Exploring Literary Allusions And Inspirations in ‘Penny Dreadful’

Penny Dreadful Cover Image

‘Penny Dreadful’, the gothic horror television series created by John Logan, is a rich tapestry of dark themes, complex characters, and intricate storytelling. Drawing heavily from classic literature, particularly works like ‘Dracula,’ ‘Frankenstein,’ ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ and ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,’ the show weaves together a narrative that pays homage to these timeless tales while offering a fresh and captivating interpretation. Let’s delve into the depths of ‘Penny Dreadful’ and explore its references to these literary masterpieces.

Dracula: The Prince of Darkness in Penny Dreadful

Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ serves as a significant source of inspiration for ‘Penny Dreadful’. The series introduces viewers to the enigmatic and alluring character of Vanessa Ives, portrayed brilliantly by Eva Green, who shares parallels with Stoker’s Mina Harker and Lucy Westenra. Like these characters, Vanessa is depicted as a woman caught in the grip of dark forces beyond her control, making her a central figure in the battle against supernatural evil.

Dracula in Penny Dreadful
Image Courtesy: TV Guide

Additionally, the presence of characters such as Abraham Van Helsing and Renfield further solidifies the connection to ‘Dracula’. Van Helsing, portrayed by David Warner, serves as a mentor figure and expert in the occult, while Renfield’s descent into madness mirrors his portrayal in Stoker’s novel.

Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus in Penny Dreadful

Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ contributes to the thematic depth of ‘Penny Dreadful’ through its exploration of the consequences of scientific hubris and the nature of humanity. The character of Victor Frankenstein, played by Harry Treadaway, embodies these themes as he grapples with the moral implications of his experiments and the creation of life.

Frankenstein in Penny Dreadful
Image Courtesy: Variety

The Creature, portrayed by Rory Kinnear, is a poignant reflection of Shelley’s original creation. Like Shelley’s monster, he is both sympathetic and terrifying, seeking understanding and acceptance in a world that rejects him.

The Picture of Dorian Gray: The Faustian Bargain

Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ serves as a thematic touchstone in ‘Penny Dreadful,’ particularly through the character of Dorian Gray himself, portrayed by Reeve Carney. Dorian’s pursuit of eternal youth and beauty, as well as his descent into decadence and moral corruption, mirrors the themes explored in Wilde’s novel.

Dorian Gray in Penny Dreadful
Image Courtesy: IMDb

The portrait, which ages and bears the scars of Dorian’s sins while he remains outwardly unblemished, becomes a potent symbol of his inner darkness. Through Dorian, ‘Penny Dreadful’ examines the consequences of vanity and the pursuit of pleasure at any cost.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: The Duality of Man

Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ provides another layer of complexity to ‘Penny Dreadful’ through the character of Dr. Henry Jekyll, portrayed by Shazad Latif. Jekyll’s struggle with his alter ego, Mr. Hyde, serves as a metaphor for the duality of human nature and the battle between good and evil.

Dr. Jekyll in Penny Dreadful
Image Courtesy: Screen Rant

As Jekyll seeks to suppress his darker impulses through scientific means, he inadvertently unleashes the monstrous Hyde, whose unrestrained brutality threatens to consume him. Through Jekyll and Hyde, ‘Penny Dreadful’ explores the dark depths of the human psyche and the consequences of repression.

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A Tapestry of Darkness and Depth in Penny Dreadful

In ‘Penny Dreadful,’ John Logan masterfully weaves together threads of classic literature to create a tapestry of darkness, depth and intrigue. By drawing inspiration from works like ‘Dracula,’ ‘Frankenstein,’ ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ and ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,’ the series pays homage to these literary masterpieces while offering its own unique interpretation.

John Logan--Penny Dreadful
Image Courtesy: IndieWire

Through complex characters, intricate storytelling, and thematic depth, ‘Penny Dreadful’ invites viewers to explore the shadows of the human soul and confront the timeless questions that have haunted literature for centuries. In doing so, it stands as a testament to the enduring power of classic literature to inspire and captivate audiences across generations.