Much of what characterizes Gothic literature has to do with setting. As what might be described as the “grandfather” of Gothic literature, Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto displays many of the features that would become stereotypically Gothic. For example, the story takes place in a foreign country, in a medieval castle with towers and secret passageways. The castle is eerie and ominous, plagued by creaking hinges, trap doors clanging shut, the wailing of the wind…(read full theme analysis)
The balance between spiritual belief and worldly desires is a struggle many of the novel’s characters face. Manfred, the usurping prince of Otranto, is the most extreme example of this, as he succumbs to worldly temptation both politically and romantically. For example, after the death of his only male heir, Manfred attempts to preserve his lineage and political rule by committing various sins: seeking a divorce from his wife Hippolita; nearly murdering Hippolita…(read full theme analysis)
In the second preface to The Castle of Otranto, Walpole acknowledges his authorship of the work and defends his use of both comedy and tragedy, elements that are tied to the story’s two classes of people. Modeling his mixture of comedy and tragedy on that of Shakespeare’s plays, the lower class characters are associated with comedy and the upper class characters with tragedy.
The peasants, such as Bianca and Diego, are often portrayed…(read full theme analysis)
A recurring element in The Castle of Otranto is the female characters’ absolute devotion to their husbands and fathers. For example, despite her husband’s temper and repeated rejections of her, Hippolita is entirely devoted to Manfred. Even when presented with Manfred’s sins, betrayals, and intention to marry their ward and former daughter-in-law-to-be Isabella, Hippolita passively agrees to Manfred’s demand for a divorce and refuses to acknowledge Manfred’s wrongdoing. Both Matilda and Isabella are…(read full theme analysis)