The Castle of Otranto

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Theodore Character Analysis

The hero of the story, Theodore is first presented as the peasant whom Manfred wrongfully imprisons for an offhand observation. Well-spoken, noble, and brave, he bears a striking resemblance to the statue of Alfonso the Good. After he helps Isabella escape, he is again imprisoned and sentenced to death until Matilda, with whom he falls in love, helps him escape. Near the end of the novel, Theodore reveals his backstory — that he was enslaved by pirates, only to be freed by Christians many years later, and has been working as a farmer in Otranto for the past two years. Father Jerome reveals that Theodore is not only his son but also a direct descendant of Alfonso and the rightful ruler of Otranto. After Matilda’s death, Theodore takes over Otranto and marries Isabella as its rightful ruler – the rightness of his rulership is supported both by his bloodline and by his always-noble behavior.

Theodore Quotes in The Castle of Otranto

The The Castle of Otranto quotes below are all either spoken by Theodore or refer to Theodore. 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

The Castle and Lordship of Otranto should pass from the present family whenever the real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it.

Related Characters: Manfred, Theodore, Alfonso
Related Symbols: Castle of Otranto, The Giant Suit of Armor
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

These words are a prophecy about rulership of Otranto. At the beginning of the novel, Manfred is rushing his son Conrad’s wedding in order to avoid the prophecy, which foretells the end of Manfred’s reign. It is this prophecy that drives the entirety of the plot, from Manfred’s arrangement of Conrad’s wedding to his own pursuit of Isabella, to the gigantic pieces of armor that mysteriously appear around the castle. By the end of the novel, it is revealed that these pieces of oversized armor belong to Alfonso, the last true ruler of Otranto. Though Manfred spends almost the entirety of the novel committing sins to fight against this prophecy, which was originally delivered by St. Nicholas to Manfred’s grandfather, Manfred allows the prophecy to pass after he accidentally kills his daughter, finally repenting and seeking atonement as a monk.

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In vain did Manfred’s friends endeavour to divert him from this savage and ill-grounded resolution. The generality were charmed with their lord’s decision, which, to their apprehensions, carried great appearance of justice; as the magician was to be punished by the very instrument with which he had offended: nor were they struck with the least compunction at the probability of the youth being starved; for they firmly believed, that, by his diabolical skill, he could easily supply himself with nutriment.

Related Characters: Theodore, Alfonso
Related Symbols: The Giant Suit of Armor
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Manfred has just sentenced Theodore to be trapped under the giant helmet that killed Manfred’s son Conrad. The characters’ differing reactions to such an unjust punishment reveals the easily swayed, and bloodthirsty minds of the peasants, as well as the kinder, more moral minds of the nobles. While the nobles are able to understand that Manfred’s punishment of Theodore is completely unwarranted, the peasants illogically and with no evidence agree with Manfred’s hasty and angry punishment. The peasants’ belief that Theodore is a sorcerer points to the superstitious natures that Walpole has painted for them. That the passage aligns Manfred’s own behavior with that of the peasants and against the inclinations of the nobles is a hint that Manfred himself is not in fact from a noble line despite the fact that he is the ruler of Otranto.

Chapter 2 Quotes

I fear no man’s displeasure when a woman in distress puts herself under my protection.

Related Characters: Theodore (speaker), Manfred, Isabella
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

Believing that Theodore and Isabella are in love, Manfred is interrogating the peasant about his relationship to Isabella. In response, Theodore declares here that Isabella is under his protection.

Theodore’s brave, though perhaps impetuous, declaration allows him to take on the roles of hero and knight. That Isabella is “a woman in distress…under [his] protection” emphasizes that even narratives of chivalry, where women are to be protected, are patriarchal constructs in which women must simultaneously be protected from men and are dependent on men for their safety. Women in chivalric tales provide much the same roles as Walpole’s servant characters; just as the servants make the nobles appear grander, so too do damsels in distress make knights appear all the more heroic.

Chapter 3 Quotes

Matilda disengaged herself from her women, stole up to the black tower, and unbolting the door, presented herself to the astonished Theodore. “Young man,” said she, “though filial duty and womanly modesty condemn the step I am taking, yet holy charity, surmounting all other ties, justifies this act. Fly, the doors of thy prison are open: my father and his domestics are absent, but they may soon return.”

