What is the exposition of "The Masque of the Red Death"?Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The exposition of "The Masque of the Red Death," of course, introduces the setting, the characters, and the basic situation as well as providing some background information: a plague, called "the red death" has "long devastated the country." It is hideous, fatal, and causes those around it much horror and fear of contracting it. However, the wealthy Prince Prospero, with his allegorical name, fears it not, for he feels that his prosperity will provide a fortress against this death of pain and red stains. Summoning together a thousand "light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court," they sequester themselves in the seculsion of one of his castellated abbeys, which were often used as fortresses.

Together with ample provisions, they decide to fortify themselves against this plague; they resolve to not despair or become hysterical so that they will neither open nor close any entry through which the red death can enter the abbey. Poe writes,

All these and security were within. Without was the "Red Death."

This sentence sets up the complication of the narrative with its suspense, and from this point the rising action takes place.

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The exposition is contained in the first paragraph of the story. We are given background information concerning the terrible disease that is sweeping through the country. The Red Death is named for the profuse bleeding that it causes among its victims; they bleed from everywhere—even their pores—and so they are literally covered with blood. It must be a horrible sight: in fact, the narrator says that it is so terrible that it actually prevents others from behaving sympathetically toward the infected. While we might normally behave with sympathy toward a person who is ill, those with the Red Plague appear to be so frightening that it prevents others from doing so. Further, in addition to the horror it causes as a result of the bleeding it entails, the whole course of the disease runs its progress through its victim in the course of just a half an hour. It not only horrible, then, but incredibly fast. The information about Prince Prospero, which begins the next paragraph, initiates the rising action of the story.

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The Masque of the Red Death

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