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Lesson Note

Subject: Literature In English
Topic: Summary Analysis of the Novel “Castle of Otranto” by Horace Wadpole.
Lesson Objectives: This lesson is aimed at helping learners understand the novel “Castle Of Otranto”. By the end of the lesson, the learners should be able to:
A. In few sentences describe the author;
B. Identify and write about setting of the novel;
C. Narrate the plot of the novel;
D. Identify and discuss the themes in the novel;
E. Mention the characters and their role in the novel.

Learning Aids: See Reference Resources below lesson content.

Lesson Summary / Discussion

Here is the summary analysis of the novel ” The Castle Of Otranto” by Horace Wadpole for teachers and students of literature, especially those in external examination classes. We hope you find this useful.


Authorial Background

Wadpole Horace was born in 1717 in London. He was the youngest son of Robert Wadpole; the first Prime Minister of England. He was an English letter writer and author whose huge correspondence was remarkable even at a time when letters ( personal letters), were considered a minor art form. His witty letters was an entertaining documentary of life in English high society and also report social and political gossip and expressed Wadpole’s opinion on literature and arts.
Being fascinated by medical life, he greatly influenced the Gothic revival of the late 1700’s. He transformed strawberry hills his house in Twickenham, into a miniature Gothic castle. He built a printing press nearby, and published many of his own writings. His most influential literary work is The Castle of OTRANTO (1764). This tale of terror and the supernatural was the first of what became known as Gothic novels.
Wadpole Horace served in Parliament from 1741 to 1768. In 1791, he succeeded to the family title as the fourth Earl of Orford..

About the Book

The novel is regarded as the first Gothic novel. Gothic novel was a type of fiction that became popular in England during the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Gothic novel plots included mysterious and supernatural events intended to frighten the reader. The stories were referred to as “Gothic” because most of them took place in gloomy, medieval castles built in the Gothic style of architecture. These castles had many secret passage ways, dungeons and towers that provided ideal setting for strange happenings. Most Gothic novels were set in Italy or Spain because these countries seemed remote and mysterious to the English.
Gothic novels can also be called Horror stories because they deal with supernatural or seemingly supernatural events. Romance ( a long work of fiction that is less realistic than novel) can be said to have a strong link Gothic novels. Writers of romance concentrate on telling an entertaining story. Many of them use fantastic and supernatural plots and characters. In England as a matter of fact that the romance flourished again during the late 1700’s and 1800’s Horace Wadpole’s. The Castle of Otranto began a trend for Roman that emphasises mystery, tell and tge supernatural. These romances became known as Gothic novels.


The Castle of Otranto is about the story of Manfred. Lord of the castle and his family. The novel starts on the wedding day of Conrad (Manfred’ son, who is being described as “a homely youth, sickly and of no promising deposition”) and Princess Isabella. But before the time schedule for the commencement of the wedding, Conrad is crushed to death by a gigantic helmet that falls on him from above.
The inexplicable incident is considered ominous in light of an ancient prophecy which pronounced that “the castle and lordship of Otranto should pass fron the present family, whenever the real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it”.
The ugly situation puts Manfred into a terrified state and imprints on his mind a deep sense of despair. He understands clearly that Conrad’s death signals the beginning of the end for his lineage. Based on this, he resolves to avert destruction by marrying Isabella himself and Hippolita, who he feels has failed to bear him a healthy and proper heir.
However, Isabella having discovered Manfred attempts to marry her, escapes to take santuary ( in a church) with the help of a peasant named Theodore. Manfred sees Theodore as accomplish and order his death while talking to Friar Jerome which ensured Isabella’s safety in the church. When Theodore removes his shirt to be killed, Friar Jerome recognises “the mark of a bloody arrow” below his shoulder, and this helps him to identify Theodore as his own son.
Jerome earnestly begs for his son’s life, but Manfred says Jerome must either give up the princess or his son’s life. This puts Jerome in a dilemma. The scene is interrupted by a trumpet and the entrance of knights from another kingdom who wanted to find and deliver Isabella. This propels and leads the Knights and Manfred to race with intention to find Isabella.
Theodore, who has been locked in a tower by Manfred, get himself freed by Maltida, Manfred’s daughter. He quickly runs to the underground church where he finds Isabella. He, in a high spirit, pitifully hide her in cave and blocks it to protect her from any possible attack from Manfred, but he ends up fighting one of the mysterious Knights. Theodore badly wounds the knight, who turns out to be Isabella’s father, Frederic. The incident forces them all to go to the castle in order to work things out.
Frederic falls in love with Maltida. He and Maltida began to talk about marrying each other’s daughters. Manfred, full of suspicion that Isabella meets Theodore in a tryst in the church nearly everytime they desire, takes a knife to the church where Maltida is meeting Theodore. Thinking his own daughter is Isabella, he stabs her.
Theodore is then revealed to be the true Prince of Otranto. Maltida dies but leaves Manfred to repent. Theodore becomes king and eventually gets married to Isabella who only appears to understand his true sorrow.


