Dracula is a novel published in 1897 by Irish author Bram Stoker, and the name of the world's most famous vampire character. Dracula has been attributed to many literary genres including horror fiction, the gothic novel and invasion literature. Structurally it is an epistolary novel, that is, told as a series of diary entries and letters. Literary critics have examined many themes in the novel, such as the role of women in Victorian culture, sexuality, immigration and folklore. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, the novel's influence on the popularity of vampires has been singularly responsible for scores of theatrical and movie interpretations throughout the 20th century.
Between 1878 and 1898 Stoker managed the world-famous London Lyceum Theatre, where he supplemented his income by writing a large number of sensational novels, his most famous being the vampire tale Dracula published on May 18th 1897. Parts of it are set around the town of Whitby, where he was living at the time. While Dracula is famous today (due in large part to its 20th century life on film), it was not an important or famous work for Victorian readers, being just another pot-boiler adventure among many. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s authors such as H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.G. Wells wrote many tales in which fantastic creatures threatened the British Empire. Invasion literature was at a peak, and Stoker's formula of an invasion of England by continental European influences was by 1897 very familiar to readers of fantastic adventure stories.
Shakespearian actor and friend of Stoker's Sir Henry Irving was a real-life inspiration for the character of Dracula, tailor-made to his dramatic presence, gentlemanly mannerisms and speciality playing villain roles. Irving however never agreed to play the part on stage.
Before writing Dracula, Stoker spent seven years researching European folklore and stories of vampires, being most influenced by Emily Gerard's 1885 essay Transylvania Superstitions. Though it is the most famous vampire novel ever, Dracula was not the first. It was preceded and partially inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu's 1871 Carmilla, about a lesbian vampire who preys upon a lonely young woman. The image of a vampire portrayed as an aristocratic man, like the character of Dracula, was created by John Polidori in The Vampyre (1819), during the summer spent with Frankenstein creator Mary Shelley and other friends in 1816. Polidori is many times credited as the creator of the vampire genre in fiction, but his vampire story was inspired by elements of Lord Byron's vampire poem, The Giaour (1813).
The Lyceum Theatre where Stoker worked between 1878 and 1898 was headed by the tyrannical actor-manager Henry Irving, who was Stoker's real-life inspiration for the mannerisms of Dracula, and who Stoker hoped would play Dracula in a stage version. Although Irving never did agree to do a stage version, Dracula's dramatic sweeping gestures and gentlemanly mannerisms drew their living embodiment from Irving.
The Dead Un-Dead was one of Stoker's original titles for Dracula, and up until a few weeks before publication, the manuscript was titled simply The Un-Dead. The name of Stoker's count was originally going to be Count Vampyre, but while doing research Stoker ran across an intriguing word in the Romanian language: "Dracul", meaning the Devil. There was also a historic figure known as Vlad the impaler, but whether or not Stoker based his character on him remains debated.
Dracula is an epistolary novel, written as collection of diary entries, telegrams, and letters from the characters, as well as fictional clippings from the Whitby and London newspapers. This literary style, made most famous by one of the most popular novels of the 19th century, The Woman in White (1860), was considered rather old-fashioned by the time of the publication of Dracula, but it adds a sense of realism and provides the reader with the perspective of most of the major characters.
Dracula has been the basis for countless films and plays. Three of the most famous are Nosferatu (1922), Dracula (1931), and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992). Nosferatu was produced while Stoker's widow was still alive, and the filmmakers were forced to change the setting and the names of the characters for copyright reasons. The vampire in Nosferatu is called Count Orlok rather than Count Dracula. Bram Stoker's Dracula, while closer to the novel's plot than most movies produced earlier (or since), reinvents the Count as a tragic figure instead of a monster. It adds an opening sequence that focuses on the Count's Romanian background, and inserts a new romantic subplot into the story.
Stoker wrote several other novels dealing with horror and supernatural themes, but none achieved the lasting fame or success of Dracula. His other novels include The Snake's Pass (1890), The Jewel of Seven Stars (1903), and The Lair of the White Worm (1911).
