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The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story

3.18  ·  Rating details ·  21,298 ratings  ·  1,819 reviews
Look, my lord! See heaven itself declares against your impious intentions!'

The Castle of Otranto (1764) is the first supernatural English novel and one of the most influential works of Gothic fiction. It inaugurated a literary genre that will be forever associated with the effects that Walpole pioneered. Professing to be a translation of a mysterious Italian tale from the
Kindle Edition, 100 pages
Published October 9th 2014 by OUP Oxford (first published 1764)
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Kitty Shaw The consequences of a wedding that is disrupted by a giant helmet falling from the sky and killing the groom, and events that happened in the past to…moreThe consequences of a wedding that is disrupted by a giant helmet falling from the sky and killing the groom, and events that happened in the past to cause this.(less)
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Bill Kerwin

This granddaddy of all Gothics is still worth a read. It has its flaws, but Walpole's style is crisp and economical, and the book itself is mercifully brief.

Manfred possesses all the important features of the classic gothic hero that Mrs. Radcliffe and others would later use to great advantage, and the initial scenes--particularly the surrealistic tableau of Manfred's heir flattened by a gigantic helmet and the exciting sequence of Isabella's flight through the castle's subterranean
“CLASSICS” can teach us a great deal about things like history, culture, customs and different literary styles. From this book I learned that classics CAN ALSO REALLY, REALLY SUCK!!! Now before continuing, I would like to be clear that when I say this book sucked, I don’t mean “it was well written but kinda dry and boring”sucked. No, I mean planets and stars being pulled toward the event horizon of a black hole suckage. In other words, suckage on a grand and towering scale.

Now, in fairness, it
Henry Avila
Prince Manfred of Otranto in medieval Italy is looking forward to the wedding of his only son Conrad, because the family name must continue...In those violent times, petty men try for glory against others of the same class , (the era of the Crusades also) Italian politics dictates noblemen have sons, to leave all their vast lands and wealth. Doesn't matter that Conrad is only fifteen and rather sickly boy, the distinguished Prince's family is composed of son Conrad, Matilda the daughter, three ...more
Sean Barrs the Bookdragon
By today’s standard’s The Castle of Otranto is a ridiculous piece of melodrama. However, when it was originally published it was absolute dynamite.

It had the power to shock and dazzle its earliest of readers. They were innocent and unused to horror; thus, it was utterly compelling for them. Such a thing is comparable to early cinema. Audiences were thrilled by silent movie car chases and actions scenes. If we watch them today they are unexciting and laughable. Truly great literature is timeless.
Sep 12, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 18th-novels

Shovel loads of gothicness with a daft plot and formulaic characters; this is regarded as the first gothic novel. Walpole tries to create a new genre quite consciously by combining the new romance style of eighteenth century novels and the older tradition of fantastical tales. Walpole also introduces a number of gothic tropes for the first time; strange and eerie goings on, things that go bump in the night, rapacious and predatory men, beautiful and endangered heroines and a spot of ghostliness.
Sep 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like falling millinery
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list - bastards!

(NB do not assume that said death will be unrelated to the reading of this book.... boredom kills, people.)

This book is very Shakespearian in style and therefore metaphorically and allegorically weighty despite being such a short, light paperback book. I was suckered into reading this because it was a short read. You know how it is, on a whim sometime ago (Christmas 2009), you manfully pledge to
Milena March
The Otranto Observer:

Prince Gets Squashed by Giant Airborne Helmet! Full News on Page Six!
Lord of Otranto Says - "Sorry, the Castle Ain't Mine!"
FULL Interview with Covergirl Isabella - "He was Never the One for Me!"
Love Advice from Star-Struck Pair! Theodore and Matilda Tell All - How YOU Can Find True Love in Just Ten Seconds!
Jerome and Hippolita's 'Faithful's Corner': Why Entering a Monastery's the Only Way to Go!
The Commoner's Chronicle: Bianca and her Fellows Tell Why THEY'RE the Ones Who
Walpole invented the word ‘gloomth’, which more or less sums him up. Innovative, but only while looking backwards. You have to approach The Castle of Otranto as literary history, if you want to get much out of it; reading it as plain literature doesn't work. So effective was its aesthetic in generating an entirely new genre that its successors almost immediately made it obsolete. To a modern audience, Walpole's litany of ghostly contrivances, hidden identities, heaving bosoms and earnest ...more
Ben Debus
Having spent three years in Bloomington getting drunk with fiction writers, I feel that I came dangerously close to losing my ability to appreciate trash. But, thankfully, not so! _The Castle of Otranto_, by Horace Walpole, is not only trash, but ground-breaking, historical, trend-setting trash. It is lauded as the first Gothic novel in English (published, anonymously at first, in 1764). And what a remarkable heap of words it is!

