Why do Prince Prospero and his followers retreat to his palace in "The Masque of the Red Death"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the exposition of "The Masque of the Red Death," the narrator describes the proud prince who is "wise" enough to gather his courtiers around him and seek the security of the abbey fortress that he owns,

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. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within.

Inside this fortress-abbey that is well-provisioned, the guests of the prince participate in a masque and forget the threat of the Red Death temporarily as they dance and participate in revelrie in their traversal of the varied rooms. However, when the clock tolls and the guests stand outside the seventh room, they perceive a window that appears blood-stained. and the "feverish heart of life" that beats in them feels again a threat. For, in this last room there stands one who is costumed as the Red Death. Enraged Prince Prospero approaches him to ask this audacious guest why he has intruded into the company of his guests at the abbey not realizing that it is the plague itself that has found its "ingress," and he has not been wise enough to have prevented this unwanted guest. 

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The Masque of the Red Death

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