DRACULA

Novel backgroundBetween 1879 and 1889 Stoker was business manager for the world-famous Lyceum Theatre in London, where he supplemented his income by writing a large number of sensational novels, his most famous being the vampire tale Dracula published on May 18, 1897. Parts of it are set around the town of Whitby, where he was living at the time. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, authors such as H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.G. Wells wrote many tales in which fantastic creatures threatened the British Empire. Invasion literature was at a peak, and Stoker’s formula of an invasion of England by continental European influences was by 1897 very familiar to readers of fantastic adventure stories. According to modern writers Nina Auerbach and David Skal, the novel is more important for modern readers than contemporary Victorian readers, who, they assert, enjoyed it as a good adventure story; and allege that it reached its iconic legend status only later in the 20th century.[1]This assertion is contradicted, however, by the actual statements of Victorian readers and reviewers themselves who described Dracula as “the sensation of the season” and “the most blood-curdling novel of the paralysed century”.[2] The Daily Mail review of June 1, 1897 proclaimed it a classic of Gothic horror:

“In seeking a parallel to this weird, powerful, and horrorful story our mind reverts to such tales as The Mysteries of Udolpho, Frankenstein, The Fall of the House of Usher … but Dracula is even more appalling in its gloomy fascination than any one of these.”[3]

Other reviewers compared it favorably to the novels of Wilkie Collins and similar good reviews appeared when the book was published in the USA in 1899[4].

Shakespearean actor and friend of Stoker's, Sir Henry Irving was a real-life inspiration for the character of Dracula, tailor-made to his dramatic presence, gentlemanly mannerisms and affinity for playing villain roles. Irving, however, never agreed to play the part on stage.

Shakespearean actor and friend of Stoker’s, Sir Henry Irving was a real-life inspiration for the character of Dracula, tailor-made to his dramatic presence, gentlemanly mannerisms and affinity for playing villain roles. Irving, however, never agreed to play the part on stage.

Before writing Dracula, Stoker spent seven years researching European folklore and stories of vampires, being most influenced by Emily Gerard‘s 1885 essay “Transylvania Superstitions”, and an evening spent talking about Balkan superstitions with Arminius Vambery. Though arguably the most famous vampire story, Dracula was not the first. It was preceded and partly inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu‘s 1871 “Carmilla“, about a lesbian vampire who preys on a lonely young woman. The image of a vampire portrayed as an aristocratic man, like the character of Dracula, was created by John Polidori in “The Vampyre” (1819), during the summer spent with Frankenstein creator Mary Shelley and other friends in 1816 (Polidori had in turn based his vampire character, Lord Ruthven, on friend and fellow guest Lord Byron). The Lyceum Theatre, where Stoker worked between 1878 and 1898, was headed by the tyrannical actor-manager Henry Irving, who was Stoker’s real-life inspiration for Dracula’s mannerisms and who Stoker hoped would play Dracula in a stage version. Although Irving never did agree to do a stage version, Stoker modelled Dracula’s dramatic sweeping gestures and gentlemanly mannerisms on those he had observed in Irving.

The Dead Un-Dead was one of Stoker’s original titles for Dracula, and up until a few weeks before publication, the manuscript was titled simply The Un-Dead. The name of Stoker’s count was originally going to be Count Vampyre, but while doing research, Stoker became intrigued by the word dracul. Dracul is derived from the word draco in the Megleno-Romanian language, meaning devil (originally dragon). There was also a historic figure known as Vlad III Dracula, but whether Stoker based his character on him remains debated and is now considered unlikely.

On publication, Dracula had just moderate success though the novel received great praise from contemporary reviewers. The contemporary Christian World called it the “one of the most enthralling and unique romances ever written” and the theme of good triumphing over evil struck a chord everywhere.

