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Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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JekyllAndHydePoster

Poster for an 1890's stage adaptation of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the original title of the 1886 novella by Robert Louis Stevenson that is better known as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or simply Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The idea behind the story is that all people have two sides to their nature, one good and one evil. Dr. Henry Jekyll carries out scientific experiments in the hope of eliminating the evil side of human nature but only transforms himself into a vicious murderer.

The story was originally intended to be a mystery, the reader being unaware of the true nature of the relationship between the respectable Dr. Jekyll and the criminal Mr. Hyde until the penultimate chapter. The story is now so well known, largely as a result of the many adaptations of it into other media, that few people who read the novella for the first time do not know that Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde are the same person.

PlotEdit

Jekyll-mansfield

This 1895 double exposure photograph shows the actor Richard Mansfield as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Richard Enfield and his relative, the lawyer John Gabriel Utterson, are walking through London one evening. Enfield says that a few weeks earlier he saw a man knock over a little girl and trample over her body. When confronted by the girl's family and their friends, demanding money as an apology, the man, who revealed his name to be Edward Hyde, went into a door in the side of a building and came back with ten pounds in gold and a check for a hundred pounds signed by Dr. Henry Jekyll. Utterson is worried because Dr. Henry Jekyll is one of his clients and he recently changed his will to leave everything that he owns to Edward Hyde.

Utterson decides that for Dr. Jekyll's good he has to seek out Mr. Hyde. He waits by the door that Enfield told him about for several nights in a row and eventually sees Mr. Hyde walking towards it. Utterson is instinctively repulsed by Hyde, finding him ugly to the point of deformation but is unable to say in what way he is deformed. However, he tells Hyde that they have a mutual friend in Dr. Jekyll and asks for Hyde's address. He is surprised when Hyde does not hesitate to give it to him. Utterson tells Jekyll that he is concerned about the doctor's relationship with Hyde but Jekyll tells him not to worry about the strange man.

A year later, a servant girl sees the politician Sir Danvers Carew, another client of Utterson's, being beaten to death with a heavy walking stick. Utterson is contacted by the police. Suspecting that Edward Hyde is the murderer, Utterson leads them to Hyde's apartment. Hyde is not at home but Utterson finds half of the broken walking stick and recognizes it as one that he gave to Dr. Jekyll as a gift.

Jekyll tells Utterson that he is not going to have any further contact with Mr. Hyde. He shows Utterson a letter, in which Hyde says that he is leaving forever and apologizes for the trouble that he has caused. Utterson shows the letter to his clerk. The clerk says that Hyde's handwriting is remarkably similar to Dr. Jekyll's.

Henry Jekyll briefly returns to being the happy and sociable person that he had been before Edward Hyde entered his life but suddenly begins to refuse all visitors. Utterson and Enfield see Dr. Jekyll at the window of his laboratory one evening. The three talk for a while but Jekyll suddenly seems to become very scared and slams the window shut before disappearing.

Another client of Utterson's, Dr. Hasty Lanyon, commits suicide. He leaves a letter for Utterson, with instructions not to open it until after Jekyll's death.

Jekyll's butler, Mr. Poole, visits Utterson. he tells him that Jekyll has been locked in his laboratory for weeks. According to Poole, the voice that comes from the room does not sound like the doctor's anymore. Utterson and Poole go back to Jekyll's house where they find the other servants huddled together in fear. Poole and Utterson decide to break down the laboratory door. They find the dead body of Hyde, who appears to have taken his own life, and a letter for Utterson from Jekyll which promises to explain everything.

Utterson reads Hasty Lanyon's letter, which describes Lanyon witnessing Hyde change into Jekyll, and reads Jekyll's full account of the whole affair.

Jekyll explains that he began carrying out experiments which he hoped could rid people of their evil imuplses. He creates a formula which seperates his good and evil sides. The experiment is not a complete success because, as Dr. Jekyll, he is still not completely good but he enjoys transforming into Mr. Hyde, who has none of Jekyll's moral constraints.

One morning, Jekyll wakes up to find that he has transformed into Hyde in his sleep without having taken the formula. Jekyll learns that he does not have complete control over his creation and avoids taking the formula for several months. Eventually, he can not resist the urge to take it. He changes into Hyde and murders Sir danvers Carew.

James Norval - Verlore siel 1934

James Norval as Edward Hyde in a 1934 South African stage adaptation of the story.

Jekyll resolves never to change into Hyde again after the murder. He attempts to make up for what he has done by doing charitable work for the poor. He happily thinks about how good he has become one day, then looks at his hands and sees that he has spontaneously transformed into Hyde, now a wanted murderer, in the daytime and not while sleeping.

