Dracula Chapter 11 – Background

The chapter begins with a diary entry from Lucy. She has been recovering due to Van Helsing’s garlic flowers, and she says that she feels “like Ophelia in the play, with ‘virgin crants and maiden strewments.'”

Lucy is making a reference to the character of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Ophelia dies tragically, and the priest at her funeral makes the reference to “virgin crants and maiden strewments,” which are some old-fashioned words for the flower garlands that were traditionally used to decorate the funerals for young women who passed away.

So it’s interesting – and ominous – that Lucy chooses that allusion to describe herself.

 

We also meet a wolf from the London Zoo in this chapter. His name is “Bersicker,” which is probably a corruption of the word “Berserker,” the Norse term for warriors who would go into an insane killing fury during battle. (And it’s from this that we get the expression “to go berserk,” meaning to act insane.) In the Norse language, “berserk” literally means “bear shirt” – these warriors would dress for battle by putting on bear skins, which gave rise to the legend that they actually transformed into bears. Remember that Dracula is noted for his ability to transform into animals.

 

bersicker

Finally, Dr. Seward has a dangerous encounter with Renfield in this chapter, and Renfield goes into a frenzy and begins screaming, “‘The blood is the life!'” This is a Biblical reference to Deuteronomy 12:23 which prohibits the eating of blood with meat.

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