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The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story [Paperback]

Horace Walpole
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 14 2008 Oxford World's Classics
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'. He gives us a series of catastrophes, ghostly interventions, revelations of identity, and exciting contests. Crammed with invention, entertainment, terror, and pathos, the novel was an immediate success and Walpole's own favourite among his numerous works. His friend, the poet Thomas Gray, wrote that he and his family, having read Otranto, were now `afraid to go to bed o'nights'. The novel is here reprinted from a text of 1798, the last that Walpole himself prepared for the press.

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`with each volume having an introduction by an acknowledged expert, and exhaustive notes, the World's Classics are surely the most desirable series and, all-round, the best value for money' Oxford Times

From the Back Cover

This Broadview edition pairs the first Gothic novel with the first Gothic drama, both by Horace Walpole. Published on Christmas Eve, 1764, on Walpole's private press at Strawberry Hill, his Gothicized country house, The Castle of Otranto became an instant and immediate classic of the Gothic genre as well as the prototype for Gothic fiction for the next two hundred years. Walpole's brooding and intense drama, The Mysterious Mother, focuses on the protagonist's angst over an act of incest with his mother, and includes the appearance of Father Benedict, Gothic literature's first evil monk. Appendices in this edition include selections from Walpole’s letters, contemporary responses, and writings illustrating the aesthetic and intellectual climate of the period. Also included is Sir Walter Scott’s introduction to the 1811 edition of The Castle of Otranto. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Prospective buyers and users should take note that the Customer Reviews posted on Amazon.com are erroneous. They pertain to previous
editions of Walpole's Gothic novel and do not apply to the Broadview edition. A unique feature of the Broadview edition is the inclusion of Walpole's drama, The Mysterious Mother, sometimes mentioned by literary historians as the first Gothic drama. Thus, the user has at his disposal two important prototypes of the Gothic novel. Appendices include excerpts from Burke's treatise on the sublime, Hurd's Letters on Chivalry and Romance, the Graveyard poets, Hervey's Meditations Among the Tombs, Walpole's correspondence, and the eccentric architectural splendors of Strawberry Hill, Walpole's Gothicized villa on the Thames. I am the edition's editor, Frederick S. Frank, another fact omitted from the Amazon.com descriptor.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Well, It Should've Worked... April 21 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
A high school English teacher, I assigned The Castle of Otranto to my 50 sophomores. They're a tough sell when it comes to books. (They're against them.) Still, I thought these kids might be interested in the one book that defined gothic horror, a genre much beloved by teenagers today. Forget it. They hated it. What was spooky to Walpole is hokum to youngsters who consider The Texas Chain-Saw Massacre one of the Ten Best Movies Ever Made. In desperation, I tried to teach the book as an example of 18th century camp, but campiness isn't a concept a 15 year old appreciates. Can 60 tenth-graders all be wrong? Yes, of course they're wrong. It should've worked, but it didn't. Next year, it's back to The Mayor of Casterbridge. That'll teach 'em to complain.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Gothic Pioneer Aug. 7 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read Horace Walpole's 'The Castle of Otranto' because it is often regarded as the first gothic novel, and I was curious to see how it was constructed and how it must have influenced later writers.

Briefly, it is the story of a high-born bridegroom struck down upon his wedding day by supernatural powers. His father, terrified by ancient prophecies and the idea that his line may die out, hastily tries to seduce the would-be bride of his late son. Misunderstandings, deaths, taking sanctuary in a church, the discovery of long-lost family, and ever conceivable dramatic notion enter the play at some point.

It is hard to judge something written so very long ago. I found the scary bits humorous, the dialogue ridiculous, and the situations preposterous. The popularity of the book and the rush to write gothic novels that followed upon the publication of this novella tell me that the 18th century reader felt much differently, and were truly shocked and moved by the action and the characters, and I am continuing to try to see it in that light.