The story begins with Jonathan Harker, a newly-qualified English solicitor, being invited to the Count's crumbling, remote castle (situated in the Carpathian Mountains, on the border of Transylvania and Moldavia), to provide legal support for a real estate transaction on behalf of Harker's employer in London. At first seduced by the Count's gracious manner, he soon discovers he has become a prisoner and begins to see disquieting facets of the Count's daily life. Searching for a way out of the castle one night, he falls under the spell of three wanton female vampires, the Brides of Dracula, but is saved at the last minute by the Count who wants to retain Harker as a friend to teach him about London, where the Count plans to travel among the "teeming millions". Harker barely escapes from the castle with his life. Not long afterward, a Russian ship runs aground during a fierce tempest, on the shores of Whitby, a coastal town in England. All passengers and crew are dead. A huge dog or wolf is seen running from the ship, which contains nothing but boxes of dirt from Transylvania: Count Dracula, in his animal form, has arrived in England. Soon the Count is menacing Harker's devoted fiancée, Mina Harker or Wilhemina "Mina" Murray, and her vivacious friend, Lucy Westenra. Lucy receives three marriage proposals in one day, from Arthur Holmwood (Lord Godalming); an American cowboy, Quincey Morris; and an asylum psychiatrist, Dr. John Seward. There is a notable encounter between Dracula and Seward's patient Renfield, an insane man who means to consume insects, spider s, and birds, and other creatures; in ascending order of size; in order to absorb their "life force". Renfield acts as a kind of motion sensor, detecting the proximity of Dracula and releasing clues accordingly. Lucy begins to waste away suspiciously. All of her suitors fret and Seward calls in his old teacher, Professor Abraham Van Helsing from Amsterdam. Van Helsing immediately determines the cause of Lucy's condition, but refuses to disclose it, knowing that Seward's faith in him will be shaken if he starts spouting off about vampires. Van Helsing tries multiple blood transfusions, but they are clearly losing ground. On a night when Van Helsing must return to Amsterdam (and his message to Seward asking him to watch the Westenra household is accidentally sent to the wrong address), Lucy and her mother are attacked in the night by a wolf. Mrs Westenra, who has a heart condition, dies of fright, and Lucy herself apparently dies soon after. Lucy is buried, but soon afterward the newspapers report a "bloofer lady" (sometimes explained as "beautiful lady") stalking children in the night. Van Helsing, knowing that this means Lucy has become a vampire, confides in Seward, Arthur, and Morris. The suitors and Van Helsing track her down, and after a disturbing confrontation between her vampiric self and Arthur, they stake her heart and behead her. Around the same time, Jonathan Harker arrives home from Transylvania (where Mina joined and married him after his escape from the castle); he and Mina also join the coalition, who now turn their attentions to dealing with Dracula himself. After Dracula learns of Van Helsing and the others' plot against him, he takes revenge by visiting -- and biting -- Mina at least three times. Dracula also feeds Mina his blood, creating a mind bond between them, aiming to control her. The only way to forestall this is to kill Dracula first. Mina slowly succumbs to the blood of the vampire that flows through her veins, switching back and forth from a state of consciousness to a state of semi-trance during which she is telepathically connected with Dracula. It is this connection which they start to use to track Dracula's movements. Dracula flees back to his castle in Transylvania, followed by Van Helsing's gang, who manage to track him down just before sundown and kill him by "shearing through the neck" and stabbing him in the heart with a bowie knife. Dracula crumbles to dust, his spell is lifted and Mina freed from the marks. Quincey Morris is killed in the final battle, stabbed by gypsies; the survivors return to England. The book closes with a note about Mina's and Jonathan's married life and the birth of their first-born son, whom they name Quincey in remembrance of their American friend.
Allusions/references to actual history, geography and current science
Although Dracula is a work of fiction, it does contain some historical references. The historical connections with the novel and how much Stoker really knew about the history is a matter of conjecture and debate. Following the publication of In Search of Dracula by Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally in 1972 the supposed connections between the historical Vlad III of Wallachia and Bram Stoker's fictional Dracula attracted popular attention. During the six-year reign of Vlad III "Vlad the Impaler" is said to have killed from 20,000 to 40,000 European civilians (political rivals, criminals, and anyone else he considered "useless to humanity"), mainly by using his favourite method of impaling them on a sharp pole. (It should be noted, however, that the main source of Romanian history from this time is records by German settlers in neighbouring Transylvania, who had frequent clashes with Vlad for political and economic reasons, and may be somewhat biased.) Vlad is revered as a folk hero by Romanians for driving off invading Turks with his brutal tactics; his impaled victims are said to have included as many as 100,000 Turkish Muslims.
Historically, the name "Dracula" is derived from a secret fraternal order of knights called the[Order of the Dragon, founded by King Sigismund of Hungary (who became the Holy Roman Emperor in 1410) 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. From 1431 onward Vlad II wore the emblem of the order and later, as ruler of Wallachia, his coinage bore the dragon symbol. People believed the dragon to be a devil, thus they called his Vlad Dracul (Vlad the Devil). In archaic Romanian the ending ulea meant "the son of". Vlad III thus became Vlad Draculea, "The Son of the Devil".
Certainly Stoker did find the name Dracula in his reading on Romanian history. This became a replacement for the name Count Wampyr, which he had intended to use for his villain. Recently, however, many Dracula scholars led by Elizabeth Miller have questioned the connection's depth. It now seems likely that Stoker knew little of Vlad himself, other than the name Dracula which was attributed to him. Certainly the sections of the novel in which Dracula recounts his history are garbled rephrasings of the one work Stoker's notes show he did consult on Romanian history (which gives few details on Vlad's reign, and does not mention his use of impalement). Most importantly, given Stoker's meticulous use of historical background to make it more horrific, it seems unlikely he would have failed to mention that his villain Dracula had impaled thousands of people if he had actually known much of Vlad's background. Nor is Dracula ever called "Vlad" in the novel. Furthermore in the novel Dracula claims to be a Szekler (Székely in Hungarian) - "We Szekelys have a right to be proud..." - whereas Vlad is clearly an ethnic Vlach. Finally, no one compared Vlad to a vampire in his lifetime (Being a descendant of the Dacian "Wolf People" who was sometimes called a "Great Berserker" by the Germans, it is possible that some associated him with lycanthropy).
