Dracula

Dracula is an 1897 novel by Irish author Bram Stoker, featuring as its primary antagonist the vampire Count Dracula. Though the most famous vampire novel ever, 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. 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, Dracula's dramatic sweeping gestures and gentlemanly mannerisms drew their living embodiment from 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. Stoker's Notes for Dracula show that the name of the count was originally going to be Count Wampyr, but while doing research, Stoker became intrigued by the word dracul. Dracula is derived from the word dracul in the Romanian language, meaning devil (originally dragon). 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".


Although Dracula is a work of fiction, it does contain some historical references.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. The supposed connections between the historical Transylvanian-born Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia and Bram Stoker's fictional Dracula attracted popular attention. 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. The folkloric figure of Abhartach has also been suggested as a source.


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; the stories and influence may explain why Dracula appeared younger after feeding. It has been suggested that Stoker received much historical information from Ármin Vámbéry, a Hungarian professor he met at least twice.


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.


The story of Dracula has been the basis for countless films and plays. Of all the movies, the most popular are: Dracula (1931), The Horror of Dracula (1958), and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992). Another famous version of the story was Nosferatu (1922), 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.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am sorry that you didn't mention the fact that in one of the most famous roles of Drakula was Béla Lugosi(b.1882) who was born as Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó in Lugos, Hungary at that time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A9la_Lugosi

Adrian said...

I've mentioned that in the post about Lugosi - see the "Romanians at Hollywood" series of posts.