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Dracula character
LugosiDracula.jpg
Count Dracula as portrayed by Béla Lugosi in Dracula
Count Dracula
Gender Male
Race Vampire
Ethnicity Székely
Allies Brides of Dracula
Renfield
Enemies Jonathan Harker
Abraham Van Helsing
First appearance Dracula (1897)
Created by Bram Stoker

Count Dracula is a fictional character, the titular antagonist of Bram Stoker's 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula. Some aspects of his character may have been inspired by the 15th century Romanian general and Wallachian Prince Vlad III the Impaler. In the United States the character became public domain in 1899 and subsequently appears frequently in all manner of popular culture, from films to videogames to breakfast cereals.

Contents

In Stoker's novel

Count Dracula (his first name is never given in the novel) is a centuries-old vampire, sorcerer and Transylvanian nobleman, who claims to be a Hungarian (Székely) descended from Attila the Hun. He inhabits a decaying castle in the Carpathian Mountains near the Borgo Pass. Contrary to the vampires of Eastern European folklore, which are portrayed as repulsive, corpse-like creatures, Dracula can exude a veneer of aristocratic charm which masks his unfathomable evil.

Far prior to the beginning of the novel, Dracula studied the black arts at the academy of Scholomance in the Carpathian Mountains, overlooking the town of Sibiu (also known as Hermannstadt) and became proficient in alchemy and magic (Dracula Chapter 18 and Chapter 23). Later he took up a military profession, combating the Turks across the Danube, according to the character Abraham Van Helsing.[1] Using the black arts, Dracula returned from death as a vampire and lives for several centuries in his castle with three vampiric women for company.

As the novel begins in the late 19th century, Dracula acts on a long contemplated plan for world domination, and infiltrates London to begin his reign of terror. He summons Jonathan Harker, a newly qualified English solicitor, to provide legal support for a real estate transaction overseen by Harker's employer. Dracula at first charms Harker with his cordiality and historical knowledge and even rescues him from the clutches of his three bloodthirsty brides. In truth, however, Dracula wishes to keep Harker alive just long enough for his legal transaction to finish and to learn as much as possible about England.

Dracula leaves his castle and boards a Russian ship, the Demeter, taking along with him boxes of Transylvanian soil, which he needs in order to regain his strength. During the voyage to Whitby, a coastal town in northern England, he sustains himself on the ship's crew members. Only one body is later found, that of the captain, who is found tied up to the ship's helm. The captain's log is recovered and tells of strange events that had taken place during the ship's journey. Dracula leaves the ship in the form of a wolf.

Soon the Count is menacing Harker's devoted fiancée, Wilhelmina "Mina" Murray, and her vivacious friend, Lucy Westenra. There is also a notable link between Dracula and Renfield, a patient in an insane asylum compelled to consume insects, spiders, birds, and other creatures — in ascending order of size — in order to absorb their "life force". Renfield acts as a kind of sensor, reacting to Dracula's proximity and supplying clues accordingly. Dracula begins to visit Lucy's bed chamber on a nightly basis, draining her of blood while simultaneously infecting her with the curse of vampirism. Not knowing the cause for Lucy's deterioration, her companions call upon the Dutch doctor Van Helsing, the former mentor of one of Lucy's suitors. Van Helsing soon deduces her condition's supernatural origins, but does not speak out. Despite an attempt at keeping the vampire at bay with garlic, Dracula entices Lucy out of her chamber late at night and drains her blood, killing her.

Van Helsing and a group of men enter Lucy's crypt and kill her reanimated corpse. They later enter Dracula's residence at Carfax, destroying his boxes of earth, depriving the Count of his ability to rest. Dracula leaves England to return to his homeland, but not before biting Mina.

The final section of the novel details the heroes racing Dracula back to Transylvania, and in a climactic battle with Dracula's gypsy bodyguards, destroying him. Despite the popular image of Dracula having a stake driven through his heart, Mina's narrative describes his throat being sliced through by Jonathan Harker's kukri knife and his heart pierced by Quincey Morris's Bowie knife (Mina Harker's Journal, 6 November, Dracula Chapter 27). The absence of the proper rituals of destruction has led some to express doubts whether Dracula has really been finished off. Dracula, it is suggested, may rise again.[2][3]

Characterization

Christopher Lee in Jesus Franco's Count Dracula. In this film, an attempt was made to make Lee resemble the Dracula described in the original novel.

Although early in the novel Dracula dons a mask of cordiality, he often flies into fits of rage when his plans are interfered with. When the three vampire women who live in his castle attempt to seduce and consume Jonathan Harker, Dracula physically assaults one and ferociously berates them for their insubordination.

Dracula is very passionate about his warrior heritage, emotionally proclaiming his pride to Harker on how the Székely people are infused with the blood of multiple heroes. He does express an interest in the history of the British Empire, speaking admiringly of its people. He has a somewhat primal and predatory world view; he pities ordinary humans for their revulsion to their darker impulses.

Though usually portrayed as having a strong Eastern European accent, the original novel only specifies that his spoken English is excellent, though strangely toned.

His appearance is originally described as thin, with a long white mustache, pointed ears and sharp teeth. He is dressed all in black and has hair on his palms. Jonathan Harker described him as an old man; 'cruel looking' and giving and effect of 'extrodinary pallor.'[4] When angered the Count showed his true bestial nature, his blue eyes flaming red.

I saw... Count Dracula... with red light of triumph in his eyes, and with a smile that Judas in hell might be proud of.

Jonathan Harker's Journal, Dracula, Chapter 4

As the novel progresses, Dracula is described as taking on a more and more youthful appearance.