Related Characters: Matilda (speaker), Manfred, Theodore
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

While all of Manfred’s men are racing Frederic’s knights to find Isabella, Theodore is locked in a prison that is now unguarded. By freeing Theodore from prison, Matilda reverses traditional gender roles of knight and damsel in distress. It is not the princess who is freed from the locked tower by a knight, as would normally be expected of heroic tales, but rather the knight who is freed by the princess.

Playing a “masculine” role, Matilda is aware that her actions go against both her father’s wishes and against “womanly modesty.” However, her violation of both worldly norms is justified by “holy charity,” which “surmount[s] all other ties.” Unlike her mother, whose Christian morals often yield to her husband’s wishes, Matilda’s freeing of an unjustly imprisoned man confirms that spiritual values must be placed above all else.

Arriving there, he sought the gloomiest shades, as best suited to the pleasing melancholy that reigned in his mind. In this mood he roved insensibly to the caves which had formerly served as a retreat to hermits, and were now reported round the country to be haunted by evil spirits. He recollected to have heard this tradition; and being of a brave and adventurous disposition, he willingly indulged his curiosity in exploring the secret recesses of this labyrinth…He thought the place more likely to be infested by robbers than by those infernal agents who are reported to molest and bewilder travelers.

Related Characters: Theodore
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

After being freed by Matilda and set on a path towards a labyrinth of hidden caves, Theodore is searching for Isabella, eager to prove himself. Now with his set of armor from Matilda, Theodore’s bravery and desire for “adventure” make him the typical heroic knight, situating the reader firmly in a story of medieval romance. Theodore’s “insensible” roving is not unlike the tendency of knights in chivalric tales to wander aimlessly through forests or the countryside, only to stumble upon adventure.

Despite reports of evil spirits haunting the caves, Theodore pushes onward, believing that the stories are untrue. Like Matilda and other nobles in the story, Theodore dismisses such reports as superstition, further distinguishing himself as a noble (as opposed to a superstitious peasant).

Chapter 4 Quotes

Where’er a casque that suits this sword is found,
With perils is thy daughter compass’ed round;
Alfonso’s blood alone can save the maid,
And quiet a long restless prince’s shade.

Related Characters: Frederic (speaker), Theodore, Isabella, Alfonso
Related Symbols: The Giant Suit of Armor
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

At the beginning of Chapter 4, after Theodore mistakenly injures Frederic and brings him to the castle with Isabella, Frederic reveals a prophecy inscribed on a giant sword led him to Otranto. This is the second prophecy of the novel, and it claims that near the helmet matching the sword, Frederic’s daughter Isabella will be in danger, and that only “Alfonso’s blood,” can save her and free Alfonso’s ghost.

That Isabella is the “maid” to be “saved” reinforces gender stereotypes of women as damsels in distress, especially if “Alfonso’s blood” is Theodore, her future husband, or Frederic, her father. In both cases, the prophecy would affirm the idea that women must always be under their fathers’ or husbands’ authority and protection. This is similar to the legal doctrine known as coverture, which originated in the Middle Ages and which decreed that married women had no legal rights, as their legal status was “covered” under that of their husbands. However, one possible positive feminist reading of the prophecy is that Isabella, who is also related to Alfonso, saves herself by escaping Manfred’s clutches.

Just as the first prophecy (that the current ruler of Otranto shall be supplanted when “the real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it”) motivates many of Manfred’s decisions and actions, the second prophecy also plays an important role in the story’s plot. The second prophecy provides Frederic with a mission, leading to his arrival at Otranto and his search for Isabella, both of which hinder Manfred’s plans to execute Theodore, who becomes the ruler of Otranto.

And jealousy, that, for a moment, had raised a coolness between these amiable maidens, soon gave way to the natural sincerity and candour of their souls. Each confessed to the other the impression that Theodore had made on her; and this confidence was followed by a struggle of generosity, each insisting on yielding her claim to her friend.

