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In The Gothic Quest, Montague Summers relates the amusing antidote that a certain Mrs. Lord opened a lending library in Dublin. She dutifully read The Monk and underlined the "objection-able" passages so readers could be warned to skip them!! Readership increased. One wonders what effect parental ratings--PG 13 etc. have on deterring young viewers today?

Because its sensational content eventually resulted in revision and suppression, The Monk is not as well-known as its counterparts, Dracula and Frankenstein. Coleridge, for example, undoubtedly spoke for many religious conservatives: he admired its imaginative content, but questioned its moral viability. Nonetheless, the book exerted an enormous influence on Lewis' contemporaries.

To study The Monk then requires careful explication:

  1. Why did Lewis write it?
  2. What characteristics of gothic fiction appear?
  3. What is the book's moral and psychological perspective? The importance of Jung's archetypes should be noted.
  4. Are there significant literary allusions?
  5. Is the book mimetic--does it offer significant thematic commentary and on what?
  6. How are the Jung archetypes in evidence: the descent, mother, father, trickster?
  7. What is the most important symbol in the novel relating to the archetypes?

Perhaps the last question is the most important, for if The Monk fails the mimetic test, then its value is too parochial for examination beyond 1795. Interestingly there are no Cliff Notes so the novel can't be assigned with regularity. Masterplots notes, "...the book is by modern standards fantastic, crude and stilted." (p. 4027). That phrase is interesting. Of course 'fantastic' (fancy , imagination) for a romantic is a good thing--we know that every romantic addressed the qualities an imaginative mind should have, so the question becomes, "Does Lewis have them?" "Crude" I guess means unrefined and lacking in literary sophistication. True, it is no Heart of Darkness, but both novels deal with the "fascination of the abomination" that so intrigued and seduced Kurtz, but Kurtz is no Ambrosio.

Let us examine The Monk.


Christopher MacLachlan's Introduction to the Penguin Classics' edition should certainly be read. He appends a bibliography.

Montague Summers' The Gothic Quest. (Russell and Russell, 1964), devotes almost a quarter of the book (100 pages) to a biography of Lewis and the influence of his novel.

Edward Wagenkhecht's Cavalcade of the English Novel (Holt, Rinehart and Winston) has a short section on the novel.

On line resources may be found by clicking here. Note that Literary Gothic devotes a full page to The Monk including literary criticism.


by Alexandria Oliver

1--Why did Lewis write the novel? Maclachlan (p. viii) notes that Lewis wrote the novel desiring the fame publication would bring. In and of itself, fame is something romantics dearly wanted, although (as with Lewis), it came with a bit of a price tag. We may recall the attitude of Victor Frankenstein about fame after he created the being. In retrospect, and although he desired to contribute to human longevity, he discovered he lacked the wisdom to manage the technology of creation, a subject explicated by Percy Shelley in his Defense of Poetry. One also might argue that since Lewis was 19 / 2O when he wrote The Monk, he wished to test the limits of propriety and moral decorum by allowing his imagination to chart its own course: "

Tolkien speaks of the romantics interest is 'sub-creation," and Ambrosio is as much an example of that as Victor's creature. Both have mysterious origins, want to learn their identities, and suffer from brutal environments. Both too are a product of their authors' "secondary imagination" as Coleridge would say. The novel did bring Lewis fame (notoriety?). Parenthetically, his wealth was secured from his father's inheritance.

2--What characteristics of gothic fiction appear? There are so many characteristics that the list exhausts the subject. In the Introductory Material, we examined a list of terms for sensibility. What ones apply to the novel?

...All have a role in The Monk. Our investigation will apply these terms to the novel by asking questions designed to stimulate your imagination..: "TO THOSE WHO DARE, NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE" (from Chapter Six).


1. Although your eyes may chance to rest upon some woman or other, you must not fix your gaze upon any woman. Seeing women when you go out is not forbidden, but it is sinful to desire them or to wish them to desire you, for it is not by tough or passionate feeling alone but by one's gaze also that lustful desires mutually arise. And do not say that your hearts are pure if there is immodesty of the eye, because the unchaste eye carries the message of an impure heart. And when such hearts disclose their unchaste desires in a mutual gaze, even without saying a word, then it is that chastity suddenly goes out of their life, even though their bodies remain unsullied by unchaste acts.

