The Introduction will open by identifying, for the first time, the importance of suicide as a constant factor in Gothic textuality. Utilising Byron’s commentary on how Castlereagh’s death was understood in Gothic terms, it will demonstrate that the presence of self-destruction haunts the genre from Horace Walpole’s earliest intervention to its contemporary realisations. The Introduction will further argue that the Gothic provided a central corpus of images through which the complicated act of suicide could be understood, rationalised and contained – a tradition, as it were, of dissipating the troubling implications that accompany self-destruction. The emphasis here is less on the presence of the ghost, the vampire or the zombie and more on the singular and violent human action that in many cases prefaces the mobilisation of these occult and supernatural beings. The Introduction will then briefly summarise the chapters which follow, setting the tone for this unique and timely intervention into the medico-legal study of Gothic.
This chapter pinpoints 27 December 1601 as the date of the first performance
of Twelfth Night – and demonstrates that Shakespeare wrote his play for two
audiences, one at Elizabeth’s Court, the other at the Inns of Court.