Plague Personification and The Prince’s Complicity

20 Nov

We have these characters in a structure.  Contained, confined.  And they are confined because Prospero has locked them in.  And yes, while this could be interpreted as ‘well-intentioned’, he did assign these characters their final location.  Even if unknowingly.  And with the personification of death, in the plague’s actuality, we have a figure featureless; a ghost, like we many times see in Poe’s work, hunting people, murdering.  This consistency of vengeance in ‘Red Death’ could be interpreted as more evidence of Poe’s foul estimation of Human Beings.  And in this structure, the characters are no more than feed for this animated and tangible Death.  Does Poe think they deserve to die?  More than likely, yes.  “Most unusual magnificence,” indeed.

By stating the Prince is complicit, that asserts he had a role in all these deaths.  Well, didn’t he?  Again, yes, maybe unknowingly.  Or maybe not.  He knew it was coming, that is was out there, encroaching.  And sure enough, it found them.  All.  The masquerade, while festive and seemingly civil, provides only momentary distraction, sedation. Yes, I’ll agree that this is generous, but I also offer that this just as well weakens the other characters just before their respective falls, as they’re pretending rather than confronting a realistic present.  This is also characteristic of characters as self-elevating as Prospero.  Maybe that’s why Poe killed him first…

In the face of death, we can either act or adhere to actuality, embrace the scenes before us.  This, too, is one of Poe’s intentions with this piece.  Consider what a mask does.. it disguises, it’s for the purpose of hiding something, pretending, assuming a pervasive fiction.  And isn’t it interesting that the guests succumb after Prospero, that even though he never witnessed their ends, they still met finality as a result of being locked in that structure, in that locale, where he was.  With all dead, death is even more personified, with the visual of a peppered deathbed.  “Peppered,” with lifeless shells.


4 Responses to “Plague Personification and The Prince’s Complicity”

  1. stephany valencia November 21, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    The prince’s death was foreseen due to rooms being set up in that dark tone. The way that each room was leading them further and further inside while closer and closer to him. He was calling his own death and in a way Poe was trying to point that out. He likes being in situations of terror and death but he is never the one in the action itself he always uses his characters.

    It could just be a mask Poe wears himself portraying some qualities of each character he wishes to have and that being the reason it ends their life. Mimicking and sort of mirroring this prince was a great way to introduce death. Althoug he knew life would be short he still managed to keep up that image of bravery in front of his guests.

    • Corey T November 21, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

      I agree with you Stephany. It was all forseen. The Prince was trying to ecsxape death. Thinking that in his castle he was safe as each room became darker and darker the reader knows that Death is around the corner. Specially witha title The mask of the Red Death. Clear about the black plague. Maybe the prince hoped by having this party he could hide fromthe death. Allow the death to sweep across his guests and sparing his life by offering others.

  2. Ashley November 22, 2013 at 8:28 am #

    Maybe he didn’t think he could hide from it rather could distract others from thinking about it so that when it came for them death would be to busy to find him

  3. Michelle Hagarty November 26, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    I don’t want to think that the Prince unknowingly did anything, there has to be thought and motive behind every action that a person takes. He may have not meant for them to be killed but I can only assume that there was a level of knowledge that things might not work out with them all being locked up in a castle together. I see arrogance in the character, there are a lot of characters in Poe’s work that have an air of arrogance to them making them seem bigger then there situations and thinking that they can get away with what they have done or are planning on doing. The prince was the one that signed the death certificate to each and every one of his guests but then again they were given a choice to stay. There was every chance for them to have left on their own gone somewhere else, done something else. But then we come back to the same thing, that Poe’s has created characters that think they are beyond dying. They believe that they can cheat death by hiding from it. But there is no way to run from death it will come when it is your time wither you are ready or not. The prince had a hand in the whole mess and I honestly believe that there was knowledge to his crimes. Maybe it was brought out of loneliness; he didn’t want to die alone so he thought it would be worth it to bring the court down with him. But then again maybe his ego was just that big that he thought he could fight off the evil that would show its face at some point in time. Agreed the masquerade was just a distraction to keep them from seeing the reality but I think that they wanted to believe that there masqueraded reality was truth. The Prince dies first, made to be an example that you can’t run from reality you have to deal with the things that may hurt us or even kill us, if we don’t it will only come back to bite us in the ass later on.

    You talk of Poe and the killings in his stories; I think that the murder and death in his works comes from his own obsession with killing people. It is as though he is living vicariously through the actions of his characters. Acting out his deepest desires in his books rather than doing it in his own reality. There is always that thought of “how far would I take things to protect myself and my family would I kill?” I would greatly say yes that I wouldn’t hesitate to protect what matters to me but would I kill for sport? No that is a perverse pleasure that only the criminally insane can enjoy. But there are plenty of people out there that wonder what it would be like but have yet to act on their impulses. So what is it that kept Poe from going down that road and acting out his wildest fantasy? There is a master of written art in Poe as an author. A man that can bring you into the story and make you wonder if you were really there could this really be you. He helps you put on the mask from the beginning of the story till the end. In this life we all are wearing masks, and it is hard to find the truth in every person to find the real that is underneath everything else.

    The Red Death, wore his mask as a distraction only to revel himself at the last moment. Allowing all of them to see the truth, that there was no longer running or hiding from destiny, it was there and it was going to take everyone.

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