The Castle of Otranto

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Hippolita Character Analysis

The princess of Otranto and Manfred’s wife, Hippolita is the mother of Matilda and Conrad. Though she is pious and kind, her complete devotion and submission to her husband make her his key enabler. Despite her own wishes, her belief that divorce goes against her Christian faith, and her knowledge that Isabella will be forced into an unwanted marriage, she passively agrees to a divorce from Manfred when he seeks to solidify his power by marrying Isabella. After Manfred abdicates, Hippolita becomes a nun at one of the nearby convents.

Hippolita Quotes in The Castle of Otranto

The The Castle of Otranto quotes below are all either spoken by Hippolita or refer to Hippolita. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Castle of Otranto published in 2004.
Chapter 1 Quotes

That excellent lady, who no more than Manfred doubted the reality of the vision, yet affected to treat it as a delirium of the servant. Willing, however, to save her lord from any additional shock, and prepared by a series of grief not to tremble at any accession to it, she determined to make herself the first sacrifice, if fate had marked the present hour for their destruction.

Related Characters: Manfred, Hippolita, Diego
Related Symbols: The Giant Suit of Armor
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

Though both are sure of its reality, Hippolita and Manfred dismiss the servants’ report of a giant leg in armor as superstition. However, as they will soon learn, they are wrong to do so, as the armor represents the end of Manfred’s rule. Hippolita’s decision to offer herself up as a sacrifice leads her to anticipate disaster throughout the novel, and as a result, she is all too ready to consent to a divorce from Manfred when he asks her to do so. Constantly putting Manfred’s needs before her own, Hippolita’s willingness to sacrifice herself for her husband’s sake is a sign of her selflessness and wifely submission, but at the same time it involves placing her husband’s authority above the authority of God, which is a sin.

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Ashamed, too, of his inhuman treatment of a princess, who returned every injury with new marks of tenderness and duty; he felt returning love forcing itself into his eyes—but not less ashamed of feeling remorse towards one, against whom he was inwardly meditating a yet more bitter outrage, he curbed the yearnings of his heart, and did not dare to lean even towards pity. The next transition of his soul was to exquisite villainy. Presuming on the unshaken submission of Hippolita, he flattered himself that she would not only acquiesce with patience to a divorce, but would obey, if it was his pleasure, in endeavouring to persuade Isabella to give him her hand.

Related Characters: Manfred, Isabella, Hippolita
Related Symbols: The Giant Suit of Armor
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

After his initial feverish search for Isabella failed, Manfred has calmed down at the reassurance of his wife and begins to feel remorse for his treatment of both Hippolita and Isabella. However, though he is beginning to feel shame, he simultaneously feels “a yet more bitter outrage” against Isabella and his fickle emotions soon bring him back to “exquisite villainy,” as his anger and pride overcomes his conscience.

Both highly patriarchal and unreasonably proud of his ability to persuade others, Manfred deludes himself into believing that his wife will be so obedient that she would readily betray her morals for him. Though Hippolita does in fact agree to a divorce, she does so only passively and without enthusiasm. The passage also captures the way that female submission, while seen at the time as a virtue, leads to men requiring and demanding even more submission, even to the point of demanding submission to sinful behavior.

Chapter 2 Quotes

“O that dear mother! yes, Bianca, ‘tis there I feel the rugged temper of Manfred. I can support his harshness to me with patience; but it wounds my soul when I am witness to his causeless severity towards her.” “Oh! madam,” said Bianca, “all men use their wives so, when they are weary of them.” “And yet your congratulated me but now,” said Matilda, “when you fancied my father intended to dispose of me!” “I would have you a great lady,” replied Bianca, “come what will. I do not wish to see you moped in a convent, as you would be if you had your will, and if my lady, your mother, who knows that a bad husband is better than no husband at all, did not hinder you—”

Related Characters: Matilda (speaker), Bianca (speaker), Manfred, Hippolita
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

At the beginning of Chapter 2, shortly after Isabella’s disappearance, Matilda is in her room, ruminating over the day’s events in the company of her servant Bianca. Ever the dutiful daughter, Matilda is used to her father’s indifference but cannot stand his poor treatment of her mother. Bianca’s explanation for Manfred’s behavior, that all men “use” their wives, and her belief that women should be married, suggest that in her view, women are meant to be married and to be “used” – that women are objects that exist for men.

