“The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe’s fictional Red Death is probably based on the Black Death, which swept fourteenth-century Europe and Asia, killing as many as two thirds of the population in some regions in less than twenty years. Poe calls the plague “the Red Death” because victims oozed blood from painful sores. In this story a fourteenth-century prince gives a costume party, or masque, to try to forget about the epidemic raging all around him. Poe’s tale of an eccentric nobleman and the Red Death ravaging his land can be read both as a chilling ghost story and as an allegory representing human folly and the inevitability of death.