Learning check

1. Vocabulary

Translate the words below into English.

No study aids.






overlagt (mord)


terrorisere, skræmme




overlagt, velovervejet














at begå en forbrydelse




forfølge, plage








skille ad, partere








Learning check

2. Agree/disagree statements

Answer the following questions individually. A = agree, D = disagree.


No study aids.





The Tell-Tale Heart is told as a dialogue.



The Tell-Tale Heart is a story of crime and detection.



The Tell-Tale Heart is a story of crime and confession.



The narrator is mad.



The focus of the story is on the murder.



The focus of the story is on the psychology of the murderer.



The murder was not premeditated.



The murderer’s act is rational.



The murderer’s motive is clear.



The beating of the heart is a supernatural event.



The beating of the heart is within the narrator who can’t stand the psychological pressure.




Learning check

3. Written assignment: translation

Translate the following text into English.

No study aids.


Blandt Poe’s berømte fortællinger finder man blandt andet ”The Black Cat” og ”The Tell-Tale Heart”, der begge præges af en ildevarslende og uhyggelig stemning, hvor mord bliver begået og hvor morderen tror, at skarpsindighed, snuhed og diverse forholdsregler kan hindre retfærdigheden i at sejre. I ”The Tell-Tale Heart” insisterer fortælleren på, at han ikke er sindssyg, men at hans sanser er skærpede, ikke sløvede, og at netop det, at han har handlet forsigtigt, er bevis på, at han er ved sine fulde fem.


Wider contexts

1. Human nature: perverseness in Poe

Read this excerpt from E.A. Poe’s short story “The Black Cat”:


 “And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of PERVERSENESS. Of this spirit philosophy takes no account. Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives, than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart – one of the indivisible primary faculties, or sentiments, which give direction to the character of Man. Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best judgment, to violate that which is Law, merely because we understand it to be such?”


irrevocable uigenkaldelig

overthrow fald

take no account of ikke regne med, ikke beskæftige sig med

indivisible primary faculties elementære og grundliggende egenskaber

vile ussel

perpetual uophørlig

inclination tilbøjelighed

in the teeth of stik imod

violate overtræde


What does the narrator understand by perverseness? Discuss the narrator’s attitude to human nature. Does this add to your understanding of “The Tell-Tale Heart”?


Wider contexts

2. Literary Context: other media: YouTube versions.

Watch one of the versions of “The Tell-Tale Heart” on YouTube. Does it live up to your expectations after having read the short story?


Wider contexts

3. Literary context: Todorov and the marvellous, the fantastic and the uncanny

In his book The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre (1975), the French critic Tzvetan Todorov introduces three main categories of fantastic fiction:


a) The Marvellous exemplified by folktales with accepted magic ‘fairytale’ settings

b) The Fantastic where both the characters and the readers must decide if what happened was supernatural, an illusion or something real which could be explained rationally

c) The Uncanny where the event, however weird and eerie, can be explained (more or less convincingly) within ‘the laws of reality’. 


Discuss which category “The Tell-Tale Heart” belongs to? Does this add to your understanding of the short story?


Wider contexts

4. Psychological and literary context: our fascination with horror (quote by Stephen King)

Many people seem to be fascinated by horror and psychopathic murderers. In this excerpt from his book Danse Macabre which is a non-fiction book about horror, King gives examples of horror. Read the excerpt and answer the questions below.


"If there is any truth or worth to the danse macabre, it is simply that novels, movies, TV and radio

programs – even the comic books – dealing with horror always do their work on two levels.

On top is the "gross-out" level – when Regan vomits in the priest's face or masturbates with a crucifix in The Exorcist, or when the rawlooking, terribly inside-out monster in John Frankenheimer's Prophecy crunches off the helicopter pilot's head like a Tootsie-Pop. The gross-out can be done with varying degrees of artistic finesse, but it's always there.

But on another, more potent level, the work of horror really is a dance – a moving, rhythmic search. And what it's looking for is the place where you, the viewer or the reader, live at your most primitive level. […] a room which may sometimes resemble the secret den of a Victorian gentleman, sometimes the torture chamber of the Spanish Inquisition … but perhaps most frequently and most successfully, the simple and brutally plain hole of a Stone Age cave-dweller.


The good horror tale will dance its way to the center of your life and find the secret door to the room you believed no one but you knew of."



gross-out ulækkert, chokerende

crunch off knase

Tootsie-Pop hard candy lollipops

finesse elegance

potent virkningsfuld

fit out udstyre

den hule

Spanish inquisition organisation appointed by the Roman Catholic Church to suppress people opposed to its ideas. They used torture

cave hule

predate gå forud for

phobic (her) angstskabende


a)      What examples of horror does he give?

b)      How does he explain that the work of horror is a dance?

c)      How is the room imagery used?

d)     How does Stephen King explain our fascination with horror?

e)      What do you think causes this fascination? Discuss.


Wider contexts

5. Psychological and literary context: attitudes to evil and free will (quote by Stephen King).

Discuss the attitude to evil and free will expressed in the excerpt below from Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, which is a non-fiction book about horror. Does it add to your understanding of the narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart”?

"The stories of horror which are psychological – those which explore the terrain of the human

heart – almost always revolve around the freewill concept; ‘inside evil’, if you will, the sort we

have no right laying off on God the Father. This is Victor Frankenstein creating a living being

out of spare parts to satisfy his own hubris, and then compounding his sin by refusing to take

the responsibility for what he has done. It is Dr. Henry Jekyll, who creates Mr. Hyde essentially

out of Victorian hypocrisy – he wants to be able to carouse and party-down without anyone,

even the lowliest Whitechapel drab, knowing that he is anything but saintly Dr. Jekyll whose

feet are “ever treading the upward path”. Perhaps the best tale of inside evil ever written is

Poe's “The Tell-Tale Heart”, where murder is committed out of pure evil, with no mitigating

circumstances whatever to tincture the brew. Poe suggests we will call his narrator mad

because we must always believe that such perfect, motiveless evil is mad, for the sake of our

own sanity"



hubris overmod

compound øge, forstørre

carouse svire, drikke

Whitechapel poor district in London

drab skøge

tincture farve


Wider contexts

6. Written assignment: comparison with Poe’s short story “The Black Cat”

Write an essay where you compare E.A. Poe’s short story “The Black Cat” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”. Focus on the narrators and atmosphere.


Wider contexts

7. Literary context: other text by a different author: comparison with Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.




  1. Write the introduction about the author Robert Louis Stevenson. You should include information about main events in his life, health, career, major works and what is characteristic of his literary activities. Use about 150 words.


Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) …


  1. Arrange the adjectives on a scale:


good             virtuous             noble             honourable             decent             distinguished


least                                                                                                most



bad             villainous             evil             wicked             naughty             vicious             infamous

damnable             corrupt             degenerate             cruel


least                                                                                                most


  1. Place the antonyms below correctly in the grid. Look up the words you do not know.


vicious             evil             righteous             infamous             hostile             admirable




























a) Describe the appearance of a truly ugly and scary male person. Include information about his complexion, his hair and face, his height and build and general appearance.  


You may find some of the following words useful:

pale             dwarfish             bald             receding hair             crew-cut             obese


plump             stout             wavy hair             chubby face             wrinkled              slim


muscular             fair             dark             stocky             scruffy             untidy-looking


anorexic             unattractive             freckled             thin-faced             deformed             scarred


greasy hair             smelly             hairy


b) Compare your description with Stevenson’s description of Mr. Hyde. The first excerpt is a gentleman’s description of Mr. Hyde. The second one is when Dr. Jekyll has taken the mixture and sees himself for the first time in the appearance of Mr. Hyde. Why do you think Stevenson has chosen to be so vague in his description?


First excerpt:

"He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something down-right detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn't specify the point. He's an extraordinary looking man, and yet I really can name nothing out of the way. No, sir; I can make no hand of it; I can't describe him. And it's not want of memory; for I declare I can see him this moment."


Second excerpt:

"The evil side of my nature, to which I had now transferred the stamping efficacy, was less robust and less developed than the good which I had just deposed. Again, in the course of my life, which had been, after all, nine tenths a life of effort, virtue and control, it had been much less exercised and much less exhausted. And hence, as I think, it came about that Edward Hyde was so much smaller, slighter and younger than Henry Jekyll. Even as good shone upon the countenance of the one, evil was written broadly and plainly on the face of the other. Evil besides (which I must still believe to be the lethal side of man) had left on that body an imprint of deformity and decay." (excerpt from chapter 10)


transfer the stamping efficacy         (her) overføre evnen til at præge legemet

depose    afsætte, fjerne

hence      derfor

countenance                ansigtsudtryk

imprint   præg, mærke




c) Find pictures of Mr. Hyde on the internet. How well do they fit your description and how well Stevenson’s description? Choose your favourite picture. Present it in class and explain why you chose it.



  1. Discuss how a person can be both good and evil. Can you think of an example of a person who is solely good or purely evil?


  1. Find information on the internet about Freud’s model of the mind. Make a drawing and list the most important features of the three components. You may find the following link useful: http://wilderdom.com/personality/L8-4StructureMindIdEgoSuperego.html




Through experiments in his laboratory the honourable and respectable Dr. Jekyll has discovered a chemical mixture which can transform him into the evil Mr. Hyde who commits monstrous crimes, even murder. Little by little Mr. Hyde becomes the dominant persona and Dr. Jekyll loses the ability to control the transformations. In the end just before he commits suicide to avoid the gallows, Dr. Jekyll explains his fascination of the duality of man’s nature and the consequences of his experiments.


Chapter  4

The Carew Murder Case

   "Nearly a year later, in the month of October, 18, London was startled by a crime of singular ferocity and rendered all the more notable by the high position of the victim. The details were few and startling. A maid servant living alone in a house not far from the river, had gone upstairs to bed about eleven. Although a fog rolled over the city in the small hours, the early part of the night was cloudless, and the lane, which the maid's window overlooked, was brilliantly lit by the full moon. It seems she was romantically given, for she sat down upon her box, which stood immediately under the window, and fell into a dream of musing. Never (she used to say, with streaming tears, when she narrated that experience), never had she felt more at peace with all men or thought more kindly of the world. And as she so sat she became aware of an aged beautiful gentleman with white hair, drawing near along the lane; and advancing to meet him, another and very small gentleman, to whom at first she paid less attention. When they had come within speech (which was just under the maid's eyes) the older man bowed and accosted the other with a very pretty manner of politeness. It did not seem as if the subject of his address were of great importance; indeed, from his pointing, it some times appeared as if he were only inquiring his way; but the moon shone on his face as he spoke, and the girl was pleased to watch it, it seemed to breathe such an innocent and old-world kindness of disposition, yet with something high too, as of a well-founded self-content. Presently her eye wandered to the other, and she was surprised to recognise in him a certain Mr. Hyde, who had once visited her master and for whom she had conceived a dislike. He had in his hand a heavy cane, with which he was trifling; but he answered never a word, and seemed to listen with an ill-contained impatience. And then all of a sudden he broke out in a great flame of anger, stamping with his foot, brandishing the cane, and carrying on (as the maid described it) like a madman. The old gentleman took a step back, with the air of one very much surprised and a trifle hurt; and at that Mr. Hyde broke out of all bounds and clubbed him to the earth. And next moment, with ape-like fury, he was trampling his victim under foot and hailing down a storm of blows, under which the bones were audibly shattered and the body jumped upon the roadway. At the horror of these sights and sounds, the maid fainted.  

It was two o'clock when she came to herself and called for the police. The murderer was gone long ago; but there lay his victim in the middle of the lane, incredibly mangled. The stick with which the deed had been done, although it was of some rare and very tough and heavy wood, had broken in the middle under the stress of this insensate cruelty; and one splintered half had rolled in the neighbouring gutter -- the other, without doubt, had been carried away by the murderer. A purse and gold watch were found upon the victim: but no cards or papers, except a sealed and stamped envelope, which he had been probably carrying to the post, and which bore the name and address of Mr. Utterson.

This was brought to the lawyer the next morning, before he was out of bed; and he had no sooner seen it and been told the circumstances, than he shot out a solemn lip. "I shall say nothing till I have seen the body," said he; "this may be very serious. Have the kindness to wait while I dress." And with the same grave countenance he hurried through his breakfast and drove to the police station, whither the body had been carried. As soon as he came into the cell, he nodded.

“Yes,” said he, “I recognise him. I am sorry to say that this is Sir Danvers Carew.”

“Good God, sir,” exclaimed the officer, “is it possible?” And the next moment his eye lighted up with professional ambition. “This will make a deal of noise,” he said. “And perhaps you can help us to the man.” And he briefly narrated what the maid had seen, and showed the broken stick.

Mr. Utterson had already quailed at the name of Hyde; but when the stick was laid before him, he could doubt no longer; broken and battered as it was, he recognized it for one that he had himself presented many years before to Henry Jekyll.

“Is this Mr. Hyde a person of small stature?” he inquired.

“Particularly small and particularly wicked-looking, is what the maid calls him,” said the officer.

Mr. Utterson reflected; and then, raising his head, “If you will come with me in my cab,” he said, “I think I can take you to his house.”

It was by this time about nine in the morning, and the first fog of the season. A great chocolate-coloured pall lowered over heaven, but the wind was continually charging and routing these embattled vapours; so that as the cab crawled from street to street, Mr. Utterson beheld a marvelous number of degrees and hues of twilight; for here it would be dark like the back-end of evening; and there would be a glow of a rich, lurid brown, like the light of some strange conflagration; and here, for a moment, the fog would be quite broken up, and a haggard shaft of daylight would glance in between the swirling wreaths. The dismal quarter of Soho seen under these changing glimpses, with its muddy ways, and slatternly passengers, and its lamps, which had never been extinguished or had been kindled afresh to combat this mournful reinvasion of darkness, seemed, in the lawyer's eyes, like a district of some city in a nightmare. The thoughts of his mind, besides, were of the gloomiest dye; and when he glanced at the companion of his drive, he was conscious of some touch of that terror of the law and the law's officers, which may at times assail the most honest.

As the cab drew up before the address indicated, the fog lifted a little and showed him a dingy street, a gin palace, a low French eating house, a shop for the retail of penny numbers and twopenny salads, many ragged children huddled in the doorways, and many women of many different nationalities passing out, key in hand, to have a morning glass; and the next moment the fog settled down again upon that part, as brown as umber, and cut him off from his blackguardly surroundings. This was the home of Henry Jekyll's favourite; of a man who was heir to a quarter of a million sterling."





 mørkt tæppe (af røg)








 rode op i




 (her) omsuste



vapour [’veipə]



 smal vej


 se, betragte




 farve, nuance


 antaste, tiltale




 spørge om




 natur, gemyt











trifle with

 lege med




 (her) som han næsten ikke kunne beherske






 trist, dyster

carry on

 (her) opføre sig, tage på vej

slatternly (adj)




kindle afresh

 tænde påny

break out of all bounds

 (her) gå helt amok




 slå (her) med stokken


 mørk, dyster






 lade det hagle med




 hørligt, tydeligt




 splintre, knuse

a gin palace





 (her) tarveligt


 blind, ufølsom

a shop for the retail of penny numbers

 en butik hvor der blev solgt lotterisedler til en penny



ragged [’rægid]



 alvorlig, højtidelig


 krybe sammen



a morning glass

 en morgensjus



settle down

 slå sig ned


 vige forfærdet tilbage


 umbra, the darkest part of a shadow created by   any light source


 slå i stykker

blackguardly (adj)

 sjofel, gemen











Comprehension and analysis


1. What was it about the crime that particularly startled the population in London?


2. In pairs: one of you is the policeman who questions the maid about what she has seen. The other one is the maid who answers the questions. Together write the policeman’s report. Keep it as neutral as possible. Use about 50 words.


