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Theme Of Inevitable Death In The Masque Of The Red Death

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Written by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Masque of the Red Death” takes place in a monastery where Prince Prospero and one thousand of his subordinates attempt to survive the red death. The red death is an illness that has killed half of the country’s population and can kill in half an hour of contracting it. Prospero addresses this crisis by locking himself inside his castle’s monastery with an abundance of food, friends, and entertainment leaving many to die. Plenty of readers see this as a selfish and unjustifiable act but is that really the case? The story ends with the red death taking the lives of everyone inside the castle and claiming victory over the life Prospero tried so hard to hold onto (Milne 234). This bizarre story begs the question, how did Prince Prospero justify his actions and is that justification considerable? Prospero’s justification can be found by looking at the fact that the red death is out of his control. He attempts to escape death with those closest to him in order to fight the red death in the only way he’s able to.

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While the red death ravages his country Prospero’s hedonistic way of thinking comes to the forefront. “The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. 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” (Poe, 1). Even when faced with death all Prospero can care to think about is pleasure and having a good time. This overcompensation in pursuing pleasure could be him trying to pretend that he isn’t afraid of the red death. Prospero may also believe he is comforting his people by not allowing anything to bring him down.

Works Cited

  1. Poe, Edgar Allan. 'The Masque of the Red Death.' Tales and Sketches, by Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Thomas Ollive Mabbott, vol. 1: 1831-1842, University of Illinois Press, 1978, p. 667. Gale Literature: LitFinder, Accessed 5 Mar. 2020.
  2. 'The Masque of the Red Death.' Short Stories for Students, edited by Ira Mark Milne, vol. 8, Gale, 2000, pp. 232-260. Gale eBooks, Accessed 5 Mar. 2020.
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Theme Of Inevitable Death In The Masque Of The Red Death. (2021, September 22). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
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