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The Masque of the Red Death

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The story follows Prince Prospero's attempts to avoid a dangerous plague known as the Red Death by hiding in his large converted abbey home. He and many other wealthy nobles, hold a masquerade ball using seven rooms in the abbey, each decorated with a different color. The last one is velvet black.

In the midst of their revelry, a mysterious figure disguised as a Red Death victim enters and makes his way through each of the rooms.

The story follows many traditions of Gothic fiction and is often analyzed as an allegory about the inevitability of death, though some critics advise against an allegorical reading. Many different interpretations have been presented, as well as attempts to identify the true nature of the titular disease.

Librarian's note: this entry relates to the story "The Masque of the Red Death." Collections of short stories by the author can be found elsewhere on Goodreads.

9 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 1842

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About the author

Edgar Allan Poe

9,298 books24.5k followers
The name Poe brings to mind images of murderers and madmen, premature burials, and mysterious women who return from the dead. His works have been in print since 1827 and include such literary classics as The Tell-Tale Heart, The Raven, and The Fall of the House of Usher. This versatile writer’s oeuvre includes short stories, poetry, a novel, a textbook, a book of scientific theory, and hundreds of essays and book reviews. He is widely acknowledged as the inventor of the modern detective story and an innovator in the science fiction genre, but he made his living as America’s first great literary critic and theoretician. Poe’s reputation today rests primarily on his tales of terror as well as on his haunting lyric poetry.

Just as the bizarre characters in Poe’s stories have captured the public imagination so too has Poe himself. He is seen as a morbid, mysterious figure lurking in the shadows of moonlit cemeteries or crumbling castles. This is the Poe of legend. But much of what we know about Poe is wrong, the product of a biography written by one of his enemies in an attempt to defame the author’s name.

The real Poe was born to traveling actors in Boston on January 19, 1809. Edgar was the second of three children. His other brother William Henry Leonard Poe would also become a poet before his early death, and Poe’s sister Rosalie Poe would grow up to teach penmanship at a Richmond girls’ school. Within three years of Poe’s birth both of his parents had died, and he was taken in by the wealthy tobacco merchant John Allan and his wife Frances Valentine Allan in Richmond, Virginia while Poe’s siblings went to live with other families. Mr. Allan would rear Poe to be a businessman and a Virginia gentleman, but Poe had dreams of being a writer in emulation of his childhood hero the British poet Lord Byron. Early poetic verses found written in a young Poe’s handwriting on the backs of Allan’s ledger sheets reveal how little interest Poe had in the tobacco business.

For more information, please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_al...

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Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,376 reviews12k followers
May 8, 2017

I’ve always sensed a strong connection to Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, perhaps because I've both played and listen to loads of medieval music, perhaps because I enjoy the art and history and philosophy of that period, or, perhaps because I’ve always been drawn to literature dealing with issues of life and death. Whatever the reason, I love this tale. Here are my reflections on several themes:

The tale’s Red Death sounds like the Black Death of 1349 where a family member could be perfectly healthy in the morning, start feeling sick at noon, spit blood and be in excruciating pain in the evening and be dead by midnight. It was that quick. Living at the time of the Black Death, one Italian chronicler wrote, “They died by the hundreds, both day and night, and all were thrown in ... ditches and covered with earth. And as soon as those ditches were filled, more were dug. And I, Agnolo di Tura ... buried my five children with my own hands ... And so many died that all believed it was the end of the world.”

Let the Red Death take those on the outside. Prince Prospero took steps to make sure his castle would be a sanctuary, a secure refuge where, once bolted inside, amid a carefully constructed world of festival, a thousand choice friends could revel in merriment with jugglers, musicians, dancers and an unlimited supply of wine. And then, “It was toward the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence. It was a voluptuous scene, that masquerade.” Classic Edgar Allan Poe foreshadowing.

The prince constructed seven rooms for his revelers. And there is all that medieval symbolism for the number seven, such as seven gifts of the holy spirit, Seven Seals from the Book of Revelation, seven liberal arts, the seven virtues and, of course, the seven deadly sins (gluttony, lechery, avarice, luxury, wrath, envy, and sloth), which sounds like a catalogue of activities within the castle walls.

Keeping in mind the medieval symbolism for the color black with associations of darkness, evil, the devil, power and secrecy, we read, “But in the western or black chamber the effect of the fire light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes, was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all.” We are told the prince’s plans were bold and fiery and barbaric, but, as we read the tale, we see how even a powerful prince can be outflanked by the fiery and chaotic side of life itself.

This seventh chamber has a huge ebony clanging clock. A reminder for both eye and ear that the prince can supply his revelers and himself with an unlimited supply of wine but there is one thing he doesn’t have the power to provide – an unlimited amount of time.

When the clock clangs twelve times, a tall, gaunt, blood-spotted, corpse-like reveler appears in the black chamber. Poe, master storyteller that he is, pens one of my all-time favorite lines: “Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made.” Not a lot of merriment once the revelers start dropping like blood-covered, despairing flies.

