The Castle of Otranto is a 1764 novel by Horace Walpole. It is generally regarded as the first gothic novel, initiating a literary genre which would become extremely popular in the later 18th century and early 19th century, with authors such as Charles Maturin, Ann Radcliffe, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and Daphne du Maurier.The initial 1764 edition was titled in full The Castle of Otranto, A Story. Translated by William Marshal, Gent. From the Original Italian of Onuphrio Muralto, Canon of the Church of St. Nicholas at Otranto. This first edition purported to be a translation based on a manuscript printed at Naples in 1529 and recently rediscovered in the library of "an ancient Catholic family in the north of England". This "ancient Catholic family" is possibly the Percy family, as Walpole would have known the Duke of Northumberland and his wife Elizabeth Percy, though this is not proven. The Italian manuscript's story, it was claimed, derived from a story still older, dating back perhaps as far as the Crusades. This Italian manuscript, along with alleged author "Onuphrio Muralto", were Walpole's fictional creations, and "William Marshal" his pseudonym. In the second and subsequent editions, Walpole acknowledges authorship of his work, writing: "The favourable manner in which this little piece has been received by the public, calls upon the author to explain the grounds on which he composed it" as "an attempt to blend the two kinds of romance, the ancient and the modern. In the former all was imagination and improbability: in the latter, nature is always intended to be, and sometimes has been, copied with success...". There was some debate at the time about the function of literature, that is, whether or not works of fiction should be representative of life, or more purely imaginative (i.e. natural vs. romantic). The first edition was well received by some reviewers who understood the novel as belonging to medieval fiction, "between 1095, the era of the First Crusade, and 1243, the date of the last", as the first preface states; and some referred to Walpole as an "ingenious translator". Following Walpole's admission of authorship, however, many critics were loath to lavish much praise on the work and dismissed it as absurd, fluffy, romantic fiction. In his 1924 edition of The Castle of Otranto, Montague Summers showed that the life story of Manfred of Sicily inspired some details of the plot. The real medieval castle of Otranto was among Manfred's possessions (font: Wikipedia)
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When an unfortunate accident kills the son of Manfred, lord of the castle of Otranto, on the boy’s wedding day, his father is not just stricken with grief, but with fear. Terrified of an ancient prophecy fortelling the end of Manfred’s family line, the lord attempts to trump fate by divorcing his own wife and marrying his son Conrad’s intended bride.
Isabella, still reeling from the death of her fiance, immediately flees, and begins a harrowing journey fraught with peril, encounters with the supernatural, and situations too haunting to be mere coincidence.
This fascinating blend of ancient and modern romance is considered the first Gothic novel, giving birth to the genre that would inspire Edgar Allen Poe, Ann Radcliffe, and Bram Stoker.
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A Castle of Otranto is a novel by Horace Walpole. It is generally regarded as the first gothic novel, initiating a literary genre which would become extremely popular in the later 18th century and early 19th century. Thus, Walpole, by extension, is arguably the forerunner to such authors as Charles Maturin, Ann Radcliffe, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and Daphne du Maurier. The Castle of Otranto tells the story of Manfred, lord of the castle, and his family. The book begins on the wedding-day of his sickly son Conrad and princess Isabella. Shortly before the wedding, however, Conrad is crushed to death by a gigantic helmet that falls on him from above. This inexplicable event is particularly ominous in light of an ancient prophecy "That the castle and lordship of Otranto should pass from the present family, whenever the real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it". Manfred, terrified that Conrad's death signals the beginning of the end for his line, resolves to avert destruction by marrying Isabella himself while divorcing his current wife Hippolita, who he feels has failed to bear him a proper heir. However, as Manfred attempts to marry Isabella, she escapes to a church with the aid of a peasant named Theodore. Manfred orders Theodore's death while talking to the friar Jerome, who ensured Isabella's safety in the church. When Theodore removes his shirt to be killed, Jerome recognizes a marking below his shoulder and identifies Theodore as his own son. Jerome begs for his son's life, but Manfred says Jerome must either give up the princess or his son's life. They are interrupted by a trumpet and the entrance of knights from another kingdom who want to deliver Isabella. This leads the knights and Manfred to race to find Isabella. Theodore, having been locked in a tower by Manfred, is freed by Manfred's daughter Matilda. He races to the underground church and finds Isabella. He hides her in a cave and blocks it to protect her from Manfred and ends up fighting one of the mysterious knights. Theodore badly wounds the knight, who turns out to be Isabella's father, Frederic. With that, they all go up to the castle to work things out. Frederic falls in love with Matilda and he and Manfred begin to make a deal about marrying each other's daughters. Manfred, suspecting that Isabella is meeting Theodore in a tryst in the church, takes a knife into the church, where Matilda is meeting Theodore. Thinking his own daughter is Isabella, he stabs her. Theodore is then revealed to be the true prince of Otranto and Matilda dies, leaving Manfred to repent. Theodore becomes king and eventually marries Isabella because she is the only one who can understand his true sorrow.
The Castle of Otranto is a 1764 novel by Horace Walpole. It is generally regarded as the first gothic novel, initiating a literary genre which would become extremely popular in the later 18th century and early 19th century, with authors such as Charles Maturin, Ann Radcliffe, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and Daphne du Maurier. The Castle of Otranto tells the story of Manfred, lord of the castle, and his family. The book begins on the wedding-day of his sickly son Conrad and princess Isabella. Shortly before the wedding, however, Conrad is crushed to death by a gigantic helmet that falls on him from above. This inexplicable event is particularly ominous in light of an ancient prophecy "That the castle and lordship of Otranto should pass from the present family, whenever the real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it". Walpole then, by attempting to blend these two genres, creates something new – something truly "novel". He creates fantastic situations (helmets falling from the sky, walking portraits, etc.) and places supposedly real people into these situations and allows them to act in a "real" manner.
In a faraway medieval realm, Manfred, an arrogant and evil prince, rules with an iron fist. Banishing his wife to the castle dungeon, he confines — and plans to wed — the lovely Isabella, fiancée of his recently deceased son. The prince's plans are foiled, however, when a well-meaning peasant helps the young woman escape through the castle's underground passages. Grisly, supernatural events further aid in fulfilling a prophecy that spells doom for the prince and justice for Isabella's rescuer and rightful heir to the throne. One of the first and greatest of Gothic novels, this thrilling tale ranks among the most influential books in literary history. Serving as the model for plots, characterizations, settings, and tone for hundreds of successors, The Castle of Otranto abounds with colorful scenes, adventure, suspense, and inexplicable phenomena.
'Look, my lord! See heaven itself declares against your impious intentions!' The Castle of Otranto (1764) is the first supernatural English novel and one of the most influential works of Gothic fiction. It inaugurated a literary genre that will be forever associated with the effects that Walpole pioneered. Professing to be a translation of a mysterious Italian tale from the darkest Middle Ages, the novel tells of Manfred, prince of Otranto, whose fear of an ancient prophecy sets him on a course of destruction. After the grotesque death of his only son, Conrad, on his wedding day, Manfred determines to marry the bride-to-be. The virgin Isabella flees through a castle riddled with secret passages. Chilling coincidences, ghostly visitations, arcane revelations, and violent combat combine in a heady mix that terrified the novel's first readers. In this new edition Nick Groom examines the reasons for its extraordinary impact and the Gothic culture from which it sprang. The Castle of Otranto was a game-changer, and Walpole the writer who paved the way for modern horror exponents. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.
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