The Characters of Gothic
Mary / Elise
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Mary Shelley)
“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos.”
Mary Godwin is a young woman from a radical family. She has a child with Percy Shelly. She is a writer, rationalist, thinker, and has a complex relationship with the mother that she never met. Even though she professes to be a believer in the concept of free love, she is starting to have doubts about her lover, and may be looking for answers elsewhere, particularly with her servant, Elise.
The player of Mary will then move on to play her maidservant, Elise Duvillard. Where Mary is conflicted about love, Elise is certain about it and driven to do whatever it takes to get what she wants.
John / Susan or Robert
John William Polidori (Dr Polidori)
“His character was dreadfully vicious, for that the possession of irresistible powers of seduction, rendered his licentious habits more dangerous to society.”
Dr Polidori is Byron’s personal physician and one-time lover. He is also being paid by Byron’s publisher to spy on the poet.
He is highly intelligent, and ambitious, but these qualities are offset by a deficiency in self-knowledge and a degree of sensitivity which means his pride is easily hurt. He wants to be accepted by the group as a writer but suspects that they are more interested in him for his supply of laudanum shipped from London.
The player of Dr Polidori will then move on to play either Susan Vaugh or Robert Rushton, both servants. Where Polidori is desperate to be something he is not, Susan/Robert are chameleons, playing the role of perfect servants: anticipating needs before their master even knows they have them and manipulating the world around them.
Claire / Amelia
Clara Mary Jane Clairmont (Claire Clairmont)
“The worshippers of free love not only preyed upon one another but also on themselves, turning their existence into a perfect hell.“
Claire is a young woman from a radical family. Whilst she wants to be a writer or an actress, most of all she wants to outdo her half-sister, Mary. Mary has a relationship with Shelley, so Claire seduces Byron. After he leaves England, Claire engineers the trip to Europe to visit Byron so that she can persuade him to marry. This is pressing as she realises during the journey that she is with child. Whether it is Byron’s or Percy’s though is unclear.
The player of Claire will then move on to play her maidservant, Amelia Shields. Where Claire is besotted by the idea of proving herself a better version of Mary, Amelia is someone who knows exactly how to tear others down, and she does it with pleasure.
Byron / Tita
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron (Byron)
“Mad, bad, and dangerous to know.”
Byron is the most famous poet of the age. There was ‘Byromania,’ akin to a Regency Elvis Mania. His popularity led him to greater excesses, a series of scandalous affairs and ever increasing debt which has finally forced him to flee England and seek refuge in Europe. Even here there is no peace, with English tourists on the opposite banks of the lake renting telescopes to spy on him and his guests.
His preference for sex with partners of all genders is well known, preferring those attachments involving adultery, sadomasochism, and any entertainments where commitment is impossible. He is haunted by his immoral love for his half-sister; the one he may not possess is the one who will always own his heart.
The player of Byron will then move on to play his bodyguard and personal servant “Tita” Giovanni Battista Falcieri. Where Byron is plagued by doubts about his worth, Tita has no fear. He knows exactly what he is good for – and will use it to prove himself a hero.
Percy / William
Percy Bysshe Shelley (Percy)
“A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds.”
Percy is a writer best known for his political and philosophical writing, these are based around non-violent protest, social justice for the lower classes, and vegetarianism. He is also a proponent of “free love.”
Percy professes to love Mary Godwin, just as he once loved her older sister. He has a child with Mary, but is still married to his estranged wife, Harriet. He has also been sleeping with Mary’s half sister, Claire, but now she only has eyes for Byron.
He is also fascinated by the occult. He has a fixation with ghosts, and lives in fear of a “dark ghastly presence ever beside him like his shadow.”
More than anything else he wants to be known as a poet like Byron.
The player of Percy will then move on to play the servant William Fletcher. Where Percy has convinced himself he is doing everything for the benefit of others, William has no such illusions or inhibitions.
Researching the people who were present that night and trying to work out how to render them as larp characters was a challenge for several reasons. Not least because most of them seem to be unrealistic. Surely no larp writer would create personalities as large as these? What is more, to lock them up inside a house during the worst summer in a hundred years seems unnecessarily cruel; and yet that is what we have done.
During the larp you will first play the role of one of the five poets. Then you will play the larp a second time as the servant to the same poet. For these servants — named for the folks who travelled with and served both Byron and the Shelleys — there is far less to go on. We have incorporated what history and personality we can find, and where there is insufficient material we have turned to fiction and to poetry. Just as the poets wrote about servants which were surely a reflection of those they knew in real life, these fictional servants are incorporated into the characters presented here. In the main they are reflections of the poets, to enable you to play the same larp twice but experience it in different ways.
We have cast vile aspersions upon their virtues, but these are woven around threads of truth. Who took whom, were their truly violations and perversions in Byron’s household? He would have liked you to believe so after all.