The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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German first edition, Schottlaender, Breslau 1889
Richard Mansfield in his dual role. Thomas Russell Sullivan's stage version premiered in 1887, one year after the book was published. Photo from 1895.

The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ( Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde ) is a novella by the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) from 1886. It is one of the most famous versions of the doppelganger motif in world literature .


The story of the door

While taking a walk, Mr. Enfield tells his cousin Utterson a gruesome story that the sight of a house reminded him of: Some time ago a seedy figure named Hyde ruthlessly pushed a little girl to the ground and then trampled over the child. Passers-by held Hyde and Enfield took the initiative. He negotiated £ 100 compensation with Hyde, whereupon Hyde took him to the house in question, only to return a little later with cash and a check for the remainder of the sum. Since the check was in the name of a respectable London person, those involved held Hyde until he could cash the paper in person at the bank the following morning. Enfield does not reveal the name of the undersigned, and after a brief discussion he and Utterson agree not to speak again.

Looking for Mr. Hyde

Utterson cannot forget this story, however - it gives him nightmares, especially because he knows who the check is issued: his client and friend Dr. Jekyll. Back home, Utterson examines his will, which Jekyll recently changed unconditionally in favor of Hyde in the event of his death or "disappearance without a trace" and handed over to Utterson for safekeeping, and on the same evening looks for an old friend of Jekyll and on him to see the doctor Dr. Hastie Lanyon. Utterson hopes to find out more about the Jekyll-Hyde connection there. Lanyon, however, now has little contact with Jekyll after falling out with him over Jekyll's research. Since Utterson cannot get the information he was hoping for about Hyde at Lanyon, he begins to monitor the said door as often as possible. After a while, his efforts are crowned with success: He meets Hyde when he tries to enter the Secret Annex. Although Hyde's looks and manner repulsed him, he spoke to him and even got a business card from him. Hyde then abruptly disappears into the house without saying goodbye.

A short time later Utterson visits Jekyll. He asks him to ensure that Hyde “receives his rights” in the event of inheritance - regardless of what negative impression Hyde's nature and habitus may make. Furthermore, Jekyll asks Utterson to let the matter rest now.

A year goes by without any noteworthy occurrences. Then one night a maid observed the murder of Sir Danvers Carew, a member of Parliament. Carew was also a client of Utterson, so the police came to see him about it. Utterson suspects that Hyde committed the crime. His suspicions are reinforced when half of a broken walking stick is found at the crime scene - Utterson himself gave this stick to Jekyll a few years ago. The lawyer gives the Hyde address to the police. A search of the apartment in Soho reveals that Hyde lived there and turned up there briefly on the day of the crime. He just hastily packed a few things in order to disappear again. Another search for Hyde remains unsuccessful.

Shortly afterwards, Utterson visits Jekyll. He claims that he has severed all ties with Hyde and shows Utterson a letter in which Hyde apologizes for the inconvenience he caused and says goodbye forever. An employee of Utterson notes that the font on the letter is very similar to Jekyll's handwriting.

In the following months, Jekyll appeared frequently in public. He seems liberated and enjoys his life. A short time later, however, he did not receive any more visitors and locked himself in his laboratory. After a brief contact with Lanyon, the encounter shook him badly. He dies a short time later, but first gives Utterson a letter with strict instructions not to open it until after Jekyll's death.

During another walk with Enfield, Utterson meets Jekyll at the window of his laboratory. They talk for a while, until Jekyll's face suddenly contorts with hate and he closes the window abruptly and violently. A short time later, Poole, Jekyll's servant, visits Utterson at night. Desperate, he asks Utterson to accompany him to Jekyll's house. He reports that Jekyll has locked himself back in his laboratory and that he has the impression that someone other than Jekyll, who killed the doctor, was raging behind the locked door. Utterson and Poole rush through the windy and dark streets. In the Jekylls house, they find the servants of the Jekylls gathered in the hall, frightened. Together with a servant they break open the door to the laboratory and find Hyde lying on the floor dying. Hyde is wearing Jekyll clothing and has apparently committed suicide. In the laboratory there is a letter from Jekyll to Utterson in which he explains the events to his lawyer. Utterson takes Jekyll's letter home unread.