In contrast, Matilda’s desire to become a nun is thus a desire to remain independent of a male-dominated society in which women are oppressed.

“Father,” interrupted Manfred, “I pay due reverence to your holy profession; but I am sovereign here, and will allow no meddling priest to interfere in the affairs of my domestic. If you have aught to say, attend me to my chamber—I do not use to let my wife be acquainted with the secret affairs of my state; they are not within a woman’s province.”

Related Characters: Manfred (speaker), Father Jerome, Hippolita
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

Interrupting Jerome from telling Hippolita of his wrongdoings, Manfred asserts that priests and woman have no place in the political sphere, and asks to speak to Jerome alone. As he will do again and again in his conversations with Jerome throughout the novel, Manfred insists on a separation between church and state, a separation which, in the world of the novel, is shown to be against divine will. Just as he declares that his wife should have no say in his rule, Manfred argues that a mere priest has no authority over him. However, unlike Hippolita who submits easily to Manfred’s wishes, Jerome is less tractable in his convictions and becomes Manfred’s main adversary and foil.

Further, the implications of Manfred’s argument that Jerome has no authority over the realm of politics is that God has no authority over politics, and is therefore a resistance to the idea of God’s ultimate authority. In the world of the novel – and religious thought at the time the novel was written – that is a sinful position.

“Holy father,” said Hippolita, “it is your office to be no respecter of persons: you must speak as your duty prescribes—but it is my duty to hear nothing that it pleases not my lord I should hear.”

Related Characters: Hippolita (speaker), Manfred, Father Jerome
Page Number: 53-43
Explanation and Analysis:

After Manfred declares that it is not Hippolita’s place as a woman to listen to what he does not wish her to hear, Hippolita folds easily, submitting to her husband’s desires. However, like Manfred, she makes the mistake of implicitly supporting a separation between church and state, or in her case, church and everyday life. By speaking of Jerome’s obligations to God and her own duties to her husband as if they are comparable, Hippolita implies that her worldly duties as a wife, rather than her moral obligations as a Christian, are of the utmost importance to her. Only at the end of the novel is Hippolita able to put her priorities in their “proper” order by becoming a nun in the local convent.

Chapter 3 Quotes

Know then, that I have long been troubled in mind on my union with the princess Hippolita…for we are related within the forbidden degrees. My only difficulty was to fix on a successor, who would be tender of my people, and to dispose of the Lady Isabella, who is dear to me as my own blood. I was willing to restore the line of Alfonso, even in his most distant kindred…. I would submit to anything for the good of my people—were it not the best, the only way to extinguish the feuds between our families, if I was to take the Lady Isabella to wife—you start—but, though Hippolita’s virtues will ever be dear to me, a prince must not consider himself; he is born for his people.

Related Characters: Manfred (speaker), Isabella, Hippolita, Alfonso
Page Number: 69-70
Explanation and Analysis:

After inviting Frederic’s men into the castle, Manfred is determined to appease them in order to maintain his rule, and so he recycles for the knights the same story that he believes worked on Jerome. Claiming that he wishes to avoid incest by divorcing his wife, Manfred proposes that the best solution for him and his people is to marry Isabella, who is “dear to [him] as [his] own blood.” Manfred does not seem to realize that such a marriage would also be incestuous and that his proposed solution – to avoid incest with his wife by marrying his ward and almost-daughter-in-law – is illogical.

The gaping lies in Manfred’s speech, meant to prove his suitability as a ruler, ironically prove that he is not suitable to be prince. Though he claims that marrying Isabella would be “the best, the only way to extinguish the feuds” between himself and Frederic’s men, a far easier solution to end the feud and to avoid the supposed incest with Hippolita, would be to renounce his claim over Otranto and retire to the convent, just as he does at the end of the novel. The double meaning of Manfred’s insistence that he is “born for his people” is ironic, as Manfred, the grandson of a chamberlain, was never meant to be born into rulership at all, and as he could have easily given Otranto over to Frederic to provide his people with a successor.

Chapter 4 Quotes

“Thou art as much too good for this world,” said Isabella, “as Manfred is execrable—but think not, lady, that thy weakness shall determine for me. I swear, hear me all ye angels” — Stop, I adjure thee,” cried Hippolita; “remember thou dost not depend on thyself; thou hast a father.”

