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Themes

Prince Prospero, the main character in "The Masque of the Red Death," lives mainly for pleasure, as do his friends. Better not to think, and not to grieve, they believe – just enjoy life and keep on laughing. They refuse to give death the time of day, and so when a plague strikes the kingdom, they retreat to a pleasure palace to keep on partying, with buffoons and alcohol galore. Poe structures his frightening tale around a contrast between the looming presence of death and the happy-go-lucky folly of Prospero's court, who foolishly believe they can ignore it.

Questions About Foolishness and Folly

  1. What indications are there in the text that Prince Prospero and his friends are foolish? Or are there any? What does it mean to be foolish in the context of the story?
  2. In what respects does Prince Prospero not seem foolish?
  3. Ultimately, do you think Prospero and his friends are foolish? Or do they have the right attitude to their situation? Why?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Prince Prospero is too ingenious and too in control of his situation to be considered foolish.

Prospero's friends are not foolish because they ignore death, but because they refuse to help others.

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