Jekyll changes into Hyde increasingly often and finds that he needs increasingly larger doses of the formula in order to change back again. The formula begins to run out and Jekyll tries to create a new batch. Unfortunately, the second batch of the formula does not work. Jekyll eventually finds out that there was an impurity in one of the chemicals that he used the first time. He is unable to replicate the formula and comes to understand that he will soon be trapped as Hyde forever.

When the formula runs out, Dr. Jekyll knows that he will be doomed the next time the transformation happens. The wanted murderer Hyde will either by arrested and hanged or he will try to avoid that fate by taking his own life. Jekyll does not know what Hyde will choose to do but ends his letter, and the novella, with the words, "I bring the life of the unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end."

AdaptationsEdit

CC No 13 Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Classic Comics #13 from August 1943 features an adaptation of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The comic book is now in the public domain.

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been adapted into stage plays, radio plays, television specials and series, comic books, animated cartoons and movies. There are more than one hundred and twenty-five different movie versions of the story. Unlike in the original novella, in most adaptations there is no mystery about the true nature of the relatonship between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, who are usually played by the same actor. As a result, the character of Utterson, the man who tries to solve the mystery, is usually left out. Although the original novella features no major female characters, adaptations of the story ususally include seperate love interests for Jekyll and Hyde.

The first serious stage adaptation of the story, also the first adaptation to introduce love interests for Jekyll and Hyde, was written by Thomas Sullivan and first performed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1887. The play was continuously performed in the United States and Britain for the next twenty years and became strongly associated with the British actor Richard Mansfield, who continued to play the parts of both Jekyll and Hyde until his death in 1907.

Seven different silent movie versions of the story were made between 1908 and 1920. The most highly regarded of those is the 1920 version which stars John Barrymore as Jekyll and Hyde. The movie was based on Thomas Sullivan's play and was consequently the first movie version to feature a woman in love with Jekyll and another woman in love with Hyde. The movie also features elements and characters taken from the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Thomas Sullivan's play was also the basis for the 1931 movie version starring Frederic Marsh and the 1941 version starring Spencer Tracy. The 1931 version is generally considered to be the better of the two, largely because it was made before Hollywood's self-censoring Hays Code was strictly enforced.

Hammer Film Productions, the British production company famous for their horror movies including several based on characters from Bram Stoker's Dracula and Mary W. Shelley's Frankenstein, released three different movie adaptations of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: The Ugly Duckling (1959), The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960) and Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971). Strangely, Hammer never released a "straight" version of the Jekyll and Hyde story, all three versions attempted to give the story a new twist.

The Ugly Duckling is a comedy which stars the British comedian Bernard Bresslaw as the clumsy and shy Henry Jekyll who changes into the sophisticated and popular Teddy Hyde. Hyde eventually tires of popularity and seeks the thrill of becoming a master criminal instead.

Jekyll's Inferno

Poster for the 1960 Hammer film version of the story, distributed in the USA as Jekyll's Inferno.

The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (released in the USA as House of Fright and Jekyll's Inferno) features a Dr. Jekyll who is short, middle-aged, unattractive and has an unfaithful wife. As Edward Hyde, he becomes younger, more handsome, more charismatic and (although both parts are played by actor Paul Massie) considerably taller. In The Two faces of Dr. Jekyll, Edward Hyde seeks to permenantly replace Dr. Jekyll, framing Jekyll for a triple murder. Hyde seems to have gotten away with his crimes, until he spontaneously changes back into Jekyll and is arrested.

In Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, Jekyll (Ralph Bates) transforms into the woman Emma Hyde (Martine Beswick) who Jekyll claims is his widowed sister. After the grave robbers Burke and Hare are no longer able to provide Dr. Jekyll with the human organs that he needs to make his formula, Emma Hyde carries out the Jack the Ripper murders in order to obtain them instead. The idea of Jekyll turning into a woman would be used again in the 1996 American movie Dr. Jekyll and Ms Hyde.

The British-French 1971 movie I, Monster, which stars Peter Cushing as Utterson and Christopher Lee as the doctor and his evil alter-ego, is one of the most faithful movie adaptations of the story but changes the names of the two main characters. Dr. Henry Jekyll becomes Dr. Charles Marlowe and Mr. Edward Hyde becomes Mr. Edward Blake.

The 1990 novel Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin retells the story of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from the point of view of an Irishwoman who works as a servant in Jekyll's house. The novel was adapted into a 1996 movie which stars Julia Roberts as the title character and John Malkovich as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

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