Gothic literature by its very nature tends to look back to historic times, and some narratives, such as Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto and the anonymously authored chapbook Fatal Jealousy make reference to the crusades. Gothic scholars have not focused heavily on studying the crusades, but others have explored the idea in the broader concept of Romanticism. Some consideration of this research could certainly shed light on the portrayal of the crusades in the Gothic.
Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe is often credited with awakening the imaginations of the English to notions of the romance of the medieval, but his treatment of the crusades presents a more skeptical perspective on the past. Richard the Lion-Heart is depicted by Scott as a royal shirker, neglecting his duty by leaving England in a state of uncertainty to run off to the crusades. In the pursuit of his own personal honor, Richard becomes the "brilliant but useless character of a knight of romance" rather than faithfully serving as England's king, and risks himself and England's stability for nothing more than personal glory. In this manner, Scott rejects a romantic-chivalric solution to England's troubles, which seems odd since Ivanhoe otherwise glows with praise of the glories of antiquity. This suspicion of chivalry may be part of a larger discourse that questions the moral integrity of the English aristocracy, since so many of them were heavily influenced by French, Catholic, and otherwise European ideals. Since the Gothic is also invested in many of the same sentiments, perhaps there are ideological reasons for references to the crusades and crusaders.
Courtesy of Wendy Fall, Marquette University
Clery, EJ. "The Genesis of Gothic Fiction." Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction 1.2 (2002): 21. Print.
Simmons, Clare A. Reversing the Conquest : History and Myth in Nineteenth-Century British Literature . New Brunswick : Rutgers University Press, 1990. Print.
Fatal Jealousy; or, Blood Will Have Blood! Containing the History of Count Almagro and Duke Alphonso; Their Combat in the Dreadful Tournament and the Death of the Beautiful Bellarmine, Through the Artifice of Sophronia, Her Rival, Unknown