|Definition: Count Dracula is the title character and primary antagonist of Bram Stoker's 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula.|
In Stoker's novelBram Stoker's novel takes the form of an epistolary tale, in which Count Dracula's characteristics, powers, abilities and weaknesses are narrated by multiple narrators, from different perspectives. The most informative of these narrators are Jonathan Harker, John Seward, and Mina Harker.
Count Dracula is a centuries-old vampire, sorcerer, and Transylvanian nobleman, who claims to be a Szekely descended from Attila the Hun. He inhabits a decaying castle in the Carpathian Mountains near the Borgo Pass. Unlike the vampires of Eastern European folklore, which are portrayed as repulsive, corpse-like creatures, Dracula exudes a veneer of aristocratic charm. In his conversations with Jonathan Harker, he reveals himself as deeply proud of his boyar heritage and nostalgic for the past times, which he admits have become only a memory of heroism, honor and valor in modern times.
Details of his early life are obscure, but it seems that Dracula studied the black arts at the academy of Scholomance in the Carpathian Mountains, overlooking the town of Sibiu (also known as Hermannstadt) and became proficient in alchemy and magic. Taking up arms, as befitting his rank and status as a Voivode, he led troops against the Turks across the Danube. According to Van Helsing: "He must indeed have been that Voivode Dracula who won his name against the Turk, over the great river on the very frontier of Turkey-land. If it be so, then was he no common man: for in that time, and for centuries after, he was spoken of as the cleverest and the most cunning, as well as the bravest of the sons of the land beyond the forest." Dead and buried in a great tomb in the chapel of his castle, Dracula returns from death as a vampire and lives for several centuries in his castle with three beautiful female vampires beside him. They seem to bear a possible family resemblance though whether they be his lovers, sisters, daughters, or vampires made by him is not made clear in the narrative.
As the novel begins in the late 19th century, Dracula acts on a long contemplated plan for world domination, and infiltrates London to begin his reign of terror. He summons Jonathan Harker, a newly qualified English solicitor, to provide legal support for a real estate transaction overseen by Harker's employer. Dracula at first charms Harker with his cordiality and historical knowledge, and even rescues him from the clutches of the three female vampires in the castle. In truth, however, Dracula wishes to keep Harker alive long enough to complete the legal transaction and to learn as much as possible about England.
Dracula leaves his castle and boards a Russian ship, the Demeter, taking along with him boxes of Transylvanian soil, which he needs in order to regain his strength. During the voyage to Whitby, a coastal town in northern England, he sustains himself on the ship's crew members. Only one body is later found, that of the captain, who is found tied up to the ship's helm. The captain's log is recovered and tells of strange events that had taken place during the ship's journey. Dracula leaves the ship in the form of a dog.
Soon the Count is menacing Harker's fiance, Wilhelmina "Mina" Murray, and her friend, Lucy Westenra. There is also a notable link between Dracula and Renfield, a patient in an insane asylum compelled to consume insects, spiders, birds, and other creatures -in ascending order of size - in order to absorb their "life force". Renfield acts as a kind of sensor, reacting to Dracula's proximity and supplying clues accordingly. Dracula begins to visit Lucy's bed chamber on a nightly basis, draining her of blood while simultaneously infecting her with the curse of vampirism. Not knowing the cause for Lucy's deterioration, her companions call upon the Dutch doctor Abraham Van Helsing, the former mentor of one of Lucy's suitors. Van Helsing soon deduces her condition's supernatural origins, but does not speak out. Despite an attempt at keeping the vampire at bay with garlic, Dracula entices Lucy out of her chamber late at night and transforms her into one of the undead.
Van Helsing and Lucy's former suitors John Seward, Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris enter her crypt and kill her. Later, Harker joins them and they enter Dracula's residences at Carfax and Piccadilly, destroying his boxes of earth, depriving the Count of his ability to rest. Dracula leaves England to return to his homeland, but not before biting Mina.
The final section of the novel details the heroes racing Dracula back to Transylvania, and in a climactic battle with Dracula's gypsy bodyguards, finally destroying him. Despite the popular image of Dracula having a stake driven through his heart to kill him, Mina's narrative describes his throat being cut through by Jonathan Harker's kukri and his heart pierced by Morris' Bowie knife (Mina Harker's Journal, 6 November, Dracula Chapter 27). His body then turns into dust, but not before Mina Harker sees an expression of peace on Dracula's face.
