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An Extensive Overview of Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Who was Bram Stoker Abraham “Bram” Stoker was born on November 8, 1847 in Dublin, Ireland and died on 20 April 1912 in London, England. His parents were Abraham Stoker and Charlotte Mathilda Blake Thornley. In 1878 he was a theater reviewer at The Dublin Mail, the owner of which was the horror writer Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.

That same year he married Mrs. Florence Balcombe, who was former wife of Oscar Wilde. The couple moved to London, where Stoker became acting manager and then business manager of the Lyceum Theatre for the next 27 years, owned British actor and Stoker’s friend, Henry Irving. Stoker’s only child Irving Noel Stoker, was born on December 31, 1879.

Before writing “Dracula”, Stoker spent seven years studying European folklore and vampire stories. He was greatly influenced by Emily Gerard’s “Transylvania Superstitions”, which included a vampire legend. It is said that Stoker borrowed various elements from the bloody tyrant of

Wallachia, Vlad Tepes, but there are no comments about him in Stoker’s notes.

“Dead Un-Dead” was one of Stoker’s original titles for “Dracula” up to a few weeks before the book was published. In the Whitby library where he visited many times in search of information, he found that the name Dracula (Drăculea) was the father name of the descendants of Vlad II of Wallachia, which was named “Dracul” after being invested in the Order of the Dragon in 1431. In the old Romanian language, the word dracul, is analyzed by the Romanian “drac” + “ul” which meant dragon + son, i.e. “dragon’s son”.

“Dracula”, a horror novel in Gothic style, was published in London in 1897 by the publishing house “Archibald Constable and Company”. In 1899, the book was published in the United States by the publishing house “Doubleday & McClure” in New York. But when Universal Studios bought the rights, it is said that Bram Stoker did not comply with a part of the US copyright law and so the novel went into the public domain.

Later on, the novel was released in theaters in 1922 in the form of Nosferatu. Stoker’s widow received it as an insult and during the legal battle that followed, the popularity of the novel began to grow.

In the United Kingdom and other countries that followed the Berne Convention on Copyright Law, he had the copyright of the novel until April 1962, fifty years after the death of Stoker. Stoker never became rich; during the last year of his life he was so poor that he applied for humanitarian aid from the Royal Literary Fund and his widow was forced to sell the notes of the novel at a Sotheby’s auction in 1913 for just over £ 2.

Later on, the novel was released in theaters in 1922 in the form of Nosferatu. Stoker’s widow received it as an insult and during the legal battle that followed, the popularity of the novel began to grow.

A closer look into Dracula’s character Dracula in Stoker’s novel, lives in the dark, drinks the blood of people, preferably of virgin young women, and lacks eternal rest because he was deprived of eternal love. The novel can stuck horror to the reader with the mysterious form of Dracula attacking his victims with fury and hatred, but at the same time his character implies the forbidden desire for life, freedom and love. However, his deeper character is not outlined. We are not given his point of view and the descriptions of the other characters do not go deeper than the narrative of their interactions with him. The fact that it remains a threatening, mysterious form, dangerous and ruthless, so imposing and unsuspecting, keeps the reader alert. His feelings alternate from anguish to hope and fear. Naturally, he has vulnerabilities but for his victims to exploit them, they have to overcome themselves. Such a man is Professor Van Helsing, whom we may characterize as the good alter ego of Count Dracula. He is an open-minded scientist who can extract from the old traditions the points of interest and throw away anything useless that misleads the reader.

Dracula’s Plotline in a Nutshell The novel starts with Jonathan Harker, an English lawyer, visiting Dracula in the Carpathian Mountains on the borders of Transylvania, Bukovina and Moldova to provide him with legal support for a real estate transaction under the supervision of Harker’s employer, Peter Hawkins of Exeter. After the legal preparations, Dracula leaves Transylvania and abandons Harker to three female vampires, called “sisters”. Harker finally escapes before he turned into a vampire.

Dracula boarded a Russian vessel, “Demeter”, carrying with him a lot of boxes containing soil from the territory of Transylvania, which he needed to regain his powers. The ship anchored on the banks of Whitby on the east coast of England, and the captain’s logbook documented the gradual disappearance of the entire crew. The captain being the last survivor, was tied to the wheel to maintain the course of the ship.

Dracula successfully purchased multiple estates under the nickname “Count De Ville” across London. Harker’s fiancé, Mina Murray, lives with her friend, Lucy Westenra, who is on vacation at Whitby. Dracula communicates with Renfield, a crazy man who wants to consume insects, spiders, birds and rats to absorb their “life”. Renfield becomes Dracula’s faithful servant. Soon Dracula shows indirectly that he is pursuing Lucy.