Related Characters: Isabella (speaker), Hippolita (speaker), Manfred, Frederic
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

After Matilda and Isabella reconcile, Hippolita arrives to announce that she has proposed a marriage between Matilda and Frederic. Isabella, knowing that this will make Manfred’s plans to marry her easier, begins to pray. However, Hippolita stops her, telling Isabella that she must listen to her father (Frederic) first.

Hippolita’s interruption of Isabella’s prayer shows once again that Hippolita’s priorities are not in order. By claiming that Isabella’s fate depends on her father, Hippolita is implying that Frederic’s authority as a father is greater than the divine authority of the angels. Just as she does with her own husband, Hippolita privileges female obedience to worldly, masculine authority above Christian obligations to divine will.

It is not ours to make election for ourselves: heaven, our fathers, and our husbands, must decide for us. Have patience until you hear what Manfred and Frederic have determined. If the marquis accepts Matilda’s hand, I know she will readily obey. Heaven may interpose and prevent the rest.

Related Characters: Hippolita (speaker), Manfred, Isabella, Frederic, Matilda
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

Advising Isabella to listen to her father first, Hippolita declares that it is not the place of a woman to make any choices for herself and that such choices must be made by “heaven, our fathers, and our husbands.” Without distinguishing between the level of authority that heaven, fathers, and husbands each have over women, Hippolita implies that fathers and husbands have at least equal authority over women compared to heaven. Just as she assumed in Chapter 2 that Jerome’s obligations to the divine were comparable to her obligations to her husband, Hippolita mistakenly implies that men’s authority over women is as important as divine authority.

Though Hippolita is a pious woman, her approach to adhering to Christian principles is passive at best. Though Father Jerome is a spiritual authority, she turns to him to explain the moral ramifications of Frederic’s marriage to Matilda only after she has already proposed the marriage idea to Manfred. Leaving the decision up to Manfred and Frederic as the male authorities, Hippolita does not actively try to shape or prevent a certain outcome but rather leaves it to heaven to prevent an immoral situation.

Chapter 5 Quotes

“Thou guiltless, but unhappy woman! unhappy by my crimes!” replied Manfred, “my heart, at last, is open to thy devout admonitions. Oh! could—but it cannot be—ye are lost in wonder—let me at last do justice on myself! To heap shame on my own head is all the satisfaction I have left to offer to offended Heaven. My story has drawn down these judgements: let my confession atone—but ah! what can atone for usurpation, and a murdered child! a child murdered in a consecrated place!—List, sirs, and may this bloody record be a warning to future tyrants!

Related Characters: Manfred (speaker), Matilda, Hippolita
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

Repentant for killing his daughter and awed by the appearance of Alfonso’s ghost, Manfred is finally ready to atone for his sins and to listen to Hippolita, marking a drastic change from his previous refusal to listen to anything a priest or woman had to say. Confessing his murder of Matilda and the story of how his grandfather usurped the throne, Manfred presents his story as a “warning to future tyrants.”

However, one could argue that, because Walpole dismissed the effectiveness of Muralto’s “message” in his first preface, Manfred’s transformation from a lustful, power-hungry tyrant to a repentant monk seems less a warning against would-be tyrants than a warning against the Catholic religious agenda of an “artful priest.” That said, it is never entirely clear just how seriously Walpole takes any of these various layers of the story (the fictional translator interpreting an Italian story by a fictional author who was a Catholic priest), and to what degree he created all of these layers mainly to add mystery and excitement to his effort to write a rollicking good story.

