American Lit, 1800-1915 (2005)

8 Sep 2005

Poe, ''Masque of the Red Death''


I found this piece somewhat disturbing because I had a hard time understanding where Poe was going with the narration. The first thing that came to mind when reading this piece was the bible story about the plague sweeping through the village. I think the laughter which Poe refers to often was like the Red Death, or a plague, overpowering the masquerade. I was perplexed when Poe was talking of all this terror the people were having from the ebony clock and then all of the sudden the next paragraph starts, "But, in spite of all these things, it was a gay and magnificent revel (358)." This was wierd to me because it sounded like the people were having a bad time at the masquerade and then all of the sudden it was a "gay revel"? I thought the seven rooms could have had something to do with the seven deadly sins as well. The gothic colors and designs made me think of an evil setting where something unpleasant was going to occur.

Posted by: Ashley Holtzer at September 6, 2005 1:29 PM

This story bothered me. If i were a subject living under Prince Prospero's rule, I'd be furious at the way he treated his subjects. He only invited the best 1000 people to his ball? Blasphemy. What kind of ruler does he think he is? Apparently he does not care about all the other people in his kingdom, dying from this horrible plague. And, I must say, I was sort of glad to see him die in the end. Karma got the best of ol' Prince Prospero, and man, did he deserve it.

Posted by: Lauren Etling at September 6, 2005 11:10 PM

It was very interesting to me, the kind of words that Poe used in this work to really bring the story to life. For example, when he talks about the deep blood color of the windows and the ebony clock, the use of these words rather than red and black really give the reader a sense of what the rooms really look like. I was also very interested in the meaning behind the clock and how it relates to death. Everyone knows that death is a part of life, however none of the people wanted to accept this fact. This is why when the clock rings the people know that another stage has passed bringing them closer to death. All of the music stops playing and they all listen to the sound because it is more overpowering than anything else. However, when it is done ringing they go back to having fun at the ball and waiting for it to ring again.

Posted by: Stacy at September 6, 2005 11:43 PM

I agree with Lauren, the Prince acted like he was better than everyone else. He thought he could hand pick the people who were worthy enough to be saved.

Posted by: Stacy at September 7, 2005 10:11 AM

I thought Ashley's comment on the seven deadly sins to be interesting because I hadn't even thought of it. I found the different colors of the rooms to represent different feelings. Blue is supposed to represent honesty and I found that ironic because Prospero lacked honesty and on Stacy's comment, he thought he was doing everyone a snide little favor and he ended up getting what he deserved. This also shows a great fear of mortality that many people have.

Posted by: erin at September 7, 2005 12:57 PM

I liked Stacy's take on the ringing of the clock because it can be compared to modern life. Many of us have had brushes with death no matter how small and we are effected by it. Like the people at the party it stops us and makes us think, but we continue on enjoying life. If we let it hold us back, we wouldn't enjoy the life that we have left.

Posted by: erin at September 7, 2005 1:10 PM

Check my weblog for my thoughts on Masque of the Red Death. The address is

Posted by: JasonPugh at September 7, 2005 2:07 PM

Comment on "Young Goodman Brown": I found the story at first confusing because I did't know whether it was a dream or if faith was in some kind of trouble. I loved the fact that Faith was her name yet the whole story dealt with losing faith in religion.

Posted by: erin at September 7, 2005 2:36 PM

The post Erin made about the clock in relationt to the way we live our lives is interesting. Maybe the clock symbolizes ourselves in a near death situation, where we're close but then it swings back into life. We have to keep our lives like a pendulum swinging through the good and bad times.

Posted by: Ashley Holtzer at September 7, 2005 3:11 PM

I also thought it was interesting what Ashley said about the rooms symbolizing the seven deadly sins. I never thought of that as a possibility.

Posted by: Stacy at September 7, 2005 7:04 PM

Yeah, I blogged about this...

Posted by: Vanessa at September 7, 2005 9:05 PM

For Ashley and Lauren, as disturbing as the poem was, it was also true. Death is not always going to be normal. You're going to have some disturbing and chilling aspects of life. I truly believe that both of you are accurate in your opinions, and I respect that you didn't particularly like it. As for me, I found it to be a chillingly remarkable tale. I think the allegorical aspect of Poe is incredible, and I am truly beginning to respect every one of his poems.

Posted by: Jason Pugh at September 7, 2005 10:42 PM

I see where Jason related the seven rooms to the seven deadly sins. I think this is an in-depth way of looking at sin in general throughout the masquerade amongst the people. I wonder which sins would go with which room?

Posted by: Ashley Holtzer at September 7, 2005 10:56 PM

I think the story deals in an interesting way with a basic fear in all of us-the fear of death. No matter what we do to try and escape it, we can't. I'm blocked mentally on what to make of most of this story. I couldn't think what to make of the 7 rooms, but I think the deadly sins is a great idea. However, I don't think Prospero is quite as bad as Lauren and Stacy do. When you take the time period into consideration, a prince isn't going to invite all the commoners to his hideout-it wouldn't even be expected. It would probably be seen as improper. He is going to bring his courtiers and close friends. I'm not saying it's right, just that he was a product of his time. I do, however, think it is interesting that a bunch of people hiding from such a dreadful disease would have a masked ball where they wore such qrotesque costumes. I think the clock was a reminder that even in hiding time continues to pass, and that we all have a finite amount of time. So the chiming of the clock represented that everyone's time is running out if they hide or not, and also, the Red Death descended and killed within a half hour, and every hour that passed was a bit of a miracle in itself.

