Edgar Allan Poe: The Masque of the Red Death (1842)
in Tales of Mystery and Imagination
Everyman 1975 (1908)
The “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal—the redness and horror of blood.
Of Poe’s many Gothick tales this is one of the foremost and famous, and it unsurprisingly stuck in my mind more than the others I read many years ago. And why, especially when there’s so little to the plot?
Essentially Prince Prospero holes up in a castle with a load of his friends and plenty of provisions, leaving the populace outside to die from a horrible plague — after half a year he throws a masked ball in a suite of rooms — yet Death still manages to enter the castle, regardless of quarantine.
Given the coronavirus crisis it seemed an appropriate time to read this short story, especially as I forgot to mention it in a previous post about literary treatments of contagion until another blogger’s comment brought it back to mind.