The Masque of the Red Death Summary

The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe

     This story by Edgar Allan Poe, typical of his horror genre, may frighten readers more than usual as it is based on more real events than his other stories. The story begins by explaining that the red death was a disease that plagued the country. People would start experiencing sharp pains and dizziness; then they would bleed from their pores, especially on their faces, which led to their demise within an hour of these symptoms.

     Prince Prospero, though half his subjects had died, decided to have a party with a thousand of his rich friends at a secluded location. He hired dancers, musicians, and had plenty of provisions for an entertaining evening. For this masquerade, he had each room decorated in a different color, including staining the glass of the windows. The seventh, or last, room in the procession was decorated in black; however, the windows were stained red. They cast such a lurid glow that people were afraid to enter. That room also contained a gigantic black clock that played such loud chimes at the top of each hour that it forced the musicians to pause and the partygoers to feel a slight distress each time it tolled. Some people found the Prince's tastes to border on insane, but most of his friends greatly enjoyed the festivities although they still would not venture inside the last room.

     When the guests paused to listen to the clock chime twelve times to indicate midnight, they also noticed a masked man whom they had not seen before. This man was dressed as a corpse with a pale face, which may have been endured by the guests, had he not spotted his face and clothes with dots of blood, indicating he had died from the red death. The Prince saw him and was appalled. He wanted to unmask him immediately and find out who would mock this disease that had killed so many people in their land. From the blue room, the Prince's words carried throughout all seven of the rooms so that everyone could clearly hear him. Despite the Prince's orders, no one reached for the man who began walking through one chamber after the other. Finally, the Prince overcame his own cowardice and rushed toward the mask figure with a knife just as the figure reached the seventh room. Then Prince Prospero screamed, dropped the knife, and fell dead on the ground. A group of people tried to retaliate against the masked man, but found that they could not attack what seemed to have no earthly form. Quickly, each of the revelers dropped dead, not having realized that the red death had joined their party like an uninvited guest who left no one alive and even stopped the large ebony clock.

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