The Monk: A Romance consists of two intersecting plots along with about thirty interpolated minor stories. Both main stories are introduced simultaneously in the opening scene at the Capuchin Cathedral, where a crowd has gathered to hear Ambrosio preach. He is abbot of a prestigious monastery and reputed idol of Madrid. The narrative splits after the sermon into the story of Ambrosio’s temptation and the related adventures of two pairs of lovers—Lorenzo de Medina and Antonia Dalfa, and Raymond de las Cisternas and Agnes de Medina.
Lorenzo, who first meets Antonia during the sermon, lingers afterward and sees a cloaked figure deposit a letter under a statue. He discovers that this figure is his friend, Raymond. In a story that takes up a quarter of the novel, Raymond recounts how he fell in love with Agnes, Lorenzo’s sister, at Lindenberg Castle, and how her aunt, Rodolpha, became jealous and forced Raymond’s departure.
Up to this point, the novel is realistic in its social commentary and criticism. The narrative expands into the supernatural as Agnes plots to escape from Lindenberg by posing as the ghost of the Bleeding Nun. Her plan goes awry, and Raymond escapes with the ghost herself, while Agnes is sent to the Convent of St. Clare in Madrid. Eventually ridding himself of the ghost, Raymond sets out to find Agnes, who was the intended recipient of his letter. Ambrosio discovers this letter and the fact that Agnes is...
(The entire section is 519 words.)