2. And whoever fixes his gaze upon a woman and likes to have hers fixed upon him must not suppose that others do not see what he is doing. He is very much seen, even by those he thinks do not see him. But suppose all this escapes the notice of man - what will he do about God who sees from on high and from whom nothing is hidden? Or are we to imagine that he does not see because he sees with a patience as great as his wisdom? Let the religious man then have such fear of God that he will not want to be an occasion of sinful pleasure to a woman. Ever mindful that God sees all things, let him not desire to look at a woman lustfully. For it is on this point that fear of the Lord is recommended, where it is written: An abomination to the Lord is he who fixes his gaze (Prv. 27:20)

3. So when you are together in church and anywhere else where women are present, exercise a mutual care over purity of life. Thus, by mutual vigilance over one another will God, who dwells in you, grant you his protection.

4. If you notice in someone of your brothers this wantonness of the eye, of which I am speaking, admonish him at once so that the beginning of evil will not grow more serious but will be promptly corrected.

5. But if you see him doing the same thing again on some other day, even after your admonition, then whoever had occasion to discover this must report him as he would a wounded man in need of treatment. But let the offense first be pointed out to two or three so that he can be proven guilty on the testimony of these two or three and be punished with due severity. And do not charge yourselves with ill-will when you bring this offense to light. Indeed, yours in the greater blame if you allow your brothers to be lost through your silence when you are able to bring about their correction by your disclosure. If you brother, for example, were suffering a bodily wound that he wanted to hide for fear of undergoing treatment, would it not be cruel of you to remain silent and a mercy on your part to make this known? How much greater then is your obligation to make his condition known lest he continue to suffer a more deadly wound of the soul.

6. But if he fails to correct the fault despite this admonition, he should first be brought to the attention of the superior before the offense is made known to the others who will have to prove his guilt, in the event he denies the charge. Thus, corrected in private, his fault can perhaps be kept from the others. But should he feign ignorance, the others are to be summoned so that in the presence of all he can be proven guilty, rather than stand accused on the word of one alone. Once proven guilty, he must undergo salutary punishment according to the judgment of the superior or priest having the proper authority. If he refuses to submit to punishment, he shall be expelled from your brotherhood even if he does not withdraw of his own accord. For this too is not done out of cruelty, but from a sense of compassion so that many others may not be lost through his bad example.

7. And let everything I have said about not fixing one's gaze be also observed carefully and faithfully with regard to other offenses: to find them out, to ward them off, to make them known, to prove and punish them - all out of love for man and a hatred of sin.

8. But if anyone should go so far in wrongdoing as to receive letters in secret from any woman, or small gifts of any kind, you ought to show mercy and pray for him if he confesses this of his own accord. But if the offense is detected and he is found guilty, he must be more severely chastised according to the judgment of the priest or superior


3--What is The Monk's moral and psychological perspective? At first glance, it would appear that characterization in the novel is melodramatic with little of the sophistication a reader welcomes in Frankenstein, the Frankenstein: of the novel, not Hollywood. That distinction is significant. While Hollywood's penchant for sensationalism has portrayed the creature as a mindless fiend that goes about preying on what it wishes to destroy, Mary Shelley dramatizes a consciousness in torment as it responds to evil in the world. The creature's quest is to learn the purpose of its existence, and it thus asks the same questions of Victor that Adam and Eve asked of God. Recall that the creature's favorite book is Paradise Lost.

Check the TABLE OF CONTENTS for this site, to examine the analysis of Jung's archetypes and their presence in the novel.

So is Lewis' novel "Hollywood" in print or more perceptive in its illumination of the human experience?

4--Click here for an excellent analysis of the Madonna Whore complex as presented by Ms. Julia McAdams


(Pages refer to the Penguin Classic edition.)

The Monk by Nnenna Onwukwe


1--What is your opinion of the institution (s) described? Why are people present?

2--Is the literary point of view effective? Point of view is very important in the novel.

