Brief Historical Background/Setting:
The Castle of Otranto is an epic medieval story by Horace Walpole, which was first published in the year, 1764. This story is said to be a translation of an Old Italian manuscript that was discovered in the library of an ancient catholic family in Northern England. The story is set in medieval Italy, although, the actual date is not stated. However, in the translation by Horace Walpole in the preface to the first edition, it is suggested that the period may he between 1095 and 1243. The story is an account of a series of events that occur during three days at the Castle of Otranto. It is a description of a chain of supernatural events that culminate in the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. The story has a predominantly catholic (Christian) background. Consider the allusions to the ascendance of Alfonso the Good to heaven and the emergence of St. Nicholas from heaven to welcome him. Also, the establishment of a convent for nurturing future clergy is typical of Catholicism. Rev. Fr. Jerome is a beneficiary of this and so also has Manfred chosen to retire to the convert after iris lost an effort to forcefully marry Isabella, the daughter of Frederic, the Marquis of Vicenza. Most of the actions of the story take place in the castle located in Sicily; Italy or in the church (convent) within the same vicinity.
THE PLOT OF THE STORY
As earlier said, tire Castle of Otranto is an ancient story of love, knight-errantry, horror and medieval curses that result in several turns arid twists as the story progresses. The plot unfolds with the proposed wedding contracted by Manfred for his 15-year-old son, Conrad. Manfred is irked that the royal crown may elude his lineage since his wife, Hippolita has given him only a male child – Conrad and a female — Matilda. The boy in question, Conrad, who naturally is frail and sickly, dislikes this forced marriage. On a fateful day, the guests are all seated. Meanwhile, the prospective groom sneaks out of the venue. Soon, reports have it that a young man has been crushed to death by a mysterious helmet suspected to be that of late Great Alfonso the Good, the crown prince of Otranto. The victim of this mysterious tragedy is no other person than Conrad, the only son of Manfred that would have been the husband of Isabella, daughter of Frederic, the Marquis of Vicenza.
Disillusioned, dispirited and utterly hopeless, Manfred makes a twist and prefers to marry Isabella, the one he betrothed for his late son. To make real and valid his decision, he goes to Reverend Father Jerome of St. Nicholas’s church asking him to dissolve his marriage with Hippolita so as to pave way for his illicit intention to marry Isabella. Father Jerome stoutly refuses to divorce Manfred. Afraid of Manfred’s monstrous intention ….escapes and misses her way in the runnel. She is later hr ad to escape to the church by the peasant- Theodore, who too is condemned to die by the same Manfred -who accuses him (Theodore) of complicity in the death of Conrad his son. Theodore had earlier informed him that the helmet that killed Conrad looks like that on the figure in the black marble of Alfonso the good, their former prince. His statue (Alfonso is in St. Nicholas church. The helmet is missing from the statues etc.
Theodore is to be executed by Manfred but before his execution, Manfred asks Father Jerome to pray and commit the soul of Theodore to his creator. In trying to do this, Jerome observes a birthmark on the body of Theodore, which he recognizes as his handmaid, Indeed, Theodore is the son of Father Jerome, having been born before Father Jerome entered the convent. Jerome admits that he was the former prince of Falconara who lost his estate, his wife, son and everything as a result of enemy attack. Theodore secretly loves Matilda, daughter of Manfred and thinks that he is helping her at the time he assists Isabella to escape. At the woods where Theodore joins Isabella to hide, a group of men ted by a knight- Vicenza confront them. Theodore fights and wounds him seriously before realizing that is the father of Isabella. Finally, in a twist of fate, Manfred who hears strange voices strikes and inadvertently kills Matilda is only daughter and when he realizes the enormity of his evil exploits, having lost his only son and only daughter, he resigns to fate he resolves to retire to the convent likewise his wife, Hippolita. Isabella finally marries Prince Theodore, the true heir to Otranto after the abdication of the throne by Manfred.
The story ends as Theodore is confirmed as the true heir to Otranto when the giant form of Alfonso the good appears to proclaim Theodore, the son of his daughter, heir to Otranto thereafter, ascends to heaven.