Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Book Review of The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

Name of book: The Castle of Otranto

Author Name:  Horace Walpole

ISBN: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/

Publisher: http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/

Type of book: Young adult to Adult, supernatural, Gothic

Year it was published: 1764


First published pseudonymously in 1764, The Castle of Otranto purported to be a translation of an Italian story of the time of the crusades. In it Walpole attempted, as he declared in the Preface to the Second Edition, "to blend the two kinds of romance: the ancient and the modern." Crammed with invention, entertainment, terror, and pathos, the novel was an immediate success and Walpole's own favorite among his numerous works. The novel is reprinted here from a text of 1798, the last that Walpole himself prepared for the press. (From goodreads.com)


There really is not much to tell the characters. Hippolita, Manfred's wife is kind of a martyr and loyal, while Manfred is way too passionate. Despite the actions and events, as mentioned, the characters aren't very memorable and aren't human. They're not Radcliffean characters of this period. (Read Mysteries of Udolpho or even Romance of the Forest to see what I mean.)


I think that the ultimate theme of the novel is that prophecies are true and one day you will pay for your ancestors' evil deeds.


I think perhaps its because one of the first Gothic novels, and because its a time when Europeans are trying to discover writing fiction, this is a terrible book for 21st century.  How does a helmet and a foot and everything else  fall from the sky? Why doesn't Manfred have any mistresses? How come he's not aware of killing his own daughter until its too late? As mentioned, this is very jumbled up and very ridiculous. I found many parts of this book very funny. Just because I finished it quickly, it doesn't mean its good.

Author Information:

Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, was an English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and politician. He is now largely remembered for Strawberry Hill, the home he built in Twickenham, south-west London where he revived the Gothic style some decades before his Victorian successors, and for his Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. Along with the book, his literary reputation rests on his Letters, which are of significant social and political interest. He was the son of Sir Robert Walpole, and cousin of Lord Nelson. (from goodreads.com)


This book is a complete mess. The language is very Shakespearean, and everything is extremely jumbled. I can't help but wonder if this is also a parody or something of the kind. It sounds very laughable actually. A giant helmet crushes the lord's son whom we are told is not a tyrant and a good person, yet the rest of the book proves us wrong. He begins to lust after the son's intended bride and even wants to divorce his wife just to marry the poor girl. Erm, not sure if research is done, but divorce was not legal back then, and only way to get out of marriage was for either the man or woman to adapt a religious life or for a man to go off to Crusades and not return within the appointed time. (Supposedly the story itself took place in Crusades...) I am surprised that the story took within two days instead of one night. (I seriously thought that all of this took place in one day!)

1 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

1 comment:

  1. wow, now you totally scared me, but I have it on my list for The Classics Club, so I'll have to give it a try one day soon...


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