Literature / The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

"If each, I told myself, could be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable..."
Henry Jekyll

Source of the Jekyll & Hyde trope, this 1886 book by Robert Louis Stevenson begins with a mystery. When a girl is brutally attacked late one night, her attacker, calling himself Mr Edward Hyde, buys off the witnesses with a cheque for a small fortune, signed by the eminently respectable Doctor Henry Jekyll.

Jekyll's friend and legal advisor, Gabriel John Utterson, is disturbed when he learns this, since Jekyll has recently made Hyde his heir. While Utterson investigates this, Hyde is witnessed committing a savage murder of a prominent Member of Parliament. Jekyll claims there is nothing to worry about, but Utterson becomes convinced his friend is being blackmailed.

Before Utterson can do anything, Jekyll's butler Poole contacts Utterson to report that a stranger has locked himself in the lab. When they break into the room they find Hyde, having committed suicide by poison, and two letters explaining everything.

Jekyll had been trying to invent a potion which could separate his good and evil sides. When Jekyll tested it, he was now transformed into 'Mr Hyde', a manifestation of his evil side with no trace of morality, but his normal personality remained unchanged. In other words, as Dr. Jekyll he was a man with mostly good and some evil urges, as Mr Hyde he was a man with only evil urges. After some cautious experimenting, Jekyll decided he liked this side-effect. As Mr Hyde, he could indulge himself in every pleasurable vice, and never be suspected as Hyde looked completely different. However, Hyde eventually committed murder, Jekyll resolved never to use the potion again.

But after a few months, Jekyll began spontaneously changing into Hyde. Only by drinking the potion could he retain his own form, and the potion was running out — not to mention that ever since the murder, the police had been searching relentlessly for Edward Hyde. When Jekyll made a new batch of the potion, it didn't work; his original chemical samples had been contaminated, and it was the impurities that had made the transformation possible. At the end of his letter, Jekyll writes that he soon will change into Hyde, and thus his life will end.

There have been several adaptations and parodies of this book. What makes them particularly interesting is not that each one changes, deletes, or adds certain elements but that they tend to make the same changes. In addition to, or instead of, the above story, here's what you'll usually find in film and stage versions:

  • Cutting the Twist Ending: The book is presented as a mystery, with the identity of Hyde as the Twist Ending, but this is completely absent from all films, mainly because the twist is now too famous to surprise anyone.
  • The physical appearance of Hyde: The films typically show Hyde as looking monstrous, contrary to the book's description. Hyde is described as looking repugnant, but not because of any particular physical abnormality. His appearance is rather normal, if a bit dwarfish; it's just that people can somehow sense his great depravity. Adaptations also tend to portray Hyde as more physically formidable than Jekyll, even huge and super-human in some versions, while in the novel Jekyll is a large man and Hyde, representing Jekyll's "less developed" evil urges, is smaller than average. On the other hand, some recent adaptations have portrayed Hyde as more attractive than Jekyll in keeping with the Evil Is Sexy trope.
  • The nature of the Split Personality: Jekyll is usually unaware of Hyde's actions, suffering from split personality amnesia. The book suggests Jekyll does remember everything he did as Hyde, but begins to find his own depravity horrifying and tries to dissociate himself from it. Hyde himself also has unclear memories of what Jekyll does.
  • Love Interests: Jekyll's good girl fiancée and Hyde's slutty barmaid/prostitute girlfriend. This plot thread, not part of the original story, occurs in almost all adaptations—in the book no women have major roles.

