Matthew Gregory Lewis
Oxford University Press
November 1, 2021 November 5, 2021
Beat the Backlist
Set in the sinister monastery of the Capuchins in Madrid, The Monk is a violent tale of ambition, murder, and incest. The struggle between maintaining monastic vows and fulfilling personal ambitions leads its main character, the monk Ambrosio, to temptation and the breaking of his vows, then to sexual obsession and rape, and finally to murder in order to conceal his guilt.
Inspired by German horror romanticism and he work of Ann Radcliffe, Lewis produced his masterpiece at the age of 19. It contains many typical Gothic elements - seduction in a monastery, lustful monks, evil abbesses, bandits an beautiful heroines. But Lewis also played with convention, ranging from gruesome realism to social comedy, and even parodied the genre in which he was writing.
About the book
We are in Madrid, in the 18th century, a period in which the Inquisition and death by burning existed. Here preaches Ambrosio, abbot of the Capuchin monastery present in the city, a virtuous man who manages to charm the congregation with his sermons. He never leaves the monastery and preaches in church only on Thursdays.
Antonia is a young woman who is bewitched by the abbot one Thursday when she goes to hear the homily with her aunt. Here, however, she also meets Lorenzo, a young noble who gives her his seat.
Agnes is a nun of the convent of Santa Chiara adjacent to the monastery and Lorenzo’s sister. As we learn, she hides a secret that will be the beginning of Ambrosio’s ruin (even if it has nothing to do with it directly).