Aptly named, Prince Prospero is prosperous, or wealthy. He is a "bold and robust" man whose wealth, strength, and power lead to his self-deception that he is powerful enough to defy the Red Death. While Poe further describes Prospero as "dauntless and sagacious," his fearlessness and wisdom are, nevertheless, no match for the darkness and decay that the Red Death issues, an evil that holds "illimitable dominion over all."
When the "happy" Prospero learns that half of his kingdom has been decimated by the plaque, he summons to his "castellated abbeys" all the friends he has among the aristocracy of his kingdom, knights and ladies of the court. There, behind ramparts that have been bolted, the guests and the prince seek sanctuary from the Red Death, and joyously hold a masked ball in a voluptuous scene. However, Prospero, who has disregarded the requirements of good taste by creating rooms of dark and unusual colors, has given vent to the grotesque and phantasmagoric, perhaps in defiance of the Red Death. Into this atmosphere a "spectral image" appears, and the prince at first shudders, but then being dauntless, "his brow reddened with rage." Outraged that this spectre should dare to enter his fortress in what he believes is a "blasphemous mockery" of the Red Death, Prospero orders the impostor unmasked so that he can later be hanged. When the courtiers hear this order of their prince, they hasten to see what is the cause, but they stop in horror as the spectre advances through each of the colored rooms. Angered at his momentary cowardice, Prince Prospero comes at this masked intruder with a dagger. Suddenly, however, he cries out and drops the dagger; and, immediately after this, he falls in death, a victim to the invincible Red Death.