Specific adaptations include:
  • A highly successful stage play that opened in America not long after the book came out and toured for 20 years. It was this play that introduced the idea of the two love interests.
  • A play by Jeffrey Hatcher that has Hyde played by multiple actors and inverts the usual good-evil portrayal near the end, giving Hyde a measure of sympathy and making Jekyll cold and ruthless.
  • Straightforward adaptations in 1919 (with John Barrymore), 1931 (with Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins), 1941 (with Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner) and 1960 (a Hammer version with Paul Massie). All these adaptations made substantial changes to the main plot - in particular, Jekyll tends to be cast much younger than he is in the novel, and a female love interest is usually added. They also abandon the character of Utterson and his investigation for a story centered on Jekyll and Hyde. Also, the March version is the only one to regularly use the (little-known) correct pronunciation of "Jekyll" (Jee-kyll). The 1931 film is probably the best-regarded film version. It offers a rare case of a horror film winning an Academy Award, as March won Best Actor for his portrayal of Jekyll and Hyde.
  • The Janus Head, a 1920 silent German film version directed by F.W. Murnau and starring Conrad Veidt. It changes the characters' names to Dr. Warren and Mr. O'Connor. Also has a very young Bela Lugosi as the butler. It is also apparently lost forever, but if the production notes are to be believed, it has the first moving camera in cinema history.
  • Stephen Weeks's version, I, Monster (produced by Amicus Productions) keeps to the original plot but changes the names of Jekyll and Hyde in an attempt to keep the twist.
  • The Nutty Professor (both Jerry Lewis' and Eddie Murphy's versions) are comedic takes on the concept, where a nerdy scientist changes into a cool guy.
  • The TV sitcom Family Matters has geeky Steve Urkel develop a potion that turns him into the suave, handsome Stephan Urquelle.
  • The Two Faces of Doctor Jekyll puts an interesting twist on the Jekyll/Hyde dichotomy: Jekyll is hirsute, sloppy dressed, mannerless and abrasive, while Hyde is elegant, suave, charming and debonair.
  • Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype, a 1980 comedy/horror with Oliver Reed, followed the Nutty Professor formula: the kindy Heckyl is horribly ugly while his violent alter-ego is good-looking.
  • The 1971 Hammer Horror Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde and the 1995 comedy Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde both add a Gender Bender twist to the story.
  • Mary Reilly tells the story with a romance/horror twist: Hyde was Jekyll's attempt to become young and strong again.
  • Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse adapted it during the '90s into a stage musical, Jekyll & Hyde.
  • Jekyll, a 2006 modern day TV miniseries involving a descendant of the pair, written by Steven Moffat. Also notable for an example of using the 'Jee-kyll' pronunciation.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and its film adaptation, Jekyll and Hyde are made into Expies of Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk, who were in turn based off Jekyll and Hyde. The pair can communicate - Jekyll sees Hyde in mirrors, and omnipresent in his subconscious. Hyde's powers of perception are not usable by Jekyll except if the former advises the latter. The comic depicts Hyde as a huge, monstrously strong humanoid, which Hyde himself explains - separated into distinct individuals, Jekyll grows weak and frail without Hyde's passion, while Hyde grows in power without Jekyll's morals to limit him.
  • Van Helsing had Hyde as the first monster the titular Van Helsing fights. Hyde is an ape-like monster who battles Van Helsing in the Batman Cold Open. Hyde turns back into Jekyll on his death, unlike the original story.
  • An animated prequel of Van Helsing fleshes out the story. Apparently the doctor has the hots for Queen Victoria of England. And he harvests essence from young women to make a temporary youth potion for the queen.
  • A Marvel Comics supervillain is named Mr. Hyde; he took direct inspiration from the book. Unlike Jekyll, both sides of him are evil.
  • A direct-to-video version starring Tony Todd in 2009. Unlike most adaptations, it tried to remain close to the novel by giving the impression that Jekyll & Hyde were two different people until about two-thirds of the way into the movie.
  • Jekyll and Hyde appeared briefly in The Pagemaster, with Hyde becoming the main villain of one of the tie-in video games.
  • Several video games, only two of which are close to the original story. The NES game is hailed as one of the worst games of all time.
  • There's a 70s Blaxploitation flick, Dr Black and Mr Hyde, which cashed in on the Blaxploitation horror craze that was started by Blacula.
  • An Animated Adaptation by Burbank Films Australia, notable for being the only major animated adaptation of the work.
  • ITV's series Jekyll & Hyde follows Robert Jekyll, grandson of the Henry Jekyll from the novel, and is set in the 1930s. It is a superhero-type show in the vein of X-Men, and as such Hyde is just one of many supernatural creatures targeted by a sinister Creature-Hunter Organization.
  • Series three of Showtime's Penny Dreadful introduces us to Doctor Jekyll as a half-Indian, half-British young chemist, who went to medical school with Victor Frankenstein.
  • A minor character in Welkin Weasels is Professor Speckle Jyde, a mild-mannered gerbil who yearns to be a troublemaker, and so creates a potion that turns him into the obnoxious shrew Dr Lycan Heck.
  • There's also a surreal comedy version by Studio A'yoy.
  • Jekyll and Hyde appear in seasons 5 and 6 of Once Upon a Time, with Hyde as the main villain of Season 6.

