The Castle of Otranto Summary
by Horace Walpole

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The Castle of Otranto Summary

The Castle of Otranto is a novel by Horace Walpole. The usurper Manfred plots to secure his rule over Otranto by marrying princess Isabella.

  • Manfred plans to have Isabella marry his son Conrad. However, Conrad is killed, and Manfred decides to marry Isabella himself.

  • Isabella flees the castle, aided by a peasant named Theodore.

  • Isabella's father arrives to retrieve her, but he falls in love with Manfred's daughter, Matilda. A deal is struck, in which Manfred will wed Isabella while her father marries Matilda. However, Manfred accidentally kills Matilda.

  • Theodore, who is revealed to be of noble birth, marries Isabella and assumes the throne. 

Summary

Manfred, Prince of Otranto is determined to secure the transmission of his title, castle, and state to his only son, Conrad, via Conrad's marriage to Princess Isabella. The morning of the wedding, however, Conrad is crushed under a mysterious giant helmet, and Manfred, in his agitated state of mind, determines to marry Isabella himself, against Isabella's will. A strange prophecy predicted that the estate would pass out of Manfred's family when the rightful owner had grown too large to inhabit it.

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Isabella escapes Manfred with the aid of a peasant, Theodore, and seeks refuge in a nearby church, whose patroness happens to be Manfred's wife, Hippolita. Isabella informs Jerome, the priest, of Manfred's intention to divorce his wife in order to marry her. Jerome intercedes on Isabella's behalf, and this enrages Manfred further. Jerome seeks to divert his attention by hinting that Theodore is involved, but this only results in a death sentence for Theodore. Theodore is saved from execution by the pleadings of Jerome, who discovers he is Theodore's father. A retinue of a herald, knights, squires, pages, and retainers appears at the sound of a trumpet at the gates of Castle Otranto, and the herald gives Manfred a challenge on behalf of the Marquis of Vicenzo, who claims to be the true heir to his title. The party has come to retrieve Isabella.

Manfred's daughter, Matilda, releases Theodore from his confinement in the dark tower, and he finds Isabella and helps to hide her in a tunnel. He is confronted by a knight, whom he wounds, but they figure out that they are on the same side. The knight is the Marquis of Vicenza, Isabella's father. With Isabella secure, they return to the castle, where the Marquis falls in love with one of Manfred's daughters, Matilda, who has already fallen in love with Theodore. Just when it appears the two houses might peacefully reconcile in marriage, Manfred, in a fit of jealousy over an imagined tryst between Isabella and Theodore, stabs his own daughter in a case of mistaken identity. Theodore might have married Matilda were it not for Manfred's rash violence. Theodore, it turns out, is of noble birth. Theodore and Isabella are eventually married, and they become the lord and lady of Castle Otranto, as the prophecy is fulfilled.

Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Manfred, the prince of Otranto, plans to marry his fifteen-year-old son Conrad to Isabella, the daughter of the marquis of Vicenza. On the day of the wedding, however, a servant runs into the hall and informs the assembled company that a huge helmet has appeared mysteriously in the courtyard of the castle. When Count Manfred and his guests rush into the courtyard, they find Conrad crushed to death beneath a gigantic helmet adorned with waving black plumes. Theodore, a young peasant, declares the helmet is like that on a statue of Prince Alfonso the Good, which stands in the chapel. Another spectator shouts that the helmet is missing from the statue. Prince Manfred imprisons the young peasant as a magician and charges him with the murder of the heir to Otranto.

That evening, Manfred sends for Isabella. He informs her that he intends to divorce his wife so that he himself might marry her and have another male heir. Frightened, Isabella runs away and loses herself in the passages beneath the castle. There she encounters...

(The entire section is 1,357 words.)