The Monk

The Monk Summary and Analysis of Volume I, Chapter 3 & Volume II, Chapter 1


Volume I, Chapter 3

The Marquis Raymond and Lorenzo walk in silence. Raymond is fearful that Lorenzo will seek revenge in him for being sexually involved with Lorenzo's sister Agnes; Lorenzo is concerned about his family's honor, but also wants to make sure that Raymond deals kindly with Antonia and her family.

With some discomfort but a determination to proceed with tact, Lorenzo asks Raymond to explain how he became involved with Agnes. Lorenzo cares about his sister, despite the fact that Agnes spent nearly all of her childhood and youth being raised by an aunt in Germany. The first time in many years that Lorenzo saw Agnes was on the day that she took her vows as a nun; she hinted at a terrible event that made her want to abandon the world.

Raymond explains to Lorenzo that it was never Agnes' own intention to enter the convent: rather, her mother had a difficult pregnancy and vowed to offer up her child to God if the two survived. As soon as Agnes was born, she was destined for life as a nun. However, there was a painful event that made Agnes more enthusiastic about abandoning the world.

Raymond asks Lorenzo if he has ever heard the name Alphonso d'Alvarada, and Lorenzo replies that he has - his aunt has told him about a scoundrel of this name who insinuated himself into Agnes' good graces before abandoning her. The scoundrel d'Alvarada, according to Lorenzo's aunt, only wanted Agnes for the estates she owned in Hispaniola and abandoned her when he realized that they belonged to Lorenzo. Raymond says that this is all a distortion of the truth, and that he will tell the full tale to Lorenzo.

After finishing university, Raymond took a trip around Europe, on the advice of a trusted mentor; he concealed his rank of Marquis and posed as a common gentleman named Alphonso D'Alvarada. He first spent time in Paris (which he found delightful but shallow) then headed on to Germany; on his way there, he saw a baroness of noble bearing entering her carriage. On the road to Strasbourg, Raymond's chaise broke down just as night was falling. Taking the advice of his coach-driver Claude, Raymond and his servant Stephano take shelter with a friendly woodsman named Baptiste and his rather nasty wife Marguerite. A baroness (the same one Raymond saw before) and her servants also take refuge at Baptiste's house, and Raymond gallantly offers up his room to the lady. Raymond notes that Baptiste seems much less welcoming to this noble lady.

Not long after, two young men appear: they are Baptiste's sons (Marguerite's stepsons), and their names are Jacques and Robert. They travel heavily armed, and when Raymond asks why they explain that there are a number of robbers in the forest. Despite this danger, the baroness asks Claude to take a letter to her husband in Strasbourg, which oddly enough he agrees to do.

Everyone else heads to bed. Marguerite leads Raymond to his room, but just before she departs, she whispers, "Look at the sheets!" To Raymond's astonishment, he discovers that they are red with blood. Suddenly, Raymond realizes that they have found themselves in a trap - Baptiste is a robber who pretends to be a woodsman in order to lure in travelers and slaughter them for their wealth.

He hears a noise outside his window and sees Baptiste speaking with Claude, Raymond's coach-driver, who has apparently not delivered the baroness' letter to Strasbourg. The two men are plotting how best to overpower and rob everyone in the house. Claude heard from Stephano that Raymond is rich, and they have also heard that the baroness carries a trunk of jewels. However, in order to overpower all of the baroness' servants, they have been forced to call in the rest of their bandit gang, which will mean splitting the loot among a larger number of people.

Raymond comes back downstairs, cheerfully pretending to have noticed nothing, and sits down to dinner with the baroness and the robbers. Despite his discovery of Baptiste's treacherous intentions, he maintains friendly conversation. Baptiste offers them a special wine, but Raymond only pretends to drink his - a ruse that proves wise when the baroness falls into a deep sleep from the drugged wine. At a sign from Marguerite, Raymond also pretends to fall asleep at the table. The bandits (Baptiste, Jacques, and Robert) discuss killing Raymond immediately, but then the rest of the bandits arrive.

Baptiste orders Jacques and Raymond to join the other bandits and slaughter the male servants housed in the barn; Baptiste will dispatch Raymond. The other two men leave, and when Baptiste turns his back to get a knife, Raymond and Marguerite team up to kill him. Raymond and Marguerite plan to make a quick getaway on the horses of the bandit gang (which are saddled and ready to ride outside), but Raymond refuses to leave the baroness. He picks her up and props her unconscious form in front of him, and together with Marguerite he flees. The bandits pause from their slaughter of the male servants to pursue the fleeing trio.

