What was The Red Death in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death"?

Expert Answers
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Masque of the Red Death" is a Gothic short story by Edgar Allan Poe, a master writer in the Gothic style. The story takes place in an unnamed place and time, though we know it is a land which has princes, castles, and royal subjects.

A plague has struck the land. It is similar to the Black Death which ravaged Europe during the Middle Ages, but in this land it is called the Red Death. Victims are overcome with 

sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. 

Those who are struck with the Red Death bleed from their pores, particularly those in their faces, which is undoubtedly how this plague got that name. There seem to be only two options for those who want to avoid the Red Death (or any other plague): run away from it or isolate oneself from it. Neither option is foolproof. 

In an effort to keep himself from contracting the plague, Prince Prospero locks himself and a hundred of his loyal followers into his castle, presuming he can outwit the traveling, deadly disease. Unfortunately for the prince and his guests, his presumption is wrong and the Red Death makes an appearance, after many months, at the prince's masquerade ball (masque). 

Read the study guide:
The Masque of the Red Death

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question