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The Masque of the Red Death

by Edgar Allan Poe

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Reasons for Prince Prospero's seclusion in his castle

Summary:

Prince Prospero secluded himself in his castle to escape the Red Death, a deadly plague ravaging his kingdom. By isolating himself and a select group of nobles in a fortified abbey, he hoped to avoid the disease and indulge in continuous revelry, believing that wealth and seclusion could protect them from the inevitable fate outside.

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Why do Prince Prospero and his friends secure themselves in a castle?

In "The Masque of the Red Death," by Edgar Allan Poe, Prince Prospero is established as extremely disconnected, both physically and mentally, from the world around him. As the plague destroys the population around his castle, he remains "happy and dauntless," bringing in a thousand of his closest friends in order to weather the storm of death in mirth and merriment together. He seals off his castle from the outside world, stocking it with ample provisions, and believing it "folly to grieve or to think," as "[t]he external world would take care of itself."

Prospero believes his wealth separates him from the problems of the larger world around him, as this act of seclusion attempts to prove. The prince and his guests remain separated from the world, during which time they do nothing but engage in mirth and pleasure. As a means of celebrating their believed invulnerability, he throws a magnificent ball "toward the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad." It is at this time that the prince and his fellow revelers experience the harsh reality that nobody is safe from the plague. As the clock strikes midnight on the night of the masquerade ball, the Red Death makes its presence known, sweeping through the crowd of revelers and killing all of them, including the prince himself.

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Why do Prince Prospero and his friends secure themselves in a castle?

In "The Masque of Red Death" Prince Prospero and his friends lock themselves in a secured castle to avoid becoming in contact with "The Red Death", which is an epidemic that is killing everyone in town.  The disease is described much like consumption, in that the last stages of it, blood will be everywhere, hence the name of the illness.

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Why does Prince Prospero hide in his palace?

Prince Prospero hides in his "castellated abbey," secluded from the rest of the kingdom because he believes that, by doing so, he can escape death.  The prince suffers from tremendous pride (and an almost total lack of concern for his subjects).  He and a thousand of his most healthy and wealthy friends retire to the abbey, behind tall walls; they bolt the gates and weld them shut.  Their intention is to leave no way in to the abbey and no way out.  They believe, with the prince as their leader, that, in this way, they can keep the Red Death from reaching them and thus prevent their own demises.  

This, however, proves to be impossible.  The fact that the Red Death is able to enter the abbey and take the lives of everyone in it -- despite their precautions -- shows that none of us can escape death, no matter our wealth or resources.  The prince believed that his fortune and status as an owner of such a property would grant him a stay of execution of sorts, but he is wrong.  In the end, this story shows that death comes for all us, no matter who we are.

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Why does Prince Prospero hide in his palace?

If you look at this story from another perspective, such as that it is really a dream that Prince Prospero is having, then he is not hiding in his palace, he is deathly ill and in bed, dying from the red death in his palace.

One way to view the whole party, the masked ball where the red death shows up is as a fantastic dream that Prince Prospero has as he is in the grip of the red death hallucinating with fever.  The rooms symbolize the phases of life, the clock in the last room monitors the final hours, minutes of the Prince, and when finally he confronts the red death, no one survives.

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Why does Prince Prospero hide in his palace?

The prince truly believes he can avoid the Red Death.  He is aloof enough to think that he can invite only his close (rich) friends into his place and outlast the disease.  These qualities are not good qualities of a prince.  He should be out helping his people.  Instead, he thinks that he can escape death and can party with all of his friends.  He does not want any talk of the disease, and he wants everything that goes into his party to be fun, extreme, and inviting.  He wants nothing to do with the ugliness of the Red Death, which is why it comes after him.

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Why does Prince Prospero hide in his palace?

Prince Prospero shuts himself away in his fortresslike abbey to escape the terrible plague that is raging outside. During the fourteenth century, when the story is set, a horrible disease called the Black Death spread like wildfire across Europe. The bubonic plague, as it is also called, killed about 60% of Europe's population. Medical knowledge was pretty basic in those days, so no one had any idea of how the plague had started or what could be done to stop it. As a consequence, about 25 million people died a horrible, lingering death.

The Black Death, like the Red Death that stalks Prospero's princedom, did not respect class status or wealth and counted numerous members of Europe's leading aristocratic families among its victims. Prince Prospero is determined not to be one of them. If anything, the Red Death is even more deadly than its black counterpart. Around half of Prospero's subjects have died as a result of the plague, and he is desperate not to join them. He thinks that by locking himself and his upper-class guests behind the castellated abbey walls he will be safe from the ravages of the Red Death. He also thinks that the Red Death is a great opportunity for everyone to have fun and enjoy themselves; it will take their minds off the misery, death, and suffering outside the abbey walls.

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Why does Prince Prospero hide in his palace?

We can find an answer to this question in Paragraphs 1 and 2 of the story.

Prince Prospero and his followers retreat to the palace in order to hide from the "red death," the highly contagious and lethal illness that's run rampant through the rest of the country.

The prince only brings his healthy, happy friends with him, a great many of them, and they lock themselves into his "castellated abbey" to keep themselves safe from the infected citizens outside, and to amuse themselves with entertainment, food, and wine.

Although they act as if they aren't afraid, they know that outside the walls of this building is a terrible disease that causes copious bleeding, one that will kill you within thirty minutes once it's infected you.

If you're wondering why Prince Prospero is hiding and partying instead of using his vast wealth to help the suffering citizens of his country,  you'll be satisfied to read the rest of the story and see what happens to them inside that supposedly "safe" palace!

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