The Masque of The Red Death

Matt Bottos

Victoria, Australia

  • Artist
  • Artwork Comments 19

Artist's Description

Mixed Media – 40cm x 40cm – February 2011

This would have to be one of my favorite Edgar Allen Poe Short Stories. Aside from being a ‘wicked cool’ story about blood and horror stuff, it always seems to incite a deeper emotional response. The story is ripe with potential metaphors and I’m sure each person will see their own meanings in it. Each time I read it, I find it seems to relate to something different each time although there always seems to be a common underlying theme that relates to Denial, Escapism & Avoidance.

A few thoughts on the story…

- Prince Prospero lived in denial. A secluded life within a false existence governed by a fear that he refused to confront. There were many warnings but he chose to ignore them. He surrounded himself with people that would not challenge his views. When he was confronted / challenged by his fear & weakness he became enraged.

- The window in the black room bathes all within in the colour of blood (death) and represents how distorted thoughts can exacerbate the emotion of fear. The window filters the outside light (reality) and taints all within the black room with its dread inducing (deluded) crimson hue.

- The tall ominous ebony clock with its haunting chime is a constant reminder to the guests of their denial. Each hourly chime sends a unnerving warning yet they choose to not take heed of the warning and continue with their revelry.

- Looking at it from a Jungian perspective, the Red Death may be seen as a projection of Prospero’s own shadow aspect. The denial or rejection of the shadow archetype only strengthens its hold to the extent where the conscious life is like living a lie. If we embrace and take responsibility of our inferior side we can live a fuller and true life.

- In the end, I don’t think Prospero was killed by the Red Death that he feared so much. He bore none of the symptoms of the plague and the masked figure was said to be “untenanted by any tangible form”. Perhaps his death was the outcome of his own denial and fear rather than the object of his fear itself.

I wonder if Edgar Allen Poe saw elements of himself in Prospero? And that perhaps the masked figure was in fact a projection of Poe’s own shadow. In some way perhaps he felt as though he was a self imposed prisoner locked away and trapped, protecting himself from his fears.

I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness, and a dread of some strange impending doom. (Poe as quoted in a Biography by Jeffery Meyers).

Artwork Comments

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