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Hippolita Character Timeline in The Castle of Otranto

The timeline below shows where the character Hippolita appears in The Castle of Otranto. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...for the marriage between his son and Isabella, the daughter of the Marquis of Vincenza. Hippolita, Manfred’s wife, previously noted several times the danger of an early marriage for their son,... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
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...to the chapel in fear and points wordlessly to the court. Everyone is in terror; Hippolita faints, and Matilda and Isabella take care of her, while Manfred goes out to the... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...order to “take care of the Lady Isabella.” The servants bring a shocked and distraught Hippolita to her room. Matilda assists her, as does Isabella, who regards Hippolita as a mother... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Hippolita, who has regained her consciousness, is now entirely focused on Manfred’s wellbeing and orders Matilda... (full context)
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Not wanting to upset her mother, Matilda returns to Hippolita with news that Manfred is well. A servant arrives, summoning Isabella... (full context)
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
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...been faithful to Conrad had they married and that she will always view Manfred and Hippolita as her parents. Cursing Hippolita, Manfred insinuates that he will be a better husband for... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
...frantically about where to go. Despite her initial instinct, she decides not to go to Hippolita, as she suspects both that Manfred would find her there and that he would kill... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...to Manfred in the moments immediately after Isabella escaped him. Manfred, searching for Isabella in Hippolita’s room, rejects his wife’s affection, asking only for Isabella. He accuses a confused Hippolita of... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
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Back in the present, Manfred meets Hippolita and her chaplain in the gallery. Hippolita, who had been informed by Diego of the... (full context)
Chapter 2
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...brother’s death, Isabella’s disappearance, and the ominous tone and rage Manfred had exhibited toward her mother. Her servant, Bianca, fills her in on the latest gossip about the discovery of the... (full context)
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...about marriage, in which Bianca claims that “all men use their wives,” as Manfred does Hippolita, “when they are weary of them,” but that “a bad husband is better than no... (full context)
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
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...church and that Father Jerome of the church is now informing Manfred, who is in Hippolita’s room. The narrator jumps to the interaction between Jerome and Manfred, in which Manfred tries... (full context)
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Jerome then passes along a message from Isabella to both Manfred and Hippolita, affirming her compassion for Conrad’s loss and her respect for them both as her parents,... (full context)
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...“reasons of state.” He tries to bribe Jerome with money for the church into persuading Hippolita to agree to a divorce and become a nun, arguing that his life, his family,... (full context)
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...his line of argument isn’t working, Manfred backtracks and claims that his desire to divorce Hippolita stems instead from his tortured conscience over the possible illegality and incestuous nature of their... (full context)
Chapter 3
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
...into the castle. Meanwhile, Jerome is extremely anxious about the fates of Theodore, Isabella, and Hippolita. These anxieties are only intensified when he reaches the church, where he discovers that Isabella... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...to appease them, but Manfred continues to talk and begins to discuss his marriage to Hippolita. As he did with Jerome, he claims that his supposedly incestuous marriage has troubled him... (full context)
Chapter 4
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...Frederic’s wounds, none of which are life-threatening. As he is being cared for, Frederic meets Hippolita and Matilda, and falls in love with Matilda. And though Matilda’s love for Theodore remains,... (full context)
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
...other for the sake of their friendship, until they are interrupted by the arrival of Hippolita. (full context)
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Hippolita, who believes that Otranto will fall into Frederic’s hands, announces that she has proposed to... (full context)
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Hippolita then finds Jerome in the church, seeking his guidance about the morality of a divorce.... (full context)
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
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While Hippolita is conversing with Jerome, up at the castle Manfred is proposing to Frederic that they... (full context)
Chapter 5
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...he nevertheless resolves to gain Isabella for himself. He uses every possible argument to convince Hippolita to divorce, only to find that Hippolita readily, though passively, agrees to go through with... (full context)
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Delighted with his wife’s response, he quickly leaves to inform Frederic. On the way back to Frederic, though, he... (full context)
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
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...ruling Otranto. And yet, he still wavers in his decision, and decides to see if Hippolita truly consented. At that moment, however, an announcement is made that a banquet has been... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Once the banquet is over, Frederic desires Matilda more than ever and goes to see Hippolita in her oratory in order to confirm her consent. At the oratory, Frederic finds a... (full context)
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
...urges them to help her father instead and insists that she be brought to her mother in the castle. (full context)
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...monks and Theodore are bringing Matilda to the castle, with Manfred following behind in despair. Hippolita, who had heard the news, rushes toward the church to find her daughter but faints... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
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As Theodore mourns over the body, Isabella is walking Hippolita back to her room, when they meet Manfred in the court. Manfred, who was on... (full context)
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
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...the throne and retires to one of the nearby convents to become a monk, while Hippolita retires to the other convent to become a nun. Frederic relinquishes his own claim to... (full context)