_The Castle of Otranto_ is preposterous, both in content and
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction

I liked one sentence from The Castle of Otranto. In the middle of the tyrant Manfred's long-ass soliloquy to an enormous retinue of knights and other attendants a rival nobleman has sent to pay a visit, we get this: "The knights gazed on each other, wondering where this would end."
☙ percy ❧
Jul 20, 2017 marked it as ebooks-tbr  ·  review of another edition
reviewers: this is melodramatic gothic trash
Feb 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The “infant” of gothic novels, The Castle of Otranto begins with plentiful theatrics and moves at a refreshingly quick pace. This was a very short, entertaining book full of bizarre and supernatural happenings, lots of drama, a villainous prince, gracious princesses (and perhaps one changeable princess), comic attendants, and mysterious strangers. An ancient prophecy shadows the castle and its inhabitants, and the reader gets a glimpse of the prophecy coming to fruition in the very first ...more
Sep 20, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stevenmoore
We are all reptiles, miserable, sinful creatures. It is piety alone that can distinguish us from the dust whence we sprung, and whither we must return.

The Goodreads reviews of this pioneer work are a caravan of groans; how sophisticated we've since become with our forensics and our shape-shfting (very-meta) protagonists. I may shudder and say, whoa, and allow the blush to fade from our consternation. Otranto is ridiculous, sure, but it is damn charming. Anyone ever encountered a contrivance or
Sep 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: guardian-1000, kindle
This novel is the first Gothic horror story, written in 1764. It is a 3 swooner on the humorous Guardian newspaper gothic rating scale (shown below) with Hippolita swooning twice and Matilda once.

It also is set in a cursed or haunted castle in a foreign land with people who talk in an outdated manner (other criteria of the Guardian newspaper for classic Gothic horror stories). In fact, many of what we now consider stereotypes of Gothic horror had their origins in this book!

A quick and
Bam cooks the books ;-)
Excerpt From: Horace Walpole. “The Castle of Otranto.” iBooks:
“It was suggested by a dream from which he said he waked one morning, and of which 'all I could recover was, that I had thought myself in an ancient castle (a very natural dream for a head like mine, filled with Gothic story), and that on the uppermost banister of a great staircase I saw a gigantic hand in armour. In the evening I sat down and began to write, without knowing in the least what I intended to say or relate.'”

Note: This
Gail Carriger
Put this book on my shelf while doing an interview because I realized I hadn't listed any of the classics. This rather surreal novel is considered the birth mother of gothic fiction. It's not my favorite, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't read it.
Sherwood Smith
As a novel it's downright risible, but as a period piece it's fascinating. While it doesn't have quite as much rape and murder per square inch (the bestseller it inspired, The Monk, which was very clearly written by a teenage boy, I think takes that dubious award) it has enough to satisfy the Game of Thrones fan--and is a whole lot shorter.

So this novel, written by Horace Walpole, whose letters are utterly delightful, was presented as a text translated from an old manuscript. People actually
Horace Walpole's 1764 Castle of Otranto is generally given credit as the first Gothic novel, which makes it interesting from a historical perspective, especially if you're into Gothic stuff, which I totally am because whee, virgins fleeing evil men in drafty castles in their nightgowns! Which this book totally has, and also enormous helmets falling from the sky and crushing dudes, which I can't decide if that's a bummer of a way to go or not.

From a literature perspective, it's pretty much
Taken out of historical context, The Castle of Otranto is a fun escape into knights, maidens, curses, magic, dynasties, rivalries, and terror. It was, as Horace Walpole argued in one of his introductions, an attempt to establish a new gothic style of writing. In this way, the novel is a comic thriller. It presents realistic reactions to imaginary actions, and it injects comedy to counter to grim tragedy.

