For purposes of the Gothic, love functions in much the same way as any passion, which according to Frederick S. Frank, is one of the Gothic’s main formal characteristics. Acute emotions, many of them sexual or psychopathic, must drive the characters to extreme behavior in the Gothic novel. Powerful feelings are not limited to the human characters, but can motivate demonic and spectral personalities of the Gothic as well. Traditionally, the victimized female heroine expresses her excessive sensibilities through weeping, fainting, and hysterical palpitations. Gothic villains may seem cold and remorseless, but are actually creatures of titanic and destructive passion and surfeited with “pale ire, envy, and despair.” The proto-Gothic villain, Walpole’s Manfred, “was naturally humane; and his virtues were always ready to operate, when his passions did not obscure his reason.”
Love in the Gothic, while it may be inflamed in all proper passion, is entwined into the plot in two very different ways, depending on the character types involved. According to Eino Railo, love between the hero and heroine is so noble and pure as to be irritatingly platonic, keeping within the bounds of strictest conventional limits. Meanwhile the 'love' of the tyrant towards his intended maid is terrifyingly cold and calculated; for example Manfred in Castle of Otranto, who is only interested in her ability to bear him an heir.
Courtesy of Wendy Fall, Marquette University
Frank, Frederick S. The First Gothics : A Critical Guide to the English Gothic Novel . New York : Garland Pub., 1987. Print.
Railo, Eino. The Haunted Castle; a Study of the Elements of English Romanticism. New York, Humanities Press, 1964. Print.