Major characters: Prince Prospero, the Red Death
Minor characters: Prospero's friends
Looking at the character of Prince Prospero, he is not a very likable protagonist. This isn't surprising, since Poe isn't known for creating admirable characters. So why do most readers find the prince unlikeable? For starters, he's a terrible and callous leader. During the plague, he only cares about saving himself and his friends and does nothing to help the majority of his kingdom. He is also a fool because he thinks she can escape death by locking himself in her castle and partying with her friends.
We also get the impression that Prospero is a bit crazy. What sane person throws a terrifying masked party in the middle of a plague? Who takes the time to create a room so horrific that their guests don't even want to enter it? Finally, the prince can be described as proud. When a masked figure shows up at his party, he becomes outraged. He shouted: "who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery?" He was offended by the intruder's "costume", so he ran up to him and threatened the Red Death with a dagger. He is not even aware that he has just faced the Red Death, the very thing he was trying to avoid.
The Red Death is a mysterious figure who comes to Prospero's masquerade at midnight. When he first appears, the author describes him as "tall and gaunt". He is dressed in burial shrouds, and his "mask" looks like the face of a dead man. While at the party, this creepy creature doesn't say anything. He just sneaks around the rooms and scares the other guests. When Prospero confronts him, he quickly kills the prince simply by turning on him. After he kills Prospero, the others attack him. They try to unmask him and see who is behind the costume, but as we already know, he doesn't have a costume. He then takes over the castle and kills every last person at the masquerade.
The Red Death is the most apparent "character" in the story and the last line of the story indicates that the Red Death has triumphed over life: "And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all."
These are the unnamed people that Prince Prospero invites to his castle during the plague.
"…he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys"
They think they will be safe in an isolated castle, but end up meeting the same fate as Prospero after facing the Red Death at a party. Before Prospero closes the iron gates of his castle, he makes sure to hire various entertainers to entertain his friends. Hires ballet dancers, clowns, and musicians. Unfortunately, they too become victims of the Red Death.
Despite the plague, they continue with joy and merriment. Note Poe's description of how they have donned costumes that are often grotesque: "There were much glare and glitter and piquancy and phantasm - much of what has been since seen in "Hernani"".
Poe describes the party in terms of "crazy fancies" and as "expressive of disapprobation and surprise - then, finally, of terror, of horror, and of disgust." These descriptions are reminiscent of the orgies described in other great romantic works such as Faust by Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin, and Childe Harold's Pilgrimage by George Gordon Byron. Furthermore, because the maskers themselves are so bizarre when the mask of the "Red Death" appears, it's shocking. The readers discover that the intruder is dressed more bizarre than all the other guests at the masquerade. He's terrible by comparison.
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