Related Characters: Theodore, Isabella, Matilda
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

Now that Isabella has returned to the castle with Theodore, Matilda suspects that the two are in love with each other, while Isabella, in love with Theodore herself, perceives that he is actually loves Matilda. After a tense conversation in which both women are reluctant to declare their love, the two princesses talk more sincerely, each willing to give up their romantic claims for the sake of her friend.

That romantic love gets in the way of Matilda and Isabella’s friendship suggests that romantic love is a corrupting force. Just as Manfred’s desire for Isabella causes him to become irrationally jealous and manipulative, the women’s love for Theodore evokes jealousy and insincerity in them both. However, unlike Manfred, who gives himself completely to his lust for power and Isabella, the princesses are able to revert to their better natures by renouncing their romantic desires.

“Come, come,” resumed the friar, “inconsiderate youth, this must not be; eradicate this guilty passion from thy breast.”—“Guilty passion!” cried Theodore, “Can guilt dwell with innocent beauty and virtuous modesty?”—“It is sinful,” replied the friar, “to cherish those whom heaven has doomed to destruction. A tyrant’s race must be swept from the earth to the third and fourth generation.”

Related Characters: Theodore (speaker), Father Jerome (speaker), Manfred, Matilda
Page Number: 89-90
Explanation and Analysis:

Shortly before Hippolita seeks Jerome’s advice about a marriage between Frederic and Matilda, Jerome is advising his son to relinquish his love for Matilda. Jerome’s warning against “guilty passion” reinforces the novel’s previous implications that romantic love is a corrupting force.

Jerome’s declaration that it is sinful to love a “a tyrant’s race,” which is doomed for destruction, originates from the Bible. In his first preface to Otranto, Walpole, posing as the story’s fictional translator, criticizes the fictional Italian “author” of story, Onuphrio Muralto, for using this Bible quote on the grounds that it as an ineffective moral for the story because tyrants rarely care about the consequences of their actions if those consequences are delayed to the third and fourth generations. Walpole (still posing as the translator rather than the actual narrator of the story) further adds that this message of unavoidable doom is undermined by Muralto’s conflicting message that prayer will save them. Though Matilda and Conrad (the fourth generation following Richard, the original tyrant) both die, Manfred (the third generation) avoids death by repenting and retiring to the convent. Walpole, a Protestant, purposefully calls attention to his construction of these conflicting religious lessons, perhaps to highlight the often contradictory messages posed by Catholic doctrine.

Chapter 5 Quotes

The moment Theodore appeared, the walls of the castle behind Manfred were thrown down with a mighty force, and the form of Alfonso, dilated to an immense magnitude, appeared in the centre of the ruins. “Behold in Theodore the true heir of Alfonso!” said the vision: and having pronounced these words, accompanied by a clap of thunder, it ascended solemnly towards Heaven, where, the clouds parting asunder, the form of St. Nicholas was seen, and receiving Alfonso’s shade, they were soon wrapt from mortal eyes in a blaze of glory.

Related Characters: Alfonso (speaker), Manfred, Theodore
Related Symbols: Castle of Otranto, The Giant Suit of Armor
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

After Manfred kills Matilda’s (thinking she was Isabella), the castle is beset by an earthquake that drives out its inhabitants. As soon as Theodore goes out into the court, the walls behind Manfred come crashing down, indicating that Manfred’s power, residing in the castle walls, is now destroyed.

In the ruins’ place appears the giant ghost of Alfonso, fulfilling the ancient prophecy Manfred feared. Alfonso’s likeness to Theodore bolsters the ghost’s message that Theodore is the rightful ruler of Otranto. Though the other supernatural phenomena in the story are hinted or speculated by the characters to be of divine will, the appearance of Alfonso’s ghost, the story’s last supernatural phenomenon, is clearly divinely ordained, as the ghost rises to heaven and as St. Nicholas appears “in a blaze of glory.” This final divine intervention pushes Manfred, Hippolita, and Frederic to suppress their worldly desires for the sake of their faith, and establishes that with the rise of Theodore to the rulership of Otranto that the order of things ordained by heaven has been set right.

