In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death," what is one unusual aspect of the Prince's set of rooms?
One unusual aspect of the seven-room suite within the main living quarters of Prince Prospero's castle, in addition to the fact that each room was adorned in a different color, was their unique and highly unconventional shape. Poe's narrator in The Masque of the Red Death spends considerable time for so short a story on the details of these seven rooms. Contrasting Prince Prospero's suite with those of other, more conventional arrangements and architectural styles found in most other castles, Poe describes this particular castle as a reflection of its owner's character:
". . .as might have been expected from the duke’s love of the bizarre. The apartments were so irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little more than one at a time."
While six of these rooms are described in rather straightforward manner, although with each room's window panes made of glass the same color as the paint and curtains for each individual room, the narrator emphasizes the distinct nature of the seventh room. It is black, with black adornments. What makes it different from the other rooms, however, is its window panes. They are described as follows:
"The panes here were scarlet—a deep blood color. . . in the western or black chamber the effect of the firelight that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes, was 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."
Adding to the foreboding characteristics of the black room is the presence inside its walls of a "gigantic clock of ebony," the pendulum of which "swung to and from with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang . . ." The chimes, or clanging, of this huge clock are such that, with their every toll, the whole of the castle becomes eerily quiet: Dancing and merriment ceases, faces grow pale and all inside this fortress are rendered mute.
Edgar Allan Poe was a master of the macabre, among the first of his kind. The Masque of the Red Death is about Prince Prospero's efforts at cheating the horrific death that was sweeping across Europe. The plagues and epidemics that ravaged the continent's population during Medieval times, including smallpox and bubonic plague, are represented in Poe's story by the "Red Death," a reference to the former. Prospero has enclosed himself and one-thousand of his friends and assorted sycophants within the walls of his castle, believing himself secure from the disease destroying the world outside. He is a macabre figure, and his castle, especially the seven-room suite, is a manifestation of the prince's character. It, too, is macabre and unconventional.