The Masque of the Red Death Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

The Masque of the Red Death book cover
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Compare "The Masque of the Red Death" and the "seven ages of man" speech fromĀ As You Like It.

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In "The Masque of the Red Death," Prince Prospero invites his most hale and hearty courtiers to his abbey, where he has prepared a massive party. The decor consists of seven rooms, running east to west, each of a different color. The first is blue, with blue wall hangings and blue stained glass windows; the second is purple; the third green; the fourth orange; the fifth white; the sixth violet; and the seventh and final room is blood-red and black. Because the rooms run from east to west, and the sun rises in the east and sets in the west (with a day often symbolic of a human lifespan), and because the final room is associated with death (due to its coloring and the clock within it), the succession of rooms seems to symbolize a life from beginning to end.

In Shakespeare's As You Like It, the character of Jaques gives a speech commonly referred to as "The Seven Ages of Man." He describes the seven stages of a man's life: first comes "the infant" and, second, the "whining schoolboy"; these are followed by the third, the "lover"; fourth, the "soldier"; fifth, the "justice"; sixth, the rather ridiculous old man; and, finally, seventh, "second childishness and mere oblivion." This procession thus ends with a very old man with no teeth, no eyesight, and no ability to taste or, really, do anything at all.

There are seven rooms in the castle, just as there are seven ages of man. Each set of seven seems to end in death, and we can certainly read, symbolically, Prospero's rooms as representative of a whole life, just as the ages represent a life from birth to death.

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