The Castle of Otranto

The Giant Suit of Armor Symbol Analysis

The Giant Suit of Armor Symbol Icon

The giant suit of armor that appears in pieces throughout the story serves to fulfill the prophecy given to Manfred’s grandfather by St. Nicholas: “the Castle and Lordship of Otranto should pass from the present family whenever the real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it.” The armor that used to belong to Alfonso’s statue literally becomes too big for the castle, making it a very literal symbol of Nicholas’s prophecy and suggesting that Manfred’s rule will soon end. As the herald of Manfred’s downfall, each appearance by the giant suit of armor in some way thwarts Manfred’s plans: the giant casque or helmet crushes Conrad to death shortly before the wedding that will cement his family’s power; the giant foot and leg in armor interrupts Diego and Jaquez’s search for Isabella, allowing her more time to escape from Manfred; the giant hand and arm in armor stops Bianca from spying on Isabella at Manfred’s behest; and the giant sabre or sword contains a prophecy that leads to Frederic’s arrival, which interrupts Manfred from executing Theodore, the true heir to Otranto.

The armor, as a kind of embodiment of St. Nicholas’s prophecy, also represents the hand of God in determining the fates of the characters and (in an example of Walpole’s tongue-in-cheek humor) literally includes a giant hand that helps influence the course of events in the narrative. The way the armor thwarts Manfred thus further emphasize Manfred’s descent into evil, and, conversely, Alfonso’s link to heaven.

The Giant Suit of Armor Quotes in The Castle of Otranto

The The Castle of Otranto quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Giant Suit of Armor. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer 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:

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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:

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Manfred rose to pursue her; when the moon, which was now up, and gleamed in at the opposite casement, presented to his sight the plumes of the fatal helmet, which rose to the height of the windows, waving backwards and forwards in a tempestuous manner, and accompanied with a hollow and rustling sound…. “Heaven nor hell shall impede my designed!” said Manfred, advancing again to seize the princess. At that instant, the portrait of his grandfather, which hung over the bench where they had been sitting, uttered a deep sigh, and heaved its breast.

Related Characters: Manfred (speaker), Isabella, Ricardo
Related Symbols: The Giant Suit of Armor
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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The Giant Suit of Armor Symbol Timeline in The Castle of Otranto

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Giant Suit of Armor appears in The Castle of Otranto. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...care of her, while Manfred goes out to the court, only to discover that a giant helmet with black feathers had fallen from the sky and crushed Conrad to death. (full context)
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...seems less upset by the death of his favorite child and more interested in the giant helmet . Utterly unconcerned for his wife and daughter, his first words are an order to... (full context)
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... (full context)
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...of killing Conrad through witchcraft and orders his men to imprison the peasant underneath the giant helmet . While the other peasants form a mob, cheering Manfred’s vilification of the young peasant,... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
...away but is followed by Manfred, who is momentarily distracted by moonlight shining on the giant helmet through the window. Though Isabella claims that Manfred’s intentions are against heaven’s will, Manfred claims... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...believing he will find Isabella, discovers instead the young peasant, who had escaped from the giant helmet . Manfred questions the peasant, who spins the truth in order to protect Isabella. (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...and inarticulate speech, Manfred learns that during the servants’ search for Isabella, they encountered a giant leg in armor in the court. The peasant expresses interest in pursuing the “adventure,” and Manfred, impressed that... (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...and her chaplain in the gallery. Hippolita, who had been informed by Diego of the giant leg in armor , assures him that it was merely a story, though secretly, both Hippolita and Manfred... (full context)
Chapter 2
Class, Comedy, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...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, and her brother’s burial. (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
...of a trumpet outside the castle gate. At the same time, the feathers of the giant helmet bow down by themselves. (full context)
Chapter 3
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Shaken by the helmet’s moving feathers, Manfred seeks an explanation from Jerome, who says that Manfred has angered heaven... (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
...champion has brought a host of knights and servants with him, as well as a gigantic sabre , or sword. Manfred claims he will fight Frederic’s champion the next day and presents... (full context)
Chapter 4
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Gender and Marriage Theme Icon
...breaths, the hermit told Frederic about a secret from St. Nicholas: where to find a giant sword . Once Frederic and his men unearthed the sword, they saw that it contained a... (full context)
Chapter 5
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
...do her spying she was scared away from Isabella’s quarters by the sight of a giant hand in armor . (full context)
Humor, the Gothic, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
The Divine vs. The Mundane Theme Icon
Lineage and Leadership Theme Icon
...realizes that his daughter is dead, and at that moment, the earth rocks and the giant helmet clamors. Believing the end of days is here, Frederic and Jerome rush out to the... (full context)