The Castle of Otranto

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

In 1988, James Cawthorne and Michael Moorcock included The Castle of Otranto, generally considered the first gothic novel, on their list of influential fantasy books. I mentioned this last year, but I just got around to reading the novel — and it really isn’t very good. In fact, it reads like a bad Shakespeare pastiche, full of star-crossed lovers, long-lost relatives, comic-relief servants, and a few apparitions.

I do believe Walpole did introduce one now-cliché trope though: the door that opens for no apparent reason, followed by a sudden draft that snuffs out the light.

Actually, a quick search reveals — brace yourself — a TV Tropes page devoted to the novel, another describing the genre and naming its prominent authors, and another listing all the genre’s tropes. Apparently they consider Otranto the trope-codifier for the haunted castle.

Leave a Reply