The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe

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Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American writer and a contemporary of Edgar Allan Poe. Hawthorne' s short story collection Twice-Told Tales is considered to share similar elements of Gothic horror with the short stories of Poe. Read at least one of Hawthorne's stories from this collection for comparison with '"The Masque of the Red Death.'' Discuss the similarities and differences.

Discuss Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death'' in terms of how it portrays a societal or group response to illness and plague. What is the attitude of the privileged guests of Prospero's castle toward those outside the castle who are more vulnerable to and afflicted by the Red Death? In what ways can this story function as a parable, or story with a moral, for understanding contemporary societal responses to the disease of AIDS and those infected with HIV?

Poe's ‘‘The Masque of the Red Death’’ is, in some ways, a story about human and societal responses to the inevitability of death. In what ways do Prospero and his guests attempt to deal with, or not deal with, their own impending deaths? Research the psychology of death to learn more about how people in contemporary times attempt to deal with the deaths of others, and with their own mortality.

During Poe's lifetime, tuberculosis was a very common disease, characterized most notably by the symptom of the coughing up of blood. As three of the most important women in Poe's life died of tuberculosis (his mother, stepmother, and wife), one could speculate that the ''Red Death'' in the story was inspired by his own experience of loved ones suffering from tuberculosis. Find out more about the disease of tuberculosis during the nineteenth century and today.

After his death, Poe came to be a strong influence on the French poet Baudelaire and the Russian novelist Theodore Dostoyevski. Examine the work of one of these writers. In what ways is the influence of Poe apparent in their writing?

The Black Plague (also known as the Bubonic Plague) was one of the worst plagues in human history. Learn more about the Black Plague, such as how societies responded to the problems caused by the plague, what "cures" were attempted. What was its historical impact?