Poster from the 1880s: The Metamorphosis

There he opens Lanyon's letter and learns that Jekyll had asked Lanyon for help. In the course of this incident, Lanyon witnessed the transformation of the Jekyll-registered visitor Hyde in Jekyll itself. The shock of this revelation had hit Lanyon so badly that he died a short time later.

Jekyll's letter reveals to Utterson that in his experiments he managed to separate the evil from the good in the human soul. With a potion he turned into the unscrupulous Hyde. Initially he enjoys the newly won freedom, but he soon finds out that the separation is only incomplete. It happens that while asleep Jekyll transforms into Hyde without first having consumed the potion. One of those nights, Hyde murders Carew in a fit of senseless anger. After this act, Jekyll tries to prevent the transformations, but to his horror he suddenly transforms in the middle of the day and in the middle of a public park in Hyde - for the first time while awake. Jekyll is far from his laboratory and, as Hyde, is a police wanted killer. He hides, writes the letter to Lanyon, and asks for help. Lanyon helps him, but cannot control his curiosity, although Hyde warns him, and dies as a result of the shock suffered as a result.

From this point on, Jekyll spontaneously turns into Hyde more and more often. He also needs ever larger amounts of his potion to transform himself back into Jekyll. When he runs out of an ingredient in the drink, he realizes that the substance he bought does not have the same effect as the one originally used. Under the effects of the last dose of the working potion, he writes the suicide note to Utterson. Jekyll doesn't know how Hyde will react and in his letter speculates whether Hyde will be convicted and executed for the murder or whether he will muster the strength to kill himself. He is also aware that if the counter potion loses its effect this time, it will mean the end of Dr. Jekyll will be. With these words, both the letter and the story end.

Title page of the first edition, 1886

main characters

Dr. Henry Jekyll
The kind-hearted doctor is well respected and successful, but his will is a mystery. His interest in Edward Hyde is more than contradicting. In his youth he had a tendency to vice. At the end of the novel, he “dies” while disappearing.
Mr. Edward Hyde
Mr. Hyde is the fearsome, supposed friend of Dr. Jekyll. He is very quick-tempered and unbridled. He suddenly disappears after a murder. When he is found he commits suicide. It turns out that Hyde was the isolated evil part of Jekyll's personality. Apparently Jekyll suffered from a substance-induced personality disorder because Hyde, apparently feeling like a prisoner, played tricks on him in his frustration: he scribbled blasphemy in Jekyll's handwriting, burned valuable letters and destroyed his father's portrait.
Mr. Gabriel John Utterson
Mr. Utterson is a lawyer and a good friend of Dr. Jekyll. He is considered dry and a little dusty, but has a good heart. In the end, he surprisingly inherits all of Jekyll's possessions. In the story, he plays the role of the protagonist who tries to solve the secret of Mr. Hyde.
Mr. Richard Enfield
A distant relative of Mr. Utterson and a gentleman like Utterson. This is the first time he has reported on Mr. Hyde.
Dr. Hastie Lanyon
A colleague and old friend of Dr. Jekyll. He learns a terrible secret and dies of mental anxiety. In his youth he was close friends with Henry Jekyll.

Secondary characters

Mr. Poole
Mr. Poole is the butler of Dr. Jekyll. He calls Utterson when Jekyll locks himself in his room and turns into Hyde.
Sir Danvers Carew
Sir Danvers, a respected Member of Parliament and a kind-hearted elderly gentleman, is beaten to death by Mr. Hyde for no reason when he runs into him at the wrong time. He was a client of Mr. Utterson.
Mr. Guest
Mr. Guest is an associate in the law firm and an acquaintance of Mr. Utterson. Guest is handwriting expert and know that Hyde and Jekyll perform the same handwriting.
Inspector Newcomen
When Utterson and the cops find evidence in a Soho house that Mr. Hyde killed Sir Danvers, Inspector Newcomen vows that he will arrest Hyde.
Bradshaw is one of Dr. Jekyll's servants. He is only mentioned twice: once in Jekyll's confession, when he wakes up as Hyde and runs into the young man on the way to the laboratory, once when Utterson orders him in the last chapter to guard the back door with the kitchen boy, in case Hyde escapes.


