The Castle of Otranto - Horace Walpole

The Castle of Otranto

By Horace Walpole

  • Release Date: 1764-01-01
  • Genre: Fiction & Literature
Score: 4
From 133 Ratings


In a faraway medieval realm, Manfred, an arrogant and evil prince, rules with an iron fist. Banishing his wife to the castle dungeon, he confines and plans to wed the lovely Isabella, fiancee of his recently deceased son. The prince's plans are foiled, however, when a well-meaning peasant helps the young woman escape through the castle's underground passages. Grisly, supernatural events further aid in fulfilling a prophecy that spells doom for the prince and justice for Isabella's rescuer and rightful heir to the throne. Serving as the model for plots, characterizations, settings, and tone for hundreds of successors. The story abounds with colorful scenes, adventure, suspense, and inexplicable phenomena.


  • Gothic Drivel

    By Morgensweg
    The plot is ridiculous and the characters are either despicable or clueless. The appearance of supernatural events just add to the general silliness. If this is an example of an eighteenth-century novel, it's no wonder educated people thought novels were complete and utter nonsense. The only reason I gave it two stars (as opposed to none) is because it deserves its place in "classical" literature as the first gothic novel regardless of how asinine it is by today's standards.
  • Typo

    By Yoooiouheesddddd
    Instead of reading "saying the principality," the passage should should read "saving the principality." Otherwise, a good read!!
  • Gothicism is born

    By Spades+
    Within the lines of this narrative came forth the Gothic tradition, though it's later versions are much more engaging and fruitful to those wishing for the lore of the Gothic. 'The Castle of Otranto' reads more like a Shakespearean tragedy, a cross of MacBeth, Hamlet, and Richard III, though the characters are fall and dull. Shakespeare created characters of depth and substance; Walpole's are soap-opera esque who are silly and overdramatic. The only exception would be Hippolita who has an interesting psychology and adamance that's refreshing. Another obvious parallel to Shakespeare is the character of Bianca (rather appropriate that she also plays a dim-witted wench in Othello). Here, Bianca is a servant who has a rather comedic presence whenever she tries to converse with her lord and lady. Walpole's narrative has interesting premises and of course introduces famous Gothic archetypes such as looming ominous weather, darkness, and things that go bump in the night. However, too often he takes a tangent to unnecessary lengths that have little effect on the story. For example, the exchange between Matilda and Isabella in the latter pages reads more like an "OMG high school betrayal" than the essence of Gothicism. Also, the themes of prophecy and deceit seem so rough and ill-spliced in many places throughout that it's difficult to figure out just what's happening. But in the end, all is explained, rather Oedipian I might add, and we're left with a story of a diseased house and the unfortunate fates visited on the innocent because of bad luck and the whims of a madman. However, the novel is the first pure Gothic work, so it does have its rightful historical place in the literary canon, so if you're a fan of the modern Gothic of Stoker, Poe, Radcliffe, and Faulkner, then see how it evolved from the prototype. It's a classic, so read it, but the delight will be in finishing it, not actually reading it.
  • The Castle of Otranto

    By Sewwhat51
    While this story may be considered the progenitor of the gothic tale, it reminded me more of a Shakespearian tragedy. In the first chapter we are introduced to the Lord of the castle, Prince Manfred, his wife Princess Hippolita, his daughter Princess Matilda, his son Prince Conrad, and Conrad's betrothed Isabella. The marriage celebration is about to begin when news arrives that Conrad has been struck down dead by a large helmet. We also learn of a prophecy foretelling the demise of Manfred's rulership. At the death of his son and only heir, Manfred plots to divorce his wife and marry Isabella to produce more sons. Of course, this is during the period of history when the church was supreme and divorce was forbidden. What must heaven think of Manfred's schemes? Ghosts and apparitions appear to thwart his plot and we learn how Manfred's predecessors illegitimately got possession of Castle Otranto. The real heir also makes his appearance. All this set in the time period of knights and the Crusades. I found the characters to be a little melodramatic. However, the author's vocabulary was challenging; I learned several new words. Interesting read by an eighteenth century author.
  • Tragedy

    By Vampyregod
    Well written. Not one undesirable character to this tale. Such detail that it my mind this story may be true.