3--Notice the allusion to Measure for Measure. Shakespeare's influence is significant in the novel. Who is Angelo in his play, and in what ways does the head note in Chapter one foreshadow / reflect Ambrosio's character? As the novel continues, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet will surface, especially Macbeth.

4--We reviewed classicism for the parts of the soul (Plato). What happens when they are in conflict? See especially page 27.

5--How would you describe: Antonia? Agnes? The Monk himself? Aristotle speaks of a flaw which for him implied a judgmental error; hence he extolled Oedipus but would certainly reject Macbeth. Does the Monk have a flaw in this sense, or is his flaw moral/psychological? Are their hints?

6--What do you think of the technique of describing important characters from different perspectives before they are met? Does Shakespeare do this? Discuss how the narrator, Don Christoval, Leonella and Antonia view the Monk.

7--What are the symbols and motifs in chapter one? Pay careful attention to motifs that will reverberate throughout the text; from pages 11 to 19, note the connotative significance of: "show," "see", "orator," "curiosity," " satisfaction," "scarcely fifteen," "study," "seclusion." Of course we know the denotative definitions, but what do these worlds contextually (connotatively) suggest?

8--What do we know of the Monk? (See especially pages 19-23). A theme in this novel is nature vs. nurture. Rousseau argued that environment shaped character. Does it here?

9--How is a dream involved in this chapter, and who are its subjects? Does the content make sense in terms of what you know so far about him/her? Note: synonyms for dream include "fancied" (p. 27) or "reverie," to include our "daydreaming." Recall that as with Frankenstein, dreams beyond their psychological implications are literary meaning they foreshadow. Does this dream? Note where it occurs and what happens. The juxtapositions seem shocking, but this is a gothic book; expect to be shocked. The novel of course transcends sensationalism. Note that the text is morally, socially and psychologically sophisticated. Observe as well that the dream involves several archetypes, especially the shadow and descent. Recall Jung, and as an allusion consider Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, keeping in mind what he meant by "reconciliation of opposites."

10--The "Gypsy's Song" has been called the theme passage of the novel? Why?


1--Compare the Monk's self-examination with how he is viewed by others in the previous chapter. What figure of speech does Lewis use? If you know Greek tragedy, are there any Sophocles parallels?

2--Gender ambiguity dominates the novel, so who is Rosario really? Recall Jung's comments about the relationship between the animus and anima?

3--What motivates the Monk in this chapter? Do you think the conflicts are a source of genuine agony for him? Is there one action of the Monk that makes you especially dislike him? What does it foreshadow? Pay special attention to how he behaves as the chapter opens. What does he think of how the crowds reacted to him? Page 46 is noteworthy. To answer this question, begin to isolate and analyze the icons that Lewis' uses to develop the Monk's character. The most important icon, the Bleeding Nun, will appear in the sub-plot chapters. She is foreshadowed here by the Virgin Mary whose role is morally, psychologically and even sexually complex. The Monk's reaction to her is not obvious but critically important to the development of his character. Almost every major character relates to the Bleeding Nun and the Virgin, her precursor.

4--Do you think that the Prioress and the Monk behave the same regarding Agnes? Can the Monk be blamed for his judgment? How was he educated? Note too Agnes' prophecy laced with irony as we will discover.

5--In The Poetics, Aristotle, said that a character's "flaw" must be judgmental / intellectual; not moral. Apply to the Monk in this chapter. (The 'golden-mean' is likewise appropriate.)

6--The Monk's comments after learning of the disguise seem almost to be soliloquy-like, but in prose. Can you think of a Shakespeare character who faces the same dilemma as Ambrosio besides Angelo in Measure for Measure? Is the prayer at the bottom of page 51 sincere?

7--Commentators have noted that it makes a considerable difference to the reading of the novel to understand the true nature of Matilda: What is she? Compare Lady Macbeth, and see The Gothic Quest.

8--"I love you for your virtues." (p. 58.) Comment.

9--Notice that the Monk reacts to Matilda the same way he does to Agnes. Recall Don Christoval's assessment of the Monk in Chapter One, page 23. How accurate is the analysis, and are the solutions as simple as they seem?

10--As noted above, the Madonna so important, and does its inclusion strain credibility? Do we, with Coleridge, have to 'willingly suspend disbelief?' (p. 73). Note that the novel cannot just be read on a rational level.