He is the lord of hus castle of Otranto. He is Hippolita’s husband and the father od Conrad and Maltida. He is an arrogant, unprincipled man who lives in the shadow of a curse. After his son is killed by the falling helmet, he becomes obsessed with the idea of ending his marriage with Hippolita in pursuit of a younger model, Isabella, who was supposed to marry his son. He says he is only doing it with the country’s best interests at heart.
As the tyrant of Otranto, Manfred fulfills the criteria for the dominant male. Being the head of his household, he had great power which can be seen in the relationship between him and the other female characters. This can be supported with his statement “I do not use to let my wife be acquainted with the secret affairs of my state, they are not within a woman’s province”.
Manfred is obviously served as the prince antagonist of the novel. He is the tyrannical ruler and father whose actions and attitudes towards ensuring retention of power drives tge plot of the novel forward to the point that his deranged cruelty is visited upon his children. He, after much frightening supernatural intervention, surrenders his claims to Otranto, he and his wife then enter neighbouring convents.
She is the wife of Manfred and the mother of Conrad and Maltida. She is a noble, virtuous and religious woman who loves her husband. Her son, Conrad, is discovered dead in the castle’s courtyard, crushed by a giant helmet and she is left with just Maltida with whom to combat the dictatorial turn of mind that her husband displays.
Hippolita is faced with the threat of divorce due to her “sterility” and on the ground that their marriage is based on falsehood as both are actually related. The situation forces her to be mindful but never allow it to prevent her from submitting to the wills of her husband. She acts a sort of an encouragement to her husband by putting aside her morals and happiness so as to enable her husband get what he wants.
She is the beautiful, sweet daughter of Hippolita and the oppressive Manfred. She is an eighteen years old virgin. Maltida is doted upon, and cares too much for her mother to the extent that she thinks of nothing but assisting and comforting her afflicted parent when she herself is under the weight of some which she strives to suppress.
Maltida falls in love with Theodore but much to her disappointment as her love for him is unsanctioned by her parents because he was a peasant. With the appearance and involvement of Frederic in the events in the novel, things became more difficult as Frederic develops lust after Maltida. She serves as “the forbidden women” a facet of Gothic literature. The development of events forces Frederic and Manfred to make plans to swap their daughters in marriage; crushing Maltida’s hope of being with Theodore. At the end of the novel, Maltida is mistakenly stabbed by her father.
She is the daughter of Frederic (the Marquis of Vicenza) and the fiancee of Conrad (at the beginning of the novel). She is a lady of integrity and diginity with a deep sense of respect and fear of her father. After the death of her fiancee (Conrad), she makes it clear that, although she conceived little affection for him (Conrad) and “felt no concern for the death of young Conrad, except commiseration”, she would have far perferred being betrothed to him rather than his father who determinedly pursues her throughout the novel.
Isabella and Maltida have a brief argument concerning the fact that they both had feelings for Theodore. After the death of Maltida caused by her father, Theodore settles for Isabella and the two became the lord and lady of the castle.
Theodore, at the beginning of the novel, appears insignificant as he presents himself as a mere minor character who is given a role purely point the importance of the helmet, as a link to the fulfillment of the prophecy. He, however later emerges as a main character after Manfred orders him to be imprisoned within the helmet for his rudeness and lack of respect.
Theodore makes his escape from the prison and helps Isabella escape from the castle through a trapdoor. He is revealed later in the novel as the lost son of Friar Jerome. He protects Isabella from the wanton love of Manfred. Through his courage and boldness, he is able to capture the hearts of both Isabella and Maltida but eventually settles for Isabella after Maltida’s death.
Theodore is revealed as the true heir and later goes on to rule the Castle of Otranto.
He is the fifteen years old son of Manfred and Hippolita and the younger brother of Maltida. He is a “homely youth, sickly and of no promising deposition”. He is the darling of his father, his only son expected to assume the position of authority and power later in future. But he is crushed to death by a giant helmet on his way to his wedding with Isabella.
Friar Jerome
He is the Friar at the monastery near the Castle of Otranto. He tries to put in order things that had gone in disarray in Manfred’s household and which had made Isabella retire to the convent.
Manfred makes several attempts to manipulate him into both supporting his plan to divorce his wife and marry Isabella and persuading his wife to go along with this plan. He serves as an advocate for Theodore who Manfred threatens to behead. He is later discovered to be Theodore’s father.
He appears late into the novel and is the long-lost father of Isabella. He opposes Manfred plan at first until he settles on a deal to marry Maltida.
She is the servant of Maltida. She serves as an informer to her mistress by giving her information about events happening in and around the castle. “Bianca soon appeared, and informed her mistress of what she had gathered from the servants; that Isabella was nowhere to be found”. She related the adventure of the young peasant who had been discovered in the vault. Her mistress describes her as a “discreet personage”.

