power of the Divine by creating life without the union of male and female, in an Age of Enlightenment where science was feared, leading to the death of his family and ultimately his own demise. Similarly Faustus usurped the idea of God in the pursuit of knowledge and immortality by signing over his soul to Lucifer; in return receiving eternal damnation. This usurpation of religion, to a modern audience has lost its gothic potency, yet to a contemporary audience, the threat of Hell was a day-to-day fear.
Both texts are eponymous, and in their titles, or subtitle, reveal the fate of the protagonist, suggesting almost immediately the dangers of aspiring beyond our limitations. The intertextual subtitle of Frankenstein - ‘The Modern Prometheus’ foreshadows Victor Frankenstein (VF) by doom; this reference is mirrored throughout the text, the more VF transgresses the norms of science which leads to his inevitable fall from grace as he is plunged into lunacy. This allusion to Paradise Lost within the epigraph suggests that the novels motif