We read how there are some who think the prince mad. After all, what is a Poe tale without the possibility of madness? Additionally, when the revelers attempt to seize the intruder with his grey garments and corpse-like mask, they come away with nothing. If these revelers were minutes from an agonizing plague-induced death, how sharp are their senses, really? To what extent is their experience the play of the mind?

Profile Image for oyshik.
219 reviews690 followers
November 28, 2020
No.......just no........it's not for me......
Profile Image for MischaS_.
785 reviews1,371 followers
March 16, 2020
And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.

I enjoy Edgar Allan Poe so much; however, I still did not manage to get through all of his short stories, but I'll be definitely working on correcting that oversight.

This one was short, straight to the point. It won't go between my favourite Poe's short stories but yet, it was rather chilling.

With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think.
Profile Image for Nayra.Hassan.
1,259 reviews5,614 followers
April 29, 2022
يدرككم الموت ولو كنتم في بروج مشيدة
صدق الله العظيم
كأن ادجار الان بو سمع الآية الكريمة و استوحى منها صفحاته القليلة الصاعقة
قصة ثورية بامتياز

اذا كان من حقك اختيار من سينجو معك من الموت..فماهي معاييرك؟
وهل هذا من حقك؟ا
سؤال شديد الخرج Screenshot-2019-09-19-02-25-18-1

الأمير القوى قرر النجاة بالف من خاصته و حاشيته..و حشدهم في دي�� جبلي🏰 حصين ملىء بالمؤن ..و صهر خلفهم الابواب..ما هي معاييره في الاختيار؟المحسوبية و لا شيء سواها

و بمفراداته القوطية الكئيبة يخبرنا بو "بعد مرور 5اشهر ...كان الطاعون يفتك بالناس في الخارج..عقد الامير النية على إقامة حفلة تنكرية اية في الابهة🎭
و عبر سبعة غرف ..رمزية الطابع ..تبدا الحفلة..حتى يتجرأ صاحب قناع الموت على الظهور
ليفتك بالجميع..و تتوقف دقات الساعة الابانوسية السوداء مع فناء اخرهم
قد تكون عن حتمية الموت
قد تكون نبوءة عن زوال الإقطاع بمساؤه
و قد تكون ببساطة عن الأنانية و لا شيء سواها
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books1,356 followers
February 13, 2018
Fascinating and lurid allegory about a group of people who, on the invitation of "Prince Prospero," lock themselves within a "castellated abbey" to escape the Red Death. The inhabitants of the abbey are provided "all the appliances of pleasure," and boy do they know how to party: "there were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine." It all culminates in a huge masked ball held in several colorful and gaudy chambers: "There was much glare and glitter and piquancy and phantasm.... There was much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust." Then who shows up, of course, but a figure dressed as a Red Death victim: "His vesture was dabbled in blood--and his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was besprinkled with the scarlet horror." Prince Prospero becomes seriously pissed-off at this figure because he's spoiling all the fun, everyone is scared and freaked out, but when he confronts him he sees that there's literally nothing behind the mask, and he drops dead, and soon everyone else does too.

So what is Poe saying here? (I find myself searching for the answer to this question because of the allegorical nature of the work itself.) For one thing, that you can't cheat death, but I think there's something more profound going on, a sort of sociological take on how people ignore the suffering of others at their peril. That we can't really wall ourselves off and party in the face of others' suffering because that suffering will inevitably reach us too. We can't ignore others' pain or pretend it doesn't exist or look the other way.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
August 19, 2019
Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe are playing a round of golf in the Great Hereafter and discussing Poe’s short work The Masque of the Red Death.

Vonnegut: Damn! Hooked it.

Lovecraft: You’ve been pulling it left all day, you raised your head on the swing.

Bradbury: I saw you move your front foot.

Poe: You need to keep your arm straighter.

Vonnegut: OK! Damn it. Ed, what in the hell made you write the Red Death story?

Bradbury: Masque of the Red Death, one of my favorites, this influenced me in so many ways.

Lovecraft: Me too, the idea of a surreptitious plague being intentionally shared with the well to do was too good.

Poe: I think I was struck by the historic discrepancy between the haves and the have nots in material wealth and position and yet death makes no such distinctions.

Bradbury: You smacked the hell out of the ball HP, was that your 3 wood?

Lovecraft: 4 wood, I know! I’m getting at least par, if I don’t choke on the green. Ed, were you making a class distinction?

Poe: Nice shot HP, well yes and no. Certainly the setting of the masquerade party while the rest of the city was suffering and dying was a statement about class differences and especially with the insensitivity of the aristocracy but more than that, I wanted to convey a sense of poetic justice.

Vonnegut: Damn it! I can’t buy a straight shot today!

Bradbury: You raised your head again.

Lovecraft: You jerked your backswing.

Poe: It might help if you would put out the cigarette.

Vonnegut: Thanks [lighting another] and you made a very early observation about airborne pathogens, this was published in the 1840s right?

Poe: 1842, right, but honestly the infection was more of a symbolic rather than a medical set up. Wow! Nice chip HP.

