What's unusual about where the masquerade takes place in "The Masque of the Red Death"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In an effort to fortify himself and his select "hale and light-hearted friends" among his knights and coutiers, Prince Prospero gathers with them in

the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince's own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron.

Inside this virtual fortress, there are seven suites that are unusual because they are not arranged in a traditional "straight vista" with folding walls that permit an unimpeded view of all the rooms.  Instead, there is a labyrinth of rooms, so sharply turned from each other that the guests can only view one at a time.  In the middle of each wall, there is a narrow Gothic window which overlooks the windings of the apartments.  These windows are of a hue that matches the decor of each room.  That is, these rooms are blue, purple, green, orange, white, violet, and black, respectively. The last room, the seventh, is "closely shrouded" with tapestries of black velvet that touch a carpet of black, as well. The window panes are a deep blood color. As with the other rooms, there is no lamp or candelabrum to give light, although opposite the rooms there is a brazier of fire across from each of the Gothic windows.  The light from this fire projects its light through the panes of the windows into the chambers. 

But in the western or black chamber the effect of the fire-light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes, was ghastly in the extreme...

Each room, then, produces ghoulish figures of different colors with the black room creating the effects of a wild look on the faces of its occupants. Also, in this room there is a huge ebony clock, whose pendulum swings with a heavy and "monotonous clang." When the hours strikes, the sound of the clock is so "peculiar" and loud, that the musicians pause, as do the dancers. There is "a brief disconcert of the light-hearted guests.  Some grow pale and others wipe their brows. Then, after the clock stops its sounding of the hour, the guests resume their reveling.

This macabre setting with its arabesque of style and effect of ghoulish terror is certainly chilling, thus creating the environment for the appearance of the terrifying figure of the spectre of the Red Death who dares to penetrate the fortress of Prospero.

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The Masque of the Red Death

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