illustration of a clockface wearing a mask and ticking closer to midnight

The Masque of the Red Death

by Edgar Allan Poe
Start Free Trial

Who does Prince Prospero represent in "The Masque of the Red Death?"

Prince Prospero represents humankind's pride, our arrogant and mistaken belief that we can somehow escape nature and cheat death.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Prince Prospero represents humankind's pride, our arrogant and mistaken belief that we can somehow escape nature and cheat death.  The narrator says that "No pestilence had ever been so fatal [...]," and, yet, the prince believes that he is somehow above everyone else and can render himself (and his friends) immune to this terrible disease.  The Red Death has already claimed half of his kingdom, so "he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys."  He has the money and the ability to hide himself away, and so this makes him believe that he is somehow special, that he can remain immune to the disease.  His party is described as "voluptuous" with everyone in costume and rooms filled with "delirious fancies," "the beautiful," and the "bizarre."  The prince seems to think that he can hide from death by controlling his environment because he overestimates his own importance.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team