The Castle of Otranto | Study Guide

Horace Walpole

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Castle of Otranto Study Guide." Course Hero. 27 Apr. 2018. Web. 15 Nov. 2018. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2018, April 27). The Castle of Otranto Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 15, 2018, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2018)



Course Hero. "The Castle of Otranto Study Guide." April 27, 2018. Accessed November 15, 2018.


Course Hero, "The Castle of Otranto Study Guide," April 27, 2018, accessed November 15, 2018,

The Castle of Otranto | Chapter 5 | Summary



Manfred suspects that Father Jerome knows the true nature of Isabella's relationship with Theodore and that the friar has a secret alliance with Frederic, Marquis of Vicenza. This is what Manfred is discussing with Hippolita as they walk together from the convent to the castle. They also discuss their impending divorce, which Hippolita says she will agree to but will not demand. Manfred, like Matilda, sees an uncanny resemblance in Theodore's appearance to the portrait of Alfonso the Good.

A little while later, on his way to see Frederic to discuss going to Rome to pursue the divorce, Manfred runs into Bianca. He grills her for information about Theodore and Isabella, giving Bianca a jewel to try to bribe her. Bianca tries to distract Manfred by talking about Isabella's feelings about her father being wounded. Manfred comes to the point and asks Bianca directly if she knows when Isabella first met Theodore, and Bianca says she does not know. Annoyed, Manfred dismisses Bianca and goes to speak with Frederic, in private, about Manfred's plans.

Before they can resolve anything, Bianca bursts suddenly into the room, screeching in horror that she has seen a giant hand and is leaving the castle without her things. Terrified, she is almost babbling, saying, "Would I had been content to wed Francisco!—this comes of ambition." Bianca is certain that the giant hand belongs to the giant leg and foot Jaquez and Diego saw recently in the great gallery. Manfred tries to convince Frederic that Bianca is delirious and prone to hysterics. However, because Bianca describes hearing the "clattering of armor" and other details, Frederic realizes that her description accords with the giant sabre he carries, and it must be a sign. Frederic tells Manfred, "Keep your daughter, and think no more of Isabella: the judgments on your house forbid me matching into it." However, after Manfred leaves, Frederic is left feeling caught between his desire for Matilda and procuring Otranto and knowing that "Heaven declared itself against Manfred."

It is time for an evening feast, and Matilda and Isabella are in a melancholy state. Manfred attempts to change the mood with his jollity and to get Frederic drunk, but it doesn't work. After dinner Frederic, still hoping to marry Matilda, goes to the oratory looking for Hippolita to ask her if she really will divorce Manfred. Instead of Hippolita, Frederic sees a specter, who has "the fleshless jaws and empty sockets of a skeleton, wrapt in a hermit's cowl," praying at the altar, and he is terrified. The specter tells him not to be afraid, since he is the hermit from Joppa, but, still, Frederic trembles. The hermit's ghost tells Frederic not "to pursue carnal delights." "Forget Matilda!" the hermit's specter says, and Frederic, shocked, collapses.

Hippolita arrives in the oratory for her evening prayers, and when she sees Frederic lying on the floor, she thinks he is dead she shrieks. Her cries awaken him. Hippolita, seeing his state, fears something terrible has happened or is about to happen, and she begs Frederic to tell her what he has seen. Frederic is too beside himself to speak and rushes from the room. Manfred is waiting outside of Frederic's door, hoping to revel and drink some more, but Frederic pushes Manfred out of the way, goes into his rooms, and bolts the door.

Manfred, angry at Frederic's rude behavior, walks away. A servant, who is a spy for Manfred in the convent, rushes in to tell Manfred that Theodore and a woman are talking at Alfonso the Good's tomb in St. Nicholas church. Manfred, assuming the woman is Isabella, runs to the church. The sounds of a woman whispering infuriate Manfred, and he takes out his dagger and stabs her. "Ah, me! I am slain!" cries Matilda. Manfred realizes he has just stabbed his own daughter. Theodore and some monks prevent Manfred from killing himself. Matilda and Theodore exchange passionate looks, and Matilda forgives her father for killing her. Theodore is heartbroken. Matilda wishes to be near her mother as she dies, so they all agree to carry her to the castle.

Hippolita sees the procession taking Matilda's body into the castle, and she faints. Manfred curses the day he was born and throws himself down on the ground. Theodore asks Father Jerome to perform a marriage ceremony for him and Matilda. Father Jerome berates Theodore for thinking of marriage at a time such as this. Frederic insults Theodore for thinking he is good enough to marry a princess, and Theodore blurts out that he is the true Prince of Otranto, which Father Jerome confirms and begins to explain. Matilda, very close to death, opens her eyes, and all of the characters turn their attention back to her. Hippolita is weeping. Matilda asks for her father, so she can forgive him. Matilda struggles to say something about Isabella and Theodore but then dies. Isabella tears Hippolita away from Matilda's body, but "Theodore threatened destruction to all who attempted to remove him from it."