As time passes, she begins to suffer from episodes of sleepwalking and dementia, as Mina testifies. They called in Abraham Van Helsing, who immediately understands the real cause of Lucy’s condition from the two small marks on her throat. After Lucy dies and despite the efforts of Van Helsing, she turns into a vampire. They track her down and kill her by driving a stake in her heart, decapitating her and filling her mouth with garlic.

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At the same time, Jonathan Harker arrives from Budapest and Mina marries him. All involved characters plan and participate in a Dracula extermination campaign. Through research and observation, they discover that on the estates Dracula had purchased, were placed wooden boxes. Van Helsing, along with Dr. Seward, monitors the behavior of patient Renfield and thus learns that he is directly affected by Dracula. They also study historical events, folklore and superstitions of various cultures to understand Dracula’s strengths and weaknesses. Van Helsing also establishes a profile for Dracula to better understand his actions and anticipate his moves.

They eventually discover the wooden crates and that by putting unfermented bread renders them completely useless to Dracula as he cannot enter or carry them further. Outraged, Dracula seduces Mina and feeds her with her own blood to control her. Mina is not immediately turned into a vampire but has a spiritual connection with Dracula and understands Dracula’s situation and acts. Van Helsing uses hypnotism on Mina to be able to follow Dracula’s moves further.

But Dracula returns to his castle in Transylvania and Van Helsing and the rest follow him. They attack the castle and destroy the “sisters” vampires. Dracula escapes again with the help of the Gypsies. They discover him and attack him with all their might, eventually killing him and turning him into dust. Mina is freed from her curse. The book ends with a note by Jonathan Harker seven years after the events of the novel, describing his married life with Mina and the birth of their son, whom they named “Quincey.”

Reaction and academic criticism: Dracula was not an immediate bestseller when first published, although critics were relentless to their praise. The modern Daily Mail ranked Stoker higher than Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe, as well as Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights”.

According to literary historians Nina Auerbach and David J. Skal, the novel was read by modern readers rather than by old Victorian readers. Its reach grew and was turned into an iconic only later in the 20th century when movie adaptations appeared. However, some Victorian fans were ahead of time, calling it “a novel of the bloody century.”

Sherlock Holmes’s Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote to Stoker, “I write to you how much I enjoyed reading Dracula, I think it is the best story of diablerie I have read for many years.” The Daily Mail of June 1, 1897, declared it a classic Gothic horror: “In search of a parallelism with this strange, powerful and frightening story, our mind returns to such stories as The Mysteries of Udolpho, Frankenstein, The Fall of the House of Usher… but Dracula is even more terrifying with his gloomy charm than all this”. Similar, positive comments appeared when the book was published in the US in 1899. The first American publication was published by Doubleday & McClure in New York.

Historical and Geographical References: Dracula is a fictional work, but it contains some historical references, though one can only guess how much these historical references were intended by Stoker. Attention was drawn to the alleged relationships between historic Transylvania – the genus of Vlad III Dracul (also known as Vlad Tepes) of Wallachia and the imaginary Dracula of Bram Stoker.

Vlad III is adored as a hero by the Romanians for the removal of Ottoman invaders, who are said to have reached up to 100,000 victims. There is no evidence that the count in the novel was designed based on the bloodthirsty tyrant of Wallachia.

The only convincing element is that perhaps he borrowed the name Dracula, according to expert Elizabeth Miller. Some Dracula scholars led by Elizabeth Miller argue that Stoker knew little of the real, historical Vlad III. Historically, the name “Dracula” comes from the Order of the Dragon hierarchy, founded by Sigismund of Luxembourg (then King of Hungary) to support Christianity and defend the Empire against the Ottoman Turks.

Vlad II Dracul, the father of Vlad III, was introduced to the Order of the Dragon around 1431 and ordered his mint to cut coins to bear the dragon’s symbol. The name “Dracula” derived from “dracul” in Romanian means “the dragon”. The inhabitants of Wallachia knew that King Vlad III was Vlad Tepes. The name “Dracula” became popular in Romania after the publication of Stoker’s book. Unlike popular belief, the name Dracula in Romanian does not mean “devil’s son.”

Other Influences of the Novel: Many biographers and literary critics found several similarities in Stoker’s novel with the classic profile of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu, the author of vampire Carmilla.

In Dracula’s writing, Stoker may have written stories about Sidhe, women who consume blood. The folk form of Abhartach has also been proposed as a source. In 1983, McNally added that Stoker was influenced by the story of the Hungarian Elizabeth Bathory, who was accused of killing between 36 and 700 young women to bathe in their blood, believing that would give her the youthful appearance.

