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Bram Stoker, Geneviève Ward and The Lady of the Shroud: Gothic Weddings and Performing Vampires Catherine Wynne University of Hull BRAM STOKER dedicated The Lady of the Shroud (1909) to the American actress-manager Geneviève Ward. In the text's climactic moment a bride-to-be emerges from a burial crypt for a midnight wedding to a man who fears that she may be a vampire. Such Gothic events recall the quasi-marital ceremony in Lucy's crypt in Dracula (1897) in which Godalming stakes the vampire in her coffin because, as her fiancé, he has the "better right."1 The latter is an ill-fated match while the former, despite its vampiric trappings, proves to be benign and beneficial for both family and nation. The Gothic marriage has precedents in Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1764), in which Theodore wants to marry the descendant of a murderer who has usurped his family's rightful place on the throne. The fact that Matilda is on her deathbed is irrelevant—"if she cannot live mine ... at least she shall be mine in death."2 Familial and sexual transgression is avoided when Matilda dies before she can agree to the union, but the possibility of illfated marriage is established as a preoccupation of Gothic narratives at the inception of the genre. More important in a Stokerian context is the manner in which nuptial themes resurface in Henry Irving's Lyceum melodramas. When Stoker left the Dublin Civil Service in 1878 to become Irving's business manager, the first performance he witnessed was an adaptation of the legend of the Flying Dutchman. In Vanderdecken the protagonist is cursed to sail the sea until judgment day unless a woman forfeits her life for him. Irving's Gothic melodrama was replete with fatal unions and female sacrifice, and Stoker, as inheritor 251 ELT 49 : 3 2006 of an Irish Protestant Gothic, also imbibed and recast related themes prevalent in the works of Charles Maturin and J. Sheridan Le Fanu. This article explores how the focus on fatal unions in Irving's 1890 production of Ravenswood and the destructive Gothic marriages of Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) and Le Fanu's "Schalken the Painter" (1839) are transformed in The Lady of the Shroud, in which the dual influence of Gothic theatrical and literary traditions, charged by Stoker's preoccupation with "sex impulses," produces a fiction that stages a feminine Gothic.3 Central to this is Ward's own marital narrative which exposes the dangers of matrimony for Victorian women—a theme that recurs in her signature play, Forget-me-not (1879). In a striking parallel between life and art, Ward, as an accomplished artist , presents a Gothic marital performance that results in personal triumph and exposes gender inequalities. Staging the Gothic Wedding Stoker, as unpaid theatre critic for the Dublin Evening Mail, had first seen Ward perform in Adrienne Lecouvreur in the Theatre Royal in Dublin on 20 November 1873.4 In Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving (1906) he reveals both his friendship with Ward and her early marital trouble. Ward, according to Stoker, had married the Comte de Guerbel in a civil ceremony in Nice in 1855.5 According to Russian law, the marriage could not be formalized until the ceremony was performed in a Russian Orthodox Church. After the Nice nuptials, De Guerbel had promised to solemnize the union in the Russian church in Paris. However , the Comte was not "of chivalrous nature"6 and "in time his fancy veered round to some other quarter, and he declared by a trick of Russian law which does not acknowledge the marriage of a Russian until the ceremony in the Russian church has been performed, the marriage which had taken place was not legal."7 After waiting several months, and on the discovery that De Guerbel was making marriage preparations with a Russian heiress, the Wards finally acted.8 The rejected bride and her mother travelled to St. Petersburg to petition the Tsar who commanded De Guerbel to solemnize the marriage in Warsaw.9 Stoker's account is corroborated in Ward's autobiography, Both Sides of the Curtain (1918), in which...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 251-271
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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