Otranto is the setting of Horace Wadpole’s book The Castle of Otranto which is generally held to be the first Gothic novel. Otranto occupies the site of the ancient IIyelrus. It was a town of Greek origin which, in the wars of Pyrrhus end of Hannibal sided against Rome.
Otranto is a town which commune in the Province of Leece ( Apulia, Italy) in a fertile region once famous for its breed of horses. The start of Otranto to which the city gives its name connects the Adriatic sea with the Ioanian sea and separates Italy frim Albania. Otranto contains all the classic elements of the Gothic novel.
There is the sense of powerless and terror, the ancient haunted castle, improvement and the persecuted maiden, specters, the tyrant villian, the handsome young hero of mysterious, the threat of rape and so on.
So, it is obvious that it is a story set in a medieval castle haunted by ghosts and fantastic miracles. References to place names ensure that Italy is the scene, but that castle itself, upon which the action centres, does not necessarily represent Italian in style.


Despite the fact that the book was written such a long time ago, the novel is very readable. The English is that if medieval period; a period which fascinated the writer as a scholar. In the preface, one can read this: “The beauty of the diction and the zeal of the author (moderated, however, by singular judgement) concur to make me think that the date of the composition was little antecedent to that of the impression”. So, it is apparent that the language used is not difficult to understand in projecting the events that took place in gloomy, medieval castle built in Gothic style of architecture.


1. The visitation of the sins of the fathers upon their children.
2. Revenge from beyond the grave.
3. The potency and efficacy of curse.
4. The threat and fear of rape or forced marriage.
5. Unlawful desires.
6. Supernatural terror.
7. The make dominance over female.
8. The inner recesses of a man.
9. The role of the church in conflict settlement.
10. Divorce.
11. Love and hatred.
12. Violence and tragedy.
13. Greediness.
14. Fate decides.

See literature Past Questions and answers for 2020/2021 WAEC

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References / Lesson Summary Aids

Literature in English Past Questions and answers for examination candidates.

literature syllabus for WAEC.

Ibitola, A.O (Ed.). (2018). Essential Literature In English for senior secondary schools. Tonad Publishers limited.

Victor J. O. (Ed.). (2019). Study Guide to Selected Poems, Prose, & Drama Texts for SSCE . Harmony-Pen Publications.

Note: itsmyschoollibrary considers the above academic resources appropriate and so were sourced for the development of this lesson. Hence no part of these referenced materials should be lifted from this blog without appropriate permission from the various sources.