Just as they are about to catch up with them, a group of soldiers (among them Marguerite’s older son Theodore) rides out from Strasbourg and overpowers the bandits, who surrender without a fight. The baroness' husband is also present. A search party sent to the cottage discovers that the male domestics are dead, the female domestics are drugged but unhurt, and that there is a little boy hiding in a corner, whom Marguerite identifies as her younger son. Her joy at seeing him prompts her to reveal her tragic life story.

Marguerite was born to a wealthy and noble family, but she fell in love with a young man who had been disowned by his family. They eloped and went to live in a cave in the forest; Marguerite gave birth to two sons, Theodore and the younger child. Marguerite’s husband supported the family through banditry, though he hid this from his wife because he knew she would not approve of this wicked lifestyle. When marguerite's husband died in a raid, the bandit gang decided they could not let her return to civilization, so Baptiste took possession of her, raping her and then forcing her into marriage with him. Baptiste threatened to kill her two sons if she tried to escape. It was only with the appearance of Raymond that an opportunity appeared for her to escape, and she seized it. While Baptiste was distracted, she sent Theodore to Strasbourg to inform the magistrate and bring out a group of soldiers.

However, Marguerite's story ends happily. Her father, who thought his daughter was long lost, happily welcomes her and her sons into his life. Marguerite's older son Theodore, a clever and loyal young man, decides to pledge himself as a page to the service of Raymond.

The baroness and her husband are filled with gratitude at Raymond's courage; as thanks for saving the life of the baroness, the two welcome him to their castle in Bavaria - which is where he meets Agnes.

Volume II, Chapter 1

Raymond establishes a friendship with the Baron, a good-humored and sensible man whose primary passion in life is hunting. But Raymond is completely charmed by Agnes, a beautiful young woman of scarcely sixteen who is talented in drawing and music. He inquires about her to her aunt, the baroness Rodolpha, who explains at Agnes' parents (Gaston and Inesilla) made a promise to God to dedicate her to a convent if she was born healthy. Agnes has been educated for much of her life at a local convent; unfortunately, she mainly shows aptitude for playing pranks on the nuns.

Lorenzo breaks in suddenly, completely stunned; he was never told that it was his parents' decision for Agnes to join a convent. Raymond calmly explains that the family decided to keep this from him, lest her dissuade Agnes.

At the castle, Raymond and Agnes fall in love, and he resolves to save her from this fate so contrary to her nature. He decides to win the friendship of the baroness, Donna Rodolpha, a woman of warm friendship and violent temper. Raymond hopes that he will sway her towards letting her niece go. He spends long periods of time chatting with Donna Rodolpha and reads all of her favorite romance novels, even if he finds them tedious. One afternoon, he seizes his opportunity - he explains that he, like the hero of a particular romance, also feels great love for a woman though circumstances prevent them from being together. Donna Rodolpha breaks in - and confesses her love for him! Despite the fact that she is married, she is passionately in love with Raymond, and assumes that his confession of forbidden love was meant for her.

Awkwardly, Raymond tries to explain that his respect for her and her husband prevent him from seeing her as a romantic interest. Donna Rodolpha does not take this well. She vows to find her rival - the true possessor of Raymond's affections - and destroy her. In a rush of strong emotion, she faints. Raymond calls in a serving woman to take care of her, and then flees to the garden.

He catches sight of Agnes in a window, and comes into her rooms to speak with her. She is drawing pictures of a terrifying entity she refers to as the Bleeding Nun, a ghost said to haunt the castle. In a playful, irreverent manner, she explains the legend of the specter: the Bleeding Nun is said to wander the halls at night and to wail loudly, sometimes repeating prayers and at other times screaming curses. An exorcist was brought into the castle but was not successful at expelling the ghost - she still shows herself in the fifth day of the fifth month of every fifth year. Raymond complements her in her artistic ability, and she offers him a portrait she has drawn of herself.

Deeply moved but this gift, Raymond throws himself at Agnes' feet and confesses his deep love for her. She returns his affection, but suddenly catches sight of something behind him and shrieks. It is Donna Rodolpha, who has discovered her rival for Raymond's affections. Rodolpha coldly declares that she will bring Agnes to her parents in Spain, and she will take her vows as a nun shortly after, putting an end to the budding relationship between the two young people. She also tells Raymond that he must leave the next morning.

As Raymond is departing in his chaise, Theodore brings him a note. It is from Agnes - she tells Raymond to hide in a nearby village, and meet her at night two weeks from now. Theodore happily explains that he caught her attention by singing s little song, and she gave him the note. Raymond is delighted that his love for Agnes still has a chance, and very pleased with his young page Theodore.

