Article Title

The Vampire on Stage: A Study in Adaptations


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

As described in Augustin Calmet's Traite sur les apparitions des anges . . . et vampires de Hongrie, published in Paris in 1751 and translated into English in 1759, the vampire was simply a bloodthirsty monster, an animated dead person who sucked the blood of the living ( often relatives) and thus destroyed them. The vampire's literary debut in England, a passing reference in Book VIlI of Robert Southey's Thalaba, the Destroyer (1801), added nothing to that portrayal except perhaps that the vampire could as well be female as male. An eight-page note appended by Southey and drawing heavily on Calmet suggests that the vampire was not familiar to the literary scene in spite of the accumulation of Gothic specters in the form of Walpolian castle haunters and Burgeresque ghostly bridegrooms. The "character'' of the vampire, as we know it today through Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) and its many stage and film versions, owes its definition indirectly to Lord Byron, more directly to his personal physician, John Polidori, and significantly to early nineteenth-century melodrama, the influence of which has been infrequently recognized. In fact, the stage adaptations of Polidori's tale, then thought to be Byron's, establish the paradigmatic characters, atmosphere, and plot of the vampire story.

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