The novel has been in the public domain in the United States since its original publication because Stoker failed to follow proper copyright procedure. In England and other countries following the Berne Convention on copyrights, however, the novel was under copyright until April 1962, fifty years after Stoker’s death.[5] When the unauthorized film adaptation was released in 1922, the popularity of the novel increased considerably, owing to the controversy caused when Stoker’s widow tried to have the film banned.[6]

Dracula has been the basis for countless films and plays. Three of the most famous are Nosferatu (1922), Dracula (1931), and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). Nosferatu, a film directed by the German director F.W. Murnau, was produced while Stoker’s widow was alive, and the filmmakers were forced to change the setting and the characters’ names for copyright reasons. The vampire in Nosferatu is called Count Orlok rather than Count Dracula. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, by Francis Ford Coppola, reimagines Count Dracula as a tragic figure instead of a monster. It adds an opening sequence that focuses on Dracula’s Romanian background and inserts a new romantic subplot into the story.

Stoker wrote several other novels dealing with horror and supernatural themes, but none achieved the lasting fame or success of Dracula. His other novels include The Snake’s Pass (1890), The Jewel of Seven Stars (1903), and The Lair of the White Worm (1911).

[edit] Plot summary

The novel is mainly composed of journal entries and letters written by several narrators who are also the novel’s main protagonists; Stoker supplemented the story with occasional newspaper clippings to relate events not directly witnessed by the story’s characters. The tale begins with Jonathan Harker, a newly qualified English solicitor, journeying by train and carriage from England to Count Dracula‘s crumbling, remote castle (situated in the Carpathian Mountains on the border of Transylvania and Moldavia).The purpose of his mission is to provide legal support for Dracula for a real estate transaction overseen by Harker’s employer, Peter Hawkins, of Exeter in England. At first seduced by Dracula’s gracious manner, Harker soon discovers that he has become a prisoner in the castle. He also begins to see disquieting facets of Dracula’s nocturnal life. One night while searching for a way out of the castle, and against Dracula’s strict admonition not to rest outside his room at night, Harker falls under the spell of three wanton female vampires, the Brides of Dracula. He is saved at the last second by the Count, however, who ostensibly wants to keep Harker alive just long enough because his legal advice and teachings about England and London (Dracula’s planned travel destination was to be among the “teeming millions”) are needed by Dracula. Harker barely escapes from the castle with his life.

Not long afterward, a Russian ship, the Demeter, having weighed anchor at Varna, runs aground on the shores of Whitby, England, during a fierce tempest. All of the crew are missing and presumed dead, and only one body, that of the captain, is found tied up to the ship’s helm. The captain’s log is recovered and tells of strange events that had taken place during the ship’s journey. These events led to the gradual disappearance of the entire crew apparently owing to a malevolent presence on board the ill-fated ship. An animal described as a large dog is seen on the ship leaping ashore. The ship’s cargo is described as silver sand and boxes of “mould” or earth from Transylvania.

Soon Dracula is menacing Harker’s devoted fiancée, Wilhelmina “Mina” Murray, and her vivacious friend, Lucy Westenra. Lucy receives three marriage proposals in one day, from Hon. Arthur Holmwood (later Lord Godalming); an American cowboy, Quincey Morris; and an asylum psychiatrist, Dr. John Seward. There is a notable encounter between Dracula and Seward’s patient Renfield, an insane man who means to consume insects, spiders, birds, and other creatures — in ascending order of size — in order to absorb their “life force”. Renfield acts as a kind of motion sensor, detecting Dracula’s proximity and supplying clues accordingly.

Lucy begins to waste away suspiciously. All her suitors fret, and Seward calls in his old teacher, Professor Abraham Van Helsing from Amsterdam. Van Helsing immediately determines the cause of Lucy’s condition but refuses to disclose it, knowing that Seward’s faith in him will be shaken if he starts to speak of vampires. Van Helsing tries multiple blood transfusions, but they are clearly losing ground. On a night when Van Helsing must return to Amsterdam (and his message to Seward asking him to watch the Westenra household is accidentally sent to the wrong address), Lucy and her mother are attacked by a wolf. Mrs Westenra, who has a heart condition, dies of fright, and Lucy apparently dies soon after.

