The idea of writing The Monk is already in Lewis’s mind. In 1792 he mentions in a letter to his mother that he is writing a novel following the example of Horace Walpole (The Castle of Otranto,1764). He goes on with his work once in
in May 1794. Lewis himself confesses that he is reading Ann Radcliff’s The Mysteries of Udolpho: “I was induced (= indotto) to go on with it by reading The Mysteries of Udolpho (1974), which is in my opinion one of the most interesting books that ever have been published.” Holland
The novel is first published in 1795, with a second edition in March 1796. At first welcomed (= ben accettata) with positive reviews (= recensioni), after Lewis gets a seat (= ottenne un posto) in the Parliament, the novel is attacked for blasphemy and obscenity.
The novel deals indeed ( tratta veramente) with topics (= tematiche ) like sex and violence but to show the brutality of a very dark period of the Roman Catholic Church, the Inquisition (beginning of the 17th century). Besides, it also reveals a darker side of the author’s feeling and the monk of the title character is both a criminal and a victim.
However, the criticism only served to arise (= aumentare) curiosity in the reader. As one of Lewis’s modern biographer writes, the public “had been told that the book was horrible, blasphemous and lewd (= volgare), and they rushed (= corsero) to put their morality to the test (= per metter a prova la loro moralità).”
Set in a monastery in Spain, the story is about Monk Ambrosio, the protagonist named in the title, pious and respected till he discovers that one of his fellows monk (= compagni monaci) is a female in disguise (= donna travestita), Matilda. Attracted by her, he falls (= cade) in temptation. From that moment on, he becomes a terrible corruptor, capable of the most scandalous crimes.
Meanwhile (= nel frattempo) the narrator follows the adventures of the young Marquis de las Cisternas who rescues (= salva) a baroness from some bandits, and accompanies her to
. Here he falls in love with the baroness’s niece (= nipote di zia) and learns the legend of the Bleeding Nun. Germany
The third story is about Lorenzo de Medina, brother of Agnes who falls in love with a girl from
Murcia, Antonia, come to . And soon Antonia will be in serious danger. .. Madrid
The book offers many gothic themes – murder, rape (= violenza carnale) , incarcerations, villains – and supernatural elements, but they are basically means to show the true horrors of the Church. Some parts of the book are quite shocking and disturbing to read even now (= anche oggigiorno), like the cold brutality of the Abbess against the ones who transgress her laws. You can see the fictional events (= avventure immaginarie) of the novel coloured by the anger as similar events really occurred in the Church’s history.