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Matthew Lewis‘s The Castle Spectre

The Castle Spectre was one of the most popular and successful theatrical events of its day, and critics have often tried to explain its success, usually appealing to the ‘spectacular’ appearance of the spectre herself. But critics have not explored how the spectre - certainly no novelty on the stage - caused such a stir among contemporary audiences. By examining a selection of reviews, comments by contemporary literary figures, the text of the play, and Lewis‘s own comments concerning his spectacle, this paper demonstrates how Lewis employs strategies of delay and misdirection to make an otherwise nonviolent and unspectacular play appear excessively violent and spectacular even by 1790s Gothic standards.

Gothic Studies
The Case of The Castle Spectre

Unlike Romantic authorship, the Gothic author has long been identified with unoriginality. A foundational moment in this association can be found in the reception of the original Gothic plagiarist, Matthew Lewis. Critics not only condemned Lewis for apparently usurping other authors property in The Castle Spectre but also did so by casting him as his own usurping villain. This parallel between Gothic conventions and critical language suggests that the Gothic might have played a crucial role in the history of our concepts of intellectual property, and particularly in the development of the now-familiar figure of the criminalized, and vilified, plagiarist.

Gothic Studies

While the importance of space in Gothic literature and the role of spectacle in the staging of late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century British Gothic drama have received much attention, little has been written about how Gothic dramatic writing gestures with space. By looking at how dramatic writers rhetorically used Gothics politically and psychologically charged spaces in their dramatic works for stage and page, this essay explores how space functions in pre-realist drama. The essay shows how a rhetoric of space functions in three examples of Gothic theatrical writing - Matthew Lewis‘s The Castle Spectre, Catherine Gore‘s The Bond, and Jane Scott‘sThe Old Oak Chest - and suggests that British Gothic dramas spatial rhetoric anticipates cinematic uses of space.

Gothic Studies
The spectacle of death and the aesthetics of crowd control

expression, presumptions and agendas were narrated through the appropriation of existing Gothic tropes. The heightened emotional and experiential aspects of Gothic are traceable to ideological and political repression during the eighteenth century. ‘Monk’ Lewis himself enjoyed a keen sense of the value of a dramatic killing in The Castle Spectre ( 1798 ), a spoof Gothic

in The Gothic and death

seems to emanate from and return to his portraits in The Castle of Otranto , so too does the ghost of a murdered matriarch in Matthew Lewis’s The Castle Spectre (1797): ANGELA. ( Kneeling before Evelina’s portrait. ) Mother! Blessed Mother! If indeed thy spirit still lingers amidst these scenes of sorrow, look on my

in Gothic kinship
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Castle Spectre . Sarah Wilkinson’s The Castle Spectre, an Ancient Baronial Romance (1798) ‘founded on the original drama’ published by J. Bailey and priced at a shilling and comprising twelve pages only is truly a ‘shilling shocker’. The frontispiece shows Earl Percy, cloak billowing, jumping from a castle turret window onto a rather flimsy-looking sail-sheet held by four

in Gothic effigy

Potter explains, has been unfairly marginalised as ‘merely the undergrowth of legitimate novels or literary mushrooms’. 83 Since Gothic fiction is believed to have had a largely female-dominated audience, this may be why some adaptations render Lewis’ Bleeding Nun a pale imitation of her debauched self, either as victim or helpful premonitory spectre. 84 For his play The Castle Spectre , which

in Dangerous bodies
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has appeared in dozens of films since, but The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) is unabashedly dense in references to art, literature, and horror film, as Rolf Eichler has detailed. 58 This practice goes back to the early decades of the gothic, such as the 1797 play, The Castle Spectre , in which the author, Matthew Lewis, “rel[ies] on the audience’s knowledge of Gothic traditions,” as

in Men with stakes
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E.J. Clery and Robert Miles

. 4.6b Matthew Gregory Lewis (1775–1818), Postscript to The Castle Spectre (1798) Source: Matthew Gregory Lewis (1798), The Castle Spectre: A Drama , London: J. Bell, pp. 102–3. * . . . Against my Spectre many objections have been urged: one of them I think rather curious. She ought not to appear, because the

in Gothic documents
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tryst, vicious murder, veiled strangers, the grisly contents of the urn and Blandine’s madness can be recognised as exactly kind of Gothic melodrama as might be seen in Matthew Lewis’s The Castle Spectre (1797) and Thomas Holcroft’s A Tale of Mystery (1802). Few graphic sequences embody Otranto- esque themes as directly as George Cruikshank’s satiric triptych

in Gothic effigy