Thursday, August 20, 2015

Review: The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

 The Castle of Otranto 

Synopsis: When a young prince tragically dies on the morning of his wedding day, there is shock and grief throughout the royal court. But there is an even greater surprise in store: the would-be groom's father is so afraid of dying without an heir that he decides to step in and marry the bride himself. 

And so unstoppable events are put in motion as the bride flees in terror through the dark, winding castle which hides a multitude of ancestral secrets and ancient prophecies on the verge of coming true. 

Date Published: Sometime in 1764
Published By: Hesperus Press Limited (2015 Edition)
Number of Pages: 109
Rating: 3/5

The Castle of Otranto is considered to be the very first gothic novel ever written. It has most of the elements found in classic gothic literature: a bit of horror, a bit of romance, castles, villains, priests, ghosts, and lots and lots of melodrama. 

Having been written in 1764, the language of the story is incredibly dramatic with lots of flowery language that is usually unfamiliar to modern day readers. Lots of 'thees' and 'thous' and 'thys' that reminded me of a Shakespeare play. Which actually makes a lot of sense because Walpole admitted to being heavily influenced by Shakespeare, referring to him as a 'truly original genius.' 

Even though this novel is short, it had so many twists and turns that it was sometimes hard to figure out what exactly was going on and it was hard to keep the characters straight. (The flowery language didn't help.) As a result, I found it difficult to connect with this story. Perhaps its just not the kind of novel that modern readers can really be interested in. Although Shakespeare is still popular, so go figure. 

I'd recommend it to readers who are interested in the origins of gothic fiction to see where the genre originated. For other readers, you're better off with Shakespeare or other classic fiction.

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