Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Before it was Cliche...

I found John Polidori’s The Vampyre to be an interesting, although somewhat cumbersome read, especially because so many of the events that occur were not cliché at the time of its writing -- this text was actually the “innovator” of what is now often considered the cliché vampire story. 

From what I remember of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, many of The Count’s characteristics are found within the character of Lord Ruthven, characteristics that have almost become stereotypical or comical in the “history” of vampires. 

This also coincides with Aubrey, as his character seems to be a mixture of Jonathan Harker and Mina’s suitors. Although Aubrey is not the narrator, The Vampyre generally consists of all of his experiences. This coincides with Dracula’s Jonathan Harker -- Harker records every event in his journal and letters, which is how the majority of Dracula is told.

I also found the sickness that Aubrey undergoes to coincide with Harker’s sickness upon meeting The Count. Polidori writes:
          Aubrey being put to bed was seized with a most violent fever, and was often
          delirious; in these intervals he would call upon Lord Ruthven and upon Ianthe--
          by some unaccountable combination he seemed to beg of his former
          companion to spare the being he loved. At other times he would
          imprecate maledictions upon his head, and curse him as her destroyer. Lord
          Ruthven, chanced at this time to arrive at Athens, and, from whatever motive,
          upon hearing of the state of Aubrey, immediately placed himself in the same
          house, and became his constant attendant. When the latter recovered from his
          delirium, he was horrified and startled at the sight of him whose image he had
          now combined with that of a Vampyre; but Lord Ruthven, by his kind words,
          implying almost repentance for the fault that had caused their separation, and
          still more by the attention, anxiety, and care which he showed, soon reconciled
          him to his presence. His lordship seemed quite changed; he no longer appeared
          that apathetic being who had so astonished Aubrey; but as soon as his
          convalescence began to be rapid, he again gradually retired into the same state
          of mind, and Aubrey perceived no difference from the former man, except that
          at times he was surprised to meet his gaze fixed intently upon him, with a smile
          of malicious exultation playing upon his lips: he knew not why, but this smile
          haunted him. (Polidori 13)

Although it has been a while, I remember Harker undergoing a similar sickness and fever, and Lord Ruthven’s actions are eerily similar to those of Count Dracula. Both Harker and Aubrey do not have complete recollection of their recoveries, which makes them unsure about their circumstances and their hosts. Yet what makes this scene different is that Harker is tended to by three females that attempt to seduce him and drink his blood.

Many of these same characteristics that Lord Ruthven portrays, although modernized, are prevalent in the works of today. While I have not read, nor seen the Twilight saga (thank you!), I have seen True Blood and several of the other “modern” depictions of vampires. It actually seems as if the depiction of the vampire has changed in the fact that the secrecy that Lord Ruthven and Count Dracula lived in are considered comical or over-used to the point of mimicry in modern works. I think it is essential to read works such as The Vampyre in order to fully understand the progression of the vampire from its inception.

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