The Masque of the Red Death
by Edgar Allan Poe
The Masque of the Red Death Versions of Reality Quotes
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There was no light of any kind emanating from lamp or candle within the suite of chambers. But in the corridors that followed the suite, there stood, opposite to each window, a heavy tripod, bearing a brazier of fire that projected its rays through the tinted glass and so glaringly illumined the room. And thus were produced a multitude of gaudy and fantastic appearances. (4)
Prospero has also carefully designed the lighting effects in the suite, so that the light seems almost unnaturally to be shining through the windows (even though it's night outside). Everything in this world is unnatural, a product of Prospero's artistry and imagination. We are in a world of "fantasy."
The tastes of the duke were peculiar. He had a fine eye for colors and effects. He disregarded the decora of mere fashion. His plans were bold and fiery, and his conceptions glowed with barbaric lustre. There are some who would have thought him mad. His followers felt that he was not. It was necessary to hear and see and touch him to be sure that he was not. (6)
This is the passage in which Prospero is most clearly described in language that suits an artist. It's also suggested that he's mad. The narrator refuses to tell us himself whether Prospero actually is mad; he's only willing to say that Prospero's followers don't think he is. This isn't the most reassuring declaration of sanity.
There were arabesque figures with unsuited limbs and appointments. There were delirious fancies such as the madman fashions. There was much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust. To and fro in the seven chambers there stalked, in fact, a multitude of dreams. (7)
Now Poe has moved on from Prospero's rooms to describing the masqueraders and the atmosphere of the party. But the whole masque, not just the rooms, feels as if it could have been a product of Prospero's imagination. The costumes are bizarre and grotesque, as "the madman [cough…Prospero] fancies." The overlap between the world of Prospero's wild imagination and the fantastic, dreamlike world of the story now feels total. And Poe has started using an explicit language of dreams.