11--What do you think of the Monk now recalling what he said to Agnes earlier? (p. 62).

12--What is the obvious biblical allusion in this chapter and why is it used? Note that Lewis does not simply present melodrama.

13--Are there any supernatural events?

14--If you know Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Ambrosio's comment on page 71 should be an instructive parallel.

15--Notice that the 'dear reader' point of view (Lewis to us on the Monk) is not generally used today. Why?

16--Romantics regard dreams as important metaphors for the creative process. Keats, for example, refers to the imagination in terms of "Adam's dream," and of course Coleridge's addiction plagued him with nightmares. Click here for additional information.

17--On page 79, does Lewis provide motivation for the Monk's decision at the end of the chapter? Are there Macbeth / Lady Macbeth allusions? There is a line in particular that seems quite bluntly to articulate the narrator's perspective. To discuss the chapter's conclusion, recall and review the preludes:

Consider the art:

How might the painting apply? How does Adam plead before God? Who has been seduced? Is this analogy fair...

Adam : Eve :: Monk : Matilda

...what does the Snake represent? Keep the archetypes in mind.

18--Compare / contrast in summary the Monk's dilemma

What do you conclude?


1--As with King Lear, Lewis introduces a subplot, relating now the adventures of Lorenzo and Antonio, and Raymond's affection for Agnes. The Monk's reactions are deferred. Why does Lewis make us wait? Note too that the three subplot chapters contain the Bleeding Nun episode. She is the most important icon in the novel, and every major event in the novel will consciously and subconsciously derive from who she is, what she does, and what she represents.

2--Why did Agnes go to the convent? What do you think Lewis believes about institutions such as the convent?

3--We have the History of Don Raymond--note the shift in point of view. What is the advantage of the change?

4--Much of the story may today be regarded as unneeded detail, but we should note what happens to Raymond in the woods (which symbolizes?) with Marguerite and Baptiste. Do Marguerite's misadventures parallel Agnes'? Perhaps here kindness is in contrast to____, and therefore illustrates what romantic theme? (See page 98.) Does Raymond's assessment of her have macrocosmic implications? Characterize Baptiste.

5--Should Raymond have done what he did to Baptiste in this chapter and what role did Marguerite play>

6--Note that on page 107 ff., we have a "flashback within a flashback" wherein Marguerite relates her own misfortune. (Aside: What contemporary Gothic writer uses this technique?)

7- Are the innocent easily seduced? Compare Marguerite to the Monk? Does gender make a difference. In this sense, what does Marguerite represent? What does Lewis believe about depravity?

8-Note the symbols in the chapter that evolve from chapters one and two.

9--Are there any Byronic elements in her narrative?


1--Up to now, the events in the novel may be explained in purely rational / psychological term. What is missing that this chapter will now supply as absolutely essential for a gothic novel. It is clear in this chapter that Agnes is an innocent victim of....? Whom does Lewis condemn? Why did Agnes really go into the convent? Who is Donna Rodolpha, and how does she treat Agnes? Why?

2--One of the more celebrated moments in The Monk is the story of the "bleeding nun." Relate its "gothic" specifics to the action of the subplot. (See p. 130). What does Agnes believe about the bleeding nun narrative? Is there a dialectic present? (Compare pages 125 & 135 ff). Note that this element is very important for a Jung interpretation. What archetypes are dramatized? Note also the foreshadowing and flashback potential? Who bleeds?

3--Certainly the conduct of Raymond counters the Monk's. What is the irony involved? (See p. 131).

4--What does the treatment of Cunegonda foreshadow?

5--What happens after the 'accident' regarding Agnes, the bleeding nun, and Raymond? (See p. 141).

6--Do you find echoes of Hamlet and Macbeth here? How about Richard III?

7--Note how the point of view shifts on page 143. This techniques of viewing the same event from multiple perspectives is a sophisticated way to dramatize consciousness--something Faulkner and Joyce will do in our own day.

8--Regarding the escape plot, who was in the carriage? Does the literal interpretation make sense, and should it?