Two weeks later, Agnes explains her plan to Raymond. The fifth day of the fifth month is coming up in five days: Agnes will disguise herself as the Bleeding Nun, and walk out of the castle to Raymond's waiting carriage. Her family will be too terrified of the apparition to stop her, and she will be able to escape the hated fate of becoming a nun. Suddenly Agnes' governess Cunegonda appears; the older woman has heard everything and plans to tell Donna Rodolpha. Raymond has no choice but to hold Cunegonda captive, hiding her in his lodgings until the night Agnes escapes.

The night arrives. Raymond waits in his carriage until Agnes, clad in ghostly garments, appears. He clasps her tightly and declares his everlasting love for her. Theodore remains behind to release Cunegonda back to the castle. Raymond and Agnes escape, but a terrible wind whips up and the horses go wild. The carriage careens dies a ravine, and eventually crashes. Raymond hits his head and loses consciousness. He sustains a number of injuries (broken ribs, etc.) but is rescued by some peasants. When he inquires about the safety of the woman who was with him, the peasants reply that he was traveling alone.

Raymond, terribly injured, puzzles at the mysterious disappearance of Agnes. However, a frightening visitor begins to come to him late at night - the Bleeding Nun, who comes to him when the clock strikes one and sits on his bed, repeating the words of affirmation he had spoken to Agnes. Raymond realizes he has actually carried off the real Bleeding Nun. The nightly visitation of the ghost saps his strength and increases the pain he feels from his injuries.

Every night this terrifying ghost appears to Raymond, repeating the words of love he intended for Agnes. Raymond is soon at the end of his wits: nothing can stop this creature, and she is sapping his strength even as he is recovering from his wounds. He does not inquire after Agnes during this ordeal, but he learns form Theodore that she appeared at the appointed place and time disguised as the Bleeding Nun, and was devastated to discover that Raymond was not waiting there. She knocks on the door of the castle, and the startled porter lets her in.

The next day, Theodore releases Cunegonda, who explains the whole plan. Rodolpha takes advantage of Raymond's apparent betrayal to convince Agnes that he only really wanted her for her wealth, and has abandoned her when it become clear that she possessed no wealth. Heartbroken by this betrayal, Agnes finally consents to enter the convent.

Meanwhile, Raymond continues to struggle with this nightly visitor. After he returns to his master, Theodore comments idly on a peculiar stranger who has come to the town, who. He calls the Grand Mogul. This gentleman is clearly a foreigner, but he has neither servants nor baggage, and he does a great deal of good in the town. Theodore adds that the Grand Mogul claimed to have a special message for Raymond, and says to call on him when the clock strikes one.

Raymond meets with this Stranger; the man has an impressive bearing, but wears a cloth tied around his forehead. He tells Raymond that the cause of his affliction is with him at all times - the Bleeding Nun is next to Raymond all the time, though she only becomes visible to him when the clock strikes one. The Stranger, however, has the power to see her. The Stranger begins to ramble, speaking of people who have been dead for hundreds of years, and lamenting that he cannot die. He shows Raymond the cross on his forehead, the mark of God. Still, this peculiar person offers to help Raymond get rid of his ghostly visitor.

The Stranger brings to Raymond's room a chest containing a copy of the bible, religious relics, and a cup full of blood, and uses these things to draw a circle around Raymond. When the specter appears, the Stranger calls her by her name - Beatrice - and demands that she stop haunting the young man. The ghost agrees on the condition that Raymond buries her bones, which are rotting in the tunnel of Lindenberg Hole. Then, she disappears.

The Stranger explains that this woman was named Beatrice de las Cisternas; she was the great-aunt of Raymond's own grandfather. She as forced by her parents to enter a convent, but she was terribly suited for this life. She ran away and became the concubine of the Baron Lindenberg; at his castle, she became an ethicist and engaged in a number of depravities. She soon fell in love with his younger brother, who promised to marry her if she murdered his brother the baron. Beatrice murdered the baron in his sleep and then met his brother in Lindenberg Hole - but the younger brother murdered her there with the same knife she had used to kill the baron. He left her body in Lindenberg Hole. The younger brother was appointed baron, but he was visited every night by the specter of Beatrice, dressed in her nun's cloths and carrying the bloody knife. Eventually, the man was found dead in his bed. The next baron called an exorcist, who convinced Beatrice to come out only once every five years, on the fifth day of the fifth month.

However, only Raymond can end her suffering by properly burying her bones. Raymond asks the Stranger how he knows all of this information, but the man refuses to answer. The next day, the Stranger is gone. Raymond speculates that this strange person must be the Wandering Jew, a man cursed by God. In any case, Raymond buries the remains of Beatrice and the specter ceases to haunt him.