Bradbury: Yeah, wow, you’re shooting for a birdie, right?

Lovecraft: Yeah! So Ed, what about the masquerade party? Was this just a framing device to allow the Red Death carrier to visit the party?

Poe: Well, yes, but also I think I was trying to create a metaphor for the masks that we wear in society, figuratively speaking that would allow these partyers to ignore the misery of their neighbors. And remember, you twentieth century guys are far more removed from true detached aristocracy, back in the day, if you weren’t part of the in crowd, your life or death mattered very little. Whoa! Great putt HP!

Lovecraft: Thanks Ed. Kurt, looks like you’re buying the beer.

Vincent Price [from another hole] FOUR!

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April 4, 2023
“And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in despairing posture of his fall….. And darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.”

Fearful of the red death Prince Prospero closes his doors to the outside world save a few elite friends he decides to entertain with a masquerade ball. At the stroke of midnight a mysterious figure appears shrouded in a blood spattered robe wearing the mask of death. An ominous figure that moves through each of the coloured rooms until the last – the black room, but when confronted the masked figure disappears and only his robe remains. Or was he ever there in the first place?

Review and Comments

Although not explicitly stated, the ‘red death’ may have been inspired by Poe’s own personal experience of tuberculosis and the devastating loss of his mother, brother and step mother all of whom succumbed to the disease which his wife also suffered from at the time Poe wrote this story.

A short story that depicts the inevitability of a death, the clock a reminder that no-one knows the day or the hour, and the elite gathering a warning that no-one can escape death when he comes.

Obviously not a light subject but very well written and because it was a short story it did not last long enough to shroud the mood of the reader with darker themes.

“Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made.” And the masque of the red death is just that thing!!
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews41 followers
May 19, 2022
The Masque of the Red Death = The Mask of the Red Death: A Fantasy, Edgar Allan Poe

The Masque of the Red Death is a short story by American writer Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1842. The story follows Prince Prospero's attempts to avoid a dangerous plague, known as the Red Death, by hiding in his abbey. He, along with many other wealthy nobles, hosts a masquerade ball in seven rooms of the abbey, each decorated with a different color. In the midst of their revelry, a mysterious figure disguised as a Red Death victim enters and makes his way through each of the rooms. Prospero dies after confronting this stranger, whose "costume" proves to contain nothing tangible inside it; the guests also die in turn.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش سال1998میلادی

عنوان: نقاب مرگ سرخ، و هجده قصه دیگر؛ نویسنده: ادگار آلن پو؛ مترجم: کاوه باسمنجی؛ تهران، نشر روزنه کار، سال1376؛ در316ص؛ چاپ دوم سال1387؛ چاپ سوم سال1389؛ چاپ چهارم سال1393؛ موضوع داستانهای کوتاه از نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده19م

فهرست داستانهای کوتاه در کتاب: «دست نوشته دریک بطری دیگر»؛ «برنیس»؛ «میعاد»؛ «قطع نفس»؛ «متسنکر اشتاین»؛ «لیجیا»؛ «چگونه باید یک مطلب بلکوودی نوشت»؛ «یک مخمصه»؛ «قتلهای خیابان مورگ»؛ «هرگز سر کله ات با شیطان شرط مبند»؛ «چاه و آونگ»؛ «قلب سخنگو»؛ «گربه سیاه»؛ «تدفین پیش هنگام»؛ «سقوط خانه آشیر»؛ «نقاب مرگ سرخ»؛ «بشکه آمونتیلادو»؛ «قورباغه ی لنگ»؛ «ویلیام ویلسن»؛ «داستانسرای گوتیک یا شاعر رمانتیک؟ هیچکدام»؛

چکیده ی داستان «نقاب مرگ سرخ»: بیماری مهلکِ واگیرداری، در کشور شیوع یافته ‌است، که مبتلایان به آن، دچار خونریزی‌های شدید، از منافذ بدنشان، بویژه در ناحیه ی صورت شده، و در عرض نیم ساعت، می‌میرند؛ شاهزاده «پراسپرو»ی جوان، بی‌توجه به درد مردم، همراه با هزار نفر از دوستان، نوازندگان، و رقاصان، به درون کاخ خویش پناه برده، و خود را، از دنیای بیرون، تا رفتن شبح مرگ از آن سرزمین، جدا می‌سازد