9--How incredible is Raymond's account? Should it be? Equivocation is very important. Note the lyrics. What does Raymond see, and how do we know for sure? Should we know? Can we? What archetypes emerge?

10--What role does the "Great Mogul" play? Beatrice de las Cisternas?--Any Byronic characteristics? Note the reference to the "Wandering Jew." (p. 154).

11--There seems to be a theme in the novel regarding women being forced to enter the convent, so how did the bleeding nun become "bleeding"? (See page 151 ff)-- Any Hamlet parallels? Does the narrator wish her condemned? Her actions with the Baron are depraved, but...? What happens to the shadow archetype when repressed?

12--What happened to Agnes? Observe that the events in this Chapter explain what we (incompletely) learned in Chapters One and Two. (p. 161) Raymond's search for Agnes animates the chapter. Having violated her (bleeding), he as noted attempts a rescue. Does he love her? Relate his feelings to what happens when he 'sees' the Bleeding Nun? What is happening psychologically? Again, what does Raymond see? Study pages 136-144.

13--The point of view shifts again as we read Agnes' first person account of her torment. (See page 163).

14--As with Kate in Taming of the Shrew and Mina in Dracula, the sexually aggressive female can be intimidating to males. Does this explain and / or justify the Bleeding Nun's actions? Recall again Rousseau's nature / nurture argument. In what senses do Agnes and Marguerite emanate from Beatrice?


1--We are back in the present time. Apply Pope's "Epigraph" to the contents of the chapter--what is the classical admonition?

2--Is Lewis commenting on romantic aesthetics on pages 172-173? What is conventional about the lament; did other romantic writers have similar views?

3--What seems to impede the Antonia / Lorenzo relationship from Elvira's (her mother) relationship?

4--What depravity occurs in this chapter regarding Agnes, and is it a notion on which romantics obsessed? Why? (See pp.191ff)

5--What does Raymond vow to do?


1--Do you think that the subtle characterization of Ambrosio's soul in torment is continued in this chapter? What is the Monk's sin (besides the obvious?) As a parallel, recall the temptation scene in Book IX of Paradise Lost. How is equivocation used? Consider the following:

2--Note that Lewis piles depravity on depravity--the archetype is "the descent" to the underworld.

3--What is Matilda, and in what does she participate in the subterranean vaults under the convent? Do you find Lady Macbeth parallels?

4--Does your answer to question 3 change your evaluation of the action in Chapter Two?

5--What change takes place in Ambrosio's relationship with Matilda, and why? What universal is dramatized here? Compare his actions / feelings to Macbeth's and Chaucer's Wife. What the Monk thinks he wants may not be actually the case. Explain. See page. 203.

6--The education of Ambrosio has much to do with his present behavior: First review these flashbacks:

7- Relate the above to the Monk's current moral and psychological stability:

8--Lewis' explication of the Monk's consciousness advances the plot literally as well. Who visits the Monk and for what purpose? (p. 208) Why then does the Monk transfer his attention to Antonia? Check a Measure for Measure allusion to Angelo and Isabella. What does the Monk really want? Note that he argues he would legitimately marry Antonia if he could. What prevents that? Should it? (See page 214).

9--What important clue to the Monk's identity is provided by Elvira on page 215? Any allusion?


1--Apply Plato's evaluation of the elements of the soul (The Republic), and Pope's comments in Essay on Man to the Monk's self-analysis.

2--How does Matilda react to the Monk's new interest? Where is she now in his plans?

3--There is a passage in this Chapter that Lewis had to delete due to public outcry. What do you think it is, and is the censorship justified?

4--What dilemma confronts Elvira when she discovers the Monk' true intentions? There is definitely a Shakespeare parallel. (p. 226).

5--Beyond the obvious reason, why does the Monk want revenge on Elvira? Think Macbeth again.

6--TO THOSE WHO DARE, NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE is a great theme for this book, and the romantic movement in general. From what you know about romanticism, to what might you apply Matilda's words?

7--There are strong Macbeth parallels in Matilda's seduction scene. What does she say, and how effective are her powers of persuasion? Do the Monk's objections make sense given what he had done so far? It has been remarked regarding some of the fallen Catholics in the novels of Graham Greene (the whiskey priest of Power and the Glory, for example), that they are theologically remote from God, but psychologically proximate. Does that assessment work for Ambrosio?

