Friday, September 25, 2009
Before starting my annotated edition of Pride & Prejudice, I decided to read The Castle of Otranto because (a) its called the first gothic novel ever written, and (b) its short. I had read this in college for the same course in which I read Udolpho and NA, and had hated it. The writing seems stiff today and the story is over the top, supernatural without being scary. But this time I enjoyed it. The story begins with the son of Manfred, Prince of Otranto, on his way to be wed to the young and beautiful Princess Isabella, who doesn't love him. As the wedding party crosses the castle courtyard, a giant helmut falls from the sky and crushes the young groom. A young peasant, a stranger to everyone, is accused of witchcraft in the Prince's death, and Manfred panics at the realization that his only heir is dead. From there, the plot proceeds to coincidences, ghosts, betrayals, murder, and a giant who scares the servants. There is a not quite happy ending in which the evil-doers are punished and the good rewarded. I'm not surprised that it's author, Horace Walpole, was inspired by a dream, because the novel has a dream-like quality to it. It also feels like an episode of Doctor Who.