تمامی امکانات، در اینجا وجود دارد، و شاهزاده، ترتیب یک مهمانی بالماسکه ی باشکوه را می‌دهد؛ نوازندگان می‌نوازند، و رقاصان می‌خرامند، و مهمانان سرخوشند، تا اینکه، بانگ غریب ساعت عظیم آبنوسی، که در انتهای یکی از راهروهای کاخ، قرار دارد، آرامش آنان ‌را، برهم می‌ریزد؛ این قسمت از کاخ، با سلیقه ی شاهزاده «پراسپرو»، ساخته شده ‌است، و معماری عجیبی دارد؛ هفت اتاق، با پنجره‌ هایی رنگی، در انتهای راهروهایی، که ناگهان پیچ می‌خورند، قرار دارد؛ اثاثیه ی شش اتاق، همرنگ پنجره‌ های رنگی بوده، و با عبور نور از شیشه‌ های «آبی»، «ارغوانی»، «سبز»، «نارنجی»، «سفید» و «بنفش»، آنها جلوه ‌ای ویژه، به اتاق‌ها می‌دهن؛ اما رنگ شیشه‌ های پنجره ی هفتمین اتاق، که لوازم، و تزئیناتی سیاهرنگ دارد، به سرخی خون است، و عبور نور از آنها، چنان حالت هولناکی، به اتاق می‌بخشد؛ که کمتر کسی، از مهمانان، جرات گام نهادن، به آن را یافته ‌است؛ ساعت عظیم آبنوس، در این اتاق قرار دارد، که سر هر ساعت، با بانگی غریب، می‌نوازد، و چنان احوال حاضران را، پریشان می‌سازد، که رنگ از رخسارشان پریده، سکوت نموده، و به طنین آن، گوش فرا می‌دهند؛ با پایان یافتن آن، مهمانان لبخندی زده، و می‌گویند، که بار دیگر چنین نخواهند شد، ولی با برخاستن دوباره ی بانگ ساعت، همان دلهره، و سراسیمگی، در وجودشان رخنه می‌کند، و با پایان یافتنش، دوباره به جشن و سرور می‌پردازند

تا اینکه، ساعت دوازده شب رسید، و ساعت عظیم، باید، دوازده ضربه می‌نواخت؛ سراسیمگی، بار دیگر، بر مهمانان چیره شد، و مجبور به سکوت، و گوش سپردن، به بانگ ساعت، که پژواکی دهشتناک داشت، شدند؛ اما ناگهان، همهمه ‌ای برخاست، که ناشی از وحشت، و نفرت بود؛ در میان مهمانان، بیگانه ‌ای ظاهر شده بود، که به جای لباس فاخر، جامه ی گور بر تن، و نقابی، همچون صورت جنازه‌ های خشک شده، بر چهره داشت؛ او حتی، تا آنجا پیش رفته بود، که سرتاپایش را، همچون یکی از قربانیان مرگ سرخ، خون ‌آلود ساخته بود

شاهزاده «پراسپرو»، که از دیدن هیبت جنازه ‌وار او، به لرزه افتاده بود، آن را، توهینی بزرگ، به خود دانست، و با خشم فریاد کشید، تا دستگیرش نموده، و مجازاتش کنند؛ اما هیچ‌کس، جرات نزدیک شدن به او را، نداشت، و شبح، با گام‌هایی پرطمانینه، از کنار شاهزاده، که در اتاق «آبی» ایستاده بود، گذشت، و بی‌آنکه کسی، متوقفش سازد، از اتاق‌های «ارغوانی»، «سبز»، «نارنجی»، و «سفید»، عبور کرد، و به انتهای اتاق «بنفش» رسید؛ شاهزاده، که از گستاخی ناشناس، و بزدلی خود، به شدت خشمگین شده بود، خنجرش را کشید، و به دنبال بیگانه دوید؛ ناگهان، شبح ایستاد، و به سمت شاهزاده برگشت؛ مهمانان، که از ترس، از جایشان تکان نخورده بودند، با شنیدن صدای فریاد شاهزاده، به سوی او دویدند؛ شاهزاده «پراسپرو»ی جوان، بر زمین افتاده، و مرده بود، و ناشناس کفن‌ پوش، بدون اینکه حرکتی کند، در سایه ی ساعت عظیم آبنوس، در اتاق «سیاه» ایستاده بود؛ مهمانان خشمگینانه، به درون اتاق «سیاه»، یورش برده، جامه ی بیگانه را دریده، و نقاب، از صورتش برمی‌گیرند، اما در زیر آن، هیچ چیز نیست؛ آنگاه با ناامیدی در می‌یابند، که او «مرگ سرخ» بوده، که همچون شبحی نقاب‌دار، به میان آنان خزیده بود؛ شب ‌زنده ‌داران، یکی پس از دیگری، بر زمین افتاده و جان می‌سپارند، و با مرگ آخرین مهمان، زندگی ساعت بزرگ آبنوسی نیز، به پایان می‌رسد

آنگاه، تنها چیزی که در قصر باقی ماند، سیاهی بود؛ و تباهی؛ و مرگ سرخ...؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 01/12/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 28/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
September 30, 2019

I don't know how I overlooked "The Masque of the Red Death" when I was going through my Poe phase a while back, but someone's review reminded me of it (Thanks, random Goodreads friend!). So I found a copy of it online here and gave it another read to refresh my memory.

This story is both less and more than I recalled. It's long on setting and mood and short on plot. The plot could probably be described in about two sentences. Let's give it a try:
A deadly plague is ravaging the land, and the unfeeling Prince shuts himself up in his castle with about a thousand of his partying friends.
But the setting - whew! If you like creepy Gothic and grotesque Baroque, you really need to give this a read. The seven rooms, with their different color schemes and the disturbing black and red room at the end, the strange ebony clock, the bizarre masqueraders...

