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The Masque of the Red Death

by Edgar Allan Poe

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What happens to the party-goers in "The Masque of the Red Death"?

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In "The Masque of the Red Death, the party-goers enjoy themselves for several months of their seclusion while the Red Death rages on. On the night of Prince Prospero's masquerade, the guests dress up and party in the decorated seven-room suite. When the Red Death enters the masquerade at midnight, the party-goers witness Prince Prospero die, and they attack the phantom in the seventh chamber, where they also experience the same fate.

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In Poe's short story "The Masque of the Red Death," Prince Prospero invites a thousand of his aristocratic friends to barricade themselves inside his castellated abbey while a pestilence known as the Red Death wreaks havoc throughout the surrounding countryside. On the fifth or sixth month of their seclusion, Prince Prospero hosts a bizarre masquerade in his imperial suite, where he requires his wealthy guests to wear grotesque, fanciful costumes. Poe describes the party-goers as "dreams" traveling to and fro in the decorated rooms and depicts them as carefree revelers. Despite their pleasant, arrogant attitudes towards death, the masqueraders stop dancing and stand "frozen" every hour when the ominous ebony clock strikes, which reminds them of their mortality.

Once the clock strikes midnight, the personification of the Red Death enters the imperial suite and Prospero's guests are disturbed by the figure's horrifying appearance. When Prospero instructs the party-goers to stop the uninvited guest, they stand in awe and do not approach the spectral image. After Prince Prospero follows the Red Death into the seventh chamber and dies at its feet, the masqueraders summon "the wild courage of despair" and attack the phantom in the black apartment. One by one the revelers drop dead in the seventh apartment when they discover that the phantom's attire is "untenanted by any tangible form." In the end, Prince Prospero and his aristocratic friends could not outsmart or survive the Red Death.

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In "The Masque of the Red Death," what happens to the Prince and the revellers?

Prince Prospero's kingdom had been swept with the Red Death, a terrible disease that struck without warning and killed its victims within thirty minutes:

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

The Red Death left blood upon the bodies of the dead, especially upon their faces. To escape this pestilence, the Prince gathered 1,000 of his friends in his castle and sealed it to the outside world. After being sequestered for five or six months, the Prince held a masquerade ball for his guests. It was during this magnificent masquerade that disaster struck. Prince Prospero and all of his guests died of the Red Death, which had appeared within the castle walls in a supernatural form, dressed as a reveller, but existing in no physical form under his costume. Prospero died first after confronting him; then all of the 1,000 guests died after him:

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revelers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall . . . . And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.

Prince Prospero and his friends thought they had found a way to escape death, but death found them.

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In "The Masque of the Red Death," what happened to Prince Prospero and his guests at the end of the story?

Prince Prospero, and a thousand of his nobles, have sequestered themselves in an abbey, hoping to wait out a plague known as the Red Death, which has ravaged Prospero's kingdom. Prospero and the other survivors take a cavalier attitude toward their selfishness, justifying that the world outside, i.e. the poor, can take care of themselves, and they will enjoy themselves with a variety of diversions until the plague exhausts itself.

The story mainly concerns an extravagant masquerade (costume) ball that Prospero is holding, one of many hedonistic distractions inside their hideaway, and the unwelcome presence of a guest who dares to dress as a personification of the Red Death, as if to mock Prospero's efforts to elude the disease. Prospero is driven to rage by this, and moves to stab the intruder with a dagger, but the masked figure simply turns and looks at Prospero, and Prospero falls dead.

The other partygoers fall upon the figure, intending to kill him, but they find that the costume has no body inside. They then die as well.

The insinuation is that the masked figure was in fact an actual personification of the Red Death, and that the plague itself sought to kill these people as a sort of moral lesson or justice for attempting to evade it.

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What happens to the inhabitants of the city in "The Masque of the Red Death"?

The inhabitants of the city all die of the Red Death plague.

When the Red Death falls upon Prince Prospero’s city, many people die.  The Red Death is dangerous and deadly.  It wipes through the population so quickly that Prospero doesn’t bother to help his people.  He just flees, locking himself and his thousand closest friends in a fortress.

But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, 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.

As you can see, half of the people in the kingdom had died by this time, and the rest were well on their way.  The Red Death killed by liquidating its host.  It was highly contagious and there was no way to escape it.

Prospero and his people thought they were safe inside their castle.  They felt that if they barricaded themselves away and did not let any infected people in, they would not be infected.  This was a plan that did not succeed.  Even though they survived six months this way, the Red Death still found them.

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall.

When Prospero first saw Death, he does not believe it.  He is convinced that the imposter is just playing with them, dressed in a morbid costume.  He tries to fight back, but it’s pointless.  He dies, and so do all of his guests.  They die instantly, unlike the other victims.

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