Genre…Gothic, Horror novel,Romance, 18th Century
Publisher : Oxford World’s Classics
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.
Horace Walpole who brought Gothic novels to life was a British earl who was also known for creating the word ‘serendipity.’ It is interesting that Walpole would incorporate into the novel such romantically Gothic elements as the supernatural, cursed lords, monks, princesses, romantic love, and gloomy castles far before Gothic literature had become popular.
This 18th Century Gothic horror novel basically works as “a cross between the eeriness of Poe and the romance of Jane Austen.
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.
History From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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.
THE GOTH CULTURE TODAY
The goth culture is present in numerous countries around the world. Few people know that it originated in Great Britain in the 1980s, in the Gothic rock style of makeup, clothes, and music. Many analysts argue that it is a spin of a punk culture which was popular in England in the 80s. More than twenty years later goth culture has gone though many visual and cultural changes, and thousands of followers, to become what we know it today. Since it’s inception this subculture was influenced by the medieval Gothic literature, clothes, and makeup from vampire horror movies. Their appearance is usually characterized by the contrast white and black colors in clothing and makeup. Typical black clothes and hair go together with cotton white pale faces, and black eye and lip makeup. Clothes are usually a combination of Victorian style and some modern punk fashion. Unlike most other teen subcultures, goth communities usually consist of well educated people found of literature, poetry and music, who often are on top of their student classes, and even graduate with honors. Their communities are not found of cheap pop culture topics like Britney Spears, but would rather read books and write poems. Yet, goth is someone who dares to be different from the rest, differentiating himself from the crowd with their chosen subculture.