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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 188

The Devil’s Elixirs by E.T.A Hoffman is about Medardus, a member of the clergy, who is arrested for a crime he claims he did not commit. Medardus takes a sip of the Devil’s magic potion, which results in hallucinations. He constantly finds it difficult to accept his identity because he knows that his doppelganger is responsible for the crimes. However, Aurelie becomes a beacon of hope to Medardus. Nonetheless, to protect his family, he has to fight with supernatural forces. The novel is Gothic and gives an in-depth look at the human imagination. Some of the elements that make the novel Gothic are themes such as madness, beautiful women in danger, and superstition.

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It was difficult for me to tell the difference between the reality and hallucinations, as the author constantly switches between these two states of mind. Also, I thought Medardus had a psychological disorder. It is noteworthy that the scenes where the monk is hallucinating are the ones that I find the most memorable in the book. Despite the story being interesting, some sentences were hard to understand because of their structure.

Places Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 695

Holy Linden

Holy Linden. Remote monastery in Prussia in which the monk Medardus (whose given name is Franz) spends his first eighteen months. At its center is a linden tree whose silver-covered trunk is inscribed with an image of the Virgin Mary. The colorful decorations in its chapel are the work of a mysterious foreign painter. (Hoffmann’s own birthplace, Königsberg, was in Prussia).


B. Although this name is unexplained in the text, B. undoubtedly stands for Bamberg, the German town in which Hoffmann worked as a theater producer from 1808 to 1813, before bankruptcy forced him to move on. It is the location of two crucial religious establishments, the first being the Cistercian convent where Franz’s mother obtains refuge, near to which he spends the remainder of his childhood, and where Aurelia eventually takes the veil. The other is the Capuchin monastery where Franz becomes Brother Medardus under the tutelage of Leonardus, eventually assuming responsibility for the relic chamber, whose treasures include the diabolical wine acquired by Saint Anthony in the course of his temptation. The monastery’s chapel has an altar dedicated to Saint Rosalia, which bears the image of Medardus’ temptress. The monastery is the final destination of Peter Schönfeld as well as Medardus.

Baron F.’s palace

Baron F.’s palace. House situated in an Alpine valley where Medardus plays a dual role after seeing his doppelgänger, Count Victor, apparently fall to his death. There he encounters Aurelia again, recognizing her as Saint Rosalia’s double. In the painter’s narrative it is the location of the Blue Room where a mysterious portrait—allegedly of the Devil—hangs. When Medardus passes through the estate on his return journey he finds it neglected and decaying.

Devil’s Seat

Devil’s Seat. Projecting rock at the summit of an Alpine crag, which overhangs a black and seemingly bottomless pit, the Devil’s Gorge, from which poisonous fumes rise. It is from there that Count Victor apparently falls to his death.


Inn. Tavern in an unnamed town whose sign depicts a golden lion with wings. There Medardus first encounters the barber Peter Schönfeld, alias Pietro Belcampo, and hears more news of the foreign painter.

Gamekeeper’s house

Gamekeeper’s house. Forest residence where Medardus encounters his doppelgänger in the guise of a mad monk.

Prince von Rosenthurm’s palace

Prince von Rosenthurm’s palace. The town in which the prince’s relatively modest residence is located is much smaller, quieter, and more orderly than the city. The edifice is surrounded by a...

(The entire section contains 1028 words.)

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