The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe

A prosperous prince isolates himself in his castle along with 1,000 revellers, while a plague devastates the country-side. 

This is the essence of this very short story by Poe.

When, today, we have the King of Thailand ordering arrests for people who go outside, while he holds up in a harem with 20 women, this story seems more real than fantasy.

Yet, I will be arguing there is a much deeper psychological story being told right under our eyes. It is one of fear and terror of course. Unfortunately, it will hit much closer to home than Thailand.

Enjoy this discussion and reading of a masterpiece by Edgar Allan Poe.

On the show I make several literary references. Below you will be able to read not only the full short story by Poe, but also passages from Shakespeare's "As You Like it,' and "The Tempest," as well as a poem by poe.

First, a poem by Poe that I use as an argument for how I am interpreting the short story.


The Haunted Palace BY EDGAR ALLAN POE

In the greenest of our valleys By good angels tenanted, Once a fair and stately palace— Radiant palace—reared its head. In the monarch Thought’s dominion, It stood there! Never seraph spread a pinion Over fabric half so fair! Banners yellow, glorious, golden, On its roof did float and flow (This—all this—was in the olden Time long ago) And every gentle air that dallied, In that sweet day, Along the ramparts plumed and pallid, A wingèd odor went away. Wanderers in that happy valley, Through two luminous windows, saw Spirits moving musically To a lute’s well-tunèd law, Round about a throne where, sitting, Porphyrogene! In state his glory well befitting, The ruler of the realm was seen. And all with pearl and ruby glowing Was the fair palace door, Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing And sparkling evermore, A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty Was but to sing, In voices of surpassing beauty, The wit and wisdom of their king. But evil things, in robes of sorrow, Assailed the monarch’s high estate; (Ah, let us mourn!—for never morrow Shall dawn upon him, desolate!) And round about his home the glory That blushed and bloomed Is but a dim-remembered story Of the old time entombed. And travellers, now, within that valley, Through the red-litten windows see Vast forms that move fantastically To a discordant melody; While, like a ghastly rapid river, Through the pale door A hideous throng rush out forever, And laugh—but smile no more.


Next is a section of a speech in "As you Like it." The speech is called "All the world's a Stage," wherein is elucidated the seven ages of men. These ages correspond with the seven rooms in Prince Prospero's Palace.

Speech: “All the world’s a stage” BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages. At first the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms; And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel, Seeking the bubble reputation Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice, In fair round belly with good capon lin’d, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances; And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon, With spectacles on nose and pouch on side; His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pipes And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion; Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.


Next up, is a short speech by Prospero from Shakespeare's "The Tempest."

Our revels now ar