The Monk

The Monk Summary and Analysis of Volume II, Chapter 2


Understanding that Raymond's intentions towards Agnes were honorable, Lorenzo offers his friend his full support. Lorenzo also tells his friend that he no longer has to worry about Donna Rodolpha's opposition to the match - she died of a broken blood vessel a few months ago. Now, Lorenzo turns to his own interests. He explains Antonia's predicament as well as his feelings for her; Raymond pledges that he will look after Antonia's interests.

Dawn is almost breaking; Lorenzo departs, and Raymond returns to his chambers. There, he finds Theodore writing poetry, and Raymond offers the youth some advice about writing. He warns Theodore that a writer's life is full of difficulty: if he writes well, others are consumed with envy and criticize him, but if he writes badly than he will be criticized for that. He proclaims that writing is the worst if habits, and should be avoided if one desires happiness.

Back at the apartment on San Iago Street, Elvira becomes irritated with her sister when Leonella tells her about their chance meeting with the cavaliers in the church. Elvira also notices the way that Antonia blushes when Leonella mentions Lorenzo's name, and feels a pang of worry for her innocent daughter.

Elvira asks Leonella to break her promise to meet Lorenzo and Christoval again; Leonella disobeys her and writes a letter to Lorenzo explaining her desire to see Christoval, and revealing their address.

Lorenzo visits their house the next day (without Christoval, much to Leonella's disappointment); he is impressed by the beauty and dignity of Antonia's mother Elvira, but Elvira is not pleased see him, because she notices the way that Antonia blushes in his presence. Eager to improve his relationship within the household, he explains that he has interceded with the Marquis de las Cisternas on their behalf, and he will assist them in any possible way. Elvira thanks his profusely for this, but does not invite him back into their home.

After Lorenzo leaves, Antonia is left alone with her mother. Elvira inquires why Antonia has not mentioned her interest in Lorenzo, but Antonia is unable to explain herself. Gently, Elvira suggests that Antonia herself does not understand what she is feeling. She also explains to her daughter why such a match is a bad idea: Antonia has no one looking out for her interests, she is a common woman while Lorenzo is a nobleman, and Lorenzo's family will be unlikely to accept the match. Elvira explains that she will have to limit Lorenzo's future visits (though she will not curb hem entirely, since Lorenzo has proved himself to be such a powerful ally); Antonia accepts this, though not without regret.

Lorenzo and Raymond carry out their plans to rescue Agnes. They are puzzled when Agnes does not appear at the time specified in the letter; they have no idea that the Prioress is confining her. Lorenzo goes to the convent demanding to see his sister the next day, but the Prioress tells him that Agnes has fallen terribly ill and cannot receive visitors. Every day he goes to the convent to see his sister, and every day he receives this answer from the Prioress. When Raymond receives the papal bull releasing Agnes from her vows, the two men plan to confront the Prioress the next day.

Once his duty to his sister is finished, Lorenzo's thoughts upturn once more to Antonia. He goes to visit her, but he finds himself alone with Elvira when he comes to visit. Antonia's mother explains to him the concerns she has about her daughter pursuing a relationship with him. Antonia is completely innocent, and hardly knows what she is feeling for Lorenzo; Elvira's health is poor and her daughter may be left alone in the world soon, without family to arrange a suitable marriage for her. Ultimately, Elvira asks Lorenzo to cease his visits to their house. Lorenzo replies kindly. His intentions are honorable; he loves Agnes, and he wants to marry the daughter of the late Condé de las Cisternas' son. Elvira reminds him that Antonia is also the grand-daughter of an honest shoe-maker of Cordova, and that the late Condé's family was so opposed to the match that Elvira and her husband Gonzalvo were forced to flee to the Indies, where they lived without family or allies. Elvira's husband Gonzalvo pined terribly for his native Spain; Elvira shows him a heartbreaking poem that he wrote reminiscing about the joys of his homeland. This sacrifice also instilled a great deal of bitterness in Gonzalvo, and he often quarreled with his wife and accused her of destroying his life. Elvira does not wish her daughter to endure this painful experience.

Refusing to give up hope, Lorenzo asks if Elvira will consent to give her daughter in marriage if Lorenzo's uncle, the Duke of Medina, approved of the match. Elvira replies that she will, though she doubts that Lorenzo will receive such permission. In order to gain Elvira's trust, Lorenzo explains to her his sister's dire predicament. Elvira is worried for the girl; she tells Lorenzo that the Prioress is inflexible and harsh, determined to make her convent the most exclusive and strict in all of Madrid, and vowing to punish any who lay any stain upon it. Lorenzo takes his leave of Elvira.

The next day, Lorenzo and Raymond go tot the convent of Saint Clare with the papal bull. The Prioress is stunned at the sight of the letter, but coldly replies with shocking news - Agnes died of her illness three days ago. She goes on to explain that Agnes died when she delivered a stillborn child, and that she wished to hide this from Raymond and Lorenzo in order to conceal Agnes' shame. The two men are furious and certain that the Prioress is concealing something from them, but they have no way to get into the convent.

Raymond continues to visit the convent, hoping for a sight of his beloved. Lorenzo has given up hope that Agnes may still be alive, though he supports Raymond's investigations. Instead, Lorenzo focuses all his efforts on persuading his relatives of the suitability of his marriage with Antonia.


The worries of Raymond and Lorenzo find a bit of resolution. Raymond was worried that Lorenzo would be furious at him for impregnating his sister out of wedlock, but Lorenzo agrees to help Raymond rescue Agnes. Likewise, Lorenzo fears that Raymond, Antonia's nearest male relation, will either oppose the match or refuse to help Antonia and her family; however, Raymond promises his help and support. This demonstrates one of the primary roles of marriage in pre-modern times - cementing bonds between two unrelated men.

The peculiar interlude where Raymond offers an extensive critique of the writer's life may reflect author Matthew Lewis' own personal experiences. He earned his livelihood by writing, and many critics have suggested that his writing is stilted, artificial, and packaged for easy consumption. Lewis may have been frustrated at the sacrifices required to make a living from one's pen, and voiced his frustrations by incorporating this rant into his novel.

This chapter also fleshes out the background of Elvira, Antonia's mother. We know that she is a worldly woman, the daughter of a shoemaker who married a Marquis. However, their love was a difficult one, which makes her concerned when Lorenzo expresses interest in Antonia. Antonia's social position is still a fragile one, and she might have no recourse for protection against the better-connected Lorenzo if things go wrong between them.

The peculiar behavior exhibited by the Prioress when asked about Agnes raises questions for Lorenzo and Raymond. They puzzle over why she would lie to them about Agnes' illness, and only mention her death when confronted by a document that would secure Agnes' release from the convent. Moreover, her taunting language when she reveals Agnes' death (saying that they will need truly special permission to restore Agnes from the dead) indicates that perhaps she has a greater role in Agnes' final fate that she lets on at first.