Random thoughts gleaned from surfing the web:

☠ The Red Death plague is not an actual disease, though Poe may have been thinking of the Black Death, or tuberculosis, or cholera, or some amalgamation of these or other actual diseases.

☠ "Masque" could be short for the partiers' masquerade ball, or an alternative spelling of "mask," recalling the mask worn by the Red Death. In the story's initial publication the title was actually spelled "The Mask of the Red Death." But "masque" is also defined as a "short allegorical dramatic entertainment." That's a fascinating description of what the Red Death is doing at the end of the story!

☠ There's an interesting Minecraft image of what the seven rooms may have looked like:

☠ There are also some interesting theories about the seven rooms representing the seven stages of life, with birth (blue) at the beginning and death (red and black) at the end:
Though personally I feel like most of the colors and their order are a bit random for this theory. However, I think the mystical symbolism of the number seven does play into Poe's use of it in this story.

Poe stated that he disliked didactic or preachy stories. But in spite of this dislike, I believe he created an allegorical story here with a strong moral message.

Art credits:
- Still from 1964 film The Masque of the Red Death, starring Vincent Price.
- The Minecraft art is from a YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPyOk...
- I found the seven stages of life pic on http://mohamadshahine.blogspot.com/20..., but I'm not sure who the original artist is.
Profile Image for Ruby Granger.
Author 3 books46.8k followers
January 7, 2021
This is one of my favourite short stories by Edgar Allan Poe. That final spectral image is haunting, and it also raises the ever-important question of the wealth divide.
Profile Image for Steven Medina.
204 reviews935 followers
October 6, 2020

Cuarto cuento que leo de Edgar Allan Poe y cuarto que me parece macabro y espectacular a la vez. Poe tiene la facilidad de perturbar a sus lectores de una manera tan sencilla, que siento que debió dar miedo hablar con este señor en la vida real. Una cosa es leer estas historias en la comodidad de tu hogar y teniendo la certeza de que todas son inventadas, y otra muy diferente es que alguien con las facciones de Poe, según fotos de internet, te cuente estos cuentos paranormales. En el siglo XIX las creencias eran muy distintas, por lo que cada relato debió llevar a sin fin de pesadillas para sus lectores. No sé ustedes, pero si yo hubiera vivido en esa época, su casa habría estado muy lejos de mis lugares para transitar.

Respecto a la historia, a pesar de ser muy corta, es suficiente para dejarnos una gran moraleja sobre la muerte: Por más que obtengamos dinero, millones de bienes o un alto estatus social, nunca podremos huir de esa cita con la muerte a la que todos tenemos que asistir algún día. Nos llegará y será inevitable aplazarla: Morir hace parte de vivir.
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,256 reviews1,133 followers
August 8, 2022
The Masque of the Red Death, written in 1842 by Edgar Allan Poe, is a surprisingly short story, which is generally regarded to be allegorical. In it, Prince Prospero is so terrified of the pestilential "Red Death", that he walls himself and a thousand wealthy nobles up in his castellated abbey, where they have a masquerade ball, moving from room to room. Obviously they are going to come to a sticky end. At the time of writing Poe's wife was suffering from tuberculosis, and there was an epidemic of cholera in Baltimore which he saw, so it is likely that he was very preoccupied with illness and death at the time.

Nevertheless this is a beautifully painted story. The seven-chambered apartment is vividly described, each having its own colour both by furnishings and illuminated by coloured light through the windows. A sense of foreboding is created as the final room is black, with blood-red light. There is much festivity as the guests move through the chambers, until The author has used one of his favourite settings, a castle; the large clock clanging every hour increases the mounting tension; all these are classic Poe.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,118 reviews44.8k followers
February 22, 2016
Death waits for no man. Time can’t stop the inevitable; it can only delay it. This tale, perhaps, embodies the idea that death is an unavoidable end for all; it is one that we all must embrace because it simply cannot be escaped. Time will run out for everyone eventually.

And now was acknowledged the presence of Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in his despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.


In this story Poe is not blatant. He is obscure, subtle and a little bit profound. There are several layers of meaning in here, which can each produce a new interpretation. Indeed, in order to escape the approaching “Red Death” Prince Prospero decides to hide in a series of abbeys. They shield out the approaching darkness, and to accompany him he takes one thousand knights and gentlemen; he only takes the so called best of what society has to offer. Together they wait out the blight that infests their land. They party and they frolic; they relax and they become complacent. Well, until a mysterious entity turns up and murders them all.

It’s shapeless and spectral; it wears a red party mask and almost blends in with the gathered sycophants. This really got me thinking. What exactly is this “red death?” The ending is suggestive of a bloody death for all those gathered, but the beginning speaks a different tale. It is suggestive of a blunting of emotion and a separation from the infected fellow man. It speaks of an incoming petulance. Either way the fate remains the same for all. No man, whether he is high or low born, can escape death. Poe’s allegory hints that those who attempt to avoid the inevitable will, ultimately, be punished. That would explain why the party guests receive the most gruesome of endings. They received a real blood “red death” rather than a common passing.