Isabella escorts Hippolita back to her chambers. In the courtyard, they encounter Manfred, who is filled with dread and confusion. A clap of thunder booms, rocking the earth, and "[shaking] the castle down to its foundations." Frederic and Father Jerome, dragging Theodore with them, come rushing into the courtyard, believing the world is ending. As soon as Theodore appears, the castle walls behind Manfred crumble and a giant ghost of Alfonso appears there. Alfonso's ghost declares, "Behold in Theodore the true heir of Alfonso!" Another clap of thunder booms, and the spirit rises toward heaven. The clouds part, and the spirit of St. Nicholas appears to welcome Alfonso into heaven. Everyone in the courtyard falls on their knees, "acknowledging the divine will."

Manfred says his "story has drawn down these judgments," and he wants to confess and atone. He explains that Alfonso the Good did not leave Otranto to Manfred's grandfather as a reward for loyal service. Manfred's grandfather, Don Ricardo, murdered Alfonso by poisoning him, and then he forged Alfonso's will and took over Otranto. Feeling guilty, Manfred's grandfather built two convents and the St. Nicholas church. St. Nicholas appeared to Don Ricardo and declared, "Ricardo's posterity should reign in Otranto, until the rightful owner should be grown too large to inhabit the castle," and as long as there is a male heir to rule it. In the midst of confessing, Manfred cries out, "I pay the price of usurpation for all!" But still to be discovered, Manfred says, is how Theodore is the rightful heir.

"What remains, is my part to declare," Father Jerome says. Then he explains. Apparently, Alfonso the Good did have a wife, whom he met when he was shipwrecked on his way to the Holy Wars. He married her and left her pregnant, promising to return, but he was killed in the Crusades. Meanwhile, Alfonso's wife gave birth to a daughter. Many years later Alfonso's daughter's daughter married Father Jerome when he was the Count of Falconara, before tragedy struck and he became a friar. She was Theodore's mother, making Theodore Alfonso's closest heir.

The next morning Manfred signs a document giving up Otranto. Then Manfred and Hippolita move to the neighboring convents to devote themselves to religion for the remainder of their lives. Frederic offers Isabella to Theodore, but he finds it hard to pursue a new love after his recent heartbreak. Theodore eventually marries Isabella because they both share the same grief.


Walpole relies on purposeful symbols: each thunderclap or voice here is directly connected to an action that will take place. One sign from above signifies the downfall of Manfred's rule. In this instance, a clap of thunder emerges, cementing Theodore's rightful rule. The thunderclap and the earth shaking and crumbling the wall are religious allusions to the moment Christ died on the cross, and they are also apocalyptic. Additionally, the clanging of armor heard by Bianca is an expression of the supernatural.

Isabella and Theodore are given clarity of sight by following the moral path. This clarity is not joyful. Instead, the novel ends with both experiencing confusion and sadness over their loss. Clarity is not always revelatory in a positive sense. Both Isabella and Theodore are completely aware that they live in a world where truth may be restored but evil can cause real harm, and there are few good options. Theodore and Isabella remain together because Matilda is dead and Theodore cannot be with her, but their marriage is not the result of romantic love or hope for a brighter future: they are united by grief.

The mirroring between Isabella and Matilda at the beginning of the novel diverges and is concluded. Isabella replaces Matilda as Theodore's partner, but it is a displeasing, uncanny replacement. Isabella will presumably live out a gloomy mundane existence, while Matilda leaves a saintly impression in her wake. Both Theodore and Isabella are fully aware Isabella can never be Matilda, but they still accept the pairing because it is the best available option. Morality is exposed to be complex and doesn't always lead to bliss. The morality behind Isabella replacing Matilda as Theodore's wife, relies on the Christian moral universe where women are virginal and saintly and marriage is seen more as a moral duty than an expression of passionate love. To the contemporary reader Isabella's marriage to Theodore will make her character seem disempowered in the act of becoming a substitute for her friend and settled in a less than truelove marriage. However, Walpole, in the choice to make Theodore's mother carry Alfonso the good's bloodline, not Theodore's father, leaves a hidden line of argument that undermines the male view that women are subordinate when it comes to producing heirs. Because of his mother carrying the family line, Theodore rightfully gains all of Otranto, and Manfred loses all through the destructive actions of his male ancestors. Walpole's logic is not very far ahead of its time or remarkably feminist, but Isabella's fate and part in the newly restored Otranto is not entirely dismal either.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Castle of Otranto? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!