Skip to Main Content

Year 12 English Literature: Dracula

Dracula by Bram Stoker

"'I am Dracula. And I bid you welcome to my house.' He is deathly pale. His fingernails are cut to sharp points. His teeth protrude menacingly from his mouth in clouds of rancid breath".

Helpful study resources

Sparknotes:

  • Summary
  • Analysis
  • Characters
  • Literary Devices
  • Quotes

Litcharts:

  • Biography
  • Key facts
  • Background
  • Symbols

Film

Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula and Frances Dade as Lucy Weston (Stoker's Westenra) in the film Dracula (1931).

Notable film adaptations:

Dracula, 1931
Director: Tod Browning
Notable cast: Bela Lugosi

Dracula, 1958
Director: Terence Fisher
Notable cast: Christopher Lee

Dracula, 1973
Director: Dan Curtis
Notable cast: Jack Palance, Simon Ward

Dracula, 1979
Director: John Badham
Notable cast: Frank Langella, Laurence Olivier

Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1992
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Notable cast: Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Anthony Hopkins

Interview with a Vampire, 1994

Director: Neil Jordan
Notable cast: Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt

Dracula 1992

Historical Context

Dracula can be framed against the social and political currents of the Victorian period in English society, which existed during the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901. During this time, England experienced a great deal of economic, social, and political change. Under Victoria, England expanded its colonial holdings to form an empire "on which the sun never set"—this empire extended from India to ports in China, to islands in the Caribbean, to portions of Africa in which England had trading and other financial interests. British imperialism during this time caused not only a great infusion of money into London, the capital of the empire, but also caused a greater exchange of information, stories, and legends from around the world. The legends of the Carpathian mountains, in present-day Romania, form the basis of the novel Dracula. (Litcharts)

Late Victorian England - National Decline

"From the 1880s a mounting sense of the limits of the liberal, regulative state became apparent. One reflection of this awareness was the increasing perception of national decline, relative to the increasing strength of other European countries and the United States. This awareness was reinforced by British military failures in the South African War (Boer War) of 1899–1902, a “free enterprise war” in which free enterprise was found wanting. One consequence of this and other developments was the growth of movements aimed at “national efficiency” as a means of establishing a more effective state machine. The recognition of social problems at home—such as the “discovery” of urban poverty in 1880s in the assumed presence of plenty and increasing anxiety about the “labour question”—also raised questions about the adequacy of the state in dealing with the mounting problems of an increasingly populous and complex society."

Real historical character - Vlad the Impaler

It is said that Bram Stoker based his Dracula on the very real Vlad the Impaler.

Vlad the Impaler, in full Vlad III Dracula or Romanian Vlad III Drăculea, also called Vlad III or Romanian Vlad Țepeș, (born 1431, Sighișoara, Transylvania [now in Romania]—died 1476, north of present-day Bucharest, Romania), voivode (military governor, or prince) of Walachia (1448; 1456–1462; 1476) whose cruel methods of punishing his enemies gained notoriety in 15th-century Europe. Some in the scholarly community have suggested that Bram Stoker’s Dracula character was based on Vlad...

It was during this period of rule that he committed the atrocities for which he was best known. His penchant for impaling his enemies on stakes in the ground and leaving them to die earned him the name Vlad the Impaler (Romanian: Vlad Țepeș). He inflicted this type of torture on foreign and domestic enemies alike: notably, as he retreated from a battle in 1462, he left a field filled with thousands of impaled victims as a deterrent to pursuing Ottoman forces. (Britannica)

                      

Stoker’s Dracula is generally thought to have been based on the 15th century Prince of Wallachia (modern day Romania), Vlad III. 

British Library - Gothic Literature

Dracula: vampires, perversity and Victorian anxieties.

'The vampire is a complicated creature: caught between life and death, at once alluring and horrifying. Greg Buzwell considers the way the novel reflects the fears that haunted late 19th-century society – fears of immigration, sexual promiscuity and moral degeneration'.

What does it mean when a text is said to be Gothic?

Read on here about common features of the late 18th - 19th c texts.

Video: The Gothic. Duration: 8:51

Professor John Bowen discusses key motifs in Gothic novels, including the uncanny, the sublime and the supernatural. Filmed at Strawberry Hill House, Twickenham.

About the author

Abraham Stoker was born in Dublin on 8 November 1847. He graduated in Mathematics from Trinity College, Dublin in 1867 and then worked as a civil servant. In 1878 he married Florence Balcombe. He later moved to London and became business manager of his friend Henry Irving's Lyceum Theatre. He wrote several sensational novels including novels The Snake's Pass (1890), Dracula (1897), The Jewel of Seven Stars (1903), and The Lair of the White Worm (1911). Bram Stoker died on 20 April 1912.

Bram Stoker c. 1890 (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Videos of interest

MA15+

 2:01:55

 27th October, 2019

Vlad Dracula turns into a bloodthirsty demon after his wife Elisabeta commits suicide. He travels to London after finding out that his wife has reincarnated in the form of his lawyer's fiancee Mina.

Course Hero Youtube

Publication: 2018

Duration: 7:30

Stanley Stepanic, Professor of Slavic Languages & Literatures at the University of Virginia, provides an in-depth summary and analysis for Bram Stoker's novel Dracula.

 PG

 7TWO

 2007

 42:32

 22nd April 2017

The city of Bucharest's most famous tale is of the real-life Dracula. Discover the secret prisons of his victims and the ancient caves and mines of the ruthless legend himself.

Quotes

What manner of man is this, or what manner of creature is it in the semblance of a man? (3.23)

At least God's mercy is better than that of these monsters, and the precipice is steep and high. At its foot a man may sleep—as a man. (4.70)

[…] the lately glassy sea was like a roaring and devouring monster. (7.3)

Lucy's eyes in form and colour; but Lucy's eyes unclean and full of hell-fire, instead of the pure, gentle orbs we knew. (16.19)

As he had placed the Wafer on Mina's forehead, it had seared it—had burned into the flesh as though it had been a piece of white-hot metal. (22.43)

"Now God be thanked that all has not been in vain! See! the snow is not more stainless than her forehead! The curse has passed away!" (27.62)