If you thought things were nutty before now, all I can say is buckle up, because from here on out things only get nuttier.
Chapter 8 returns us to Lorenzo and the Marquis moping around over Agnes’s presumed death. The only one not given over to the mopes is young poet Theodore who decides to don cape and eye patch and go begging at the convent with his guitar. As a dapper young lad he’s quick to work his way into the place and charm the nuns, which he does with a song from Denmark where the people are green and have orange hair.
Much impressed with his singing one of the nuns gives him a basket of food to take away. And of course in the basket is a secret message for the Marquis, telling him to get a warrant for herself and the head nun, and to execute it on Friday during the big parade coming up in Chapter 10.
The Marquis sets about doing this, while Lorenzo goes and serenades Antonia. She’s pleased by this and goes to bed happy.
… and then the bad shit starts.
First off, Ambrosio shows up with his burning myrtle that opens doors and puts people to sleep. He’s using it to creep through the house on up to Antonia’s bedroom, where there’s a long unsettling bit with him hovering over her unconscious body and removing her clothes. Dracula has nothing on Ambrosio. He’s all ready to do the raping, when the door opens and Elvira walks in. She’d already caught him trying to rape her daughter once and forbidden him to return to the house, but now, she’s ready to scream for the authorities. And she almost does, except Ambrosio kills her, by smothering her with her unconscious daughter’s pillow.
An aside… watching old movies in no way prepares you for reading old books. Old movies couldn’t show certain things. Old books could and did, so they’ll hit you with vivid description of some brutality straight out of Goodfellas.
Like here, not only do have Ambrosio killing Elvira next to where her daughter lies unconscious, you also have the description from Ambrosio’s POV of himself kneeling on Elvira’s chest until she can no longer draw breath.
And in true Ambrosio fashion, he reacts with disgust not with himself, but with Antonia, because like what she made him do. So, he flees and we go on to Chapter 9.
Chapter 9 is a cool down chapter Ambrosio once more rationalizes his actions and reinforces his veneer of respectability, putting the blame on Elvira for causing her own death. Matilda once more offers to have Satan help him in exchange for his soul, but Ambrosio reasons like a Catholic and thinks despite everything, as long as he doesn’t sell his soul he’ll at least get sent to Purgatory.
Meanwhile, Antonia finds the body and her life starts falling apart from there. She’s taken ill. Her landlady pays for a simple funeral. The days pass in grief and torment. One night, Antonia wakes up and goes to her mother’s room where she reads a ghost story, and finds herself visited by Elvira’s ghost. The ghost tells her in three days, she too will be dead, and that’s enough to send Antonia into hysterics. The landlady finds out what happened, and she flees the house to find the holiest man she can… Ambrosio.
He goes to the house, checks things out, and calms the “simple” women down. Remember now, Antonia has no idea that Ambrosio tried to rape her twice and killed her mother. She just knows her mother didn’t like him. Ambrosio’s looking after her health, and when he goes back to the abbey, he and Matilda hatch a plan to drug Antonia, so she appears dead, and then in the crypt when she wakes up, he’ll be waiting there. There’s some difficulties from Flora, Elvira’s servant and confidant who knows why Ambrosio can’t be trusted, but in the end he’s able to administer the poison to Antonia. He then commands that her burial should be performed without delay.
And so it is.
Chapters 6 & 7 can pretty much be subtitled “The Making of an Anti-Hero”.
Ambrosio’s not so much the villain as the protagonist of the novel. Unfortunately for everyone, much of his protagging is of the downward spiral type. This fact gets hightlighted in these two chapters as Ambrosio completes his turn away from his ideals and embraces the dark side as introduced to him by Matilda, his demon lover.
When Chapter 6 opens the pair are still abed together, and Ambrosio has some guilt over what he’s done, but those get shunted as he “riots in delights till then unknown to him”. Through all this Matilda’s still poisoned, but she can fix that – all they have to do is meet at midnight and go into the caves under the convent and Matilda can heal herself. They just have to get through the day, which they do. Ambrosio’s pretty good at rationalizing away what he’s done. Night arrives, and they’re off to the caves. Ambrosio’s set on guard, while Matilda goes below to do what needs doing.
You know, black magic stuff.
While Ambrosio’s on guard he can hear the cries of a prisoner in the basement of the convent. Agnes, of course. He’s moved to pity, which is ironic since her suffering is the direct result of his actions. But he stays where he is. Matilda returns and they go back to the monastery for more sex.
There’s then a mini-essay on how Ambrosio had all the qualities of a hero, only they’d been twisted and warped by his time with the priests, and he’s never known the outside world since he was raised entirely within the monastery because he was left on the doorstep while still an infant.
Life resumes. Ambrosio maintains his reputation and keeps drawing the crowds. Only now he’s more superior and cognizant of his power. Then one day at confession he encounters Antonia who wants him to recommend a priest to visit her sick mother. Ambrosio’s instantly infatuated with Antonia and after some pacing and calling Matilda, “Whore”, he decides he’ll go visit Elvira. He does so, and afterwards he finds Antonia and visits with her too. At first Elvira’s glad the monk’s visiting them, but she starts to suspect his reasons aren’t 100% pure.
And in Chapter 7 she’s proven correct. Chapter 7’s where Ambrosio seals the deal, and slides over from being a priest with a demon lover to being a straight up criminal.
It starts with Ambrosio deciding to seduce Antonia, an idea he doesn’t need a demon lover around to come up with for him. And he doesn’t care that it’s criminal. He just “can’t help himself”. So as his desire for Matilda cools, he fixates on Antonia, and the next time he visits, he gets her alone and tries to rape her. Fortunately, Elvira interrupts it, but what can she do? Ambrosio is one of the most respected men in town, while Antonia and she are poor women without connections. Ambrosio is quick to point out that no one will believe her. Still, Elvira kicks him out of the house and tells him to never come back.
Now Ambrosio feels bad, less because he tried to commit rape, than the fact that he failed to commit rape. He goes back to the abbey and starts to mope about how unfair it all is, when Matilda shows up.
She’s okay with him ditching her, and as his friend he’ll help Ambrosio in anyway she can. You know, with demon black magic stuff. Ambrosio despite everything still believes himself blessed by god, because he hasn’t signed anything over to the devil yet. Matilda’s a bit skeptical on that measure, She shows Ambrosio her magic mirror through which she can spy on anyone. So of course, Ambrosio uses it to watch Antonia take a bath. And that’s enough to get him to think there might be something in this black magic stuff.
So, it’s back to the cave under the convent to do some more witchcraft stuff. Matilda summons up Lucifer and gets a talisman from him that will open doors and put Antonia asleep (because Ambrosio doesn’t care if she’s awake or not when he has his way with her).
“Antonia will perceive her dishonor, but be unaware of her ravisher.”
Damn, Gothic novel… that’s f’d up.
But if Ambrosio needs more help after that he better be ready to pay with his soul. Of course, Ambrosio knows it won’t come to that. It’s not like dealing with the Devil ever ends badly for anyone. So as Chapter 7 ends, Ambrosio’s looking forward to midnight when Antonia will be all his.