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The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story Paperback – Sep 14 2008

3.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks (Sept. 14 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199537216
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199537211
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 1 x 12.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 118 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #362,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


`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

About the Author

E. J. Clery is Research Fellow in English at Sheffield Hallam University and author of The Rise of Supernatural Fiction 1762-1800 (1995).

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By Brigitte TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 25 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this classic to understand the roots of gothic litterature and how the present model was influenced by The Castle of Otranto. While not a blast to read (very simple and short story), it is still very interesting and I am glad I purchased it for my collection.
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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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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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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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Everything that can be said is almost certainly expressed in the comprehensive introduction to this fine edition.
I will attempt to review it anyhow as I enjoyed this literary, pioneering work immensely and hopefully my pale (in comparision to Walpole's and his peers) words might incite others to enjoy the first(claimed to be by many anyhow) gothic book written.
I am going to provide a brief synopsis although one has been provided in hopes of conveying how big and active the plot is of this novel. Manfred, Prince of Otronto prepares for his son' wedding day, but suddenly his son is crushed by a giant helmet. Not confident his wife would provide him with another male heir to carry on his line Manfred decides he wishes to marry his passed son's fiancee, Isabella. Fearing a marriage to tyrannical Manfred Isabella flees with help of the peasant Theodore, and finds sanctuary with the monk Jerome.
As Manfred tries to convince Jerome to bless his marriage to Isabella(and grant divorce from his wife)emmisaries from Isabella's family arrive at the castle. There is question of the legimitacy to Manfred's claim to the princedom of Otronto it seems and the rightful heir is Isabella's father one of the reasons Manfred is so keen on a marital union between the families. This all happens in the first fifty or sixty pages, and even as summed up I failed to really express how much takes place in this little book. Let's just say this is a dense plot, so much happening in so little time.
I tried to finish this book in time to post my review ofr it on Halloween, but The Castle of Otronto is not a book that can be called a fast read, nor is it a book you wish to skim pages on.
Walpole successfully blended romance and supernatural suspense leading the way in a genre of fiction that is still emulated and popular to this day.
The Castle of Otronto is a great Gothic novel and it is also a great novel period.
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