What is Princer Prospero's character type in The Masque of the Red Death?
For example, if Prince Prospero is a protagonist, or a foil character. And also the internal conflicts he has to face during the short story.
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An allegorical story, “The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allen Poe seems to play on the theme of “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”—a state of mind developed in Europe during the Middle Ages when the Black Plague decimated the population and no one could predict who might be the next to go.
In Poe’s era, the epidemic was tuberculosis—an illness characterized by lesions on the lungs that led to coughing and occasional eruptions of blood from the mouth. “The Red Death” has the same characteristics.
Prospero, a rich and powerful ruler, apparently thinks he can cheat death. Instead of facing the plague with his poor subjects, he abandons them for a castellated abbey. A fortified church is an oxymoron—a sacrilege—but this is the type of building that Prospero moves into. Further, he seals himself and his subjects in with the hope that he is therefore sealing life in and death out.
When the plague is at its worst outside the walls, Prospero decides to give an opulent masked ball. His timing emphasizes his desire to deny and contradict death; it is also the act of a heartless ruler, the equivalent of Marie Antoinette telling the starving peasants to “eat cake” while she and the French aristocracy dine heartily and live extravagantly.
Poe describes the seven rooms given over to the ball, their colors, and their bizarre decoration. The maskers are themselves a mixture of bizarre, beautiful, grotesque, and delirious. Nevertheless “the heart of life” beats feverishly in them and they are able to regain their lost composure every time the large clock strikes and reminds them that time is passing and mortality is inevitable. Still, Poe chooses words that indicate that the plague is among them, even as they revel, for “delirious” and “feverishly” occur in the text even before the mummer wearing the mask of the Red Death appears in the story.
This figure outrages the group, despite the bizarreness of their own costumes. Poe writes, “Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made.” Prospero and company have spent their evening denying death and the plague, despite the reminders of the ebony clock; now they can no longer deny the bloody figure in its shroud because death is embodied, personified. Moreover, the mummer has strolled to the dark, last chamber—the chamber most clearly associated with symbols of death (hence the revelers’ fear of that chamber). Prospero tries to attack the figure, but dies before he can strike a single blow. The rest of the party follow in a bloody rush.
Prospero has been dethroned by death, just as everyone will be. The moral of the story seems to be that death cannot be shut out; it will find you wherever you hide.
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