Posted by: Holly McCloy at September 8, 2005 12:32 AM

Has anyone read anything about Katrina that relates to the message of this story? As rescue workers worry about desease and disposing of corpses, I can't shake this story from my mind.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 9, 2005 6:53 PM

I blogged about this story here... just click my name

Ashley...I found your thought about the seven rooms being the seven deadly sins interesting. There is definatly a significant reason for the number 7. Think about how many things in the Bible deal with the number 7. I also like your idea of the clock symbolizing a near death situation. This could be any time we are in a crisis or questioning our beliefs. We get scared for a while then things get back to normal and we mostly forget about our hard time, say we will never make the mistake again, and then once we give it some time it goes back through the cycle. How do we keep that from happening?

Posted by: michelle koss at September 10, 2005 3:31 PM

hi guys and girls i need to know what the meaning of the romms
red black
and so on


Posted by: algron at November 9, 2005 8:58 AM

To me the seven rooms represents the rising and setting of the sun and also deals with Shakespeares 'the seven stages of man'. I think that the peice was well written and honest. I agree with Holly about the princes behavior. To me the clock symbolizes their live and how it is ticking away and every time it chimes that is one stage gone of thier lives. When they all die the clock goes out and so does the lights symbolizing the end of their lives. The clock also shows that time is always running out.

Posted by: amy at December 4, 2005 7:07 PM

I agree with Amy. The rooms run East to West, and each room could represent the 7 stages of man's life. The spectre passes through each chamber, and finally kills in the Westernmost, blackest, and 7th chamber. 7 is a mystical number in almost every religious and secular origin. The Sabbath is the 7th day, the Aryas and their beliefs, Christian Middle Ages' seven free arts, to name too few...its everywhere.The (again, ebony) clock rests against the Western wall. In this chamber, the walls are also hung with red tapestries which Poe described them as "making them seem to run with blood."
I think the basic story is we can barricade ourselves from pestilence and war, but in the end...Death comes to all.

Posted by: Anonymous at December 18, 2005 1:09 PM

I love poe so of course liked this book it was by far one of his best the description of the red death and the way they set up the characters so convincingly it was a great and more than just a short story you could trully turn this story into a magnificent book!

Posted by: Brittany at February 7, 2006 11:52 AM

You've all got some great ideas about the symbolism in this story. The clock symbolizes everyone's time running out (even though they're hiding from their deaths). Their costumes embody their fear of the Red Death so that they can enjoy themselves, then the Red Death costume portrays and reminds them all of that fear which they're desparately trying to dispell. What I want to know is what do the colors of the rooms symbolize? Do they symbolize the 7 deadly sins? If they do, which room represents which sin? Or do they symbolize the 7 stages of man? The life cycle from birth to death?

Posted by: Katherine at February 19, 2006 3:28 PM

Masque of the Red Death is also one of my favorite Poe pieces though I have not read it in years. When Katrina struck New Orleans, I could begin to see an interesting comparison between Poe's masterpiece and the effects of that horrific storm. I've been considering a comparison piece between this short and the storm. Poe's works can generally be applied to any situation but the symbolism of that storm was dead on with Red Death. I've been thinking about sending that degenerate Nagin a letter telling him to read Masque of the Red Death and to consider himself Prospero...but this is not a political discussion so I digress.

Posted by: Kyle at March 3, 2006 11:34 AM

This was a very confusing story. I like what Allan Poe tried to tell us. No one can escape from the death.

Posted by: christian at November 8, 2006 11:11 PM

The book shows a lot of imagery through color schemes and it also uses the number seven which is used as a "sacred" number. The colors in the story start and end (in order) Blue, Purple, Green, Orange, White, Violet, Black. As seen 7 colors for the seven rooms which start at east and end at the west. Another point is brought here sun rises in the east (life begins) it sets in the west (life ends) the colors show the same as it goes from blue, whose meaning is more akin to that of the beginning life, to white, which represents the middle part of life at its climax, and black, representing the end of life; death itself. The clock in the story symbolises that time is running out for the people and every hour is a time to mourn. In the end of the story it shows that the clock stops ticking and the candles die out which in a way shows the end of the world almost like an apocalypse.

Posted by: Puerto Rico at November 8, 2006 11:16 PM

Do you think that there's any relation between "the Masque of the Red Death and Poe's life? for example the sympthoms of the red death he describes in his story are very similar to "cunsumption" or tuberculosis and Poe lost some family members victims of this disease. what do you think?

Posted by: reyna at November 15, 2006 2:18 PM

I Found this poem some what confusing. I loved it though. Poe had many of his loved ones die from the red death. Turboculiousis. I am not sure how its spells .

Posted by: sarah arteaga at April 6, 2007 9:26 AM

I have done some research into what the colours represent in terms of feelings, the seven deadly sins and the passing of life, and it seems the passing of life seems to be the most feasible. I looked into the colors of the sins and only these ones match up:
1st room: Lust
2nd room:
3rd room: Envy
4th room: Gluttony
5th room:
6th room: Pride
7th room:
I agree with most of the comments about the clock, it represents the passing of time, like the passing of life.

Posted by: Kez at May 15, 2007 6:08 AM

this piece shows that the prince wanting to not die from this red death a bad illness so he trys to save his friends and or family by locking them in the castle but the red death came into the castle anyway symbolizing that his family or friends had the red death without him knowing killing all in the party or as he says it they go to the last room meaning the last part of life

Posted by: noone at June 25, 2007 10:10 PM
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