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The Devil's Elixirs Summary

The Devil's Elixirs tells the story of Francis (later known as Medardus, after he becomes a monk). As a monk at Capuchin convent, Medardus is left in charge of a mysterious potion, known as the devil's elixir because it turns someone evil after they drink it. Knowing about the negative effects of the potion, Medardus doesn't dare to drink it. However, he does so on St. Anthony's day after he sees a mysterious painter in the audience during his sermon. The man looks so familiar that Medardus drinks the elixir to confirm that he is not hallucinating. From there on, Medardus experiences a series of unexplainable events; most them include murders and identity theft. One moment, someone is dead, and then in the next scene, they are alive. All these events lead to an incredible revelation: the painter in the crowd is Medardus's father, and he, too, drank the elixir. Medardus's father was trying to atone for his sins. Medardus also discovers his brother, Count Victorin, drank the elixir and has been going around committing vile actions. The book is just an interesting tale of Medardus's family and their attachment to the devil's elixir. It is an interesting read for those that love drama, religion, and fantasy.

Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Francis is born at the Convent of the Holy Lime-Tree in Prussia, at the moment that his father is dying. At Kreuzberg, the abbess of the Cistercian convent makes him her pupil. When he is sixteen years old, he becomes a monk at the Capuchin convent in Konigswald and takes the name of Medardus. Medardus is put in charge of the relics of the convent. Among them is a strange elixir. Legend says that all who drink of the potion will belong to the devil, and that if two persons drink of it, they will share the same thoughts and desires but secretly wish to destroy each other.

On St. Anthony’s Day, Medardus preaches a sermon about the elixir. While he is talking, he sees in the audience a painter he saw once at the Convent of the Holy Lime-Tree. The sight disturbs him so much that he begins to rave like a madman. Later, in an attempt to regain his full senses, he drinks some of the elixir.

One day during the confessional, a beautiful woman, in appearance exactly like a painting of St. Rosalia, tells Medardus that she loves him and then leaves. Medardus determines to run away to find her. Before he can escape from the convent, however, Prior Leonardus sends him on an errand to Rome. On the way to Rome Medardus sees an officer leaning over a precipice. When Medardus tries to save him, the officer falls over the ledge. At that moment a page appears and tells Medardus that his disguise is very good. Medardus goes to the nearby castle, where he meets an old man, Reinhold, who seems to be expecting him. Reinhold tells him that Baron von F——, the owner of the castle, has a son, Hermogen, and a daughter, Aurelia, by an Italian wife who later died. The baron then married Euphemia, a sinister woman who is carrying on an affair with Count Victorin, a former suitor. The count is in the habit of disguising himself in order to gain entrance to the castle.

Medardus becomes convinced that he is Victorin. When he sees that Aurelia is the mysterious lady who looks like St. Rosalia, he feels that fate is guiding him. He tries to approach Aurelia, but she runs away. Hermogen witnesses the incident, so Medardus kills him. As Medardus flees from the castle, he hears that Euphemia is dying of a poison she intended for him. Taking refuge in the woods, Medardus cuts off his beard and changes into clothes that Victorin’s page brings him.

When Medardus arrives in Frankenburg, he recognizes the painter who disturbed his sermon on St. Anthony’s Day. After he tries to kill the man with a stiletto, Medardus is rescued from an angry mob by Pietro Belcampo, an odd hairdresser. At the forest house of the Prince von Rosenthurm, Medardus meets a monk who looks like him and who drinks some of his elixir. Medardus later goes to the castle, where the court physician...

(The entire section is 1,570 words.)