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Dracula character
Bela lugosi dracula
Count Dracula
Gender Male
Ethnicity Székely
Occupation Transylvanian nobleman
Allies Brides of Dracula, Renfield
Enemies Jonathan Harker, Abraham Van Helsing
First appearance Dracula
Created by Bram Stoker

Count Dracula is a fictional character, the titular antagonist of Bram Stoker's 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula and archetypal vampire. Some aspects of his character have been inspired by the 15th century Romanian general and Wallachian Prince Vlad III the Impaler. The character appears frequently in all manner of popular culture, from films to animated media to breakfast cereals.

In Stoker's novel Edit

In Bram Stoker's novel, Count Dracula's characteristics, powers, abilities and weaknesses are narrated in a piecemeal way by multiple narrators, from different perspectives.[1] The most informative of these narrators are Jonathan Harker, John Seward, and Mina Harker.

BiographyEdit

Count Dracula (his first name is never given) is a centuries-old vampire, sorcerer and Transylvanian nobleman, who claims to be a Székely descended from Attila the Hun. He inhabits a decaying castle in the Carpathian Mountains near the Borgo Pass. Unlike the vampires of Eastern European folklore, which are portrayed as repulsive, corpse-like creatures, Dracula exudes a veneer of aristocratic charm. In his conversations with Jonathan Harker, he reveals himself as deeply proud of his boyar heritage and nostalgic for the past times, which he admits have become only a memory of heroism, honor and valor in modern times.

Details of his early life are obscure, but it seems that 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.[2] Taking up arms, as befitting his rank and status as a Voivode, he led troops against the Turks across the Danube. According to Van Helsing: "He must indeed have been that Voivode Dracula who won his name against the Turk, over the great river on the very frontier of Turkey-land. If it be so, then was he no common man: for in that time, and for centuries after, he was spoken of as the cleverest and the most cunning, as well as the bravest of the sons of the land beyond the forest."[3] Dead and buried in a great tomb in the chapel of his castle, Dracula returns from death as a vampire and lives for several centuries in his castle with three beautiful female vampires beside him.[4] They seem to bear a possible family resemblance [5] though whether they be his lovers, sisters, daughters, or vampires made by him is not made clear in the narrative.

Schreck

Max Schreck as Count Orlok, the first confirmed cinematic representation of Dracula.

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 the three female vampires in the castle. In truth, however, Dracula wishes to keep Harker alive long enough to complete the legal transaction 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 fiancée, Wilhelmina "Mina" Murray, and her 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 Abraham 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 transforms her into one of the undead.

Van Helsing, Harker, and Lucy's former suitors Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris enter her crypt and kill her. 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, finally 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 and his heart pierced by Morris' Bowie knife (Mina Harker's Journal, 6 November, Dracula Chapter 27). His body then turns into dust, but not before Mina Harker sees an expression of peace on Dracula's face.

CharacteristicsEdit

CD70

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 Jonathan Harker, Dracula physically assaults one and ferociously berates them for their insubordination. He then relents and talks to them more kindly, telling them that he does indeed love each of them.

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 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 worldview; 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 varies in age. He is described early in the novel as thin, with a long white mustache, pointed ears and sharp teeth. It is also noted later in the novel (Chapter 11 subsection "THE ESCAPED WOLF") by a zookeeper that sees him that he has hooked nose and a pointed beard with a streak of white in it. He is dressed all in black and has hair on his palms. Jonathan Harker described him as an old man; 'cruel looking' and giving an effect of 'extraordinary pallor.'[6] 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. He shows a rare respect to those that have challenged him. He once remarked that for a man who has not lived a single lifetime, Van Helsing is very wise.

Powers, abilities and weaknessesEdit

Count Dracula is portrayed in the novel using many different supernatural abilities. He has strength which, according to Van Helsing, is equivalent to that of 20 strong 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. Like all undead, he has the potential to live forever and never die, though he is not truly immortal as he can be killed by the traditional vampire methods (silver and/or wooden stakes, holy water, etc.). The Count does not have to seek victims regularly, and has the ability to remain inactive for centuries. 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 telepathic 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 travel onto "unhallowed" ground such as the graves of suicides and those of his victims. He can shapeshift at will, his featured forms in the novel being that of a bat, a wolf, vapor, and fog. He is able to pass through tiny cracks or crevices while retaining his human form, described by Van Helsing as the ability to become "so small." He requires no other sustenance but fresh blood, which has the effect of rejuvenating him.[7]

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. He slowly transforms Lucy into a vampire and then sets his sights on Mina. Mina mentions having been fed Dracula's blood.

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.

While universally feared by the local people of Transylvania and even beyond, he somehow commands the loyalty of gypsies and a band of Slovaks who transport his boxes on their way to London and to serve as an armed convoy bringing his coffin back to the Castle. The Slovaks and gypsies appear to know his true nature, for they laugh at Jonathan Harker, who tries to communicate his plight, and betray Harker's attempt to send a letter through them by giving it to the Count.

Count Dracula is depicted as the "King Vampire," and can control other vampires who were his own victims but also, as per the story "Dracula's Guest", those in farther away lands such as Styria who may or may not have been Dracula's victims. His death can release the curse on any living victim of eventual transformation into vampire. But Van Helsing reveals that were he to successfully escape, his continued existence would ensure that even if he did not victimize Mina Harker further, she would transform into a vampire upon her eventual natural death.

He also requires Transylvanian soil to be nearby to him in order to successfully rest; otherwise, he will not be able to recover his strength. Dracula's powers and weaknesses vary greatly in the many adaptations. Previous and subsequent vampires from different legends have had similar vampire characteristics.

In popular culture Edit

Main article: Dracula in popular culture
DraculaWaxMuseum

Statue of Béla Lugosi as Count Dracula, at the Hollywood Wax Museum

Dracula is arguably one of the most famous characters in popular culture. He has been portrayed by more actors in more film and television adaptations than any other horror character.[8] Actors who have played him include Max Schreck, Béla Lugosi, John Carradine, Christopher Lee, Denholm Elliott, Jack Palance, Louis Jourdan, Frank Langella, Klaus Kinski, Gary Oldman, Leslie Nielsen, George Hamilton, Gerard Butler, Richard Roxburgh, Marc Warren, Rutger Hauer, Stephen Billington and Dominic Purcell. The character is closely associated with the cultural archetype of the vampire, and remains a popular Halloween costume.

In 2003, Count Dracula, as portrayed by Lugosi in the 1931 film, was named as the 33rd greatest movie villain by the American Film Institute.

ScholarshipEdit

Vlad.dracula

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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11]

It has been suggested by some that Stoker was influenced by the legend of Countess Elizabeth Báthory, who was born in the Kingdom of Hungary and accused of the murder of 80 young women, although these claims of influence may be false.[12]

See alsoEdit

Notes Edit

  1. Carol N. Senf "Dracula: The Unseen Face in the Mirror" in the Norton Critical Edition of Dracula (1997) by Bram Stoker, edited by Nina Auerbach and David J. Skal: 421-31
  2. Dracula Chapter 18 and Chapter 23
  3. Mina Harker's Journal, 30 September, Dracula, Chapter 18
  4. Dracula Chapter 27
  5. Dracula Chapter 3
  6. Dracula, Chapter 2
  7. Dracula, Chapter 18
  8. Guinness World Records Experience
  9. Vlad III Encyclopedia Britannica
  10. "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)
  11. Dracula Jonathan Harker's Journal Chapter 3
  12. bathory.org/miller02.html

References Edit

  • 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 Edit

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