The Castle of Otranto

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Castle of Otranto Symbol Analysis

Castle of Otranto Symbol Icon

Castles are a staple of Gothic literature, their formidable and intricate structure representative of gothic themes. In The Castle of Otranto, a story centered around a particular castle, the castle represents evil in the form of sexual deviancy and the corruption of power. It is in the castle’s eerie rooms and dark passageways that Manfred pursues Isabella, intending to rape her. This sexual violence is also incestuous — Isabella is not only Manfred’s de facto daughter but also his contracted daughter-in-law, engaged to his son. Further, as Manfred’s and Hippolita’s home, the castle represents another dimension of incest through Manfred’s claim that his marriage to Hippolita is itself incestuous.

The castle also serves as the locus for wealth and power, and the corruption that often accompanies power. The very walls of the castle represent how rulership of Otranto has been usurped by Manfred’s family, as the castle is haunted by the restless ghosts of Alfonso and Ricardo. And when Manfred himself falls from power, so too do the walls of the castle.

Castle of Otranto Quotes in The Castle of Otranto

The The Castle of Otranto quotes below all refer to the symbol of Castle of Otranto. 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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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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Castle of Otranto Symbol Timeline in The Castle of Otranto

The timeline below shows where the symbol Castle of Otranto 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
...the servants gossip widely that Manfred is trying to avoid an ancient prophecy (that “the Castle and Lordship of Otranto should pass from the present family whenever the real owner should... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
...there and that he would kill Hippolita. Remembering an underground passage leading away from the castle, she decides to seek sanctuary at the church of St. Nicholas. Her journey to the... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...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
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
...of Falconara. Manfred promises to spare Jerome’s son if he brings Isabella back to the castle. Theodore nobly but impetuously declares he is prepared to sacrifice his life. Before Jerome can... (full context)
Chapter 3
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
...Manfred agrees to let Theodore live and has Jerome see who is waiting outside the castle. The herald outside asks for “the usurper of Otranto,” which angers Manfred. Eager to reassert... (full context)
Chapter 4
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
The castle’s doctors examine Frederic’s wounds, none of which are life-threatening. As he is being cared for,... (full context)
Chapter 5
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
On their way back to the castle, Manfred worries about what he is convinced is a love affair between Isabella and Theodore,... (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 heard the news, rushes toward the... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
...the court, dragging Theodore behind them. As soon as Theodore steps out, part of the castle walls behind Manfred crash down, and a giant ghost-like image of Alfonso appears over the... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...Ricardo’s line would rule only until the rightful ruler grew too large to inhabit the castle. (full context)