Powers, abilities and weaknesses

Dracula's image from the cover of Classic Illustrated

Count Dracula is portrayed in the novel using many different supernatural abilities. He has physical strength which, according to Van Helsing, is equivalent to 20 men. Being undead, he is immune to conventional means of attack. The only definite way to kill him is by decapitating him followed by impalement through the heart with a wooden stake, although it is also suggested that shooting him with a sacred bullet would suffice. The Count can defy gravity to a certain extent, being able to climb upside down vertical surfaces in a reptilian manner. He has powerful hypnotic and mind control abilities, and is also able to command nocturnal animals such as wolves and rats. Dracula can also manipulate the weather, usually creating mists to hide his presence, but also storms such as in his voyage in the Demeter. He can shapeshift at will, his featured forms in the novel being that of a bat, a rat, a wolf, vapor, and fog. He requires no other sustenance but fresh blood, which has the effect of rejuvenating him.[5]

According to Van Helsing:

The Nosferatu do not die like the bee when he sting once. He is only stronger, and being stronger, have yet more power to work evil.

Mina Harker's Journal, Dracula, Chapter 18

One of Dracula's most mysterious powers is the ability to transfer his vampiric condition to others. As seen with Lucy and Mina, transfer of the curse is done through a bite to the throat, allowing the Count to ingest the victim's blood at the same time. The victim is transformed gradually. The final transformation is only completed once the victim has died of blood loss some time after Dracula's feeding.

Dracula's powers are not unlimited, however. He is much less powerful in daylight and is only able to shift his form at dawn, noon, and dusk (he can shift freely at night). The sun is not fatal to him, though, as sunlight does not burn and destroy him upon contact. He is repulsed by garlic, crucifixes and sacramental bread, and he can only cross running water at low or high tide. He is also unable to enter a place unless invited to do so; once invited, however, he can approach and leave the premises at will.

He also requires Transylvanian Earth to be nearby to him in order to successfully rest, otherwise he will not be able to recover his strength, much like how humans are deprived of their strength after not sleeping for an extended period of time.

Dracula's powers and weaknesses vary greatly in the many adaptations.

In popular culture

Dracula is arguably one of the most famous villains in popular culture. He has been portrayed by more actors in more film and television adaptations than any other horror character.[6] Actors who have played him include Max Schreck, Béla Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr., John Carradine, Christopher Lee, Denholm Elliot, Jack Palance, Udo Kier, Louis Jourdan, Frank Langella, Klaus Kinski, Gary Oldman, Leslie Nielsen, George Hamilton, Gerard Butler, Richard Roxburgh and Rutger Hauer. The character is closely associated with the cultural archetype of the vampire, and remains a popular Halloween costume.

Allusions to history

Portrait of Vlad III Dracula.

Following the publication of In Search of Dracula by Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally in 1972, the supposed connections between the historical Transylvanian-born Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia and Stoker's fictional Dracula attracted popular attention.

Historically, the name "Dracula" is the given name of Vlad Tepes' family, a name derived from a secret fraternal order of knights called the Order of the Dragon, founded by Sigismund of Luxembourg (king of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, and Holy Roman Emperor) to uphold Christianity and defend the Empire against the Ottoman Turks. Vlad II Dracul, father of Vlad III, was admitted to the order around 1431 because of his bravery in fighting the Turks and was dubbed Dracul (dragon) thus his son became Dracula (son of the dragon). From 1431 onward, Vlad II wore the emblem of the order and later, as ruler of Wallachia, his coinage bore the dragon symbol.[7]

Stoker came across the name Dracula in his reading on Romanian history and chose this to replace the name (Count Wampyr) that he had originally intended to use for his villain. However, some Dracula scholars, led by Elizabeth Miller, have questioned the depth of this connection.[8] They argue that Stoker in fact knew little of the historic Vlad III except for his name. There are sections in the novel where Dracula refers to his own background, and these speeches show that Stoker had some knowledge of Romanian history but probably one of no great depth. Stoker includes few details about Vlad III save for referring to Dracula as "that Voivode Dracula who won his name against the Turks", a quote which ties Stoker's Vampire to the Wallachian prince in earnest, due to Prince Vlad's famed battles with Turks over Wallachian soil. However, while Vlad III was an ethnic Vlach, the fictional Dracula claims to be a Székely.[9]

It has been suggested by some that Stoker was influenced by the legend of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who was born in the Kingdom of Hungary and convicted in the murder of 80 young women, although these claims of influence may be spurious.[10]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Dracula, Chapter 18
  2. ^ Auerbach and Skal (1997) "Introduction" to Norton critical edition of Dracula
  3. ^ Klinger, Leslie S. The New Annotated Dracula. W.W. Norton & Co., 2008. ISBN 0-3930-6450-6
  4. ^ Dracula, Chapter 2
  5. ^ Dracula, Chapter 18
  6. ^ Guinness World Records Experience
  7. ^ http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/631524/Vlad-III
  8. ^ "Filing for Divorce: Count Dracula vs Vlad Tepes" (from "Dracula: The Shade and the Shadow", ed. Elizabeth Miller, Westcliff-on-Sea: Desert Island Books, 1998)
  9. ^ Dracula Jonathan Harker's Journal Chapter 3
  10. ^ bathory.org/miller02.html

References

  • Clive Leatherdale (1985) Dracula: the Novel and the Legend. Desert Island Books.
  • Bram Stoker (1897) Dracula. Norton Critical Edition (1997) edited by Nina Auerbach and David J. Skal.

External links


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

Proper noun

Singular
Count Dracula

Plural
-

Count Dracula

  1. The fictional vampire in the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker.

Synonyms

Translations

  • Finnish: kreivi Dracula
  • French: comte Dracula m.
  • German: Graf Dracula
  • Italian: Conte Dracula m.
  • Latvian: Grāfs Drakula
  • Swedish: Greve Drakula

See also








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