What does Prince Prospero symbolize in "The Masque of the Red Death"?
Prince Prospero symbolizes mankind and its inability to deal with the realities of death. Prospero, like many men, thinks he can avoid death or at least put it off. When the Red Death begins to kill most of the people in Prospero's kingdom, he attempts to use his wealth and possessions to escape the fate of everyman. He calls in his best friends, walls up his castle, and provides food and entertainment that lasts about six months. However, as Poe points out in this allegory, no man can escape death---It will seek you out and find you. This is exactly what happens to Prospero. Just when he is thinking he has escaped the plague, it invades his castle, seeks out his guests and leads Prospero through the seven rooms. According to critic H. H. Bell, Jr., in his article '‘‘The Masque of the Red Death': An Interpretation, the seven rooms are each an ‘‘an allegorical representation of Prince Prospero's life span.’’ Thus, once Prospero, like all men, go through the various stages of their lives, there is only one conclusion--- death. This is exactly what happens to Prospero.
Prince Prospero can also symbolize the superiority that man sometimes thinks he/she has. Prince Prospero thought that by sequestering himself and his guests that he could somehow cheat death. Only the higher social class was invited to his "ball," which represents how Prospero viewed this class as being more important than any others "below" it. Prospero can also symbolize how out of touch the upper class was with the lower classes in society. Perhaps Prospero and his revelers felt they deserved to live and the lower social classes did not simply because they had money and power. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Death affects all.