The Company

The Masque of the Red Death

The Masque of the Red Death is one of Edgar Allen Poe’s most macabre tales - coming from an author who most often puts chills down your spine.  In Poe’s imagination the Red Death swept through the towns and villages of Europe in a similar fashion to the Black Plague of the middle ages.

In the introduction the Red Death goes from town to town striking fear into the hearts of the people.  In scene one, Prince Prospero and the Duchess invite the nobility to their secluded country estate, hoping that they can escape his clutches and avoid contagion.  In the Poe story the gates are locked, allowing no one to enter or leave.  The Prince has garnered six months of provisions for the nobility to ride out the plague in peace and comfort.  At the end of the six months, to relieve their boredom, the Prince decides to throw an elaborate costume ball.  He provides rich costumes and his finest food and wine, and a night of great revelry and debauchery takes place.  This is where the ballet picks up the story.

Throughout the evening the orchestra plays, and the guests rove from room to room of the palace, dancing for each other while the clock marks the hour from six to midnight.  And as they dance they catch glimpses of a mysterious figure dressed as the Red Death whom they believe to be one of their own playing a practical joke on them.  In the end the Prince is very angry and orders the nobility to capture and unmask him.  But by then it is too late. His contagion has been released – they unmask the Red Death and they all die.