Lucy is buried, but soon afterward the newspapers report a “bloofer lady” (sometimes explained as “beautiful lady”) stalking children in the night. Van Helsing, knowing that this means Lucy has become a vampire, confides in Seward, Arthur, and Morris. The suitors and Van Helsing track her down, and after a disturbing confrontation between her vampiric self and Arthur, they stake her heart and behead her.

Around the same time, Jonathan Harker arrives home from Budapest (where Mina joined and married him after his escape from the castle); he and Mina also join the coalition, who turn their attentions to dealing with Dracula.

After Dracula learns of Van Helsing and the others’ plot against him, he takes revenge by visiting — and biting — Mina at least three times. Dracula also feeds Mina his blood, creating a spiritual bond between them to control her. The only way to forestall this is to kill Dracula first. Mina slowly succumbs to the blood of the vampire that flows through her veins, switching back and forth from a state of consciousness to a state of semi-trance during which she is telepathically connected with Dracula. It is this connection that they start to use to track Dracula’s movements. It is only possible to track Dracula’s movements when Mina is put under hypnosis by Van Helsing. This ability is getting gradually weaker as the group makes their way to Dracula’s castle.

Dracula flees back to his castle in Transylvania, followed by Van Helsing’s group, who manage to track him down just before sundown and destroy[7] him by shearing “through the throat” and stabbing him in the heart with a Bowie knife. Dracula crumbles to dust, his spell is lifted and Mina is freed from the marks. Quincey Morris is killed in the final battle, stabbed by Gypsies who had been charged with returning Dracula to his castle; the survivors return to England.

The book closes with a note about Mina’s and Jonathan’s married life and the birth of their first-born son, whom they name Quincey in remembrance of their American friend.

[edit] “Dracula’s Guest”

In 1914, two years after Stoker’s death, the short story “Dracula’s Guest” was posthumously published. It was, according to most contemporary critics, the deleted first (or second) chapter from the original manuscript[8] and the one which gave the volume its name,[9] but which the original publishers deemed unnecessary to the overall story.

“Dracula’s Guest” follows an unnamed Englishman traveller (whom most readers identify as Jonathan Harker, assuming it is the same character from the novel) as he wanders around Munich before leaving for Transylvania. It is Walpurgis Night, and in spite of the coachman’s warnings, the young Englishman foolishly leaves his hotel and wanders through a dense forest alone. Along the way he feels he is being watched by a tall and thin stranger (possibly Count Dracula).

The short story climaxes in an old graveyard, where in a marble tomb (with a large iron stake driven into it), he encounters the ghost of a female vampire called Countess Dolingen. The spirit of this malevolent and beautiful vampire awakens from her marble bier to conjure a snowstorm before being struck by lightning and returning to her eternal prison. Harker’s troubles are not quite over, as a wolf then emerges through the blizzard and attacks him. However, the wolf merely keeps him warm and alive until help arrives.

When Harker is finally taken back to his hotel, a telegram awaits him from his expectant host Dracula, with a warning about “dangers from snow and wolves and night”.

[edit] Allusions to actual history and geography

Although Dracula is a work of fiction, it does contain some historical references. The historical connections with the novel and how much Stoker knew about the history are a matter of conjecture and debate.

Following the publication of In Search of Dracula by Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally in 1972, the supposed connections between the historical Transylvanian-born Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia and Bram Stoker’s fictional Dracula attracted popular attention. During his main reign (1456–1462), “Vlad the Impaler” is said to have killed from 20,000 to 40,000 European civilians (political rivals, criminals, and anyone else he considered “useless to humanity”), mainly by using his favourite method of impaling them on a sharp pole. The main sources dealing with these events are records by Saxon settlers in neighboring Transylvania, who had frequent clashes with Vlad III and may have been biased. Vlad III is sometimes revered as a folk hero by Romanians for driving off the invading Turks. His impaled victims are said to have included as many as 100,000 Turkish Muslims.

