The Castle of Otranto
02/21/2009 § Leave a comment
“Manfred’s heart misgave him when he beheld the plumage on the miraculous casque shaking in concert with the sounding of the brazen trumpet.”
Can’t really argue with how awesome that sentence is. And then when one knows that the “miraculous casque” with said plumage is a giant helmet that has fallen atop the pro/antagonist’s son it only gets better.
Even though this sentence rates off the charts, I still don’t know what I think of this book. Yes, it is the “first” gothic novel and all that, but it all is kind of too convenient. The plot is just a nonstop barrage of crazy devices devices pushing it forward and accelerating after every push. I think I read recently that it seemed like the characters were racing to the finish, and I think this is a pretty accurate description.
The novel begins with a dad, Manfred, who’s running around preparing for his sons wedding. He’s kind of a schmuck and his son is bogus and ugly but he dotes on him because he is the son. He also has a beautiful daughter who he pays no mind to because she’s a girl. Then the son gets crushed under a giant helmet. And the dad basically loses his mind, wants a divorce from his honorable wife, and then marry his son’s fiance. She runs and is saved. There is a giant hand in there a few times on a stairway. A peasant ends up being royalty. Girls fight over him. &tc.
I really like giant helmets and hands appearing in a castle. And I like secret passages and mysterious old castles as well. What I don’t like is a bunch of magical elements and people, particularly Manfred (the main idiot), who act completely irrationally and then in the last few pages lots of ’em die and then it gets nicely explained in the last few paragraphs.
So. It is pretty good and it sort of sets up a lot of standards I guess, as far as the gothic novel is concerned. Lots of atmosphere and passages and apparitions &tc.
Next it’s onto The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis.