The Monk

The Monk Imagery

"The castle which stood full in my sight, formed an object equally awful and picturesque. Its ponderous walls tinged by the moon with solemn brightness, its old and partially-ruined towers lifting themselves into the clouds and seeming to frown on the plains around them, its lofty battlements overgrown with ivy, and folding gates expanding in honor of the visionary inhabitant, made me sensible of a sad and reverential horror" (pg. 143)

Raymond waits for Agnes to come to him; tonight she will pretend to be the Bleeding Nun, a terrifying ghost, in order to leave the castle unchallenged. The castle seems both beautiful and terrifying in the moonlight. This grim tale unfolds in equally dark places, which is one of the hallmarks of Gothic fiction.

"[Matilda] lifted her arm and made a motion as if to stab herself. [...] She had torn open her habit, and her bosom was half-exposed. The weapon's point rested upon her left breast. And oh! That was such a breast! The moonbeams darting full upon it enabled the monk to observe its dazzling whiteness. His eye dwelt with insatiable avidity upon the beauteous orb" (pg. 76)

When Matilda first reveals her true sex to Ambrosio, he tells her that he cannot keep this secret. Hysterical, she threatens to kill herself. It is both sympathy and desire that cause Ambrosio to relent on this threat. This sight undoes Ambrosio, a celibate monk who has never spoken to a woman alone, much less seen one topless.

The author vividly describes the beauty of Matilda's breast: "moonbeams" dart upon it, and its "whiteness" "dazzles" the monk. This image evokes otherworldly and wondrous beauty; the reader cannot help by sympathy a bit with Ambrosio, tempted by this sight.

"It was a youth scarcely eighteen, the perfection of whose form and face was unrivaled. He was perfectly naked: a bright star sparkled upon his forehead; two crimson wings extended themselves from his shoulder; and his silken locks were confined by a band of many-colored figures, and shone with a brilliance far surpassing that of precious stones. Circlets of diamonds were fastened around his arms and ankles, and in his right hand he bore a silver branch, imitating myrtle" (pg. 293)

When Matilda's magical ritual ends, Ambrosio beholds a figure in the circle she has drawn on the floor. This beautiful youth is revealed to be Lucifer, the foremost among fallen angels. He is describes in terms that evoke wealth and luxury ("crimson," "silken," "brilliance far surpassing that of precious stones"). But as in other places in the novel, this beautiful exterior hides a corrupt heart. Though Lucifer still retains his angelic appearance, he is still a demon, and his assistance will prove to be Ambrosio's ruin.

"By the side of three putrid half-corrupted bodies lay the sleeping beauty [Antonia]. A lively red, the forerunner of returning animation, had already spread itself over her cheek; and as wrapped in her shroud she reclined upon her funeral bier, she seemed to smile at the images of death around her. While he gazed upon their rotting bones and disgusting figured, who perhaps were once as sweet and lovely, Ambrosio thought upon Elvira, by him reduced to the same state. As the memory of that horrid act glanced upon his mind, it was clouded with a gloomy horror. Yet it served but to strengthen his resolution to destroy Antonia's honor" (pg. 396)

When Ambrosio imprisons the sleeping Antonia in the crypts of the monastery, her beauty makes a striking contrast against the air of decay. Antonia's lively beauty stands in sharp contrast to the corpses, described as "putrid" and "rotting." It is a testament to Ambrosio's depraved nature that even surrounded by dead bodies, he can only think of violating Antonia.