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The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan…
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The Masque of the Red Death (1842)

by Edgar Allan Poe

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People have been peeling the skin off of this onion for decades. Still a great story. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |


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 REALITY
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.”

THE DENIAL
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 NUMBER SEVEN
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.

THE SEVENTH ROOM - THE BLACK CHAMBER
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.

THE CLOCK
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.

THE UNEXPECTED MASKER
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.

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL TALE
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?

( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
I love Edgar Allen Poe after I read this in a class called great books. I have read this book like a 100 times and it still never gets old. ( )
  FredaCochran | Oct 30, 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. ( )
  MichaelBarsa | Dec 17, 2017 |
I’ve always felt a strong connection to Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, perhaps because I 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 Reality – 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.”

The Denial – 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 Number Seven – 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.

The Seventh Room or The Black Chamber – 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.

The Clock – 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.

The Unexpected Masker – 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.

The Psychological Tale – 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?

( )
1 vote GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
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The "Red Death" had long devastated the country.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A single short work. Do not combine with collections containting other stories
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Este ebook presenta "La mscara de la muerte roja ", con un indice dinmico y detallado. Es un cuento del escritor Edgar Allan Poe publicado por primera vez en 1842. Narra la historia de Prspero, un prncipe italiano que abandona a su pueblo, amenazado por la peste y se construye un palacio amurallado para protegerse del exterior. Su vida y la de algunos elegidos contrasta con la miseria, la enfermedad y la muerte que acechan fuera... Hasta que en un baile de disfraces aparece alguien que no ha sido invitado: la mscara de la Muerte.Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849) fue un escritor, poeta, crtico y periodista romntico estadounidense, generalmente reconocido como uno de los maestros universales del relato corto. Fue renovador de la novela gtica, recordado especialmente por sus cuentos de terror. Considerado el inventor del relato detectivesco, contribuy asimismo con varias obras al gnero emergente de la ciencia ficcin.… (more)

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