In the kingdom of Prince Prospero, a disease, the Red Death, viciously and gruesomely kills all who contract it. As it runs its course throughout his kingdom, Prospero decides to escape its grasp by inviting all the nobles to his castle and welding the doors shut, so they can all wait out the plague in his lavishly decorated castle. “The Masque of the Red Death” is a dark and eerie tale about a prince who arrogantly thinks he can cheat death, using his wealth and power to shield himself and the nobles of his kingdom. At its heart is the universal theme that no one can escape death.
The Mask of the Red Death Summary | The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe
Prospero is introduced in the time of the Red Death, a ravenous plague that is devastating his kingdom.
Prospero believes that he and the nobles of his kingdom can escape death. Therefore, Prospero invites all wealthy, unaffected people in his domain to his castle for a grand masquerade ball.
Guests are bewildered and amused by the grandiose rooms that Prospero has created. Each room, beginning from the east, is marked by a different color. The last room, black with red windows, is so disturbing that no one enters. A mysterious ebony clock within the room chimes every hour, halting the exaltations of the party.
As the party goes on and the clock is about to strike midnight, an enigmatic guest appears dressed as a plague victim.
Deeply disturbed by the guest's poor judgment, Prospero engages with the visitor. However, as he reaches the figure, he falls to his death.
As other guests try to subdue the intruder, they find that there is no one under the costume and they also die. In the end, the Red Death infiltrates the castle despite Prospero’s efforts to escape it.