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The Inquisition wielded a lot of power all across the world, becoming the most feared institution in southern Europe for hundreds of years. Its members used all the tools at their hands against heretics, Protestants or any other group that threatened the papacy. Not surprisingly, all this background became the perfect setting for the novels written by some of the most renowned authors during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
In this paper, I intend to analyse the image of the Inquisition reflected in Melmoth the Wanderer (1820), by Charles Robert Maturin. Beyond what many critics deem as a simple attack on Catholicism, we will see how Maturin showed the complicated nature of an Ireland controlled by an almost Inquisitorial state. The Ireland where Maturin grew up brimmed with rebels and government spies, not much unlike the familiars the Inquisition employed, while a foreign power tried to maintain its control over the country through secret manoeuvres and instilling fear in people. Maturin’s Inquisition, with all its trappings and mystery, was a good reminder of that spectral medieval institution returning from the world of the dead to haunt the present.
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