In "The Masque of the Red Death," what does the reader learn about Prince Prospero from his desire and his attempt to keep his household free from the disease ?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Prince Prospero's title and his ego match each other in the air of superiority. So superior does Prospero feel he is that he believes that he can stave off Death itself.

When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends...to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbey [where] the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion.

This defiance of the prince is reflective of much haughtiness. For, at the abbey, Propero holds a masquerade of great splendor. Scoffing at the somberness of why they are assembled in the abbey in order to have a "magnificent revel" Prince Prospero has had each of the seven rooms furnished in different colors that have corresponding motifs. Thus, it seems as though dreams stalk from chamber to chamber; these dreams seem to traverse the rooms. This traversal of images and "arabesque figures with unsuited limbs and appointments" distorts the reality of what occurs, until the guests are confused. It is at this point of the blurring of the images between reality and distortion that the Red Death invades the abbey. The threatening picture is shrouded as though from the grave, like death. He is tall and gaunt-appearing, causing Prince Prospero to shudder with terror. Nevertheless, the arrogant prince challenges Death. But Prospero, who represents wealth and money, is no match for Death.

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The Masque of the Red Death

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