Character Analysis of “Mask of the Red Death” I chose to analyze two of the characters within “The Masque of the Red Death”, Prince Prospero, and The masked intruder at the end portrayed as death. The name that Edgar Allen Poe has given the main character entices a reader to speculate. I decided it was necessary to read a short biography on Edgar Allen Poe; because one of the things that occurred to me as I read the short story I imaged the likes of Edgar Allen Poe every time the story line turned to Prince Prospero.
Why this was I am not sure, maybe it was because of Poes’ picture on the first page; but after reading the biography, I saw a lot of similarities between Poe and his character Prince Prospero. It almost seems as if the prince is a personification of Poe in the story. In Edgar Allen Poe’s own life, he was known to be rather eccentric and odd.
He had a taste for the macabre and the bizarre. In the story we do find out that among the princes many qualities, he is also eccentric and shares a love of the bizarre and macabre. Further, like Poe the character is reminiscent of a young man of a wealthy and distinguished family.
Further looking at the character Prince Prospero, the name alone comes to mind. Prospero is suggestive of the word prosper, which means to do well, or be wealthy; it implies good fortune. Dictionary. com defines it –“To be fortunate or successful, especially in terms of one’s finances; thrive.
” The events that occur in this story from the beginning are actually quite the contrary. He is the lord of the land he owns, but that is undermine by the horrid disease that engulfs and ravages the countryside, killing all that inhabits it: “No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous”. Poe, 245). To protect himself from this terrible plague that is known in this story as the Red Death, Prince Prospero places himself and a thousand of his friends in seclusion in one of his abbeys, leaving the rest of the population helpless in the “Red Deaths” path. An abbey by definition is a church that is or once was part of a monastery or convent. This fact is rather ironic. In the history of our world, there was a plague similar to the one in “The Masque of the Red Death”. The black plague tore through the European countryside and at its end, decreased the population significantly.
No person was safe from its wrath, no person was immune from its terror. In the story, the Prince tries to defy history and death in his spineless act, by removing himself from the outside world. In another act of fear and denial, the prince decides to throw a great masquerade during the height of the plague, a futile attempt to hide from and disguise the “red death”. The character is made out to be cowardly. For his masquerade he embellishes the seven chambers. Another good example of the similarity in taste that is shared by Poe, and his character Prince Prospero, is the embellishments of the seven chambers. He had a fine eye for colors and effects. He disregarded the decora of mere fashion. His plans were bold and fiery, and his conceptions glowed with barbaric luster. ” ( Poe, 247) This shows further eccentricity. “The prince was a bold and robust man. ” (Poe, 248) Perhaps this is what Poe fantasized for himself. In the stories conclusion, poetic justice is served for the cowardice acts. Prospero attempts to attack the masked figure and falls into the clutches of death. The second character is the intruder in the conclusion of the story.
He is described as “tall and gaunt”. (Poe, 248) The reader is introduced to a disease, a plague, with hideous and terrifying symptoms, that take an extremely rapid course, one that has an inevitable termination, it is death. Poe’s greatest emphasis is on blood, not as a sign or a symptom, but as the incarnation of evil, the manifestation of fear and a seal. A seal is something that confirms, assures or ratifies like a pact. The appearance of blood is confirmation or assurance of the existence of the Red Death — of Death itself.
There is horror in the discovery that “the grave-cerements and corpse-like mask”(Poe, 249) are “untenanted by any tangible form,”. (Poe, 249) Through the supernatural interpretation the horror of death runs deep into the soul, it washes itself clean and emerges as truth, which is unseen. As Poe describes; blood is symbolic of the life force; but even as it suggests life, blood serves as a reminder of death. Poe in his fascination of the macabre gives death life in the story. Death is a character ever present through out the story, but only actually appears in the end.
Poe infuses death with elements of terror, and he “enshrouds” not only death but the terror of death in clothes of his own making—“the habiliments of the grave” (Poe, 248) —and then runs to escape it or, madly, to kill it, trying to “cheat” death itself. The image here is that even the fear of death can kill: Prospero attempts to attack the masked figure and falls. When man’s image of death is confronted directly, it is found to be nothing. The garments or vestments are empty, unseen like that of truth.
The intruder in “The Masque of the Red Death” is, not the plague, but man’s creation of death, his self-developed fear of his own erroneous concept of death. Death is always present, it is insidious and it is as invisible as truth. It is nowhere and everywhere, it is not only around man, but also in him. The many guests of the prince, having unmasked their fear acknowledged the presence of the “Red Death”. One by one, the guests die; as everything endowed with life must eventually do. When the last of the guests’ dies, the element of time, that is measured and feared only by man, dies, too.