The Castle ofOtranto is a novel written in 1764 by Horace Walpole. PLOTThe 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 justbefore the wedding, a giant helmet coming from the sky falls on Conrad and heis crushed 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 of Otrantodue to the fact that he is the grandson of the former King, Alfonso the Good.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. NARRATIVEPERSPECTIVEThird-personomniscient. SETTINGThe story is setin Italy during the High Middle Ages.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 hiswork: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. THE CASTLE OFOTRANTO      It was published in 1764 and it succeededin restoring the elements of romance to contemporary fiction. Even if it waswritten in the 18th century, the actual story was set in the 13th century. Thisstory was the first gothic novel ever published and because of that the nextgothic novels would have similar characteristics.

Also, it’s going to be reallyinfluential in the future, not only in literature but also in films, music andmovies.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. HISTORYWe need to know aboutthe 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 the importantevents 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 UNION1707, peace finally arrives to England and Scotland. The Kingdom of England andthe Kingdom of Scotland became one which name was   “Great Britain”. Even though this pact, problemsstill occur between the two kingdoms, such as religion and conflicts betweenthe 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.  Someof the important companies were The Duke’s company and The Kings Company. Also,the opera started to gain importance. Handel became the father of English operamusic.

Ø     Finally, theindustrial revolution started at the end of 18th and the beginningof the 19th century.   


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