Describe the prince's fortifications in "The Masque of the Red Death."

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Prospero hid himself away in an abbey with a wall and iron gates.

When Prince Prospero’s kingdom is threatened by a terrible plague in the form of the Red Death, his first thought is not to help his people.  Even though the pestilence kills half of his population, Prospero decides to take one thousand of his friends and hide away in the “deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys” to protect himself and his own.  He is a terrible leader!

The abbey is a thing of beauty.  It is so well designed that no one can get in, and no one can get out.

A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts.

Oh, but don’t worry, it is “amply provisioned.”  They have all of the food and entertainment they need for months in there, and the outside word is on its own.  Prospero left his kingdom dying and leaderless. 

The Red Death is so terrible that it can kill you in a half an hour, and blood drips from your pores.  Prospero wanted to make sure that it could not come in.  Unfortunately, he had an uninvited guest to his party.  Near the end of the “fifth or sixth month,” Red Death invited himself to the masquerade (Prospero was not kind enough to send him an invitation).

Prospero was very angry when he saw him.  He thought it was an intruder in a very inappropriate costume, and he rushed him.

Prince Prospero, maddening with rage and the shame of his own momentary cowardice, rushed hurriedly through the six chambers, while none followed him on account of a deadly terror that had seized upon all.

Prospero dies, and so do all of his partygoers.  Red Death has come to the abbey.

This story is a good demonstration of why you should not try to serve yourself before your constituents if you are a leader.  It is also an example of not trying to cheat Death.  Poe demonstrates allegorically the consequences of greed and gluttony, and a few other Deadly Sins too.  You may think that the guests are innocent, but remember that they agreed to go with Prospero.  They became a party to his delusion, but they were guilty too of greed and gluttony too.

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