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I'm doing a presentation in my prose presentation is next thursday.I've read the story "The Masque Of The Read Death" and I couldn't understand the story.I need a summary for that story, too.Could anyone help me?

-- Anonymous, April 09, 2000



The first printing of this tale was in Grahams Ladys and Gentlemans Magazine on May, 1842 with the title, The Mask of the Red Death. A Fantasy. It was reprinted in June, 1842 in the Literary Souvenir with the same title and again on July 19, 1845 in the Broadway Journal with the title, The Masque of the Red Death

Although not particularly unique in style, it is unlike many of Poes tales in that the story is told, not so much from the narrative or first person, but more from the perspective of an observer or commentator that is recounting a tale. This is important only in that the tale concludes with the death of Prince Prospero and all one thousand revelers. Effectively, there were no survivors, hence, no eyewitnesses to the horrors of the Red Death. In fact, the use of the term I, representative of first person, exists only twice in the tale and in both instances denotes for the reader, simply, that descriptions are as they have been told before. For example,  as I have told.. or In an assembly of phantasms such as I have painted,.

Poe sets the stage in the first paragraph and tells us, not only that the Red Death is horribly lethal, but once contracted, death was but mere moments away and that the victim will die alone, unaided and with little or no mourning,.. of his fellow men. The realm had been overrun by this horrible plague that had destroyed half the population and the embodiment of its evil manifestation lie in the redness and the horror of blood.

At the throne of this rapidly diminishing realm sat ahappy and dauntless and sagacious, Prince Prospero. Determined to survive with subjects to rule, he summoned the most fit and cheerful of his knights and dames of the court, the favored of his kingdom. With a thousand of them, he secluded himself within one of his castellated abbeys. The abbey had been well stocked with provisions for all. Its walls were tall and strong. Its iron gates were welded shut to prevent entry by those on the outside that may panic from despair and desperation and those on the inside that may surrender to the impulse of compassion for those despairing souls condemned to die. Inside the abbey, secure from the Red Death and the contagion that swept the land, the Prince and his favored thousand souls would partake of the beauty and pleasures of life and enjoy the music and the ballet, the clowns and, of course, the wine. While the outside world would be subject to their fate, those inside the abbey had determined there was nothing to be done and to grieve or even think about the horrors that the people were to endure was just so much foolishness. All these pleasures were within the walls. Without was the Red Death.

Poe uses the titled name Prince Prospero to infer cheerfulness and happiness with privileged circumstances and wealth. It suggests that the Prince is untroubled by the plague and is confident of his survival and the survival of his one thousand pampered friends. He is untroubled by the rampant contagion that was the Red Death and manifested by The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, Prince Prospero felt secure and isolated from these horrors behind the formidable walls of his abbey.

It was toward the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence. Here, Poe seems to infer that the Prince felt that the Red Death had depleted his realm but had passed by him and the favored thousand. Confident in his success, he wished to celebrate by hosting a masked ball.

The balance of this story takes place in seven apartments and Poe goes to great detail to describe them. Unlike most palaces where the seven rooms may have been constructed linearly, one at the end of the former, so that by opening all the doors one could view the seventh chamber from the first, Prince Prospero had chosen to have them built so that vision embraced but little more than one at a time. This resulted in a novel effect at each turn of every twenty or thirty yards. The rooms were arranged east to west and each room was uniquely colored. The first apartment was dressed blue, the second in purple, the third was green, the fourth orange, fifth with white, the sixth covered in violet and the final chamber shrouded in black tapestries and carpets. Each had two tall and narrow windows with stained glass that matched the prevailing color of the room. Each window looked out into a corridor where a heavy tripod bearing a brazier of fire, that projected its rays through the tinted glass and so glaringly illumined the room.. There was no source of light within the seven chambers and this was consistent throughout with the single exception of the seventh apartment. Here the window panes were tinted scarlet  a deep blood color. Poe eerily characterizes this final chamber and the effect of light streaming through the windows as  ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all.

It has been suggested that these seven apartments are an allegorical representation of the seven stages of life. Perhaps this is the case, but I would suggest that the arrangement of the rooms from east to west together with the successive colors and the ebony clock that stood upon the western most wall was more representative of the cyclic passing of the day from before twilight to its final demise at the midnight hour. It must be understood here that each successive day that passes cannot be reclaimed and that the passing of each day is inevitable, unalterable, unstoppable time will not be denied there is no escaping the passage of time and an ultimate conclusion or death. Each color is representative of the passing the days partitions from the sparkling blue of approaching twilight, the rich purple of twilight, the bold orange of daybreak, the brilliant white of the day, the somber violet of the days passing and, finally, the blackness of the days demise. And, at the end of this passing day stands the gigantic ebony clock, its pendulum swaying to and fro, inexorably ticking off the seconds of the remaining minutes and tolling the remaining hours for the last one thousand and one masqueraders of the realm.

