Discuss the seven rooms in "The Masque of Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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'But first let me tell of the rooms in which it was held. There were seven—an imperial suite.’

Edgar Allan Poe was a master at description and imagery.  The details of his  stories set him apart from the ordinary writer because Poe’s purpose of horror astounds the reader through his settings, his characters, and the terrifying endings of his stories. “The Masque of the Red Death” exemplifies these details.

 Because of the terrible plague that consumed the majority of the citizens of his kingdom, Prince Prospero has moved into a “castellated abbey.” An abbey normally houses the religious leaders of the community, and of course, the prince is the ruler of the state.  The abbey built like an enormous castle symbolically  houses both the church and state.  The Prince since he was hiding from the plague may have thought that the disease would never dare to enter the house of God.

After several months, he tires of doing nothing ; therefore, the Prince decides to have a masque or masquerade ball.  Those who are invited will wear costumes to hide their identity.  Again, another instance of trying to hide from reality.

The Prince outdoes himself by creating seven rooms that each have a different color scheme. The colors which invade the rooms include from east to west: blue, purple, green, orange, white, violet and last but certainly least black.

The Seven Rooms

There are various interpretations of the meaning of the numbers and colors of the rooms. The analysis that is most often written uses Shakespeare’s idea of the stages of man from the play As You Like It

The seven stages identified with the color of the rooms suggest the life of a man:

Blue, which is the farthest east, represents the beginning of the day or of a man’s life. Blue suggests birth.

Purple=Growth and in the stages of man, a whining school boy with his satchel

Green=Spring and the youth of man

Orange=Fall and the adult years of man

White=Aging, the age of justice and wisdom from the experiences of life

Violet=This is a combination of several of the previous colors which symbolizes the coming end of life and moving toward death.

Black=Death is represented by the room that is the farthest west which indicates the setting of the sun and the dying of the day and man.  To Shakespeare, the last stage of man was oblivion. No one goes into this room probably because symbolically everyone fears death.

In this final room, the coloring sets it apart from the other rooms.  The windows are painted red; and with the torch lighting, anyone in the room looks as though they are covered with blood. 

The Red Death shows up in the Blue Room and traverses through all of the other rooms until he arrives in the last room where he faces off against the Prince. The people also follow Red Death to unmask him and find themselves in the Black room.

Then, summoning the wild courage of despair, a throng of the revelers at once threw themselves into the black apartment, and seizing the mummer…gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave cerements and corpse-like mask untenanted by a tangible form.

The Prince loses his life along with all the other revelers because no one can hide from death.  Death rules over everything.

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