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

Why does Prince Prospero hide in his palace in "The Masque of the Red Death"?

Expert Answers

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

A clue to the answer to this question can be found at the very start of this short story. The "Red Death", a hideous pestilence that causes bleeding, red stains, pain, and "dissolution" in its victims, has reached the Prince's country and is ravaging the inhabitants away. 

But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious.

Here is the first important clue for your answer. Prince Prospero is someone who is aloof from reality and disengaged from his people. Therefore, he continues with life, as he knows it. In light of the devastation taking place, he decides to call up his friends from court and hide away from the disease in one of his abbeys. 

Prospero thought that the iron gates of the abbey, the provisions, and all of the precautions that he could possibly take were a way to avoid contagion. Moreover, since he was used to a plush and lofty life, he chose to make this a jolly occasion, complete with a masquerade to keep himself and the courtiers entertained. 

The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within.

In high contrast as to what was going on inside of the abbey, things were getting worse in the city. The pestilence had already been around for nearly six months, and was becoming worse than ever. 

Back inside, however, Prince Prospero had lavishly decorated the seven chambers of the abbey, and his eccentric and expensive tastes were evident in all of the sumptuous details that he considered. These included the large ebony clock, the drapes, costumes, and especially, the color of each room.

The lesson learned is that fate cannot be challenged, nor changed. Money and riches cannot be used to control life or death. Prospero used his power to escape from something inescapable. He thought that, by hiding from reality within the walls of a decorated abbey, he could escape it altogether. We know that, in the end, the Red Death comes for Prospero anyways. He will be a victim no matter what he tries to do. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "The Masque of the Red Death," how do Prince Prospero and his friend try to escape? What kind of life do they lead in their separate world?

In The Masque of the Red Death, Prince Prospero gathers one thousand of his friends and flees with them to an abbey—and not just a regular abbey, but one that has battlements and protections against anyone (or anything) that might try to get to them while they are inside. It is also protected by a large wall with iron gates, which the guests weld shut so that they cannot get out, should they suffer from cabin fever. It was also filled with ample supplies; that way they would not have to leave and no one would have to come—thus minimizing their chance at being infected by the disease.

Inside the abbey, the prince had provided his guests entertainment in the form of jesters, comics, dancers, music, and wine. He also threw the masque that is the focus of this story: a masquerade ball of “the most unusual magnificence”. So, while his people were being terrorized by the fatal plague, he and his friends were living a life of blissful luxury, sequestered away from the Red Death.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on