Historically, the name “Dracul” is derived from a secret fraternal order of knights called the Order of the Dragon, founded by Sigismund of Luxembourg (king of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, and Holy Roman Emperor) to uphold Christianity and defend the Empire against the Ottoman Turks. Vlad II Dracul, father of Vlad III, was admitted to the order around 1431 because of his bravery in fighting the Turks. From 1431 onward, Vlad II wore the emblem of the order and later, as ruler of Wallachia, his coinage bore the dragon symbol. The name Dracula means “Son of Dracul”.

Stoker came across the name Dracula in his reading on Romanian history, and chose this to replace the name (Count Wampyr) that he had originally intended to use for his villain. However, some Dracula scholars, led by Elizabeth Miller, have questioned the depth of this connection. They argue that Stoker in fact knew little of the historic Vlad III except for his nickname. There are sections in the novel where Dracula refers to his own background, and these speeches show that Stoker had some knowledge of Romanian history. Yet Stoker includes no details about Vlad III’s reign and does not mention his use of impalement. Given Stoker’s use of historical background to make his novel more horrific, it seems unlikely he would have failed to mention that his villain had impaled thousands of people. It seems that Stoker either did not know much about the historic Vlad III, or did not intend his character Dracula to be the same person as Vlad III.

Vlad III was an ethnic Vlach. In the novel, Dracula claims to be a Székely: “We Szekelys have a right to be proud…”

The Dracula legend as he created it and as it has been portrayed in films and television shows may be a compound of various influences. Many of Stoker’s biographers and literary critics have found strong similarities to the earlier Irish writer Sheridan le Fanu‘s classic of the vampire genre, Carmilla. In writing Dracula, Stoker may also have drawn on stories about the sídhe — some of which feature blood-drinking women.

It has been suggested that Stoker was influenced by the history of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who was born in the Kingdom of Hungary. Bathory is known to have tortured and killed anywhere between 36 and 700 young women over a period of many years, and it was commonly believed that she committed these crimes in order to bathe in or drink their blood, believing that this preserved her youth. No credible evidence of blood-drinking or other blood crimes in the Bathory case has ever been found, however the stories and influence may explain why Dracula appeared younger after feeding.[10]

Some have claimed the castle of Count Dracula was inspired by Slains Castle, at which Bram Stoker was a guest of the 19th Earl of Erroll. However, since as Stoker visited the castle in 1895—five years after work on Dracula had begun—there is unlikely to be much connection. Many of the scenes in Whitby and London are based on real places that Stoker frequently visited, although in some cases he distorts the geography for the sake of the story.

It has been suggested that Stoker received much historical information from Ármin Vámbéry, a Hungarian professor he met at least twice. Miller argues that “there is nothing to indicate that the conversation included Vlad, vampires, or even Transylvania” and that, “furthermore, there is no record of any other correspondence between Stoker and Vámbéry, nor is Vámbéry mentioned in Stoker’s notes for Dracula.”[11]

[edit] Literary significance and criticism

Dracula is an epistolary novel, written as a collection of diary entries, telegrams, and letters from the characters, as well as fictional clippings from the Whitby and London newspapers and phonograph cylinders. This literary style, made most famous by one of the most popular novels of the 19th century, The Woman in White (1860), was considered rather old-fashioned by the time of the publication of Dracula, but it adds a sense of realism and provides the reader with the perspective of most of the major characters. By use of the epistolary structure, Stoker, without employing either an omniscient narrator or any awkward framing device, maximizes suspense by avoiding any implicit promise to the reader that any first-person narrator must survive all the story’s perils.

Although some critics find the novel somewhat crude and sensational, it nevertheless retains its psychological power, and the sexual longings underlying the vampire attacks are manifest. As one critic wrote:

What has become clearer and clearer, particularly in the fin de siècle years of the twentieth century, is that the novel’s power has its source in the sexual implications of the blood exchange between the vampire and his victims…Dracula has embedded in it a very disturbing psychosexual allegory whose meaning I am not sure Stoker entirely understood: that there is a demonic force at work in the world whose intent is to eroticize women. In Dracula we see how that force transforms Lucy Westenra, a beautiful nineteen-year-old virgin, into a shameless slut.[12]

Dracula may be viewed as a novel about the struggle between tradition and modernity at the fin de siècle. Throughout, there are various references to changing gender roles; Mina Harker is a thoroughly modern woman, using such modern technologies as the typewriter, but she still embodies a traditional gender role as an assistant schoolmistress.

