The Castle of Otranto – a Gothic Novel

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  • Topic: Gothic fiction, Baron Walpole, Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford
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  • Published : January 8, 2012
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The Castle of Otranto – A Gothic Novel

Picture of the Title Page of the Second Edition

A Dossier by Luisa Hiller, Johannes Klein, Benjamin Priebst, and Claudia Haack

Table of Contents:

1.Introduction – The Gothic Novel

2.Horace Walpole
2.1. The Life of Horace Walpole
2.2. The Works of Horace Walpole

3.“The Castle of Otranto - A Gothic Novel“
3.1. Introduction
3.2. Index of Characters
3.3. Summary of the Plot
3.4. The Characters' Appearance
3.5. The Character Constellation
3.6. Gothic Elements in The Castle of Otranto

4. Bibliography

1. Introduction – The Gothic Novel
In the first half of the 18th century the word “Gothic” was mainly related to the Nordic invaders, the Goths, who were disliked because of their barbarous behaviour and their brutal invasion. Therefore “gothic” had a pejorative connotation, which, nevertheless, changed in the middle of the 18th century into a word being related to supernatural and fantastic events. The first gothic novel appeared in 1764, when Horace Walpole´s “The Castle of Otranto” was published. From this time on to approximately 1820 there was an explosion of gothic writings, which almost turned into addiction, especially for the female readership, who were craving for popular entertainment. This form of writing dominated British literature during this period and can be described as a hybrid between novel and romance, also encompassing drama and poetry. Though the gothic novel had many critics, it became unexpectedly successful due to the fact that it signified morality, beauty, a lack of reason and feudal beliefs which formed, at that time, a sharp contrast to the actual values of the Age of Enlightenment. Consequently, the gothic novel functioned as a mirror of 18th century conventions and values. The emergence of this new development in literature implied the assumption that there was a need for sacred and transcendent forces due to the denial of the existence of supernatural forces by the modern enlightened society. So the gothic novel provoked a rebellion against the predominant ideal of order and unity, which caused a lot of annoyance and was a socially subversive force for many critics. Finally, the author´s intention was to evoke fear and terror, but also grandeur, and to make people be reverential. Writers of that period wanted, moreover, to wind up the reader´s feelings. This aim could be achieved by the usage of particular elements, which appeared in almost every gothic novel. Some of these elements are mentioned below.

►setting
The action usually takes place in some ruined castle or abbey in a remote and dark time, like the Middle Ages. Furthermore, the buildings are in many cases full of crypts, catacombs, dungeons, trap doors and secret underground passages. ►atmosphere

The atmosphere of the whole story seems threatening and mysterious due to some inexplicable events as ancient prophecies and curses coming true, visions or other supernatural occurrences which sometimes can be elucidated. There are, furthermore, extreme landscapes as thick forests and rugged mountains often containing caves. Additionally a terrifying atmosphere is created by the apparent gloom, shadows, moonlight or a flickering candle. ►emotions

A gothic novel always contains powerful emotions like pride, anger, sadness, surprise, and especially, terror. Romantic elements like love and its often tragical implications (uncertainty of reciprocation, rival lovers, ...) are also part of many gothic novels. Characteristics for the partly overwrought emotions are crying and melodramatic speeches, as well as panic and fainting. ►distressed women

Frequently women are oppressed and threatened, either by male relatives or other powerful men, for instance kings or lords which are mostly tyrannical. These women are often the main characters, demanded to do something unbearable as marrying someone they do not love.

After the outstanding success of the gothic...
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