Father Ambrosio, the most pious and venerated monk in all of Madrid, is held as a paragon of virtue. But after 30 years of study and prayer, evil thoughts begin to permeate his mind. As two plots cleverly converge, torture, murder, incest, rape, poison, and magic prevail, sustained by an elegance in the writing of the 19-year-old Matthew Lewis.
Ambrosio, the worthy superior of the Capuchins of Madrid, falls to the temptations of Matilda, a fiend-inspired wanton who, disguised as a boy, has entered his monastery as a novice. Ambrosio then falls in love with one of his penitents and finally kills her in order to escape detection. However, he is discovered, tortured by the Inquisition and sentenced to death.
The Monk is a violent tale of ambition, murder, and incest. The great struggle between maintaining monastic vows and fulfilling personal ambitions leads the monk Ambrosio, into temptation and the breaking of his vows, then to sexual obsession and rape, and finally to murder in order to conceal his guilt. Written when Matthew Lewis was only 19, The Monk was criticised when first published in 1796 for its lewdness and impiety, but this criticism only added to its popularity.
Il monaco è il primo e più famoso romanzo gotico. Scritto nel 1796, raccolse un enorme successo, ma creò anche un notevole scandalo per i suoi contenuti: castelli, abbazie, fantasmi e, soprattutto, violenze, stupri, incesti; fra i suoi personaggi troviamo addirittura l’Ebreo errante, e Lucifero in persona. L’autore pubblicò quindi una versione più accettabile nel 1798, in cui i contenuti scabrosi hanno un intento più dichiaratamente morale, rendendolo ispiratore di numerosi altri romanzi (si pensa che anche Manzoni vi si sia ispirato).
Savaged by critics for its supposed profanity and obscenity and bought in large numbers by readers eager to see whether it lived up to its lurid reputation, The Monk became a success due to scandal when it was published in 1796 - not least because its author was a member of parliament and only 20 years old.