Summary of “The Castle of Otranto” by Horace Walpole as First Gothic Fiction

Updated October 10, 2022

Chapter- I- The Castle of Otranto Summary: Manfred was a prince of Otranto. He has two children; one daughter and a son: the former one is Matilda, she is the most beautiful virgin, eighteen years old. The latter one is Conrad, three years younger than his sister, a homely youth and sickly. Yet, he was the darling of his father.

His parents and the guardians of Isabella has made a plan of marriage. Manfred is seen to be impatient for this ceremonial where Hippolita, his wife, is little concerned about the danger of marrying their son so early.

Most people attributed the hasty wedding to the ancient rumoured prophecy, which pronounced that the castle and lordship of Otranto “should pass from the present family, whenever the real owner should have grown too large to inhabit it”. So, it is difficult to sense or conceive any idea from the prophecy, and what to do with the marriage.

Conrad’s birthday has been fixed for the espousal. The company was assembled in the court of the Castle, and everything was ready for the beginning of the divine occasioned. But, Conrad himself was missing. At the moment, Manfred allowed the attendants to summon the bridegrooms.

It did not lapse long enough time, frightened attendant or servant came running back in a frantic manner and breathless. He is saying nothing, but pointing towards the court. The gathered company were filled with terror and amazement. Hippolita, Conrad’s mother, knowing nothing, she just swooned away. When the court asked to the domestics repeatedly, he barely speaks a word, but cries out- “oh! The helmet! The helmet!”

In the meantime, some of the company had run into the court-yard from where a confused noise of shrieks, horror, and surprise was heard. Manfred himself goes to that place from whence a confuse noises were coming. Whereas Matilda and Isabella are stayed there to comfort the Hippolita.

Manfred saw that his son buried under a huge casque covered with a proportionable quantity of black feathers, dead and dashed to pieces. This horrible spectacle is utterly shocking. But Manfred was buried in the deep meditation on the stupendous object that had occasioned it.

The bleeding mangled remains of the young boy has barely diverted his eyes from the portent before him. It means he seems to be more lost in thought than saddened. As less attentive to the unhappy princess, his daughter and wife, he muttered only this word “Take care of the Lady Isabella”. The domestics are seemed to be astonished at the strange request of lordships to take care of Isabella.

Isabella was less assiduous towards the prince. She felt no concern for the death of Prince Conrad; she comforts Matilda, who is almost like a sister to her. The two young women comfort the afflicted parent. While they do this, Manfred tries to gather information on the incident from whence it could have happened.

He articulated a word to inquire to the crowd about the incident. But they conjectured the absurd and senseless opinion. They know nothing, but guessing senseless opinion. In the midst of the guessing, a young man, a peasant from a neighbouring village, ventures that the miraculous helmet was exactly like that on the figure in the black marble of Alfonso the Good, a former prince, situated at the church of St. Nicholas.

Manfred is in a “tempest of rage” (20), incensed at the peasant for referencing the founder of Otranto. He seized the peasants by the collar. The young himself was astonished, not getting how he had offended the Prince. He disengaged himself from the grip of the Manfred and asked for his guilty. It further enrages Manfred and he ordered his attendants to seize him.

During this altercation, some of the spectators had run to the great church and came back open-mouthed, declaring that the helmet on Alfonso’s statue was missing. And in frantic, as Manfred wanted to vent out tempest rage, he wildly accuses the young peasant of murdering his son. The mob also caught the words of the Lord and re-echoed. No one could think that it is impossible for the young peasant who seemingly not twenty, to lift such an enormous object (helmet).

Hearing these bewildered sounds from the crowd, Manfred gathers his wits but is still annoyed; he pronounced that the young peasant is a necromancer. He would prisoner under the helmet until the Church could take cognizance into the affair; also declared that he should be kept there without the food, with which his own internal art might furnish him. Most people approve of this, but some of Manfred’s friends are wary, especially as the youth is denied food.

In the meantime, of giving preposterous sentence to the young peasants and other incidents, the care and zeal of the young ladies brought conscious to Hippolita. Amidst the transports of her own sorrow, Hippolita allowed her attendants to get the news of Manfred. And she also sent his daughter to get news of her Lord and comfort him. Isabella stays with her while Matilda goes to see her father.

She is in apprehension that she might renew the tears of her father, as she clearly knows that he loved her brother more than her. But concluding that he must be immersed in sorrow for the death of her brother. So, she went there. When she arrives at his door, she heard him traverse in his chamber backwards and forwards with disordered steps. However, she is just begged admittance to enter into the chamber, but he angrily asks who is there, and shouts at Matilda that he does not want a daughter.

She was shocked at so bitter reception of his father and wiped away her tears. She left there and went to his mother Hippolita Chamber, where her mother asked on the health of the Manfred and how he bored the losses of her son. She tells her mother that her father is fine, though, and the two young women endeavour to keep her calm. A servant enters and says that Manfred demands to see Isabella. Hippolita is impressed and says that her husband must know Isabella is the most emotionally stable of all of them right now.

When she came, she saw that Manfred was walking impatiently in the gallery. Then, he flung himself upon the bench and bade Isabella sit down beside him. He tells Isabella to wiped away her tears and says that it is cruel fate and Conrad was never worthy of her beauty. The way, Manfred was talking make her amaze and astonish, she could not conceive the explicit meaning of Manfred words.

She thinks that the grief has disordered his understanding or that he is trying to ensnare her regarding her indifference for his son. During the discourse, he told Isabella that he wanted to divorce Hippolita and marry herself. After hearing all this, Isabella was half dead with fright and horror.

Manfred stands to pursue her, but she flees. At that instant, Manfred catches the sight of plumes of the fatal helmet at the height of the window, waving backwards and forwards and accompanied with the rustling sound. Isabella mustered the courage from her situation and told Said that “Look, my Lord! See, Heaven itself declares against your impious intentions!”

Manfred does not care about her words and he again advance to pursue her. At the very moment, portrait of his grandfather uttered a deep sigh and heaved his breast. As Isabella know nothing from whence the sound has come. It discomforts her and she started to move towards the door and quit the panel. Manfred was not able to understand what has happened and said that whether he was dreamed. Manfred is discombobulated and demands that the spectre speak and lead him.

The spectre marches ahead placidly, and Manfred claims he will follow it to perdition. It takes him to the end of the gallery. Manfred is terrified but follows. He tries to open the appointed door, but it is supernaturally fast.

While this is occurring, Isabella flees down the stairs. She doesn’t know how to escape a guarded castle, and she knows she cannot go to Hippolita because Manfred will expect it. So made a resolution into the St. Nicholas church. In this resolution, she seized a lamp and hurried towards the secret passage- subterraneous passage leading from the vaults of the castle to the church of St. Nicholas.

Even though her route to the passage is frightening, Isabella makes it into the silent and drafty nether regions of the castle. Her blood curdles, especially when she hears a sigh. She assumes it is Manfred but realizes he couldn’t be that close yet; she guesses that it might instead be a domestic wanting to help her. As she moves to an open door, a gust of wind extinguishes her light.

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