Masque of the Red Death

Okay, so, I have this thing about the Masque of the Red Death. No no! Hear me out on this…

I feel like I’ve talked about this before, but if I have it’s been ages. I think I read the short story first in the 8th grade while we were doing a segment on Edgar Allan Poe, and have re-read it many times sense.

In spite of my frequent reviews of the story over the past 13 or so years, and in spite of Poe’s specific description of the many rooms in the suite where the story takes place, I can NOT wrap my head around the way the place is laid out. I’ve gone so far as to scrawl maps onto grid paper, and I still can’t grasp it.

Part of the problem, I think, is my ignorance of the typical architecture of the story’s time. I don’t even have a basis to begin with to imagine what a *normal* imperial suite would have looked like, let alone Prospero’s bizarre rendition of one.

I’ve often contemplated doing some renderings of the rooms and the layout, but I think this is the year I’m actually going to sit down and do it. You will not conquer me, Poe, not this time!

Likely, the internet could help me in my need of a map, but somehow I feel like this is something I have to generate straight out of my brain. Will I succeed? Mystery! Intrigue!

6 thoughts on “Masque of the Red Death”

  1. i love this idea! the layout is quite interesting…i don’t want to influence your own ideas (and doubt I will), but i’ve always pictured it as very large fancy ballrooms all connected in a line by large arched doorways…if you stand in the middle and look toward the black room, you can ALWAYS see the clock…it is a pervasive element that way.

      1. Probably not from a cartographical standpoint, but it has an early appearance by Jack Nicholson (see also the Corman The Raven with Karloff, Lorre and Price) and no movie with Vincent Price is ever a waste….
        also it’s old enough to be cheap

        Roger Corman; friend to the up and coming because that way you get enthusiasm cheap….. of the later ones Death Race 2000 is wickedly funny….

  2. Lisa, not to dissuade you, but there are some things not to be grasped.

    Think of the whale. Have you ever seen a realistic rendering of a whale? Even in the Amazing 35mm Technicolor of Jacques Cousteau, the whale cannot be grasped. Unlike the elephant, which we can at least relate to in terms of mass and weight when it heaves it tonnage from ankle-deep swamp, the whale eludes us. Take a whale from water, lay it out for miles panting and thrashing upon the hot sand, and it is no longer a whale. It sags and unmolds without aquatic bouancy into a sluglike monstrosity. Even well-masked divers cannot truly see a whale, for up close it is nothing but barnacles and baleen. When the diver reaches the appropriate distance at which to behold the entire fish (yes, fish: the whale is the only fish that breathes air, births and feeds her young), when the diver reaches this distance, the whale fades into obscurity caused by a billion polluting plankton.

    Even Herman Melville (a contemporary of Poe, right? 1819-1891), even he struggled to describe the whale. Just like Poe’s Imperial Palace, no contemporary of Melville (nor any contemporary of you) has any real idea of what a whale looks like. So, Melville spends hundreds of pages describing the anatomy and behavior of a whale in a puzzle that has no interlocking pieces. To reconstruct the whale from Moby-Dick as you plan to reconstruct the imperial suite would be equally impossible. The suite is a metaphor. It is meant to be consumed like a rich cake, or a steak, or the Eucharist, but not to be constructed into reality.

    Bon App├ętit!


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