Profile Image for Meike.
1,585 reviews2,810 followers
October 31, 2021
Imagine there is a mysterious illnes ravaging the country and a rich leader decides to deny reality by partying with his croonies in a well-protected mansion - no, Poe did not somehow foresee the sad tale of Prince Stupido in the White House, but it's unsettling how timely his "Masque of the Red Death" currently is. In the classic short story, Prince Prospero (he's like, prosperous, get it?) witnesses half of his population wasting away due to a plague that leads to profuse bleeding and death within 30 minutes after contraction, and because that's kinda distressing, he summons 1000 of his noble buddies and hides in an abbey. But of course, there is no contemplation: "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. Without was the Red Death." After 5 or 6 months, they throw a party feat. Venetian masks and all in the seven colorfully designed rooms - and guess who's coming to join the extravaganza? Yep, the Red Death.

It's possible to read this as a morality tale about the inevitability of death, the great equalizer, but that would be atypical for Poe - it would be a mistake to see it solely as that. Poe always writes about the functions of the human mind, and it's interesting how he investigates our longing for escapism. Seven rooms, time approaching seven months - seven deadly sins, and while Prospero and his buddies indulge in some of them, they are also victims of the human condition as such, a.k.a. the original sin. And then there is the maze-like architecture of the abbey, where windows are described like eyes (hello, The Fall of the House of Usher), and the final black room is decorated like a coffin and contains an ebony clock counting our earthly time. The house, it also reflects the intricate structure and colorful moods and emotions of the human mind.

So what's the condition that's killing people off, who is the Red Death? The masks immediately make you think of the plague doctor, but the guests of the masquerade are just imposters trying to heal by denying the condition. Considering the fact that Poe's mother, foster mother and brother died of tuberculosis and his wife/cousin Virgina was suffering from it while he wrote the story, this might be what he had in mind. The illness could also refer to cholera, as the author witnessed a cholera epidemic in Baltimore. In a non literal sense, it could simply stand for sin, or the cruelty of random destiny that you can't escape.

Do I really have to point out that everybody needs to read Poe, because he was a damn genius? His stories show the potential of gothic horror as high literature.
Profile Image for Steven Serpens.
47 reviews31 followers
August 19, 2023
El intrépido y decidido príncipe Próspero se encargó de aislar completamente a su reino y a sus principales y predilectos séquitos, a modo de cuarentena, en un lugar seguro e ideado para afrontar una particular situación durante todo el tiempo que sea necesario. Esto, con la intención de esperar a que pase una tan terrible y mortífera peste que azotaba a las zonas y regiones adyacentes. Lo que no esperaban, era que habría un invitado de honor no deseado en este reclusorio sanitario perteneciente a la realeza.

Se me hace que este es un relato que en cierta medida abusa de las descripciones, además de que ocupan mucho espacio en su lectura. La historia es bastante buena e interesante, pero no es atrapante del todo. La culpa es en parte por lo ya mencionado. Aunque sea un relato bien corto, no logra crear una atmósfera que sea inmersiva, ya que se hace algo tedioso por momentos. Nadie quiere que te describan siete salones de baile de forma consecutiva y sin parar, en lugar de avanzar la trama. A pesar de eso, es una lectura disfrutable, sobre todo para quienes no les moleste o incomode la carga descriptiva. En mi caso, también pude disfrutar de esta obra.
Como curiosidad, puedo decir que mientras la leía, me imaginaba a los dominios de este reino muy similares a los de Boletaria, del videojuego Demon’s Souls.

Sin lugar a dudas, el punto cúlmine de esta historia es cuando se realiza la mascarada, ; cosa que causa una increíble conmoción en el lugar y será visto como una broma de mal gusto: ‘’En el corazón de los más atrevidos hay cuerdas que no pueden tocarse sin causar emoción. Aún, entre el más depravado, para quien la vida y la muerte son solo un juego, hay cosas con las que no se puede jugar’’.
Lo curioso, es que no se trataba de ningún invitado: .

Por otra parte, hay varias cosas a destacar: el contexto de la historia es una clara moraleja, y por más recursos y precauciones que se tomen, es inevitable escapar de la muerte si ese es tu destino. Tarde o temprano te alcanzará. Ese es el principal e irrevocable mensaje que esta obra se encarga de transmitir, de forma clara y evidente.
Asimismo, puede que aquí haya algo de crítica social implícita por el autor, ya que solamente 1.000 personas fueron selectas para pasar esta cuarentena dentro del reino, y había una irrefutable indiferencia con los de afuera. Muy probablemente eran vistos como ciudadanos de segunda clase o marginados por quienes se encontraban adentro. Puede que esto exprese o represente una división de clases y estatus sociales de forma intencional por parte de Poe.
Personalmente, voy a ir mucho más allá, ya que siento que La máscara de la muerte roja perfectamente podría ser una especie de alegoría al comunismo y sus consecuencias: el color rojo representaría algo más que solo los efectos secundarios de la peste en este relato.