The model for this story was the Scottish cabinet maker William Brodie from Edinburgh . He led a double life beneath his virtuous facade : by day a model citizen, at night a criminal who committed burglaries. After an unsuccessful coup against the Scottish indirect taxation department, he fled to Amsterdam , but was caught there, transferred to England, interned and sentenced to death by hanging by the court. In 1788 the sentence was carried out. Stevenson's novella The Curious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde preceded a drama Deacon Brodie (1880) co-authored with William Ernest Henley . Stevenson's father reportedly owned furniture made by Brodie.

The story takes place in Great Britain around 1886, incorporating the two sides of London. The Cavendish Square was - then and now - a very wealthy area, lived in the successful doctors and gentlemen. According to Stevenson, the poor Soho district was feared for its crime and immorality at the time, which is why Mr. Hyde can live there unmolested. The murder, of course, takes place in the affluent neighborhood and causes a much greater stir than it would have been in Soho, where murders were the order of the day.

In the original, Stevenson leaves it to the reader's imagination which desires Dr. Jekyll in the guise of Hyde. In newer versions it is often reported how Hyde kidnapped, beat up and raped women.

How a respectable person can otherwise change by taking a drug, there is an example of this in Stevenson's youth: In a letter to his mother, he complains about a drunk who makes noises in his hotel at night and whom he calls "brute." “, As a libertine, insulted.

Jekyll uses an undefined drug to extract the creature from his body. The fact that he calls them tincture and magic potion is more reminiscent of a Faustian magic potion than a chemical synthesized according to scientific rules. The scene when he puts the drug together is also very reminiscent of a witch's kitchen.


Dr. Henry Jekyll is a respected person, one of the pillars of society, extremely successful in his job, outwardly exemplary in his virtues and a model of Christian charity in his progressive endeavors. However, he suppresses his tendency to love life, which leads to the pointed figure of Mr. Edward Hyde, an alternate personality of Dr. Jekyll. It enables him to give free rein to his forbidden urges, even to enjoy them. At the same time, the scientist suppresses his crimes by occasionally trying to redeem Mr. Hyde's crimes as Jekyll. He defends himself with the thought that Jekyll cannot be sullied by Hyde's actions. Only after the murder does the veil of self-deception tear before his eyes. Nevertheless: To the end, Jekyll refuses to accept that he is solely responsible for his actions. When Hyde's stubbornness gets him into serious trouble, any previous commonality between the two men has become meaningless.

Stevenson thus shows the consequences of forced repression of non-socially compliant desires and thereby criticizes the conventions of the Victorian Age (1837–1901). Jekyll himself complains about the lack of thrills , personal freedom and the strict self-restraint that is required of him. At the same time, the story warns of the consequences of an extremely unresponsive human nature; a sadistic psychopath with no self-control. It penetrates into the depths of the human soul and into the depths of bourgeois moral conceptions, which is why many interpreters also draw parallels to Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis : The ego does not find a stable middle between the id (Mr. Hyde) and the superego (Dr. Jekyll). The Analytical Psychology in the tradition of Carl Gustav Jung sees the "two" title characters expressions of the archetypes of the persona and the shadow . Hyde is often endowed with primitive, monkey-like facial features. This can be explained by the assertion, which was already hotly debated at the time, that humans are descended from apes, which was misinterpreted in popular science and incorrectly in Charles Darwin's book On the Origin of Species , published in 1859 . As Hyde, Henry Jekyll regresses in evolutionary history and is controlled by instincts, not intelligence. In the novel, the sight of Mr. Hyde seems to activate the worst of the bystanders; even if he does nothing, the sight of him is an attack on the fixed psyche.

Finally, there is also a reference to the effects of drugs : Dr. Jekyll initially only experiments with the potion, but then becomes dependent on it. The alienation from his friends is clearly reminiscent of that of a drug addict. In fact , Dr. Jekyll, in a sense, on the self-developed drug because it runs out and Mr. Hyde turns into Dr. Jekyll's body is permanently implanted.

Impact history

The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde became very important in modern horror literature . The being split into a positive and a negative side became a frequent motive . So are z. B. comic, film and literary characters who have two different characters like Hulk , The Green Goblin from Spider-Man , Two-Face from Batman or The Mask in the tradition of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde . In Amazing Spider-Man -Comicserie 2007/2008, the five-volume short story appeared in The strangest case of ... , in which the unscrupulous scientist Dr. Zabo, inspired by Stevenson's story, creates his own Mr. Hyde drug and competes as the giant Mr. Hyde against Spider-Man.