3. Look at the description of the elderly gentleman. List the positive words used to describe him and his behaviour. What does the author want to achieve?


4. How is Mr. Hyde described? Do we get information about his appearance? Why/why not? What are we told about his behaviour?


5. How is the victim identified?


6. How does the officer react when he finds out who the victim is?


Overall questions


1. In groups. Take turns reading the lines from “It was by this time …” to “… blackguardly surroundings.” Each student reads to a full stop or a semicolon, then the next one takes over. Try to create as ominous an atmosphere as possible.

Identify details which have to do with colour and light and discuss the effect.

What kind of area is this?



a) What is the significance of the description of Mr. Hyde?

b) Comment on the name “Hyde”.



a) Read the description of Dr Jekyll’s rooms below and try to judge from it what he is like. In pairs take turns choosing one of the adjectives in the grid below and decide whether you can use it to characterize Dr. Jekyll.

b) How do the rooms represent the duality of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

In the whole extent of the house, which but for the old woman remained otherwise empty, Mr. Hyde had only used a couple of rooms; but these were furnished with luxury and good taste. A closet was filled with wine; the plate was of silver, the napery elegant; a good picture hung upon the walls, a gift (as Utterson supposed) from Henry Jekyll, who was much of a connoisseur; and the carpets were of many plies and agreeable in colour. At this moment, however, the rooms bore every mark of having been recently and hurriedly ransacked; clothes lay about the floor, with their pockets inside out; lock-fast drawers stood open; and on the hearth there lay a pile of grey ashes, as though many papers had been burned.


but for          bortset fra

plate              (her) service

napery          dækketøj

connoisseur  kender

ply                 tråd

ransack        gennemsøge, gennemrode

lock-fast       aflåselig

hearth           kamin





















4. What effect does the setting have on the theme of evil?

5. Some of the main issues in the novel are


  • identity and man’s dual nature
  • the possibilities in science
  • the restrictions of science
  • the responsibility of scientists
  • violence
  • freedom
  • the power of evil
  • a criticism of the noble façade of Victorian England


Which of these do you see represented in the excerpt?



Learning check

1. Decide whether the following statements are true (T) or false (F).

No study aids.





The crime committed on October 18 was particularly ferocious.



There were many details about the crime.



The night of the murder of Sir Carew was particularly foggy.



Sir Carew was an aged, polite and well-mannered man.



Mr Hyde killed the old gentleman with a single blow to the head.



The cane had broken in the middle even though it was made of tough and heavy wood.



Mr. Hyde attacked the old gentleman to rob him of his valuables.



Mr. Hyde is described as small and wicked-looking.



The area Mr. Utterson and the officer go to is dismal, gloomy and dingy.



2. Write four lines about Stevenson and his life.


Wider contexts


1. Historical context

The Victorian period stretched from the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1837 until her death in 1901. It was a period of prosperity and progress. Victorians were preoccupied with and impressed by science and development and felt that science and technology could improve society. Also Victorian morality was based on values that supported sexual restraint, low tolerance of crime and strict rules of social conduct. Find more information about the period in which the text was written i.e. the political, moral, social and cultural aspects of Victorian England in the late 19th century. You may find the following link useful: http://www.english.uwosh.edu/roth/VictorianEngland.htm


Does this knowledge enhance our understanding of Robert Louis Stevenson’s text? Discuss.



2. Psychological context

Use Freud’s model of the mind to interpret the text (see pre-reading task 6). What does this way of interpreting the text add to our understanding of it?


3. Literary context

Find information about The Gothic novel (see Toolbox). To what extent would you call Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde a Gothic tale?


4. Literary context

Compare the idea of evil expressed in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the idea of evil presented in one or more of the texts you have read in the chapter Evil.