8--Look carefully at the "mirror" episode--who is involved, and what is a MACBETH allusion? Recall that in Romantic period aesthetics, the "mirror and the lamp" (Abrams) was a crucial metaphor for the creative process. What is being 'created' here: by whom and for whom? The Monk's response to the vision is to YIELD. Are you surprised? In answering remember, what symbol dominates the vision; it has more than one meaning. Does the Monk realize that?

9--Do you agree with the Monk's assessment of his morals on page 234? Again, what is his sin, and can its roots be traced to chapters 1 and 2?

10-- Note how Agnes is involved in this scene--union of plot and subplot?

11--It would appear that Matilda has power even over Lucifer. What is promised? Notice an allusion to yet another Shakespeare play.

12-Does the Monk's intention regarding Antonia make him depraved? He knows his actions are "highly criminal," but yet he refuses to ally himself with God's enemy? If you were defending the Monk to date, how would you respond?


1--The search for Agnes resumes...What role does St. Ursula play? Is she 'bleeding'?

2--In Macbeth, Shakespeare alludes to one of his earlier poems, The Rape of Lucrece, comparing Macbeth's approaching the chamber of the sleeping Duncan to "Tarquin's ravishing strides." Apply the allusion to Ambrosio and Antonia. The parallels are almost word for word.

3--Ironically, of whom does the Monk think during the seduction of Antonia. What two Shakespearean allusions dominates the prelude to the seduction? One of course involves Macbeth, and the other to an allusion within that play. Hint:

Macbeth/Tarquin : Duncan :: Monk : Antonia

Evaluate these lines from the allusion within the allusion:

Her breasts, like ivory globes circled with blue,
A pair of maiden worlds unconquered,
Save of their lord no bearing yoke they knew,
And him by oath they truly honoured.
These worlds in Tarquin new ambition bred;
Who, like a foul usurper, went about
From this fair throne to heave the owner out.


Tarquin: I have debated, even in my soul,
What wrong, what shame, what sorrow I shall breed;
But nothing can affection's course control,
Or stop the headlong fury of his speed.
I know repentant tears ensue the deed,
Reproach, disdain, and deadly enmity;
Yet strive I to embrace mine infamy.

Study these lines in the present context.

4--Notice the references to dreaming...why? Interestingly, the latest medical research on sleep paralysis seems to find validation in Lewis' 'romantic' narrative.

5--Whom does Ambrosio kill in the attempted rape scene - really kill? Can the Monk be forgiven? An answer will foreshadow Chapter XII.

6--What is the Monk's reaction to his crime, and does this mitigate or sustain his guilt? Elvira's role including her dream (p. 261) matters a great deal, as Macbeth parallels suggest. What is the Monk's greatest fear and who else suffers? Note the 'bleeding nun's presence again.

7-Analyze the chapter's archetypes, noting especially the shadow and descent, ironically note what the Monk most desired vs. what he got. Why is there such a difference, if there is one, and will the opposites reconcile? What do Coleridge and Jung believe?


1--Read carefully the first two sentences in the chapter--comment psychologically and morally. Why was the advance so rapid, and beyond the obvious, why does the Monk shutter?

2--Does the Monk believe he can be saved? His view of God is critical, and who knows this? Does the Monk have virtues? Are they in evidence here? He sees Matilda as more and more associated with the demoniac. Is such a misogynistic perspective?

3--How contrived is the plot device used to bring Ambrosio and Antonia together again? (p. 275). What role does Matilda have in orchestrating the events? See page 288 for an Act III Macbeth allusion. What are the ghost theories in that act; does Ambrosio experience a similar perturbation?

Bleeding Nun/Agnes : Raymond :: Elvira/Flora : Monk

What are we to believe?

4--Verify the biblical allusions to the death / resurrection of Christ.(p. 295).

5--How is a Romeo and Juliet theme dramatized here?

6-Retrospective. How are the following manifestations of the Bleeding Nun?


Discuss the importance of the following in terms of Jung's archetypes. Keep in mind that psychologically, the shadow if contained will be released as it does here macrocosmically. What historical event does Lewis use for the dramatization?

