"The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allan Poe

In an attempt to hide from a horrific plague, Prince Prospero locks himself in a castle with a thousand guests—but Death finds a way in. Read the full text
here.

Here are links to our lists for other works by Edgar Allan Poe:
The Black Cat,
The Cask of Amontillado,
The Fall of the House of Usher,
The Pit and the Pendulum,
The Purloined Letter,
The Raven,
The Tell-Tale Heart,
The Murders in the Rue Morgue

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definitions & notes
only words

  1. pestilence

    any epidemic disease with a high death rate
    No
    pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous.
  2. dissolution

    the termination or disintegration of a relationship
    There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with
    dissolution.
  3. ban

    a decree that prohibits something
    The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest
    ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men.
  4. dauntless

    invulnerable to fear or intimidation
    But the Prince Prospero was happy and
    dauntless and sagacious.
  5. sagacious

    skillful in statecraft or management
    But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and
    sagacious.
  6. hale

    exhibiting or restored to vigorous good health
    When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand
    hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys.
  7. august

    of or befitting a lord
    This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince's own eccentric yet
    august taste.
  8. ingress

    the act of entering
    They resolved to leave means neither of
    ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within.
  9. egress

    the act or means of going out
    They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or
    egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within.
  10. contagion

    any disease easily transmitted by contact
    With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to
    contagion.
  11. buffoon

    a person who amuses others by ridiculous behavior
    There were
    buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine.
  12. vista

    the visual percept of a region
    In many palaces, however, such suites form a long and straight
    vista, while the folding doors slide back nearly to the walls on either hand, so that the view of the whole extent is scarcely impeded.
  13. hue

    the quality of a color determined by its dominant wavelength
    These windows were of stained glass whose color varied in accordance with the prevailing
    hue of the decorations of the chamber into which it opened.
  14. shroud

    form a cover like a burial garment
    The seventh apartment was closely
    shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue.
  15. profusion

    the property of being extremely abundant
    Now in no one of the seven apartments was there any lamp or candelabrum, amid the
    profusion of golden ornaments that lay scattered to and fro or depended from the roof.
  16. pendulum

    an apparatus in which an object is mounted to swing freely
    Its
    pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang; and when the minute-hand made the circuit of the face, and the hour was to be stricken, there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical,
  17. brazen

    made of or resembling brass, as in color or hardness
    Its pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang; and when the minute-hand made the circuit of the face, and the hour was to be stricken, there came from the
    brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical,
  18. lapse

    a break or intermission in the occurrence of something
    there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each
    lapse of an hour, the musicians of the orchestra were constrained to pause, momentarily, in their performance, to hearken to the sound;
  19. constrained

    lacking spontaneity; not natural
    there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse of an hour, the musicians of the orchestra were
    constrained to pause, momentarily, in their performance, to hearken to the sound;
  20. hearken

    listen; used mostly in the imperative
    there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse of an hour, the musicians of the orchestra were constrained to pause, momentarily, in their performance, to
    hearken to the sound;
  21. disconcert

    cause to lose one's composure
    and thus the waltzers perforce ceased their evolutions; and there was a brief
    disconcert of the whole gay company; and, while the chimes of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused reverie or meditation.
  22. pervade

    spread or diffuse through
    But when the echoes had fully ceased, a light laughter at once
    pervaded the assembly;
  23. embellishment

    a superfluous ornament
    He had directed, in great part, the moveable
    embellishments of the seven chambers, upon occasion of this great fete; and it was his own guiding taste which had given character to the masqueraders.
  24. writhe

    move in a twisting or contorted motion
    And these--the dreams--
    writhed in and about, taking hue from the rooms, and causing the wild music of the orchestra to seem as the echo of their steps.
  25. gaiety

    a festive merry feeling
    and to him whose foot falls upon the sable carpet, there comes from the near clock of ebony a muffled peal more solemnly emphatic than any which reaches THEIR ears who indulge in the more remote
    gaieties of the other apartments.
  26. cessation

    a stopping
    And then the music ceased, as I have told; and the evolutions of the waltzers were quieted; and there was an uneasy
    cessation of all things as before.
  27. disapprobation

    pronouncing as wrong or morally culpable
    And the rumor of this new presence having spread itself whisperingly around, there arose at length from the whole company a buzz, or murmur, expressive of
    disapprobation and surprise--then, finally, of terror, of horror, and of disgust.
  28. decorum

    propriety in manners and conduct
    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.
  29. propriety

    correct behavior
    The whole company, indeed, seemed now deeply to feel that in the costume and bearing of the stranger neither wit nor
    propriety existed.
  30. gaunt

    very thin especially from disease or hunger or cold
    The figure was tall and
    gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave.
  31. visage

    the human face
    The mask which concealed the
    visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat.
  32. blasphemous

    grossly irreverent toward what is held to be sacred
    "Who dares?" he demanded hoarsely of the courtiers who stood near him--"who dares insult us with this
    blasphemous mockery?
  33. robust

    sturdy and strong in form, constitution, or construction
    They rang throughout the seven rooms loudly and clearly--for the prince was a bold and
    robust man, and the music had become hushed at the waving of his hand.
  34. attain

    reach a destination, either real or abstract
    He bore aloft a drawn dagger, and had approached, in rapid impetuosity, to within three or four feet of the retreating figure, when the latter, having
    attained the extremity of the velvet apartment, turned suddenly and confronted his pursuer.
  35. illimitable

    without restrictions in extent or size or quantity
    And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held
    illimitable dominion over all.
Created on March 25, 2013
(updated July 31, 2018)