Ahora, la calificación que le doy a esta obra es de ★★★☆☆. Cuento muy interesante y original en su temática, pero lamentablemente, su narrativa decae con las partes descriptivas y eso hace que no pueda fluir adecuadamente. Sin embargo, como título, vale la pena por la historia que presenta y también por su desenlace.

Quiero terminar esta reseña compartiendo que tengo una lista de reproducción bastante interesante, con música de larga duración que uso para mis lecturas. Era la oportunidad perfecta para leer a este relato con esto de fondo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6Xa3.... Quizás en una posible relectura que no descarto; y para El fantasma de la ópera, de Gastón Leroux.
Espero que quienes lleguen a esta reseña sin todavía haber leído a La máscara de la muerte roja, se animen a leer la presente obra escuchando lo que les proporcioné a modo de anécdota en el enlace que está más arriba, para que tengan la experiencia que lamentablemente yo no tuve en una primera instancia.

Para no perder el hilo con las demás reseñas de Narraciones extraordinarias:

• Precedida de La verdad en el caso del señor Valdemar: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
• Seguida por El demonio de la perversidad: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Moha Dem.
165 reviews62 followers
August 23, 2021
Even if this is a short story, Edgar Allan Poe knew how to make a piece of art out of it ... when he was like describing scenes, I felt like am already in front of that castle he was talking about ... I should read it in french too i guess
Profile Image for فايز غازي Fayez Ghazi .
Author 2 books3,894 followers
April 12, 2023
- إحدى افضل القصص القصيرة التي قرأتها يوماً. قصة غارقة في الرمزية ينسجها اذغار بكل سلاسة وسهولة.

-القصة بظاهرها تتحدث عن أمير اراد الهرب من الطاعون فلجأ الى احد الأديرة (او الحصون) مع حاشيته الخاصة ومهرجيه، تاركاً رعيته لتواجه مصيرها المحتوم. القصة تتحول الى تراجيدية واقعية في النهاية حيث لا يمكن لأحد ان يهرب من الموت!

- بصفحات قليلة يبدع ادغار في الوصف والسرد والكنايات، فإذا كان الأمير عبارة عن الأثرياء الذين يظنون انهم محميين بأموالهم فالموت لا يعترف بالطبقات والأموال. الغرف السبع التي وصفها تحتمل عدة معاني: ترتيبها من الشرق الى الغرب كناية عن اليوم الواحد من طلوع الشمس لمغربها، كناية ايضاً عن مراحل الإنسان العمرية من الولادة حتى الموت (خصوصاً مع تواجد الساعة في الغرفة الأخيرة) والرقم "7" بما يعنيه في معظم الثقافات او غالبيتها على انه رقم التمام (ما تم عن سبع فقد انتهى).. رمزيات مذهلة ومكثفة في عدد صفحات لا يذكر.

- قصة قصيرة ونمطية لكن رمزياتها المكثفة جعلتها قطعة فريدة من نوعها.
Profile Image for Mizuki.
2,998 reviews1,208 followers
February 16, 2021
The timeless lesson taught to us through Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Masque of the Red Death' is: don't do any partying when there is a fucking virus outbreak going on!

Stay safe everyone, the crisis isn't over yet!
Profile Image for Mohammed  Ali.
475 reviews1,148 followers
May 18, 2017

الساعة العملاقة تدق .. تك .. تك .. تك .. من هذا الشخص ؟ .. لماذا لا نستطيع الإقتراب منه ؟ .. ما هذه الرائحة ؟ .. هل للموت رائحة ؟ .. يإلهي لماذا توقفت الموسيقى ؟ .. انزعوا عنه القناع .. القناع .. إنه شخص ميت .. لا .. لا .. إنّه الموت الأحمر بعينه !!!

رائعة جدا .. مخيفة .. رعب حقيقي لا يولد ولا يتوالد إ��اّ في مخيلة مجنون عبقري مثل إدجار ألان بو. لن أتحدّث عن هذه القصة و أحداثها لأنها قصيرة و لن تأخذ الكثير من وقتكم :)
Profile Image for CC.
95 reviews85 followers
June 11, 2023
By far my favorite Poe story to date. The gothic setting was beautiful and atmospheric, the plot twist dramatic and full of cinematic effect (if that could be a thing at all in the 1800s). The ending felt slightly flat for me, but overall a creepily cool story that finally proved I'm not entirely incompatible with Poe's style.
Profile Image for Quirkyreader.
1,536 reviews43 followers
July 17, 2017
This was a re-read of one of my favourite Poe stories. And I loved it like usual.
July 27, 2022
La Máscara de la Muerte Roja es, sin duda alguna, de mis cuentos favoritos de Poe. Lo leí por primera vez hace unos 8 años y quedé fascinada por la historia del Príncipe Próspero, por su soberbia, su excentricidad y, sobre todo, por el invitado inesperado que se escabulle en su castillo.