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Theodore Character Timeline in The Castle of Otranto

The timeline below shows where the character Theodore 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
In the court, all of Manfred’s attention is on the giant helmet. When a young peasant observes its similarity to the helmet on the statue of Alfonso the Good in the... (full context)
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
At that moment, a few peasants returned from the church, confirming that Alfonso’s statue was missing its helmet. Panicked and enraged,... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
However, the figure is a stranger, whose kind voice offers to help Isabella and to protect her from Manfred with his... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
While Manfred contemplates pardoning the peasant, two servants, Diego and Jaquez, arrive in fear. With some difficulty because of their rambling... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...to marry him. He then orders his men to guard every exit and orders the peasant to remain in one of the castle’s rooms to be questioned further the next day. (full context)
Chapter 2
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...servant, Bianca, fills her in on the latest gossip about the discovery of the young peasant and the giant leg in armor. Matilda, however, is more concerned about Isabella, her mother,... (full context)
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...that it is a ghost, Matilda opens a window and realizes that it is a stranger singing. Though they cannot see each other, the stranger reveals himself to be polite, well... (full context)
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Bianca reveals that the servants believe the stranger helped Isabella escape. She insinuates that the stranger is unhappy because he is in love... (full context)
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...requesting their consent to stay at the church. Angry, Manfred refuses and blames the young peasant for Isabella’s flight. While Manfred tries to assert his role as Isabella’s parent in order... (full context)
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...Isabella, and whomever else Manfred might harm if angered. When Manfred interrogates Jerome about the peasant, Jerome unwisely confirms a romantic connection between the peasant and Isabella, thinking it might help... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Seething over the false information Jerome gave him, Manfred has the peasant brought from his room to the great hall for questioning. As Manfred begins to question... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
When Jerome arrives as a confessor, he realizes that he inadvertently put Theodore in danger. Remorseful, he confesses to fabricating a relationship between Isabella and Theodore, which further... (full context)
Chapter 3
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
...heaven and must submit himself to the church. At Jerome’s request, Manfred agrees to let Theodore live and has Jerome see who is waiting outside the castle. The herald outside asks... (full context)
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
Once Jerome is ushered out and Manfred imprisons Theodore in a tower, the herald announces the reason for his arrival: on behalf of his... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Manfred also gives orders for his men to search for Isabella. But this leaves Theodore’s tower unguarded, and Matilda takes the opportunity to rescue Theodore. The two of them instantly... (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
Theodore goes to one of the church’s convents to tell Jerome that he is free, but... (full context)
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
Not long after, an armed knight approaches the mouth of the cave. Theodore, unaware of the arrival of Frederic’s knights, believes that this man is working for Manfred... (full context)
Chapter 4
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
Manfred arrives and is shocked to see an armor-clad Theodore, whom he mistakes for Alfonso. When Manfred realizes it is Theodore, he is furious that... (full context)
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
...next day, Matilda and Isabella decide to meet, as they are both in love with Theodore, who has come between them. Aware that Theodore is in love with Matilda, Isabella decides... (full context)
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
...to the third and fourth generation.” Unused to having to obey a father’s orders, though, Theodore finds himself unable to stop loving Matilda. Hippolita asks Jerome to dismiss his son, and... (full context)
Chapter 5
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...castle, Manfred worries about what he is convinced is a love affair between Isabella and Theodore, but he nevertheless resolves to gain Isabella for himself. He uses every possible argument to... (full context)
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...is Isabella’s and Matilda’s confidante, he tries to ascertain the exact nature of Isabella’s and Theodore’s relationship. However, after a long, rambling, and unsatisfactory response from Bianca, Manfred knows little more... (full context)
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
...Manfred becomes all the more enraged when his spy at the church informs him that Theodore and a lady are secretly meeting at Alfonso’s tomb in the church. Believing that Isabella... (full context)
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
The monks and Theodore are bringing Matilda to the castle, with Manfred following behind in despair. Hippolita, who had... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
As Theodore mourns over the body, Isabella is walking Hippolita back to her room, when they meet... (full context)
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...who gave birth to a baby girl who eventually became Jerome’s wife. This means that Theodore is a direct descendant of Alfonso. In atonement for his sins, Manfred abdicates the throne... (full context)