1--The entombment of Antonia alludes to Romeo and Juliet.

2--The procession to honor St. Claire involves a new character. Who is she, and is she bleeding?

3-If as Dr. Freitas argues, women lack an authentic voice and are subsequently stereotyped in texts authored by males, can this be said of Sister Ursula? Whom does she oppose?

There had been a pause in the murders. Something was going on inside. . . . I told myself that it was over at last. Finally, I saw a woman appear, as white as a sheet, being helped by a turnkey. They said to her harshly: "Shout 'Vive la nation!'" "No! No!" she said. They made her climb up on a pile of corpses. One of the killers grabbed the turnkey and pushed him away. "Oh!" exclaimed the ill-fated woman, "do not harm him!" They repeated that she must shout "Vive la nation!" With disdain, she refused. Then one of the killers grabbed her, tore away her dress, and ripped open her stomach. She fell, and was finished off by the others. Never could I have imagined such horror. I wanted to run, but my legs gave way. I fainted. When I came to, I saw the bloody head. Someone told me they were going to wash it, curl its hair, stick it on the end of a pike, and carry it past the windows of the Temple. What pointless cruelty! . .

4-Compare the passage to what happens to the Prioress. She indeed is a bleeding nun. Does she deserve the treatment? Is she stereotypically evil? Note that in her defense, what might be said regarding her treatment of Agnes, however depraved. Examine pages 306-307.

5-To what degree does FATE determine the events we have studied as the novel moves to the denouement?

5--The history of Agnes--part one. Consider how she is bleeding, and note especially the pathos regarding her newborn. How do you feel about the Prioress?

a. Her escape attempt and the Prioress' response, p. 304
b. The role of the dagger and the aggressive female
c. Her pleas for pity; and the pathos
d. The Jung archetypes in evidence, descent especially: "abyss," p. 315.
d. The discovery by Lorenzo Agnes and the Bible, page. 317
e. One of the most important moral assessments of institutions spoken by Agnes occurs on p. 318, and do you agree with what she says?

The moral and philosophical implications of Chapter X
What does Lewis believe regarding the following..

1--The moral nature of institutions

2--The relationship between good and evil and fate and free will.

3--Suffering and redemption

4--Biblical and Shakespearean allusions

5--The Jung archetypes

6--Evil destroys itself is a theme of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. How does Lewis use that here? Observe that once again flashback is used. Henry James noted in his Prefaces that you cannot tell an ugly story without a beautiful counterpart. How is his advice at work here?

7--Rousseau said that man is born free, but exists everywhere in chains. That sentence supposedly led to what historical event to which Lewis may be alluding in this chapter? How mimetic are the contents? What are the chains in this novel?


Note especially the following specifics. Discuss the importance of each in terms of Jung's archetypes.

1- On page 325, the Monk refers to Matilda as a "fatal beauty," raising again fate and free will. Is his assessment correct? Why does she say she is no prostitute?

1--Ambrosia and Antonia involve a Macbeth allusion on p. 325. What is it, and why is it used here? In Macbeth, he and Lady Macbeth ironically drift apart after committing a crime that they perceived as cementing their relationship. Does that happen here? What is the difference between love and sex?

2--What makes him change from love to lust, and how have we psychologically have we been prep Why?

3--Does the depravity of the crime alienate the Monk from any sympathy? He seems to argue in paraphrase, on page 327, "I cannot love you, so I want sex. It is going to happen, so enjoy it." Is that a fair assessment; what is his concern?

4--Is the Monk correctly a prophet regarding Antonia and his own fate?

5--A Macbeth and Jung allusion appears …what of the shadow?

6--Why does Matilda enter? What is about to happen? Lady Macbeth fears killing Duncan using a paternal image as pretext. Is such a moral inhibition? Compare to Matilda? Does her restraint imply moral restraint, manipulation, duplicity or something else?

7--Oddly, is the Monk morally heroic regarding Matilda's murder attempt? Who is depraved?
Parallel Macbeth in Act V. Is there any heroism? Ironically, though, how does Antonia die and why?