Quizá uno de los mejores elementos de este relato es lo palpable que se vuelve todo lo que va describiendo Poe: las siete estancias de diferentes colores, la luz de las antorchas, los bailarines enmascarados, los músicos y las campanadas del reloj de ébano. La atmósfera de opresión, inseguridad y terror que va construyendo Poe a lo largo del relato es algo que nunca se olvida. Incluso cuando has acabado el cuento y ves el desastre en el que se ha convertido una velada de un baile de máscaras, sigues queriendo estar allí, recorriendo esos pasillos y llegando a la habitación negra.

Si nunca han leído a Poe, este es un gran cuento para comenzar. ¡Muy recomendado!
Profile Image for Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*.
2,473 reviews1,079 followers
March 29, 2015
In one of my Literature textbooks, this is the story the book chose to best set the example of how important setting can be to a story.

Poe's incredible talent in setting mood through the most miniscule of details is powerful as he establishes dread, irony, and a hefty infusion of Gothic feel by detailing the colors of a series of rooms and what they represent to the audience and characters. The symbolism of the clock is musical and alluring; the ominous clang and the dancers reactions, with its dong indicating the time, further spells out a foreboding mood and tone.

Even the pattern the rooms are walked through speaks volumes. The first room as light blue can symbolize brightness and innocence, skies and springs and births and new beginnings. Each of the seven rooms has a window, all with the color matching the interior of their walls, the exception being the final, seventh room: black.

Poe has stated that stories are best enjoyed if they can be read in one sitting. The Masque of the Red Death is indeed short, only a few pages long, and so it should speak volumes that Poe chose this short space to go into detail about the rooms. He goes into the most detail about the black, final room as its significance - death, the ultimate end, the irony - is the most important element of the story. It is also in this room that the clock beckons and waits.

Without getting into details about any of the characters, Poe concentrates on setting and the most important and only qualities about the prince that the audience needs to know - his fear of the Red Plague and death, his ultimate arrogance in the face of death, believing he can seal it off and defeat it by abiding within his castle walls.

The party-goers feel the same, reassured by the self-imposed power the prince claims, dancing around at midnight behind their masks, stopping only when the clock chimes its ominous call, feeling a small hesitation but quickly ignoring it again as they resume merry dancing and happily embracing false securities. Death as the ultimate, inevitable force erupts onto the party. The prince then proceeds from room to room in a circular order, indicating from life to different stages of color, to the inevitable black which is the end room, from which there is no escape.

Poe was an original type of writer who aspired to make a solid career as a literary critic. Confident in his writing ability and seeking to inject freshness into words by developing the world's first detective story and gothic pieces which whispered doses of irony, he isn't the type to resort to already used phrases or cliches. Because of this, I find high relevance in the ending paragraph, where he writes:

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night.

Instantly I recognized "come like a thief in the night" as the biblical words spoken by Jesus when referring to the apocalypse. It would come without warning and begin the reign of death, as He comes "like a thief in the night."

A powerful tale about the finality of an ending which can't be avoided, Poe is to be admired for capturing such a significant range of emotions using creative settings in a short span of pages.
Profile Image for Arezu Wishka.
266 reviews232 followers
February 13, 2023
این داستان رو با ترجمه من می تونید اینجا بخونید:
بعد از چند سال دوباره روی سایتم گذاشتمش
برای درک این داستان باید معنی رنگ ها رو بدونید و اینکه منظور ادگار آلن پو از ورود مرگ سرخ به جایی که کاملا مهر و موم شده بود اینه که کنترل کردن یه توهمه و خیلی چیزها در کنترل ما نیست. وقتی مفهوم چیزی که داستان داره به تصویر می کشه رو آدم درک می کنه، داستان به دل آدم بیشتر می شینه اما خب من ترجیح می دادم یه گفتگوی پر عمق تری هم توی داستان جا می گرفت تا این قدر ریتم عادی داستان های وحشت رو نداشته باشه اما این حقیقت هم با این قضیه توجیه می شه که ادگار آلن پو خودش شروع کننده ی یه سبک بوده و در واقع این باقی داستان ها هستن که شبیه داستان های ادگار آلن پو شدن نه ادگار آلن پو شبیه اونا.
Profile Image for Monica.
Author 4 books272 followers
August 2, 2019
Mi narración favorita por siempre del autor.
Todo es increíble, las descripciones de los personajes, de lo que es la mascarada en sí, las habitaciones, sus significados.
La muerte roja tiene esos matices y esa forma tan especial de envolverte en ella, hasta que no puedes dejar de imaginar cómo luce todo, casi como si estuvieras ahí.
Todo es majestuoso en esa mansión, es como si por el simple hecho de que estar entre sus paredes dotara todo de un aura misteriosa, donde incluso lo mágico podría ser posible.
Pero nadie puede escapar a la muerte, ni a su destino.
Profile Image for Aishu Rehman.
846 reviews772 followers
May 27, 2019
This is a typical type Poe short story in terms of its dark, gloomy, gothic atmosphere and also its obscurity since the story requires deep-analysis and interpretation. However, it is different from others due to its didactic message: Death is inevitable, no matter what you do and no matter who you are, you cannot escape it just like the Prince Prospero - an allusion to the Tempest.
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