Elizabeth Bathory has been portrayed over time as one of the most prolific and sadistic serial killers the world has known. She was nicknamed “The Blood Countess”, and also “Lady Dracula”. Elizabeth Bathory is reputed to have not only drunk but bathed in the blood of young virgin girls. She is perhaps less well-known only than the infamous Vlad Dracula, who was an inspiration for Bram Stoker’s fictional Count Dracula. During the years since Dracula was published, the Blood Countess has exercised a powerful fascination on many writers and film-makers. However, recently, there have been many books and films that go against the usual image of Bathory, and take a new look at her. Through my essay, I hope to give a fresh look at the life and death of Countess Elizabeth Bathory and pick out the truth from many myths surrounding her, due to the portrayal of Elizabeth Bathory’s crimes in popular culture.
Countess Erzsébet Báthory, also known as Elizabeth Bathory, was a member of a powerful family from an estate at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, the Bathory family. She was born in 1560 to Baron George Bathory and Baroness Anne Bathory (“Blood Countess,” par.1). Elizabeth was raised on Ecsed, an estate in Transylvania. Elizabeth was not an easy child, nor was life easy for her, despite being a member of the privileged class. She was said to suffer from a brain disorder associated with increased aggression which could be due to inbreeding, which was very popular in royal families in order to keep wealth within the family (“Blood Countess,” par.2). She was married off at the age of 15 for political gain to soldier Ferencz Nadasdy and moved in to the castle Sarvar. Ferencz Nadasdy was not present much during their marriage due to commitments to war campaigns, which he was involved in (“Blood Countess,” par.1). Bathory was in charge of the house, making sure that everything ran smoothly while he was away, one of the jobs which she had to takeover was the punishment of slaves for their wrong doings. While her behavior toward servants is legendary today, it was not uncommon among aristocrats to exercise their power in brutal beatings and even death for those they considered lesser beings. After fathering four children with Elizabeth, three boys and a girl, Nadasdy fell ill in 1601 and was confined to his bed until he died in 1604, leaving Elizabeth at the age of 44 (“Blood Countess,” par.2). She moved at once to their castle in Vienna, where she had a more active social life, but eventually returned to her estates, castle Cesjte, in Hungary where she had more privacy for torture sessions (Ramsland, par.1). There are some accounts that say it was Nadasdy who taught Elizabeth how to torture the servants. One of his alleged methods was to spread honey over a naked servant girl and leave her tied down outside for the bugs to nibble and bees to sting. He also showed his wife the art of freezing a girl to death during the winter by pouring water over her body until it hardened and she was unable to move (Ramsland, par.1). Elizabeth continued to use torture after her husband’s death, and even refined her methods. Valentine Penrose, who was a historian, has written many books on the crimes of Elizabeth Bathory during the middle of the 1990’s. Valentine claims that Elizabeth Bathory first started killing her servants due to lesbian urges which she was having during her adolescences, and soon the only way to feed these urges was through the sadistic killings of these young servants (“Blood Countess,” par. 1). It is also at this time a legend was told that she discovered, on striking a servant girl who accidentally pulled her hair while combing it, that blood appeared to reduce her the signs of ageing on her skin (“Blood Countess,” par. 4). This leads to the torturing of her slaves and draining their blood in order to bath in it. In the name of vanity and beauty, she was soon entwined with witchcraft, cannibalism and vampirism, killing...
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