Pub. Date:
Oxford University Press, USA
The Monk

The Monk

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'He was deaf to the murmurs of conscience, and resolved to satisfy his desires at any price.'

The Monk (1796) is a sensational story of temptation and depravity, a masterpiece of Gothic fiction and the first horror novel in English literature. The respected monk Ambrosio, the Abbot of a Capuchin monastery in Madrid, is overwhelmed with desire for a young girl; once having abandoned his monastic vows he begins a terrible descent into immorality and violence. His appalling fall from grace embraces blasphemy, black magic, torture, rape, and murder, and places his very soul in jeopardy.

Lewis's extraordinary tale drew on folklore, legendary ghost stories, and contemporary dread inspired by the terrors of the French Revolution. Its excesses shocked the reading public and it was condemned as obscene. The novel continues to beguile and shock readers today with its gruesome catalogue of iniquities, while at the same time giving a profound insight into the deep anxieties experienced by British citizens during one of the most turbulent periods in the nation's history.

ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780192833945
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date: 02/28/1998
Series: Oxford World's Classics Series
Pages: 496
Product dimensions: 7.60(w) x 5.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Nick Groom publishes widely for both academic and popular readerships and his recent books include The Forger's Shadow (2002), The Union Jack (2006), The Gothic: A Very Short Introduction (2012), and an edition of Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto for Oxford World's Classics (2014). His book The Seasons: An Elegy for the Passing Year (2013) was shortlisted for the Katharine Briggs Folklore Award and nominated for BBC Countryfile Book of the Year.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter I

Excerpted from "The Monk"
by .
Copyright © 1999 Matthew Lewis.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements vi(1)
Introduction vii(24)
Note on the Text xxxi(4)
Select Bibliography xxxv(2)
A Chronology of Matthew Gregory Lewis xxxvii
Explanatory Notes 443

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide

1)One of the most damning criticisms of The Monk was made by Reverend Thomas Mathias, who called it blasphemous. Because of controversy like this, Lewis excised certain passages for the fourth and fifth editions. Mathias pointed to the passage in the first edition where Antonia reads from an expurgated bible because the original was improper for women. Are there other instances of blasphemy in the text? What critiques of Christianity does Lewis seem to be making? How might the novel be considered anti-Catholic?

2)The main plot, concerning Ambrosio, derives from the story of Santon Barsisa, which appeared in The Guardian in 1713. The secondary plot, of Raymond and Agnes, which seems to be of Lewis’s own creation. What do you believe he intended by telling this multi-faceted tale? Why not let the story of Ambrosio stand alone? How do the two stories run parallel to each other?

3)How does Lewis reconcile religion and superstition? Consider the roles of the Bleeding Nun and the Wandering Jew.

4)What kind of position was Monk Lewis taking with respect to the social and religious establishments of the eighteenth centuries? Might he have been commenting on what may happen when our individual choices are taken away? Consider how this might be applicable to contemporary issues.

5)The Monk was Lewis’s only novel; he was primarily known as a playwright. Look at both the physical and structural architecture in The Monk. How might the novel be considered theatrically structured?

6)Critic Christopher Maclachlan notes that in many ways this novel presents a more positive portrayal of women’s sexuality than does other gothic fiction. Does this arguments hold true for all the female characters? What deeper significance could this proto-feminism have?

7)Consider the shifting tone throughout the novel. How do these nuances affect our reading?

8)Ann Radcliffe was disgusted by The Monk and retaliated with her version of a gothic novel called The Italian, first published in 1797. Radcliffe’s novel ends on a happy note, the lovers reuniting. This provided a stark contrast to the Lewis’s ending with Ambrosio’s demonical torture. Compare these endings. What seems to work better? Keep in mind that these novels were originally known as romance novels.

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The Monk 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
corey1ynn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The 500 pages breeze by in this ridiculous Gothic soap opera.
jontseng on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Gory and incestuous. Proof that not all two hundred year old novels are boring, but otherwise not to be recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel is both intriguing and disturbing at the same time. Ambrosio's character is one to be pitied and learned from. His one fatal flaw-hubris-ultimately led to his downfall. Following his descention into hell is a most disturbing experience for the reader.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'The Monk' has all the elements of a good adventure, including good twists and the ability to shock and surprise, which I did not expect for a book written in 1796. Highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'The Monk' starts out slow, but once you get into it it takes you on a whirlwind of vanity, piousness, deception and the failings of humanity while at the same time leaves you with faith for the greater good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was great. The beginning is a little slow, but once the plot falls into place the ending will shock you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this was an interesting book, however by reading simply the back cover all was to predictable, except for Matilda.