162. Masque of the Red Death

New Warhorn Media post by Nathan Alberson:

I just read this story again before listening to the episode. I read it once back in high school but it didn’t make much impression on me. Reading it now, there was one point you guys didn’t mention, which stuck out to me:

In an assembly of phantasms such as I have painted, it may well be supposed that no ordinary appearance could have excited such sensation. In truth the masquerade license of the night was nearly unlimited; but the figure in question had out-Heroded Herod, and gone beyond the bounds of even the prince’s indefinite decorum. There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched without emotion. Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made. The whole company, indeed, seemed now deeply to feel that in the costume and bearing of the stranger neither wit nor propriety existed. The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have difficulty in detecting the cheat. And yet all this might have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revellers around. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume the type of the Red Death.

It’s one thing to revel in the grotesque, but it’s another thing to be actually faced with death. Reveling in blood and gore and death is foolishness, because real death is nothing to laugh about (Eccl. 7:4). Ironically, this is largely a criticism of those who would be Poe’s biggest fans (and the biggest fans of horror, in general). Probably even Poe himself.

Is that tremendously profound? Not really. But it scratches a little further below the surface than “death comes for us all.” I give it a 3/7 (pages to be an actual short story).


For some reason I remember the last line referencing that the red death held “sway” over all, not “illimitable dominion.” I like sway better. Less presumptuous. Says the same thing in a simpler way.

I enjoy Masque. Always have. Something about the way justice is finally served appeals to me. I like the imagery and the colors. Being a Tennessee fan, I like that orange and white are adjacent each other.

It is a memento mori, a reminder if death. Maybe I don’t need that like I used to, but I think it’s still useful, like going to a funeral is useful. I guess if I went to funerals more than a couple times a year… In a would full of work and bills, playing with kids and watching football, a reminder like this occasionally is more than appropriate.

Glad you guys choose this. I think your criticisms are fair. It certainly reads differently to me at 36 than it did at 16. I can still enjoy it while laughing at my younger self. (I wasnt one of those black wearing emo kids, but I had enough teen-age angst for a dozen of them.)

Masque is a good reminder. Still better though: and Christ holds sway over all, even the Red Death.

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See, that’s how I feel, but, alas, @jacob.mentzel and @bschasteen lack our shared nostalgia.

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