SUMMARY-PLOT OVERVIEW SYNOPSIS 9
This novel is a medieval tale of love, knights, horror, and curses that features several twists and turns along the way. As the story opens, there is to be a wedding between the sickly, young son of Prince Manfred, Conrad, and the lovely Isabella. Isabella’s father, Frederick, has been away at the Crusades. He is presumed to be dead, as is Isabella’s mother. Manfred persuades her guardians to allow her to marry Conrad, who is just 15 years old. It is not a marriage of love.
On the morning of the wedding, a servant finds the crushed body of Conrad under a plumed helmet large enough to fit a giant. This horrifying, inciting event sets up the action to follow.
There is an ancient prophesy regarding Manfred’s family. It is cryptic, and no one really understands it. It says, the castle ‘should pass from the present family, whenever the real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it.’ Everyone in the kingdom sort of waits to see what will unfold for the prince and his family.
A Twist of Events
Everyone returns to the castle, and then, in a strange turn of events, Manfred convinces Frederic to give him Isabella in exchange for Matilda. It seems that both Manfred and Frederic care more about their own selfish desires than their daughters. At any rate, Hippolita visits Jerome, begging for his help. Then Frederic, driven by the desire for Matilda, seeks Hippolita to convince her to accept the divorce. Instead of finding Hippolita, he finds the ghost who has been haunting the castle. The ghost is dressed as a knight, but his face is a ghastly skull. Frederic is terrified, and the ghost tells him to ‘forget Matilda.’ Frederic follows his advice in fear of his own life.
Again, Manfred cannot find Isabella, and when he learns that Theodore has escaped, he assumes that Theodore and Isabella have eloped. Manfred races to the church and rashly stabs across the altar, mortally wounding Matilda, who has met Theodore with the intent of marrying him. Manfred is horrified to find that he has stabbed his own daughter. As she is dying, Matilda asks to be returned to the castle so she may be near Hippolita. Theodore is beside himself with grief and begs to be married, anyway, but Matilda dies before the vows can be said.
The Whole Story
It is here that Manfred reveals the source of the curse. Manfred’s own grandfather, Ricardo, was in the service of Prince Alfonso, and he poisoned him. Ricardo fixed Alfonso’s will to state that he would be the next prince. Manfred was well aware of this history. As it turns out, Theodore is the descendant of Alfonso. He is the true owner and ruler of the castle. Theodore is deeply grieved over Matilda’s death, but he eventually marries Isabella because she knew Matilda and can understand his grief. Manfred and Hippolita give up the castle to Theodore and join the service of the church.
This is one wild tale, but it has some problems. Although the story has some elements of a strong novel, there are definite inconsistencies and holes in the plot. For instance, we never learn when Theodore first hears about Matilda and how he falls in love with her. We really don’t learn enough about the giant ghost or how he moves the helmet from the temple. There is a great deal of action in this story but little plot or character development. Just as we begin to get to know a character, the plot zooms us ahead to another tragic portion of the story.
Although the story keeps our attention, many of its characters are not fully developed. However, for an early Gothic story, the novel starts the beginning of a trend that was more fully realized in the 19th century.