This book provides examples of:

  • All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": The work is well-known by name, but all that most people have heard about it is the twist ending. Many do not even know that the dual identity story was originally a twist at all, and most newer adaptations treat it as a foregone conclusion. Some even make Hyde himself some sort of ugly were-monster rather than just a really evil man, most notably in the infamous NES game released by Bandai.
  • Alternate Identity Amnesia: Neither Jekyll nor Hyde have very clear memories of what the other does.
  • Amateur Sleuth: This is basically Utterson's role in the original story.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The Reveal comes in two of these, one left by Dr. Lanyon, giving an account of how Jekyll revealed his secret to him, and the second a confession by Jekyll himself, written after he could no longer make the formula and realized Hyde would take over completely. Both are read by Utterson and they make up Chapters 9 and 10.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The means by which Hyde is created. This was a time when chemistry, and especially the workings of the human mind, were still relatively unknown (even more so than today, that is), and therefore could be used in the same way radiation was used as a reason for giant monsters and superpowers in the 1950s.
  • Bastard Bastard: Hyde is not only smaller but younger-looking than Jekyll, and Utterson briefly wonders if he's the by-blow of Jekyll's youthful indiscretions (though the story phrases it far less bluntly):
    "Poor Harry Jekyll," he thought, "my mind misgives me; he is in deep waters! He was wild when he was young; a long while ago to be sure; but in the law of God, there is no statute of limitations. Ay, it must be that; the ghost of some old sin, the cancer of some concealed disgrace: punishment coming, pede claudo, years after memory has forgotten and self-love condoned the fault."
  • Big Bad: Edward Hyde, Jekyll's evil given form.
  • Bitter Almonds: "The strong smell of kernels that hung in the air"—that is, almond kernels. Hyde has taken cyanide.
  • Blackmail: Near the beginning of the book, Jekyll has changed his will to leave everything to Hyde; the protagonists of the book believe Hyde is blackmailing Jekyll.
  • Body Horror: Though not pushed as far as later writers went with it.
  • Cane Fu: Hyde beats Sir Danvers Carew to death with Jekyll's cane.
  • The Case Of: One of the earliest works to use this intriguing title template.
  • Chromosome Casting: The only female characters are several of Hyde's victims mentioned in passing, as well as Hyde's landlady and Jekyll's cook.
  • A Darker Me: This is the appeal of Hyde for Jekyll; he even refers to Hyde as "the darker side of my nature".
    Jekyll: This, too, was myself. It seemed natural and human.
  • Dead Man Writing: Jekyll wrote a complete briefing about what happened to him (it's the last chapter of the book), but it mustn't be opened before his disappearance or death.
  • Death of Personality: Jekyll's letter explains that no matter what happens to him as Hyde, Jekyll will be dead.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Everyone can sense that there is something wrong with Hyde, mostly because he is pure evil. They think he might be deformed in some way, but nobody can quite put their finger on how.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The book is a thinly veiled metaphor for drug addiction. Stevenson was an opium user.
    • The description of Sir Danvers' beauty- thought by some to make him sound rather camp- also gets read like this.
  • Driven to Suicide: After Jekyll realizes that Hyde will take all control of him - both of his body and his personality - he restrains himself to his lab until the final transformation. Hyde takes cyanide when Utterson shows up outside the lab and demands to see Jekyll.
  • Evil Feels Good: Only the original version, not the adaptations. This is the very reason Jekyll thinks separating his evil side from his good side is a good idea — as Hyde, he's free to do anything without restraint from the law — or, far more importantly, his own conscience. This was a very prescient idea in Victorian England.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Releasing Hyde — Easy. Getting rid of him — Not so much.
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: In comparison to the middle aged but handsome Jekyll, Hyde is "troglodytic" and "ape-like" in appearance.
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: "Special edition! Shocking murder of MP!"
  • G.I.F.T.: The great appeal of Hyde to Jekyll is that he can't be held responsible for Hyde's crimes.
    Jekyll: But for me, in my impenetrable mantle, the safely was complete. Think of it—I did not even exist! Let me but escape into my laboratory door, give me but a second or two to mix and swallow the draught...and whatever he had done, Edward Hyde would pass away like the stain of breath upon a mirror; and there in his stead, quietly at home...would be Henry Jekyll.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Dr. Lanyon after he sees Hyde transform into Jekyll for the first time.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The potion was supposed to completely separate the good and evil sides. Instead, it just separated the evil side, meaning that Jekyll was never 'pure good' to balance out the 'pure evil'. Notably, Jekyll considers this a good thing at first, because it allows him to act out all his repressed evil urges. Doing that works out pretty well, until the Split Personality Takeover starts kicking in...
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Some minor annoyance in conversation with Danvers Carew causes Hyde to fly into a rage and beat him to death.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • Here is how Mr. Enfield explains his reluctance to start asking questions about other people's business:
