The Castle of Otranto

by Horace Walpole

The Castle of Otranto

The Castle of Otranto is considered the first "gothic" novel, a genre that loves melodrama, mystery, hidden places, ancestral curses, and fainting heroines. Its roots are the "romance," which was a tale of heroism (not love as it is now known), and the Romantic movement in literature, which focused on emotion and the sublimity of nature. When The Castle of Otranto was first published, it was said to be a translation of a lost medieval transcript, and received positive attention. But when it was next published, the truth was revealed--that the story was quite modern and written by a priviledged author. Critics then panned it, but it survives today as the seminal Gothic literary novel.

Source: Walpole, H. (1765). The Castle of Otranto. London, England: Thomas Lownds.

Preface to the First Edition
The preface to the book.
Chapter I
On his wedding day, Conrad is crushed by a giant helmet. Menfred, Conrad’s father makes advances toward Isabella, Conrad’s betrothed.
Chapter II
There is news of the Princess’s death.
Chapter III
After receiving a visit from Jerome, Manfred confronts him calling him “Usurper”.
Chapter IV
Frederic explains to Hippolita that he is destined by Heaven to do her harm. When she explains that she understands, it grieves him.
Chapter V
Manfred is expelled and all is concluded.
  • Year Published: 1765
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: England
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 7.0
  • Word Count: 39,025
  • Genre: Gothic
  • Keywords: fate, gothic fiction, mystery, supernatural
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