Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

I don't know if this is supposed to be a comedy or what, but the overwrought drama and 'infernal specters' are just so hilarious I couldn't stop loling. Is Manfred supposed to be such a buffoon? Or am I totally not getting the story? There are as many pages devoted to preface and postscript as there are to the story itself so I'm probably being completely disrespectful of the genre by giggling. Slack should be cut, though, as The Castle of Otranto is apparently the very first of it's Gothic Literature kind. It's good silly/serious fun and makes for some fine Halloween reading.

On the day of his wedding, Conrad, heir to the house of Otranto, is killed in mysterious circumstances. His calculating father, Manfred, fears that his dynasty will now come to an end and determines to marry his son's bride himself - despite the fact that he is already married. But a series of terrifying supernatural omens soon threaten this unlawful union, as the curse placed on Manfred's ancestor, who usurped the lawful Prince of Otranto, begins to unfold. First published pseudonymously in 1764, purporting to be an ancient Italian text from the time of the crusades, The Castle of Otranto is a founding work of Gothic fiction. With its compelling blend of sinister portents, tempestuous passions and ghostly visitations, it spawned an entire literary tradition and influenced such writers as Ann Radcliffe and Bram Stoker. (back cover)

My lord, interrupted one of them officiously, to be sure it was the trap-door, and he was going to make his escape. Peace! blockhead, said the prince angrily; if he was going to escape, how should he come on this side? pg29

Sot! cried Manfred in a rage, is it only a ghost then that thou hast seen? Oh, worse! worse! my lord! cried Diego: I had rather have seen ten whole ghosts. - Grant me patience! said Manfred; these blockheads distract me - Out of my sight, Diego! And thou, Jaquez, tell me in one word, art thou sober? art thou raving? Thou wast to have some sense: has the other sot frightened himself and thee too? pg31

RIP #7 -check!
GRC #5 -check!


Beth said...

Whether it was supposed to make you laugh or not, doesn’t matter! It’s great to giggle and/or laugh – at whatever and whenever!
Found it amusing to see the use of the word “blockheads” in 1764. :)

Trish said...

Ha yes, 'blockhead' - what a funny word. The whole story sounds like Archie meets Shakespeare. Quirky.

And you're so right! The right to laugh at whatever/whenever should be part of my no-rules guerrilla reading campaign.

Tracy said...

Oh, that's wonderful!
Can't imagine it inspiring Bram Stoker, though.