Stoker’s novel deals in general with the conflict between the world of the past — full of folklore, legend, and religious piety — and the emerging modern world of technology, positivism, and secularism.

Van Helsing epitomizes this struggle because he uses, at the time, extremely modern technologies like blood transfusions; but he is not so modern as to eschew the idea that a demonic being could be causing Lucy’s illness: he spreads garlic around the sashes and doors of her room and makes her wear a garlic flower necklace. After Lucy’s death, he receives an indulgence from a Catholic cleric to use the Eucharist (held by the Church to be trans-substantiated into the body and blood of Jesus) in his fight against Dracula. In trying to bridge the rational/superstitious conflict within the story, he cites new sciences, such as hypnotism, that were only recently considered magical. He also quotes (without attribution) the American psychologist William James, whose writings on the power of belief become the only way to deal with this conflict.

No character in the novel advocates a rejection of science in favour of either religion or superstition. Van Helsing receives the admiration of the other characters and succeeds in defeating Dracula by dint of a combination of encyclopedic knowledge and “open-mindedness.” Late in the novel, as Dr. Seward comes to embrace Van Helsing’s open-mindedness, he writes, “In an age when the existence of ptomaines is a mystery we should not wonder at anything!” For the characters, and presumably for the author, science opens the possibility of shockingly unfamiliar phenomena. If the novel sounds a cautionary note, it merely warns against the presumption that established science as yet offers a complete world-view. Within Stoker’s fictional universe, (correct) superstitious beliefs have an empirical basis and promise to yield to scientific inquiry.

Jonathan Harker’s character displays the problems of dwelling in a strictly rational modern world. Visiting Count Dracula in Eastern Europe, Jonathan scoffs at the peasants who tell him to delay his visit until after Saint George‘s feast day. As a solicitor, Jonathan is concerned “with facts — bare meagre facts, verified by books and figures, and of which there can be no doubt”. All of Jonathan’s rationality weakens him to what he witnesses at Castle Dracula. For example, the first time Jonathan witnesses Dracula crawling down the face of the castle headfirst, he is in complete disbelief. Not believing what he sees, he attempts to explain what he saw as a trick of the moonlight.

The characters of Dracula use modern technology and rationalism to defeat the Count. For example, during their pursuit of the vampire, they use railroads and steamships, not to mention the telegraph, to keep a step ahead of him (in contrast, Dracula escapes in a sail boat). Van Helsing uses hypnotism to pinpoint Dracula’s location. Mina even employs criminology to anticipate Dracula’s actions and cites both Cesare Lombroso and Max Nordau, who at that time were considered experts in this field.

The character of Dracula is representative of ‘foreign’ and ‘invasive’. Along with advances in technology and industry was the Victorian perception of a decline of morality and faith-based values; sexually transmitted diseases were becoming common, especially syphilis. Plagues were believed to have been introduced from without. Dracula, who ‘transmits’ his vampirism via a highly erotic method, represents a carrier of social fear and decline.

[edit] Tourism

After the death of Nicolae Ceauşescu, a tourist industry sprang up in Transylvania and, to a lesser extent, in Wallachia. However, Romanians have mixed feelings about linking one of their national heroes to the vampire monster.

