Penny Dreadfuls

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The dreadful origins of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde is a novella written by Robert Louis Stevenson published in 1886. In the 1880s, one of the leading forms of literature in Britain was called the “Penny Dreadful”. The term “Penny Dreadful” is used to describe a form of cheap serial literature that was targeted toward the masses: these texts often had thrilling plots filled with crime as well as dark undertones. As a result of the popularity of penny dreadfuls at the time, it is no surprise that Stevenson’s novella was heavily influenced by this form of literature. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde’s vivid descriptions of London life. incorporation of violence and crime,
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A vast majority of London belonged to latter and oftentimes, they were dissatisfied with their lives. To keep the audience interested, the story also incorporated a dark setting, another defining element in penny dreadfuls which was used to give readers a sense of horror. An example of this would be when the “bells of the church” went off while Mr Utterson was in the “gross darkness of the night and the curtained room” (Stevenson 8). In this excerpt, not only does Stevenson reference the Church, a common everyday element of London life, but he also creates a gloomy setting which has a striking resemblance to penny dreadfuls (particularly ones that are gothic inspired). Thomas Peckett Prest 's serial, Varney the Vampire, also had an opening setting that is very similar to 20the one that Stevenson attempts to portray here. Chapter I begins with the “solemn tones of an old cathedral clock” that announces “midnight” in the middle of a night that was already ridden with “thunder” (Prest Ch I). When comparing Stevenson’s setting from his novella with Prest’s, the two show obvious similarities due to the fact that both incorporated the Church and gave the readers a
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