But taken in historical context, the novel seems to respond to formative events in Walpole’s
Eva Müller
I while ago I read Northanger Abbey and while I enjoyed it I also felt like missing out on half of the jokes because while was vaguely aware that Gothic novels meant scary old castles, fair maidens and old curses I had never read one of them. So I eventually decided to read one (after buying it, putting it on my tbr-pile and forgetting about it again till yesterday).
As it happens The Castle of Otranto is actually the first novel that (in its second edition) was published as "Gothic Novel" and
J.G. Keely
Another read for my research into early horror as I work on my own supernatural Victorian tale, but in the end I have to agree with Lovecraft's assessment in his Supernatural Horror in Literature that Walpole's style is insipid and full of silly melodrama. It's not hard to see why it was so influential, as it introduced a great number of interesting ideas and symbols, but like so many books that inspired a genre, its the fact that original author did so little with those ideas that left room for ...more
Pontus Presents

‘The first gothic novel’ . . . which at times was lingering on the line of unreadability, still managed to capture and entrance me (a curious reader), to a world of excruciating dilemma. I was not willingly invested in anything that took place, more forcefully so . . . perhaps for the better. “–a parade of blushes, tears, and swoons–strike modern audiences as at best embarrassingly archaic, at worse laughable.” (Intro., Nick Groom).

While I found it both archaic and laughable in parts - those
May 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Portents and parables. Tainted heritage. Ghouliess and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties.

This was just for fun. I was hoping for something quick and melodramatic. After reading a paragraph, I knew it would fit the bill. The quick part became a lil sludgy sometimes. The language was sometimes less than clear. It could be the high diction, or simple word choice; or it could be the ebook edition I read was in need of another round of proofing.

As many a reviewer has stated, this is it, the
The Castle of Otranto is unfortunately one of those 18th classics novels that don't pass the test of time, in my opinion. Reading it now... it just fell flat for me, sorry. The reason this is a two stars review and not a one star is because I could appreciate its value in the history of literature. If you're not interested by this and just want a novel where you can say "wow, that was great", I'd suggest to read something else. If you're interested however, this novel by Horace Walpole is ...more
The Fizza
Jan 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to The Fizza by: Charrolee thompson

I was given this book to read with the preface, "I was not a fan, but I have a feeling you'd like this." And all of a sudden I was in an old world made new... to me.

The Castle of Otranto has a history as interesting and strange as the tale w/in it's pages. Know as the first Gothic Novel (Gothic fiction is a genre of literature that combines horror, romance and mystery offset by elements of fantasy), the book was purported to be a translation based on a manuscript
Sep 01, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who love thinking or saying, ""
Good old Horace Walpole. Like any literary figure, historians are niggling over the "is he or isn't he" details, but why isn't anyone looking into his freakish obsession with Gothic castles? His goal: "I am going to build a little Gothic castle at Strawberry Hill", and he asked his friends for any fragments of old painted glass, armour, or anything. And thus was born Strawberry Hill, the baby Castle of Otranto.

Otranto (the book) came from that foggy time when novels, while trying to present
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
I really liked this first gothic mystery novel that set everything in motion. Wow, all those characters interwoven with each other. The dark family secret., the supernatural elements (a bit cheesy but nevertheless a bit eerie). Manfred's plans to marry Isabella and the plans for his daughter. Theorode and Jerome. The role of the Marquis. It is a classic romance (almost a blueprint for all other romances) with eerie elements and ghostly appearances. But a very fluent read (there are other works ...more
Three words spring to mind as I type - It's finally over !!

I find it very difficult at times to rate books that were written hundreds of years ago and trying to imagine myself as a reader back then and figuring out what I would have thought of it. It is either imagine myself a woman in 1740 reading this or judging it on how I feel about it as a woman in 2019.

If I go with the latter then I have to give this book a 1.5-2 star rating as it was incredibly tedious. First off the book has teeny print
Aug 02, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ugh this book. If I hadn't had to read this for university, I would not have managed it past the first page!
I've seen a lot of 4 and 5 star reviews of this book. Why I don't understand. This is considered one of the best Gothic fiction novels, but all it did was bore me.
Then piss me off. 'It is not ours to make election for ourselves; heaven, our fathers, and our husbands, must decide for us.' I just wanted to grab Hippolita and shake her while screaming GET.A.GRIP. Im so glad women aren't
Credited as the first gothic novel this is quite the sensational melodrama that had a major effect on the reading public in 1764. Thomas Gray commented to Walpole that it made "some of us cry a little, and all in general afraid to go to bed o’nights." There is a playful tone to the tragedy. If you like the gothic genre then you will like this book.

Check out the Gothic Times of Horace Walpole at

"The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to
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Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford — also known as Horace Walpole — was an English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and Whig politician. He is now largely remembered for Strawberry Hill, the home he built in Twickenham, south-west London where he revived the Gothic style some decades before his Victorian successors, and for his Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. Along with the book, ...more
“He was persuaded he could know no happiness but in the society of one with whom he could for ever indulge the melancholy that had taken possession of his soul.” 23 likes
“I can forget injuries, but never benefits.” 16 likes
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