Next, Raymond attempts to discover what has become of Agnes, but meets with a great deal of difficulty. One night, he is set upon by brigands but saved by a gentleman who is revealed to be Agnes' father. (An interrogation reveals that the brigands were sent by Rodolpha to end Raymond's life.) Unaware that Raymond is Alphonse D'Alvarada, Don Gaston casually mentions that he was visiting his daughter at the convent of St. Clare.

Now Raymond knows where to look. With Theodore's help, he persuades the gardener of St. Clare's to hire him as an assistant, and he spies Agnes in the garden talking to the Prioress; the older woman is lecturing Agnes on the folly of remaining in love with an unfaithful lover. After the Prioress leaves, Raymond reveals himself to Agnes, who attempts to run away. He asks her to allow him to explain himself, and begs her to meet him in the garden that night. Reluctantly, she agrees to do so.

That night, Raymond explains his true reason for not appearing to Agnes. She forgives him, but laments that she cannot break the vows to heaven that she has made. Raymond says he will use his father's influence to get special permission from the pope (a papal bull) to release Agnes from her vows. However, Agnes protests that this will be too terrible a blow for her father, whom she loves dearly. Still, Agnes meets Raymond every night there in the garden. However, one night their "passions overrule their scruples," and they come together in sexual union. As soon as the act is finished, Agnes explodes in a fury. She trusted Raymond, she declares, and now he has seduced her and forced her to break her vows. She beats her breast and declares that he will never see her again, and runs off. When Raymond sees her the next day, she turns away from him and refuses to acknowledge his presence. The convent gardener tells Raymond that he is forced to fire him; Agnes has threatened to tell the prioress about the entire affair if Raymond continues posing as the assistant gardener.

Raymond is heartbroken. However, it is not long after that he receives a letter from Agnes, telling him that he is pregnant and begging his protection for his child and her mother. She tells him to leave a note under the statue of Saint Francis in the church of the Capuchins, though she mourns that her broken vows have forced her to turn back to the man who betrayed her.

Overjoyed, Raymond immediately sets about using his connections to get a papal bull that will release Agnes from her monastic vows. He plots how to rescue her, and eventually delivers a letter to the appointed place in the Church of the Capuchins. He plans to rescue her at twelve the following night. He begs his friend Lorenzo to fit give him and support him, now that he has heard the full story.


The long episodes about the bandits' trap and the Bleeding Nun offer can intriguing story within a story that exemplifies two themes running throughout the novel: deceptive appearances and the supernatural.

Harkening back to Ambrosio's public semblance of holiness despite his true sexually depraved nature, Baptiste at first presents himself as a kind and jolly old man, even as his wife Marguerite seems rude and aloof. However, it quickly becomes clear that Baptiste is only kind in order to lure in his victims and lull them into a false sense of security; Marguerite is rude because she hates watching Baptiste's wicked actions. It is Marguerite, who at first seemed so unpleasant, who helps Raymond escape the bandits.

The Monk contains frequent occurrences of older women falling in passionate (but unrequited) love with younger men, resulting in difficult circumstances. The reader saw this before with Leonella and Christoval, and we see it again with Rodolpha and Raymond. This kind of romantic entanglement emerges as a serious preoccupation in the text, despite the fact that the opposite (older man developing sexual/romantic interest in younger women) was likely more common and came with more disastrous consequences. This recurring motif emphasizes the inconstant and dangerous nature of women throughout the text, and perhaps was intended to add a bit of humor.

The long episode of the Bleeding Nun may seem like a diversion, but also offers a new perspective on other characters in the text. Lewis frequently uses the literary strategy of developing parallel cases; he will describe one situation that ends in terrible grief before introducing another that shares similar features. Thus serves to build a feeling of dread: the reader fears that the new situation will end as terribly as the first. The case of the Bleeding Nun shares a number of similar features to that of Agnes: both are beautiful, passionate young noblewomen who are forced into the monastic life against their will, and eventually break their vows of celibacy. Beatrice, however, commits murder and then is herself murdered, and goes on to haunt the castle to the present day. Despite her great crimes, it is difficult for the reader to entirely hate Beatrice, who was forced into a convent against her will. Raymond must put Beatrice to rest before the story can go on.

The Wandering Jew, who knows how to banish the Bleeding Nun forever, is a common figure in Medieval and Renaissance folklore: according to legend, he taunted Jesus, who told him that he would wander forever until the Second Coming. The Wandering Jew is immortal but suffers from the weight of his crime. As in the novel, he is often said to have magical powers gained from his centuries of wandering.