    "...the more it looks like Queer Street, the less I ask."
    • Then there's how Jekyll describes the duality of man, using an old word for a bundle of sticks:
    "It was the curse of mankind that these incongruous faggots were thus bound together...."
  • Hearing Voices: It is highly suggested in the final chapter that Jekyll was able to hear Hyde inside his head, because "(Hyde) was constantly demanding to get out". However, there is no sentence that 100% confirms this.
  • Hypocrite: Jekyll does not take responsibility for the evil actions of Hyde, yet he takes the potion specifically to enjoy performing evil actions as Hyde. Stevenson called this Jekyll's Fatal Flaw in a letter to a friend.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun
    Utterson: If he be Mr. Hyde, I shall be Mr. Seek
  • Involuntary Shapeshifter: After months of taking the potion, Jekyll finds that he is turning into Hyde without it.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: The Trope Namer. Dr. Jekyll, who is explicitly stated to be capable of both good and evil, deliberately created Mr. Hyde for a selfish purpose and enjoyed what his darker side brought out until Hyde committed murder. He began to need more of the potion to ward off Hyde taking control, and when recreating the formula proved impossible he wrote a letter to explain everything before dying. In modern times, this is now a byword of someone who is nice one minute, nasty the next.
  • Killing Your Alternate Self: Faced with becoming the monstrous alter-ego Hyde permanently, Jekyll apparently commits suicide. His body is found with a letter ending "I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end." Perhaps the oldest example of this trope.
  • Miraculous Malfunction: An "impurity of salt" is what makes the transformation from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde possible. This is what finally dooms Jekyll—he doesn't know what the impurity is, and when his salt runs out, he can't replace it.
  • Morally Amibguous Doctorate: Jekyll, particularly in the original book, where his reason for making the potion was essentially to do bad things and not get caught. His alter-ego, Mr. Hyde, averts this.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Jekyll after Hyde kills Danvers Carew. After this, he stops characterizing Hyde as being a part of himself, instead attempting to distance himself from the persona by referring to Hyde as a separate entity attempting to seize control of his body.
  • The Napoleon: Hyde is frequently described as being "short," "small" and even "dwarfish," in contrast to the taller Jekyll. This is explained as being because Jekyll never indulged in his evilness before, so his evil side is "underdeveloped." Hyde is, however, very dangerous.
  • Never My Fault: Even when writing his final letter, Jekyll still insists that, even now, he doesn't consider Hyde's actions his actions. (His choice of pronouns says otherwise.)
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: This is an accident on Jekyll's part, as it turns out to be an unknown impurity that makes the stuff work.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: It should be "Jee-kyll", not "Jeh-kyll". Not that that's ever stopped anybody from pronouncing it "Jeh-kyll" for decades.
  • Noodle Incident: Stevenson never goes into great detail about most of the things that Hyde does on his nightly escapades before crossing the Moral Event Horizon by murdering Sir Danvers Carew for no reason; the narrative only states that his activities were of an evil and lustful nature. Given the Victorian England setting and what was considered abhorrent for the time, he may have been engaging with prostitutes and drinking heavily in shady taverns, but we can only surmise.
  • Obviously Evil: Hyde's appearance is banal, yet everyone who looks at him instinctively recognizes his evil.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: The Ur-Example, beating out The Invisible Man by a decade.
  • Psycho Serum: Trope Maker
  • Pure Is Not Good: Henry Jekyll, a man with mostly good and some evil urges, thinks that if he could separate his good and bad urges into separate identities, life would be better, because he would be free of morality and could indulge himself on every pleasurable vice without hypocrisy. Then his bad side crosses the Moral Event Horizon and Jekyll’s life is threatened. The only thing that kept Jekyll safe was his hypocrisy. Mirrored with the “impurity of salt”, the impurities had made the potion work. Without the contamination of the samples, he cannot make the transformation work.
  • Sex Is Evil and I Am Horny: It is implied that among the aforementioned vices was womanizing. In his confession, the doctor characterizes "a certain impatient gaiety of disposition" as the worst of his vices. At the time, "gay" was used to describe a heterosexual person who was inordinately lustful.
  • Shadow Archetype
  • The Smurfette Principle: One of critics' favorite subjects is how no nominal women appear in the original book or even get involved in the plot except as spectators or victims.
  • Split Personality Takeover: Likely the Ur-Example.
  • Technicolor Science: The potion starts out red and then turns purple before settling on green.
  • This Is Your Brain on Evil: The addiction metaphors are obvious... and appropriately creepy. This was written at a time when the effects of opium addiction were just coming to light.
  • Twist Ending: The "twist" comes at about the 3/4 mark, and then closes out with Jekyll's own posthumous explanation for everything that happened.
  • Unstoppable Rage: After Hyde goes into a rage and attacks Carew, he exults in the thrill of the evil action and beats the man to death.
  • Would Hurt a Child: In his first appearance Hyde literally walks over a little girl he meets on the street.
  • Year X: Used several times. For instance, the Carew murder happened in 18— and in his statement, Jekyll writes that he was born in the year 18—.