Although early in the novel Dracula dons a mask of cordiality, he often flies into fits of rage when his plans are interfered with. When the three vampire women who live in his castle attempt to seduce Jonathan Harker, Dracula physically assaults one and ferociously berates them for their insubordination. He then relents and talks to them more kindly, telling them that he does indeed love each of them.
Dracula is very passionate about his warrior heritage, emotionally proclaiming his pride to Harker on how the Szekely people are infused with the blood of heroes. He does express an interest in the history of the British Empire, speaking admiringly of its people. He has a somewhat primal and predatory worldview; he pities ordinary humans for their revulsion to their darker impulses.
Though usually portrayed as having a strong Eastern European accent, the original novel only specifies that his spoken English is excellent, though strangely toned.
His appearance varies in age. He is described early in the novel as thin, with a long white mustache, pointed ears and sharp teeth. It is also noted later in the novel (Chapter 11 subsection "THE ESCAPED WOLF") by a zookeeper that sees him that he has a hooked nose and a pointed beard with a streak of white in it. He is dressed all in black and has hair on his palms. Jonathan Harker described him as an old man; 'cruel looking' and giving an effect of 'extraordinary pallor.' When angered the Count showed his true bestial nature, his blue eyes flaming red.
Powers and Weakness
Count Dracula is portrayed in the novel using many different supernatural abilities. He has superhuman strength which, according to Van Helsing, is equivalent to that of 20 strong men. Being undead, he is immune to conventional means of attack. Like all undead, he is immortal, though he can be killed by the traditional vampire methods (wooden stakes, iron and/or steel weapons, wild rose, holy water, etc.) The only definite way to kill him is by decapitating him preceded by impalement through the heart. The Count does not have to seek victims regularly, and has the ability to remain inactive for centuries. The Count can defy gravity to a certain extent and possesses superhuman agility; being able to climb upside down vertical surfaces in a reptilian manner. He has powerful hypnotic and telepathic abilities, and is also able to command nocturnal animals such as bats and rats. Dracula can also manipulate the weather, usually creating mists to hide his presence, but also storms such as in his voyage in the Demeter. He can travel onto "unhallowed" ground such as the graves of suicides and those of his victims. He can shapeshift at will, his featured forms in the novel being that of a bat, a wolf, a large dog and fog. He is able to pass through tiny cracks or crevices while retaining his human form, described by Van Helsing as the ability to become "so small." He also has the ability to vanish and reappear somewhere else. He requires no other sustenance but fresh blood, which has the effect of rejuvenating him.
According to Van Helsing:
"The Nosferatu do not die like the bees when they sting once. He is only stronger, and being stronger, have yet more power to work evil.
-Mina Harker's Journal, Dracula, Chapter 18
One of Dracula's most mysterious powers is the ability to transfer his vampiric condition to others by feeding on victims and then feeding them his own vampire blood. He slowly transforms Lucy into a vampire and, following her destruction, sets his sights on Mina. Mina mentions having been fed Dracula's blood.
Dracula's powers are not unlimited, however. He is much less powerful in daylight and is only able to shift his form at dawn, noon, and dusk (he can shift freely at night). The sun is not fatal to him, though, as sunlight does not burn and destroy him upon contact. He is repulsed by garlic, crucifixes and sacramental bread, and he can only cross running water at low or high tide. He is also unable to enter a place unless invited to do so; once invited, however, he can approach and leave the premises at will.
While universally feared by the local people of Transylvania and even beyond, he somehow commands the loyalty of gypsies and a band of Slovaks who transport his boxes on their way to London and to serve as an armed convoy bringing his coffin back to the Castle. The Slovaks and gypsies appear to know his true nature, for they laugh at Jonathan Harker, who tries to communicate his plight, and betray Harker's attempt to send a letter through them by giving it to the Count.
Count Dracula is depicted as the "King Vampire," and can control other vampires who were his own victims but also, as per the story "Dracula's Guest", those in farther away lands such as Styria who may or may not have been Dracula's victims. His death can release the curse on any living victim of eventual transformation into vampire. But Van Helsing reveals that were he to successfully escape, his continued existence would ensure that even if he did not victimize Mina Harker further, she would transform into a vampire upon her eventual natural death.
He also requires Transylvanian soil to be nearby to him in order to successfully rest; otherwise, he will not be able to recover his strength. Dracula's powers and weaknesses vary greatly in the many adaptations. Previous and subsequent vampires from different legends have had similar vampire characteristics.
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