Poe goes to substantial trouble to describe the sense of dread each time the clock sounds the ending of the hours and the beginning of the next. As the clock strikes and tolls the early hours, the people easily endure the tolling of the clock but cannot resist pausing their merriment until the sound is no longer heard. They look at one another, smile and nervously proceed with their gaiety but dread the coming hour. Upon the next successive hour, just as inexorably as the passing of time, and in conflict with their determination to ignore the tone of the clock, each and every reveler once again pauses as the next hour is sounded. Here Poe is attempting to impart, rather successfully I might add, a sense of apprehension or dread to the reader. He gives no clue to the source of this uneasiness among the revelers other than the inevitable passing of time and the tolling of the ebony clock yet we clearly have a sense of growing anxiety among the people attending the masquerade.

Among the guests, Prince Prospero himself had provided guidance in the selection of costumes and while they did not necessarily meet the required suitability for the fashion of the day, each was suitable to his taste. There was much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust. Each and every one unique, cheerful or added to the gaiety of the party. However, none, not a single one, exceeded or violated the decorum of the festivities. And as the gaiety continued, time moved forward until the clock once again tolled the passing of the hour. Once again, for a moment, the giggling and laughter ceased, the orchestra music quit in mid refrain, and all stood stock still as the ebony clock chimed off the eleventh hour. The eerie and ghastly lighting in the westernmost room together with the somber sounds from the ebony clock had caused the maskers to vacate the seventh apartment and only those most bold would venture inside. The other apartments were now crowded but the sounds and spirits of life were in those rooms. Laughter and singing and dancing was in full force and the crowd whirled on and on until at length there commenced the sounding of midnight upon the clock.

Again and for the final time, the gaiety ceased, the orchestra quit playing and all maskers stood rigid listening to the tolling of midnight. It was during the closing of these long twelve strokes of midnight that many became aware of the presence of a masked figure which had arrested the attention of no single individual before. Whispering rumors began and slowly increased to a murmur among the crowd and expressions of disapproval and finally, . of terror, of horror and of disgust.

Here Poe goes to considerable effort to convey to the reader the disparate appearance of the newly recognized guest from any of the other maskers. His mask approximated the  countenance of a stiffened corpse that upon the closest inspection would reveal no deceit. The mummers garments from head to toe were like those from the grave. But the most appalling violation of the festivitys decorum was the similarity displayed by the mummer to the Red Death. His vesture were sprinkled with blood and his broad brow, with all the features of the face was besprinkled with the scarlet horror.

Clearly shaken by this visage through terror or distaste from the sight of him, Prince Prospero becomes enraged and screams, Who dares who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery? Seize him and unmask him  that we may know whom we have to hang , at sunrise, from the battlements!

None made the attempt to seize him and with deliberate steps he approached within a yard of Prince Prospero. Awed by his presence and unhurried step, the crowd shrank back against the walls of the blue chamber. The visitor then proceeded again with deliberate step to the purple, to the green, into the orange, through this to the white and on into the violet, yet still, no movement had been made to stop him. His timidity under control and his rage increasing, Prince Prospero moved quickly through each successive room and raised a dagger to resolve this insult. Upon entering the seventh chamber and within three or four feet of the retreating figure, the mummer turned and confronted Prince Prospero. The Prince let out a sharp cry and instantly, fell dead, prostrate on the black carpeted floor of the black chamber. From the courage born of despair, a group of the revelers leaped into the blood lit chamber and violently seized the mummer but to their shock, found nothing of substance within the mask or the vesture of the Red Death.

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revelers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay.. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.

Clearly, the theme of the story, in my opinion, is that no one, regardless of status or wealth or power over man can stay the passing of time and the inevitable conclusion of life itself. For us humans, we have simply labeled this final conclusion, death. This is in keeping with Poes view of the ultimate closure, that life begins so that it can end, that there will always be beginnings but that all beginnings will ultimately lead to an ending, a conclusion. death. This is also one of the major reasons I feel that Poe had no particular fear of death. He was confronted with it throughout his life and in some periods of his own despair he longed for it.

Good luck Ali I trust this will help a little. Im sure you will forgive any misspellings or errors. Good story huh!


-- Anonymous, April 10, 2000

I'm writing an essay about Poe's detective stories.I need any information concerning that topic and the development of detective stories.Could anyone help me?I'm running out of time.

-- Anonymous, December 30, 2000

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