The Castle of Otranto | Study Guide

Horace Walpole

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The Castle of Otranto | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


The novel begins at a quick pace, showing the death of Manfred and Hippolita's son, Conrad, who is crushed by a gigantic helmet. This is the beginning of the end for Manfred's rule over the Castle of Otranto. After the death of his male heir, Manfred becomes obsessed with birthing another. He believes he should divorce Hippolita and marry Conrad's betrothed, Isabella. Before this, Isabella was almost a daughter to him. Isabella runs away to take refuge in the convent adjacent to the castle, meeting Theodore on the way. She immediately falls in love with Theodore. Shortly after this time Theodore briefly meets Manfred's daughter Matilda and falls in love with her. During the hunt to locate Isabella, Manfred comes across Theodore and sentences him to death for his interference in his rule. While giving Theodore his final rights in the religious tradition, Father Jerome, a friar from the nearby convent, realizes Theodore is his son. Father Jerome works to save Theodore's life, but he must make compromises to please Manfred. Theodore is locked in a tower until he is freed by Matilda.

A triad of knights arrives at the Castle of Otranto to speak with Manfred. They are at first silent, seeking news of Isabella. After Matilda frees him, Theodore escapes to the forest, where he finds Isabella in a cave. One of the mysterious knights comes to the cave and engages in a duel with Theodore. Theodore bravely fends the knight off, and when the knight becomes gravely injured he reveals he is Isabella's father. The group then returns to the castle for medical attention. At the castle Manfred believes there is a chance his plan will work. He convinces Isabella's injured father, Frederic, Marquis of Vicenza, to take Matilda's hand in marriage in exchange for Manfred's marrying Isabella. Frederic agrees.

Manfred continues to worry that Theodore and Isabella are in love with each other, although Isabella has agreed to respect Matilda's desires and not pursue him. Matilda and Theodore meet in a church, but Manfred storms in, believing they will spoil his plans. Manfred stabs Matilda, thinking she is Isabella, killing his only remaining child. Theodore is revealed to be the rightful Prince of Otranto and agrees to marry Isabella. Manfred and Hippolita are exiled to live a religious life.

The Castle of Otranto Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action


1 Manfred's son is killed, leaving Otranto no male heir.

Rising Action

2 Manfred accuses Theodore of killing Conrad by using magic.

3 Manfred decides to divorce Hippolita and marry Isabella.

4 Helping Isabella escape, Theodore is caught by Manfred.

5 It is revealed that Theodore is Father Jerome's son.

6 Father Jerome saves Theodore from execution by Manfred.

7 A knight arrives to rescue Isabella and challenge Manfred.

8 The knight turns out to be Frederic, Isabella's father.

9 Manfred convinces Frederic to marry Matilda.

10 A ghost tells Frederic not to marry Matilda.


11 Manfred, thinking it is Isabella, murders his own daughter.

Falling Action

12 It is revealed that Theodore is the true prince of Otranto.

13 Alfonso the Good's ghost appears and crumbles the castle.

14 Manfred and Father Jerome reveal the rest of the secrets.


15 Manfred gives up Otranto, and Theodore marries Isabella.

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