8--What is the Agnes - Virginia relationship and why is it so important morally? In this connection, what new love interest arises and why? Does Lewis believe, as does J.R.R. Tolkien, in the 'good catastrophe' (from his Fairy Tale Essay) and Shakespeare's Friar in Romeo and Juliet that virtue can come from vice?

12--The remaining history of Agnes…

1. Note the gothic description of her tomb (p. 344); what are the psychological symbols?
2. What happens to her baby, and do you agree this is the most depraved moment in the novel ?
3. Is the Prioress moral at all? (p. 347-8). Henry James says you cannot tell an ugly story without a beautiful counterpart. How is that in evidence here, and with whom?

15--Who is the coward in these scenes and what irony is involved?

16- Consider the student generated summary: (positive / negative)

The moral and philosophical implications of Chapter XI
What does Lewis believe regarding the following...

1. How are the archetypes involved?

2. Relate the Bleeding nun episodes to this chapter.

3. What moral comment by Agnes is most tellingly ironic?

4. How responsible are the various characters for their fate? See Dr. Freitas' questions


1--The inevitable denouement--what is the action of the final Chapter? At the conclusion of Macbeth, the protagonist is called a "butcher" and his wife a "fiend-like" Queen--recall her "Unsex" me soliloquy when she asked the demons "that tend to mortal thoughts" to take her soul. They do. How do the final scenes of the Monk compare?

2--Shakespeare holds the possibility, however scant, that Macbeth's life ends with some measure of his former courage restored. Does the Monk's?

3--Torture (the Inquisition) in this chapter exists on several levels: physical / moral / social / intellectual / sexual / institutional. How do these levels interact to dramatize the consciousness of Matilda and the Monk? Can she really be punished? Were you pleased to see the Monk tortured?

5--What do you think of Lucifer's 'summary' (p. 374-5) of the Monk's crimes? What do you believe to be THE SIN the Monk commits that is responsible for all the rest?

6--Given the summary, how would you evaluate the Monk's free will. Is there an Oedipus parallel? Is he a tragic figure?

7--There is one line in Chapter XII which if omitted would change the complexion of the novel? What is its content, and to whom does it refer?

The moral and philosophical implications of Chapter XII
What does Lewis believe regarding the following...

1. Must we suspend disbelief in the last chapter?

2. What does Lewis seem to articulate regarding:

  1. education?
  2. nature vs. nurture?
  3. the supernatural?
  4. feminism?
  5. the Bible--especially Genesis?
  6. the archetypes: descent, mother, father, temptress etc.
  7. Divine vs. human will?
  8. the ability of "evil" characters to articulate truth?
  9. sexual mores and growth?
  10. hell and heaven: punishment and reward?
  11. what makes a character good? evil? Is any character exclusively one or the other?


from W.W.Norton
from the Penguin edition


Lewis has touched on the following romantic ideas:

1--institutions that cannot be reformed have to be destroyed--a standard Rousseau theme. How did Byron die?

2--the sensational, the excessive, and the imaginative.

3--the love of the supernatural--the bleeding nun, the ghost of Elvira.

4--the morally reprehensible clergy who violate their vows to incest, a favorite romantic theme--recall Wordsworth and Byron.

5--dramatization of consciousness--the 'caverns measureless to man' are probed as we look into the (not) always "sacred river" of the Monk's mind.

6--historical mimeticism--the reign of terror.

7--guilt, obsessive behavior and reconciliation--certainly the Monk is complex in these areas.

8--use of allusions--there are many, especially to Shakespeare. We have noted at least four plays:

We could add King Lear for the subplot.

9--How well Lewis accomplishes his task is another matter. Obviously he is no Shakespeare, or Conrad, but who is? English romanticism was brief. It flourished, contributed and declined. Our world paradoxically is better and worse for the romantics. They gave us Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley and the tormented Byron and Coleridge, but they also gave us Hitler. Without passions, man is not man. Plato told us that and so did Alexander Pope, Byron's favorite poet. As long as man has passions, they will contribute to his glory and disgrace. We are created "half to rise and half to fall," and so as long as we have humanity tormented by desires and reason in conflict, we will have Apollo and Dionysus, Richmond and Richard, and a need to read THE MONK.