The novel tellsthe story of the Otranto Castle, which is ruled by Manfred and his family.The story startswith the wedding of Manfred’s son, Conrad and Princess Isabella, but just beforethe wedding, a giant helmet coming from the sky falls on Conrad and he iscrushed to death.Manfred, who isterrified by the idea of the end for his line, what would mean a new familywould occupy his throne, decides to marry Isabella himself and divorce his wifeHippolita.Isabella findsout Manfred’s strategy and escapes to a church with the help of Theodore, apeasant. Manfred orders Theodore’s death but right before the execution,Jerome, a friar, recognizes Theodore as his son as he sees a marking on hisshoulder.
Jerome begs Manfred not to kill his son, but he says Jerome must giveup Isabella or he will take Theodore’s life.All of thesudden, a trop of knights from a foreign kingdom, who want to rescue Isabella,enter the castle and this leads to a race to find Isabella.Manfred locksTheodore in a tower, but his daughter, Matilda, frees him. Theodore rescuesIsabella and takes her to a cave to protect her from Manfred. A knight appearsand Theodore badly wounds the mysterious knight, who confesses to be Isabella’sfather, Frederic. Later in thecastle, Manfred begins to arrange a deal with Frederic about marrying eachother’s daughters and Frederic agrees as he finds Matilda attractive. Theodoreis meeting Matilda for a tryst at the church, Manfred suspects it’s Isabellawho is meeting Theodore so he heads there with a knife and stabs his daughterMatilda, who will later die. We later find out Theodore is the true prince ofOtranto due to the fact that he is the grandson of the former King, Alfonso theGood.
He becomes king and marries Isabella. STRUCTUREThe novel startswith a sonnet called ‘Lady Mary Coke’ written by Walpole and continues as anovel divided in five chapters. NARRATIVEPERSPECTIVEThe novel innarrated in third-person omniscient. SETTINGThe story is setin Italy during the High Middle Ages.CHARACTERSTheodore is the real hero of the story although he isintroduced at the beginning of the novel as an unimportant peasant. He is latermade prisoner by Manfred twice and he also helps Isabella escape. All of theseactions prove he is brave and noble. After a series of events it is revealedthat he is Jerome’s lost son and Alfonso’s grandson, meaning he is the rightfulruler of Otranto.
Jerome is a priest in the Otranto’s monastery. When Isabellaescapes, she goes directly to this monastery. He is the one to tell Manfredthat his plan of getting divorced to be with Isabella is not approved byHeaven. He is not only a friar, he is also the prince of Falconara andTheodore’s father.
Manfred is the prince of Otranto and Lord of the castle. Heis an evil and selfish man who wants to rule Otranto at all cost. He isintroduced as the antagonist of the novel. After his son’s death, he is willingto do anything to maintain his title.
At the end, and after he kills his owndaughter by accident, the prophecy, he was so afraid of, becomes real. Matilda is a beautiful young girl, and also Manfred’sdaughter. She falls in love with Theodore when he is prisoner in the castle.She is an important character since she helps Theodore to escape. At the endshe dies because Manfred kills her accidentally. Isabella is a princess, Frederic’s daughter. She is engaged toConrad, but after his dead and his father in law intentions of rape her, sheescapes from the castle with Theodore’s help.
She will end up marrying him,after Matilda’s dead.Conrad is the son of Manfred and Hippolita, and unlike hissister he is not attractive or lucky. He is engaged to Isabella, but dies rightbefore his wedding crushed by a giant helmet. There are some secondarycharacters such as:Hippolita, who is Manfred’s devoted wife.Frederic, Isabella’s father and Marquis of Vicenza. It isbelieved that he is the only Alfonso’s successor or at least the closestrelative.Hermit is the one who tells Frederic about a sword with theprophecy.
Ricardo, was Alfonso’s chamberlain. He is the one to appropriate the throne inOtranto. He is also Manfred’s grandfather.Bianca, Hippolyta’s servant.St.
Nicholas is the saint to whomRicardo, after the shipwreck, prays to save his life. He also appears to Hermitand tells him about the giant sword and that he could only talk about it whenhe is in his deathbed THEMESØ Terror.This is the mostimportant theme in the novel. There are elements that make this a gothic novel:the castle in a foreign country; the ghosts, the spirits and the secretpassages inside of it; Conrad’s mysterious death; the prophecy written in asword, etc. We could seeManfred as the personification of this theme; after all he is the responsibleof all the bad things that happen.
Ø Family andleadership.First of all,the aim of the wedding between Conrad and Isabella was to ensure the familylegacy. The death of his son won’t stop Manfred to keep going with this plan.He decides to replace his son.