Historical places connected to Vlad Ţepeş are publicised under a Dracula theme catering largely, but not entirely, to foreign markets. Bran Castle, which has only a very tangential connection with the historical Vlad Ţepeş, now exaggerates that connection and promotes itself as “Dracula’s Castle”. [3] A dungeon-themed disco, catering to a mostly Romanian crowd and located in the basement of a former inn immediately adjacent to the Curtea Veche (“Old Court”) — onetime site of Vlad Ţepeş’s castle in Bucharest — calls itself by the English-language name “Impaler”. The well-preserved medieval town of Sighişoara, Vlad Ţepeş’s birthplace, seriously considered building a Dracula theme park on the edge of town, but in the end it was decided that such a site would cheapen the beauty and history of the medieval city, and the plan was blocked. The park was then to have been built close to Bucharest (the capital, which is nowhere near Transylvania), but plans have subsequently been scrapped.

[edit] Allusions/references from other works

Further information: Vampire literature

Despite the novel’s important contributions to vampire fiction, several popular traits of fictional vampires are absent. Count Dracula is killed by a bowie knife, not a wooden stake. The destruction of the vampire Lucy is a three-part process (staking, decapitation, and the placing of garlic in the mouth of the vampire), not the simple stake-only procedure often found in later vampire stories. Dracula has the ability to travel as a mist and to scale the external walls of his castle. One trait added by Stoker, which has become famous, is the inability to be seen in mirrors. This is not found in traditional Eastern European folklore. Likewise, a vampire’s inability to cross running water. Both of these were classically attributes ascribed to ghosts, and Stoker incorporated them into his mythos.

It is also notable in the novel that Dracula can walk about in the daylight, in bright sunshine, though apparently without the ability to use most of his powers, like turning into mist or a bat. He is still strong and fast enough to struggle with and escape from most of his pursuers. Traditional vampire folklore does not usually hold that sunlight is fatal to vampires, though they are nocturnal. It is only with the film Nosferatu that daylight is first depicted as deadly to vampires.

[edit] Popular culture

For more details on this topic, see Dracula in popular culture.

The character of Count Dracula has remained popular over the years, and many films have used the character as a villain, while others have named him in their titles, such as Dracula’s Daughter, Brides of Dracula, and Zoltan, Hound of Dracula. An estimated 160 films (as of 2004) feature Dracula in a major role, a number second only to Sherlock Holmes. The number of films that include a reference to Dracula may reach as high as 649, according to the Internet Movie Database.

Most tellings of the Dracula story include the Count along with the rest of the “cast”: Jonathan and Mina Harker, Van Helsing, and Renfield. (Notably, the novel roles of characters Jonathan Harker and Renfield are more than occasionally reversed or combined, as are the roles of Mina and Lucy. Quincey Morris is usually omitted entirely, as is Arthur Holmwood.)

The 1931 film Dracula starred Béla Lugosi and was directed by Tod Browning. It is one of the most famous versions of the story and is commonly considered a horror classic. In 2000, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film “culturally significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Like Frankenstein, Dracula has inspired many literary tributes or parodies, including Stephen King‘s Salem’s Lot, Kim Newman‘s Anno Dracula, and Anne Rice‘s Interview with the Vampire.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes and references

  1. ^ Nina Auerbach and David Skal, editors. Dracula. Norton Critical Edition. 1997. ISBN 0393970124. Preface, first paragraph.
  2. ^ Richard Dalby (1986) “Bram Stoker” in The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural
  3. ^ Cited in Nina Auerbach and David Skal, editors, Dracula, Norton Critical Edition, 1997, p. 363-4
  4. ^ Richard Dalby (1986) “Bram Stoker” in The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural
  5. ^ Lugosi v. Universal Pictures, 70 Cal.App.3d 552 (1977), note 4.
  6. ^ [1] — Article at the BBC Cult website.
  7. ^ Already dead, Dracula can not be killed, only destroyed.
  8. ^ James Craig Holte (1997), Dracula Film Adaptations, Page 27.
  9. ^ Barbara Belford (2002), Bram Stoker and the Man Who Was Dracula, ISBN 0-306-81098-0.Page 325
  10. ^ Báthory Erzsébet – Elizabeth Bathory: Bram Stoker, Elizabeth Bathory, and Dracula (Elizabeth Miller)
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ Leonard Wolf, “Introduction” to the Signet Classic Edition, 1992

[edit] Bibliography

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