Sunday, October 07, 2012

How not to read The Masque of the Red Death, on the anniversary of Poe's demise

Edgar Allen Poe died on this date in 1849. In 1975, during freshman year of high school, I chose, for some reason or the other, to read, as part of a class oration exercise, Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death".

It's a great story to say the least, but not one to read aloud when the exercise is to give a 10 minute dramatic reading. Needless to say, I'd practiced ahead of time, but reading silently! When the time came, I took my place in the front of the class and started to read:
"The "Red Death" had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avator and its seal — the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. 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. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour."
And so I continued ... the time dragged by, the class fidgeted, the teacher kept glancing between me and the clock ... and I continued on ... finally, well before I finished, the merciful teach put an end to the reading many pages before I came to the last line:
"And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all."
You can read the story yourself here and see the original publication from Graham's Magazine (May 1842) on the Internet Archive site. But remember, if you're reading it out load, leave plenty of time.

And as a side note, if you want to hear a spooky reading, see the William S. Burrough's reading of the story: Part 1 | Part 2

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