My Poe itch has been itching so I think it’s about time for another story of his.
Of course, again read by Christopher Lee, The Masque of the Red Death tells the story of Prince Prospero. A wealthy prince who tries to shelter himself as well as a thousand other nobles from a deadly disease that is plaguing the land. While the other people suffer and die, Prospero and his guests sit it out in his abbey and enjoy their life.
His abbey, has an interesting design. There are several rooms, all in different colors, blue, purple, green, orange, white, and violet while the last one is painted black where a large ebony clock stands. The clock, which chimes each hour so loudly that the orchestra and guests have to stop doing anything that they are doing. This, and the creepy colors and ambience of the room make it a place that few have visited.
One night, while having a masquerade ball, at the chime of midnight, the group notices a mysterious figure. A dark, bloody person, with a mask resembling a victim of the plague. Infuriated by this unknown figure, Prospero demands to know his identity so that he can be hanged. He runs after him and confronts him in the last room. But once the figure turns to him, Prospero lets out a horrifying shriek and dies.
(Images from Wikipedia)
Angered by this, the rest of the crowd gets enraged and goes after the masked figure, however, once they reach him they see that underneath the robe there is nothing. Upon the reveal, they contract and succumb to the disease which they have been running from for so long.
Yet again, another masterful piece from Poe. I think this one is my second favorite so far, it’s hard to find something that tops the tell-tale heart, also having a lot to dissect.
The main theme in the story is the inevitability of death. It shows that no matter how wealthy you are and what you do or have will not save you from it. Even if Prospero thought that he was safe in an enclosed space where he could control everything, he was only fooling himself and all of his parties and vices were only there to distract him from the inevitable. This can also be seen with the clock. It represents, of course time, and how it flies. Each chime wakes them up from their ignorance and reminds them that their end is coming closer and closer. This is only strengthened by the fact that the clock is in the last room, the black room which also can be associated with death.
This is something that roams in the back of all of our minds. Even though the main characters of the story are all wealthy, the fear of death is not something exclusive only to them. Yes wealthy people always feel like they can beat anything and control everything, meaning that this might scare them more than us regular folk, it’s still one of the most terrifying things to anyone. Which is why this story was so effective. As much as we like to comfort ourselves about it, we still know nothing about it so I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has been kept up at night thinking about it.
At the end of the day, everything that we do too is to take our minds away from the horrors of the unknown, me writing this, you reading it and more. Weather it’s also the fear of death, or even something simpler, we try to run from it but it’s always at the back of our head.
Also, a fun fact, Eros Ramazzotti loosely interpreted this story in one of his songs: https://lyricstranslate.com/en/Lettera-al-futuro-Letter-future.html
There was also a movie made from it staring Vincent Price, but I doubt that I’ll be watching it anytime soon.
Final verdict: 9/10