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Topic: Poe Discussion 2, October 17- The Masque of the Red Death

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Subject: Poe Discussion 2, October 17- The Masque of the Red Death
Date Posted: 10/2/2009 11:45 AM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,931
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Our second Poe story is The Masque of the Red Death

Date Posted: 10/17/2009 3:11 PM ET
Member Since: 2/21/2008
Posts: 1,899
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Okay, I guess I will start the discussion.  The last time I read The Masque of the Red Death was about 5 years ago when I stepped in for antother teacher who was sick and had to go home.  Needless to say, I had to go back and read it again.  The visualization was wonderful; the colors of the room, the lights behind the windows to make them shine was stimulating.  However, the black and red room did bother me for other reasons.  If the room is entirely in black, it will absorb all color, so any light coming fro the red window wouold be absorbed in the walls, therefore the only light would be the window itself.  If the clocfk was ebony, how could one see it and not walk into it?  No light would have been anywhere else in the room.  I don't know, maybe I am over thinking it. 

Also, the name of the Prince made me think of Shakespeare.  In the play The Tempest, the lead character is also names Prospero.  I had to reflect and wonder if Poe was making any Shakespearean references in this story.  What do you think?

Date Posted: 10/17/2009 10:48 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,931
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This was the first time in a long while that I'd re-read this story and somehow I forgot how great the visualization was, as Diana said.  When I read it in high school I seem to remember discussing it as an allegory.  Looking at it that way all I was really able to get was that Poe was trying to illustrate the inevitability of death- that no matter how hard you try to ignore it or buy it off. 

I also noticed the Tempest reference, the only similarity I can think of is that they both shut themselves off from the outside world- in Shakespeare Prospero was exiled to an island- but that's all I've got so far.

And again, the way Poe basically invented the psycho-killer in stories like The Black Cat & the Tell-Tale Heart, with Red Death he's way ahead of his time in creating apocalyptic horror. 

So some questions to ponder- why is the story called "The Masque of the Red Death"?

What do the colored rooms, the palace, the disease, the costumed ball, etc. symbolize?

Would the story have ended differently if Prospero and the courtiers hadn't isolated themselves from the country?

Poe so often uses narrators & main characters who are insane- do you think Prince Prospero is a madman?

Date Posted: 10/18/2009 4:08 PM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
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This has always been one of my least favorite Poe stories.  Looking back, I think that I had to read this in high school.  I liked the story much better this time and I really think that is because this time I took time to notice all the descriptions and detail.  Knowing me, in high school, I was reading for plot (which, to a teenager, there was a very lame one). 

I just checked out some ideas on the symbolism of the differently-colored rooms.  The ideas range from the rooms, which run east and west, representing the stages of life (blue for the beginning of life through black for death) to the rooms representing the seven deadly sins.  Of course, everyone avoided the black/red room as we try to avoid death. 

In The Tempest  there is a comment about the red plague.  One idea of Prince Prospero's name, besides being from The Tempest, is that of being from the word prosperous.

I still think that this is my least favorite Poe story (but I have yet to read them all).

Rick B. (bup) - ,
Date Posted: 10/19/2009 10:34 AM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2007
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>>And again, the way Poe basically invented the psycho-killer in stories like The Black Cat & the Tell-Tale Heart, with Red Death he's way ahead of his time in creating apocalyptic horror

Yeah, it would do me well to remind myself how unlike anything that came before Poe was (nice phrasing, huh?). I get down on Poe - he's too short - endings are abrupt, the story has one little twist and it's supposed to be all great. I gotta remember he wrote, in the early 1840's, a psychotic-psychedelic dream sequence of a death scene.

So, hats off to Poe.

Date Posted: 10/19/2009 10:50 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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 Looking at it that way all I was really able to get was that Poe was trying to illustrate the inevitability of death- that no matter how hard you try to ignore it or buy it off. 

That was my impression as well.

 

Vivian – I liked what you found on the colors of the rooms. Of course, everyone was trying to avoid black (death)!

 

I had to look up Poe’s reference to “Hernani”. Here is what I found:

 

Remember that Poe is using "Hernani" to explain the opulence of the Prince's party--full of masquerade, decoration, phantasm, etc. In other words, big and garish, full of effect.

"Hernani" was a play from 1830 by Victor Hugo, the French writer who later wrote "Les Miserables". It was basically a huge romantic play involving the Spanish royal court of the 1500s, a bunch of noblemen, a beautiful woman who they're all in love with--and the bandit Hernani. Anyway, plot description isn't the point: Hugo wrote it as a big showy piece of theatre, which people either loved or hated--and it was full of the kind of theatrical effects that Poe could suggest to his readers (who would have at least heard of the play) just by mentioning the title.

 

Poe so often uses narrators & main characters who are insane- do you think Prince Prospero is a madman?

Prospero seemed eccentric to me (not mad)  . . . and a guy who tried and failed to cheat death :-)

 

 

I am really enjoying reading Poe again after many years.