Then we have thefact that Theodore begins in the novel as a simple peasant, but ends up beingthe true heir of the Castle, thanks to his relationship with Alfonso.And finally whenManfred accidentally kills Matilde, his daughter, he changes drastically.Manfred finally confess that he is not the real heir; he abdicates and goes to aconvent to live like a monk. Ø Destiny.Destiny plays animportant part in the novel. Everything is determined by the prophecy, nobodycould change that, not even Manfred, who is the one that wants to change it atall cost. Ø Betrayal.
This is not asimportant as the rest. Manfred’s family ends up ruling Otranto because abetrayal made by Manfred’s forefather Ricardo. He kills Alfonso, the ruler ofOtranto, so he can take the throne. And Matilda betrayed her father when shehelps Theodore space. AUTHORHorace Walpolewas born in September 1717 and he died in March 1797.
He was an English man of lettersand a Whig Politician. His father was Robert Walpole who was the first PrimeMinister, also known as First Lord of Treasury. He didn’t marry anyone. Walpole remained throughout his life anenthusiastic admirer of Gray’s poetry. In 1747 heacquired a small villa at Twickenham and in 1768 he gave up his position in theParliament to retire there.
The name of the castle was Strawberry Hill, a smallvilla that he transformed into a pseudo-gothic showplace. Over the years, headded: cloisters, turrets and filled the interior with pictures and all kind ofgothic elements. In that castle he builta very big and important library. In addition, he established a private presson the ground where he printed his own books and those of his friends, ex:Gray’s Odes of 1757. Strawberry Hill was the stimulus for the Gothic revival inEnglish domestic architecture.Some of his work:Ø His privatecorrespondence of some 4,000 letters, which are a survey of the history,manners, and taste of his age.
His most substantial correspondence was withHorace Mann, a British diplomat with whom he maintained contact for 45 years,although they only saw each other in person once. Walpole’s correspondence waspublished in 48 volumes and edited by W.S. Lewis and others.
Ø He also wroteThe Mysterious Mother (1768), a tragedy with the theme of incest.Ø His mostimportant work, The Castle of Otranto. CHARACTERISTICS The Castle of Otranto was published in1764 and it succeeded in restoring the elements of romance to contemporaryfiction. Even if it was written in the 18th century, the actual story was setin the 13th century. This story was the first gothic novel ever published andbecause of that the next gothic novels would have similar characteristics. Also,it’s going to be really influential in the future, not only in literature butalso in films, music and movies.Some of thesecharacteristics are: Ø Most of thestories are set in the medieval period and in old places like gloomy castles,monasteries, catholic churches… Ø They giveimportance to ghosts, devils, mysterious disappearances and other supernaturaloccurrences.Ø Prominence ofthe gothic architecture.
Ø Some of the importantcharacters have a curse. Ø There are a lotof supernatural events, or events that are really difficult to explain.Ø When we read theatmosphere is really intense, it has mystery and terror.
HISTORICALCONTEXTWe need to knowabout the time the story was written in, the 18th Century and also, thetime the story is set, the 13th Century. They say it was one of theworst eras in history.Some of theimportant events during the 13th Century:Ø The hundred year’swar between France and England.Ø The AgrarianCrisis in 1320.Ø An EconomicCrisis.
Ø Hundreds ofpeople were dying because of the disease and the hunger of the time. Forexample, the plague. Some of theimportant events during the 18th Century:Ø ACTS OF UNION 1707,peace finally arrives to England and Scotland.
The Kingdom of England and theKingdom of Scotland became one which name was “Great Britain”. Even though this pact, problems still occur between thetwo kingdoms, such as religion and conflicts between the two Royal Houses.Ø England was alsoinvolved in the Spanish Civil War.
Ø England wasruled by The Hannover’s, which were from Germany. Three were the kings George I(1714-172), George II (1728-1760) and George III (1760-1820).Ø It was the Ageof Enlightenment, an European intellectual and philosophical movement. One ofthe most important characteristics is the Human Reason. The goals of rationalhumanity were considered to be knowledge, freedom, and happiness. Ø The Enlightenmentbrought the abolition.
Different movements were created to stop slavery inEngland. Even W.Cowper wrote a poem called ‘The Negro’s complaint’. Although itwas not until the 19th century that slavery didn’t end.Ø In terms ofculture, theatres started to develop. Some of the important companies were The Duke’s company and The KingsCompany. Also, the opera started to gain importance.
Handel became the fatherof English opera music.Ø Finally, theindustrial revolution started at the end of 18th and the beginningof the 19th century.