Adaptations with their own pages include:

Tropes common to multiple adaptations:

  • Adapted Out / Demoted to Extra: The fate of Mr. Utterson, due to most every adaptation centering on Jekyll from the start rather that Utterson investigating a mystery, as the novel did. In the 1920 film he pops up towards the end as one of Jekyll's friends, in the 1931 film he is an extra, and in the 1941 film he's completely omitted.
  • Adaptational Badass: The part about Hyde being a diminutive man, much smaller than Jekyll, is usually adapted out. Instead, Hyde is usually portrayed as a burly brute of a man, larger than Jekyll.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Most adaptations of the original story completely rewrite Jekyll's motivations for separating good from evil. In the original story, Jekyll wanted to do it so he could evade responsibility and consequences for his actions by separating himself from not just his appearance and name, but his conscience as well, giving him freedom to do whatever he pleased. Most adaptations, possibly to emphasize the good vs. evil dynamic of Jekyll and Hyde, have made Jekyll into a humanitarian saint of science who wanted to separate good from evil to eliminate wrong from the world, and in the case of the musical, cure insanity, particularly his father's tragic case.
  • Artifact Title: A good number of adaptations preserve the "Strange Case" portion of the original title. Although to the modern audience, it's not much of a mystery anymore since adaptations, unlike the original story, typically show the story from Jekyll's point of view.
  • Betty and Veronica: Many adaptations add contrasting female companionship options that weren't in the book, an innocent girlfriend/fiancee for Jekyll and for Hyde an earthier, more sexually available woman that he brutalizes.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Jekyll wasn't the central character of the original story—the story is told from the POV of Mr. Utterson, Jekyll's old friend and lawyer who investigates the mystery. Most of the original story depicts Hyde's actions as being told about instead of shown. The twist ending was revealed in a letter where everything is again told instead of shown. Most adaptations, instead, focus on depicting Jekyll's dramatic struggle between his two selves and his eventual downfall, since everybody already knew the ending. (Utterson, the main character, is a bit part in the 1931 film and is left out of the 1941 film completely.)
  • Super-Powered Evil Side: In many modern adaptations, such as Van Hellsing and ITV's Jekyll and Hyde, Hyde possesses superhuman powers, most commonly inhuman strength.

The 1920 movie provides examples of:

  • Chekhov's Gun: The Poison Ring that Hyde takes from Gina. At the end, Jekyll swallows the poison to stop Hyde from raping Millicent.
  • The Film of the Book: While still using the Betty and Veronica trope and not being a mystery, this film is somewhat more faithful to the novel than the 1931 and 1941 adaptations. Utterson appears in this version, although his importance is reduced, and Jekyll poisons himself rather than being shot as in 1931 and 1941.
  • Opium Den: Hyde visits one, although he doesn't take any opium.
  • Pink Elephants: An opium addict in withdrawal starts hallucinating red ants.
  • Poison Ring: Gina, the Italian dancer that is the Veronica in this version's Betty and Veronica pair, has an old ring that has a secret capsule for storing poison (this actually being an old myth about Lucrezia Borgia).
  • Shout-Out: Sir George Carew's quote, "The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it", is a direct lift from Oscar Wilde and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The 1941 movie provides examples of:

  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: A pretty startling example for 1941. During another transformation montage, we see Jekyll as a carriage driver whipping his horses. Then the horses transform into Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner, and Jekyll continues to whip them.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: What Hyde did to Ivy's back is only seen by the other characters. Later, it's implied that he strangles Ivy and beats Beatrix's father to death, but in both cases the victim is kept off-screen.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Tracy, like March before him, doesn't even try for any kind of British accent.
  • Visual Innuendo: During one of the hallucinatory montages when Jekyll transforms into Hyde, he has a vision of Ivy the barmaid's head as the cork in a champagne bottle—and the cork pops.

Alternative Title(s): Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, The Strange Case Of Doctor Jekyll And Mr Hyde