A Summary of “The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe

The Masque of the Red Death is an excellent allegorical tale that narrates the story of a mysterious and abominable disease that decimates the population of an imaginary land. The symptoms of this terrible epidemic include sharp pains, dizziness, heavy bleeding, and red stains on the bodies and the faces of the victims. This plague […]



The Masque of the Red Death is an excellent allegorical tale that narrates the story of a mysterious and abominable disease that decimates the population of an imaginary land. The symptoms of this terrible epidemic include sharp pains, dizziness, heavy bleeding, and red stains on the bodies and the faces of the victims. This plague kills within thirty minutes and consequently the red stain on a man provokes him to be shunned by the people. The “happy, “dauntless” ruler of the land, Prince Prospero, with a thousand of his healthy noble friends conceal in a “castellated abbey”. This place is provisioned with enough food while he holds parties leaving his subjects to suffer from the affliction.

After five or six months, Prospero chooses to have a grand masked ball in the seven rooms of an imperial suite running from east to west. Instead of a long hall, the prince possesses chambers that are arranged by sharp turns and tall stained glass windows on each side that dominate the surrounding corridor. Each room is of different color with the first blue, the second purple, the third green, the fourth orange, the fifth white, and the sixth violet. As for the seventh room, it is entirely in black velvet but the windows are of a deep blood red color. The guests stay away from the seventh room as the lights shining through the window from the corridors create a ghastly effect. In this room there is also a giant ebony clock, whose pendulum swings ominously and the hourly ringing was so disquieting that made everyone stop with fear until the chimes tone down when everyone nervously resumes their actions.

On the day of the party the masqueraders’ costumes are wild and grotesque and the party is like a “multitude of dreams” despite the prevailing disruption of the entertainment by the ebony clock. The party is in full swing when at midnight the clock strikes twelve eerie strokes and everybody stops as usual and suddenly there appears a figure dressed like a corpse including a terribly convincing mask with the characteristic red stain. He is dressed as the Red Death! This unexpected and terrifying intrusion unnerves Prince Prospero who orders his guards to capture and unmask the “spectral image”.

None of the guests or even Prospero have the audacity to seize the visitor and the Red Death slowly glides right by the prince who is in the blue room and passes from one room to another aiming towards the black room. However enraged and ashamed of his own cowardice Prospero rushes through the rooms until he reaches the edge of the last room when he confronts the masquerader and drops down dead. The startled guests fall on the unmoving figure only to find in dismay that there is nothing underneath the mask and the costume. The Red Death “like a thief in the night” strikes them as one by one they succumb to death and as the last partygoer dies, the ebony clock ceases to work, “and Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all”.

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