Ethan, Melanie, and Isra
Happy Halloween, everyone! In the spirit of Halloween, we wanted to include some historical context of the infamous character of Dracula. From Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula to the dozens of Dracula films produced, this eponymous character has brought Vlad III Tepes to the forefront of the Western historical imagination and social commentary. Vlad has always been a source of fascination; however, many so-called historical images have developed into prolific stereotypes and inaccuracies of his historical figure. Consequently, leading writers following these stereotypes have represented Vlad Tepes and Dracula regarding capitalism and social stratification.
During the mid-1400s, Wallachia (a region of Romania today) had an intensive economic exchange with Saxon merchants within the city of Kronstadt/Brașov. Vlad was involved in local politics within the region, and through his economic policies, he became the adversary of the merchants in Kronstadt/Brasov. Vlad aimed to get control over their economic activities in Wallachia to cut down their privileges for transportation on the roads of Wallachia and on the river Alt/Olt. This led to a series of broadsheets, woodcuts, and poems in German about his cruelty and tyranny. An example of such a poem is Geschichte Dracole Waide or the Story of Dracula Voivode in 1463. Many stereotypes are prevalent in the wider historical context of Vlad Tepes. Some include: the quarrels with Saxons, gruesome actions against the noblemen of Wallachia, the terror against the poor, his persecution of Gypsies, and his undiplomatic behavior toward foreign merchants and ambassadors. All these could be found in the propagandistic broadsheets. More stereotypes are still in use today, the most famous of which may be when Vlad had lunch while dozens of victims were impaled around him. Consequently, his image in the Western world is of a bloodthirsty and cruel ruler. Furthermore, Wallachia was far away, under despotic rule, close to the Ottoman Empire with whom the powers of Middle and Eastern Europe struggled over centuries. Nothing could be better for the development of stereotypes than that combination. The development of such stereotypes had thus entered Western Europe and its history to a broader audience, leading to the infamous representation of Vlad III Tepes today.
In the novel, the character Dracula represents a motif of capitalism as he struggles to maintain authority over other capitalist societies represented by other characters. One aspect of Dracula that shows social stratification is between the characters Lucy and Mina. Stoker makes a statement by killing off an upper-class character (Lucy) and letting a lower-social-class character live (Mina). These characters represent the stratified social classes of the Victorian era and break down the social barriers of that time. As a vampire, Dracula embodies the old aristocracy feeding off the lifeblood of the masses. The exploitation of the working classes was very prevalent at the time of Dracula’s publication in 1897, as this was during the height of the Industrial Revolution.
Overall, we hope you enjoyed reading this brief history lesson on the historical figure Vlad III Tepes and the character Dracula. As stated, historical writers often wrote Vlad Tepes through stereotypes creating inaccuracies about his figure. Dracula and Vlad III Tepes were often represented through capitalism and social stratification of that in the Victorian era. We hope this brief Halloween history lesson gave you something new to learn about. Have a safe and happy Halloween. Stay spooky!
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