Our fourth tale this October is Edgar Allan Poe’s classic story of hubris and disease: “The Masque of the Red Death”.
Listen to the episode directly here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1385083/5755018-the-masque-of-the-red-death.mp3?blob_id=23644909&download=true
Poe has some clever wordplay in his story of wealthy historical folly: a masque is a costume party, but the title also refers to the visage of Prince Prospero’s eventual doom. There is something striking about the fact that no doctors were invited to the locked-in party in the buttressed abbey, and that in all their consumption of rich food, copious wine, and all-night dancing it never occurred there may be a need.
It may be disappointing to learn that the disease in the story was made up for its narrative purposes, though Poe’s young wife was suffering with illness when he wrote it. There are actually many interpretations of the story. An allegory, and one all too relevant today, seems clear, but what that allegory is can be debated. The wealthy abandoning the poor to disease to party is an obvious interpretation.
Another has to do with Poe’s own life as a foster child, brought up in a wealthy household. Supposed to give him shelter, the young author would first be spoiled and then disciplined to the extreme by his foster father, who never adopted him. Still other interpretations reject any allegorical interpretation and insist it’s Gothic for the sake of spookiness.