In writing Dracula, Stoker may also have drawn upon stories about the sidhe; some of which feature blood-drinking women and the Dracula legend as he created it and as it has been portrayed in films and television shows ever since may be a compound of various influences; many of Stoker's biographers and literary critics have found strong similarities to an earlier Irish writer, Sheridan le Fanu's, classic of the vampire genre, Carmilla.
It has been suggested Stoker was influenced by the history of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who was born, like Dracula, in Hungary. It is believed that Bathory tortured and killed up to 700 servant girls in order to bathe in or drink their blood. She believed that the blood of the girls preserved her youth, which may explain why Dracula appeared younger after feeding.
Some have claimed the castle of Count Dracula was inspired by Slains Castle, at which Bram Stoker was a guest of the 19th Earl of Erroll. However, as Stoker visited the castle in 1895, five years after work on Dracula had started there is unlikely to be much connection. Many of the scenes in Whitby and London are based on real places which Stoker frequently visited himself, although in some cases he misrepresents the geography for the sake of the plot.
It has been suggested that Stoker received much historical information from Arminus Vambery, a Hungarian professor he met at least twice. Miller argues that "there is nothing to indicate that the conversation included Vlad, vampires, or even Transylvania " and that "Furthermore, there is no record of any other correspondence between Stoker and Vambery, nor is Vambery mentioned in Stoker's notes for Dracula."
Literary significance & criticism
Dracula in Romania
After the death of Nicolae Ceauşescu, a tourist industry sprang up in Transylvania (and, to a lesser extent, in Wallachia). However, Romanians have mixed feelings about linking one of their national heroes and the vampire monster. Historical places connected to Vlad are publicised under a Dracula theme catering largely, but not entirely, to foreign markets. Bran Castle, which has only a very tangential connection with the historical Vlad now exaggerates that connection and promotes itself as "Dracula's Castle". A dungeon-themed disco, catering to a mostly Romanian crowd and located in the basement of a former inn immediately adjacent to the Curtea Veche ("Old Court") -- onetime site of Vlad’s castle in Bucharest -- calls itself by the English-language name "Impaler".
Allusions/references from other works
Despite its important contributions to vampire fiction, several popular traits of fictional vampires are absent. Count Dracula is killed by a bowie knife, not a wooden stake. The destruction of the vampire Lucy is a three-part process (staking, decapitation, and garlic in the mouth), not the simple stake-only procedure often found in later vampire stories. Dracula has the ability to travel as a mist and to scale the external walls of his castle. One very famous trait Stoker added is the inability to be seen in mirrors, which is not something found in traditional Eastern European folklore. It is also notable in the novel that Dracula can walk about in the daylight, in bright sunshine, though apparently without the ability to use most of his powers, like turning into mist or a bat. He is still strong and fast enough to struggle with and escape from most of his male pursuers, in a scene in the book. Traditional vampire folklore does not usually hold that sunlight is fatal to vampires though they are nocturnal. It is only with the film Nosferatu that the daylight is first depicted as deadly to vampires.
Film, TV and Theatrical Fiction
The character of Count Dracula has remained popular over the years, and many films have used the character as a villain, while others have referenced him in movie titles such as Daughters of Dracula, Lady Dracula, and Zoltan, Hound of Dracula . Until 2004, an estimated 160 films feature Dracula in a major role, a number second only to Sherlock Holmes. The total number of films that include a reference to Dracula may reach as high as 649 movies, according to the Internet Movie Database. Most tellings of the Dracula story include not only the Count, but the rest of the "cast": Jonathan and Mina Harker, Van Helsing, and Renfield. (Notably, the novel roles of characters Jonathan Harker and Renfield are more than occasionally reversed or combined, as are the roles of Mina and Lucy. Quincey Morris is usually omitted entirely.)
In 1938, Orson Welles and John Houseman chose Dracula to be the inaugural episode of the new radio show featuring their Broadway production company, The Mercury Theatre on the Air. The adaptation was faithful to the book, although condensed to fit in the show's hour-long format. Welles was the voice of Dracula.
Dracula movies 2000 to present
Patrick Lussier took a stab at the legend with his modern day Dracula 2000, promoted as Wes Craven Presents Dracula 2000. Wes Craven was an executive producer. It was released in the UK as Dracula 2001. To discover how to destroy Dracula, Van Helsing (portrayed by Christopher Plummer) keeps himself alive with injections of Dracula's blood. When thieves steal the vampire and crash near New Orleans, Van Helsing and his ward must track down the vampire and save Van Helsing's daughter Mary. The film also gives Dracula a new identity as the damned soul of Judas Iscariot after being cast out of both Heaven and Hell.