In his book “The Essential Dracula”, Clare Haword-Maden wrote that Bram Stoker was inspired by the Slains Castle and wrote about Count Dracula’s castle, where Bram Stoker was a guest of the 19th Earl, Errolll. According to Miller, he first visited Cruden Bay in 1893, three years after the start his project, Dracula.

Haining and Tremaine support that during that visit, Stoker was particularly impressed by the interior of the Slains castle and the surrounding landscape. Miller and Leatherdale, however, question the validity of this source. Possibly, Stoker was not inspired by a real tower, but by Jules Verne’s novel “The Carpathian Castle” (1892) or “The Mysteries of Udolpho” (1794) by Anne Radcliffe. A third possibility is that Stoker saw an illustration of the Bran Castle (Törzburg) in the Transylvania book by Charles Boner or read about it in the books of Mazuchelli or Crosse. Many of the scenes in Whitby and London are based on real places often visited by Stoker, although in some cases he altered geography for the sake of the story.

Leonard Wolf and Peter Haining suggested that Stoker received a lot of historical information from Webéry. Miller argues that “there is no indication that the conversation included Vlad, vampires or even Transylvania” and “in addition, there is no other correspondence between Stoker and Webéry, nor does he refer to Webéry in his notes for Dracula”.

Dracula is the ultimate evil, the stranger who comes to corrupt and subdue England. The plot has a circle: from Carpathia, a place blocked by contemporary civilization and full of superstitions, to Whitby, London, a modern metropolis, and again to Carpathia.

Perhaps Whitby was not accidentally chosen by the writer, because there in 664 AD the Synod took place and it was the greatest controversy among representatives of Celtic Church – which was closer to the Orthodox, and thus to Romania officially belonged to the Orthodox Church – and to the Roman Church. This Synod was recorded as a religious defeat of the Celts. In this Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, the Celtic Church was rejected and they chose the Roman Church which resulted in Roman influence gradually expanding to Celtic countries.

Stoker, inspired by a set of folk traditions in Eastern Europe, creates Count Dracula, whose presence causes the oppressed instincts, releases the social bonds of blood, and people become baits of an insatiable thirst for eternal life. It is likely to touch xenophobia and colonization in this way. Maybe he is rebuking superstition against science.

The role of Mina is distinct because the reader sees a working, loving woman who is also a fighter with elements of her character such as love, intelligence, kindness, unlike her friend Lucy who is carefree, unprepared for the difficulties of life, who will become the first victim of Count. Does Stoker thus prepare his modern world for which social class will survive in the 20th century? But do not forget the most important role of our lives; love. Probably Stoker wanted to emphasize this aspect of the “beast”, which, while unbeatable by the reigning forces, i.e. politics, religion, social order and morality, was finally defeated by love, because who can say with certainty that he was defeated by his persecutors or he allowed them to defeat him?

The Dracula era: The story of Dracula has been the basis for many films and theatrical performances. Stoker himself wrote the first theatrical adaptation, which was presented at the Lyceum Theater on 18 May 1897 under the title Dracula or The Undead shortly before the publication of the novel and was held only once in order to establish his own rights for such adaptations. This adaptation was originally published just a century later in October 1997.

The first film to feature Dracula was Dracula’s Death, produced in Hungary in 1921. However, the film was not a Stoker’s adaptation but a beautiful and true story. The film company “FW Murnau” released in 1922 Nosferatu the Vampyre and the popularity of the novel increased significantly.

Because they were unable to get Dracula’s copyright from the widow of Stoker, script writer Henrik Galeen altered many details to avoid legal issues. The story takes place in Germany instead of England and the characters of the novel have been reformulated. This effort failed to avoid a litigation and Stoker’s widow sued the film company, resulting in a court order to compensate her and destroy all the copies of the film. However, since the company was bankrupt, Stoker’s widow was paid only the legal costs of the indemnity.

Some copies survived and found their way into theaters. Subsequent recirculation of the film typically overturned some of the changes, such as restoring the original character names (a practice also followed by Werner Herzog’s new version in

1979 of the Murnau film, Nosferatu the Vampyre).

Christopher Lee as Dracula: In 1958, the British film company Hammer, following their success in “The Curse of Frankenstein”, filmed Dracula starring Christopher Lee and released it in the US, directed by Terence Fisher. It was an international success for Hammer Film. Christopher Lee reiterated his role many times over the next decade and was established as the best performer of Count Dracula.

In 1970 he played the role of Count Dracula in the Spanish-Italian-German co-production of the homonymous film “Count Dracula”, while Klaus Kinski played the role of Renfield, who later played in 1979 Nosferatu the Vampyre.


Article by Depi Tzini

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