The Castle of Otranto
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5.0 out of 5 stars Otranto is a perfect place for ghosts and usurpers March 13 2004
Format:Paperback
Considered the very first book of Gothic Literature, Horace Walpole's 'The Castle of Otranto' stands on its own merits. It is not the kind of novel for those who expect a gory ghost story, closer to what we callterror today. The narrative is too subtle, filled with nuances that create a scary mood.
The story is not very complicated: in the day of his wedding, Conrad, the son of the prince of Otranto, is killed in a very surreal way. While his mother, sister and bride are terrified, his father wants to divorce and marry the bride, so that he can have another son. This event will unchain a lot of ghosts' intervention and a dark truth will be found. And for such short book --actually a novella-- a lot of things happen.
The events and characters are quite unrealistic, but this is where the fun of reading this book is. Not to mention the historical value of the narrative. More than a ghosts story, it is the tale of a man who usurped the throne, and the consequences he suffered. While the aftermath may not be quite realistic, usurping thrones was something quite common.
The biggest barrier for a contemporary reader is Walpole's language. Not that it is florid, but it is written in the way people used to speak in the 18th Century. But while for some it is a discouragement, for other it is a joy --once we get used to it. His dialogues a descriptions easily flow. The way the writer creates the atmosphere is unforgettable. Castle is a place where ghosts seem to be, and Otranto's is a perfect place for them.
Moreover, there is a very positive influence of Shakespeare on Walpole. Every now and then a Shakespearian quote pops up --mostly from 'Macbeth' and Hamlet'. 'Otranto' has even a theatrical format. Square brackets are used to indicate changing, like in a play.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Gothic classic and a darn good read July 14 2006
By Daniel Jolley TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Setting aside this work's importance as the first Gothic novel, it is also a terrific read. Some critics disparage the quality of the writing, but I find it eloquent and enthralling. Certainly, the style is antiquated and the milieu is one quite distant from that of the modern reader, but never have I read such long paragraphs so quickly and energetically. I can appreciate the sentiments of its first readers who reportedly could not put the book down and longed for more after they turned the final page. There is action aplenty to be found in these pages. The characters are prone to make long, drawn-out speeches, but these never slow the pace of the story itself.

The characters are revealed quite poignantly through their speech and action, a fact which somewhat surprised me. There was a deep complexity to Manfred that seemed to speak volumes; while he is surely tyrannical and, to some degree, evil, one can often sense an internal battle within his soul at moments of tragic importance. While he cannot be liked, he can certainly be understood. The young hero Theodore is truly a remarkable lad, the very model of a virtuous, noble gentleman--most importantly, he is just as noble in peasant's rags as he is in princely attire. The two young princesses, Matilda and Isabella, were marvelously portrayed--beautiful, kind, and virtuous to a fault. Their mistreatment by their fathers is the great tragedy of the story. They will gladly sacrifice their own virtue in acquiescence to the wishes of the men controlling their lives. Such devotion is a symbol of the virtual prison that women were forced by society to dwell in for far too long. They, much more than Theodore, are the true heroic figures to be found in the Castle of Otranto.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gothic classic and a darn good read
Setting aside this work's importance as the first Gothic novel, it is also a terrific read. Some critics disparage the quality of the writing, but I find it eloquent and... Read more
Published on June 15 2006 by Daniel Jolley
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't work
This may be the beginning of the gothic novel but it certainly isn't the best of them. About halfway through, the story simply becomes monotonous. Read more
Published on Feb. 15 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Leading the Way
Everything that can be said is almost certainly expressed in the comprehensive introduction to this fine edition. Read more
Published on Nov. 3 2003 by paul mason
4.0 out of 5 stars The Original Gothic Mystery
Walpole's book is one of the first in this genre. It is the story of a prince who is anxious to keep his throne no matter what the cost. Read more
Published on April 7 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, Classic and Historical
Not only is Horace Walpole's "The Castle of Otranto" important as the epochal first novel of the Gothic genre, but is also as one of the first novels ever. Read more
Published on Oct. 8 2002 by Kat
4.0 out of 5 stars gothic formulas start here
short, sweet and basically to the point. the characters are funny,(Manfred's henchmen) Manfred is instinct ridden until he gets what he wants, murdering if he must, but in the end... Read more
Published on Aug. 11 2002 by dom
5.0 out of 5 stars Best edition available
Finally someone has provided us with a readable, absorbing, and correct edition of this novel. I've always found this a difficult work, but the introduction and notes are... Read more
Published on March 27 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars Historical artifact
This is interesting as a historical milestone since it seems to have been the first Gothic novel ever written. As such I guess it should arouse some mild interest. Read more
Published on March 18 2002 by Carper
2.0 out of 5 stars Historical artifact
This is interesting as a historical milestone since it seems to have been the first Gothic novel ever written. As such I guess it should arouse some mild interest. Read more
Published on March 18 2002 by Carper
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