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The Masque of the Red Death

by Edgar Allan Poe

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What are the major events in "The Masque of the Red Death"?

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This is a great short story, so I wouldn't let my summary that I am about to give stop you from reading it. Like all of Poe's short fiction, it manages to combine successfully fear and a sense of supernatural wonder with a Gothic setting that creates a brooding, terrifying atmosphere. In this story we are plunged into a medieval world that is plagued by an extremely contagious illness known as "The Read Death." In spite of the way that it is sweeping through the land, Prince Prospero believes he can save himself and his courtiers, and for this purpose, locks himself and his followers away in a castle where nobody can enter or leave. Here he lives a life of luxury, throwing one particular party which is described in this story. At this party, there are seven rooms, each with a different colour, the last room being black. This room is so terrifying because of the colour and the big ebony clock that chimes out the hour that few enter. Prospero notices a guest at this masque ball dressed as the Red Death. So outraged is he that he pursues this uninvited guest to the black room, where the guest reveals himself literally as the Red Death. Prospero falls dead, the disease enters the castle and all die.

Poe is using this story not only to terrify but also to show the vanity of the rich and powerful and their illusions of invulnerability. Prospero learns the hard way that wealth and privilege cannot shield him from death. To fully understand the story though you need to consider how the setting works symbolically, especially the way that the seven rooms are described. Hope you enjoy this excellent tale when you read it!

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What are the key incidents in "The Masque of the Red Death"?

This classic short story by Edgar Allen Poe is not actually that long, so it is well worth reading for yourself so you can gain a better idea of what precisely happens. However, just to get you started, I will outline some of the major events that occur to hopefully support you as you return to this story and read it.

We are introduced to a supposedly medieval setting which has been struck by a plague called the Red Death. In an attempt to escape this terrifying disease, which is noted for the way in which victims expire blood as they die, Prince Prospero and numerous courtiers have ensconsed themselves in a castle with all the luxuries they need, with nobody allowed to enter or exit the place. In this castle they dedicate themselves to luxury and decadence. One night in particular, an elaborate masked ball is held where everyone is dressed in disguises. The setting is quite spectacular, as there are seven rooms running from East to West, each with a different colour. The last room is in black and has a clock that, every hour, chimes. Few people go into this room for it is so terrifying, and when the clock chimes, people stop their merriment for a moment. However, people become aware of a guest who is dressed as a corpse who has been killed by the Red Death. Prospero, so angered by this, pursues the guest through the rooms until, reaching the seventh, black, room, the guest turns and confronts Prospero who dies immediately. The presence of the Red Death is acknowledged, and all of the guests die, one by one. It is not so easy to escape death after all, it appears.

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