With well over 100 film adaptations, the narrative is one of the most frequently filmed texts. There are also numerous adaptations of novels , several plays and musicals . In addition, the author Arthur Conan Doyle is said to have been influenced by the person of Mr. Utterson in his Sherlock Holmes stories .

Due to its popularity, the story often stimulated humorists and comic artists in the media, especially in the 20th century. Cartoons based on Stevenson's text have appeared in the satirical magazine MAD .

In 1933, band leader Benny Goodman took on the motif. He played the title Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jibe , composed and written by guitarist Dick McDonough. The German publicist Sebastian Haffner titled his reflections on the Third Reich Germany. Jekyll & Hyde . The book was published in London in 1940.

The French chansonnier and composer Serge Gainsbourg released the song Docteur Jekyll et Monsieur Hyde on the album Bonnie and Clyde in 1968 . That same year, the rock band The Who released a song called Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde . The British rock musician Ozzy Osbourne recorded the song My Jekyll doesn't Hide for his 1995 album Ozzmosis . The American power metal band Iced Earth recorded the song Jekyll & Hyde for their 2001 album Horror Show . The South Korean pop band Vixx also recorded the song Hyde on the subject, in which they describe that they have Jekyll and Hyde in them and that Hyde wants to kill the girl who loves Jekyll. Metal band Five Finger Death Punch also recorded a song on the subject called Jekyll and Hyde .

In 1988 the novella became the content of the video game of the same name “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ”. The game circulates mainly in the NES - Community as one of the worst games of all time, not least by the viral video of the Angry Video Game Nerd got great response. In the mini-TV series Jack the Ripper , the play Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde play an important role. Here the investigating inspector deals with the question of personality divisions .

Film adaptations

Well-known cinematic and media freedoms

  • In most of the film adaptations, Mr. Hyde transforms back into Dr. Jekyll. This reflects the moral that in the end good triumphs over bad.
  • All of the main characters in the novel are bachelors and men. There are often women in the media who play an important role.
  • Stevenson describes Mr. Hyde from Utterson's point of view as “short stature and very simply dressed”. In the media, the image of a normal to larger (strong) man with sideburns, tailcoat, top hat, black cape and white bow tie has prevailed. For example in many cartoon series ( Tom and Jerry ) or in variations in comics or their film adaptations (such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen ).
  • The different roles of Utterson and Lanyon are often combined into a single character. The will, which plays an important role in the book, is completely missing in the film adaptations.


  • Jekyll & Hyde . by Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse, 1990.
  • The Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde Rock 'n Roll Musical. (Rock musical version), 2003.

See also

German editions

  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (= detebe. Vol. 22868). Translation by Marguerite and Curt Thesing . Diogenes, Zurich 1979, ISBN 3-257-22868-6 .
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Translation by Hermann Wilhelm Draber. Reclam, Stuttgart 1984, ISBN 3-15-006649-2 .
  • The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Translation by Grete Rambach. Insel, Frankfurt am Main 1987, ISBN 3-458-32272-8 .
  • The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Illustrations by François Place, translation by Hermann Wilhelm Draber. Gerstenberg, Hildesheim 2002, ISBN 3-8067-4767-9 .
  • The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Illustrated E-Book Version. Translation by Grete Rambach with illustrations by Charles Raymond Macauley. Zero Paper, 2011, ISBN 978-3-943466-49-2 .
  • Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde / The Curious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde . Translated by Meike Breitkreuz. Bilingual edition. Anaconda, Cologne 2008, ISBN 978-3-86647-287-7 .


  • Susanne Scholz : Cultural Pathologies: The 'Strange Cases' of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Jack the Ripper. (Paderborn University Speeches, 88). Rectorate of the University, Paderborn 2003, DNB 969639082 .
  • Vladimir Nabokov : The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1885) . In: Lectures on Western European Literature. (Collected Works, Vol. 18). Rowohlt, Reinbek b. Hamburg 2014. ISBN 978-3-498-04656-9 . Pp. 355-402.

Web links

Commons : The Curious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde  - Sources and full texts (English)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The MAD Internet Database: "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mad ”in No. 38, 1975
  2. Youtube Video: “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Re-Revisited - Angry Video Game Nerd "
  3. AVGN Wiki: "AVGN Wiki - Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde "