Teaching Masque of the Red Death Lesson Plan on Symbolism

Masque of the Red Death Lesson Plan


Many “Masque of the Red Death” lesson plans involve teaching symbolism and imagery. This one is no exception.


A Strange Visitor

I had just finished teaching suspense in “The Black Cat” and was feeling good about life. I was feeling bold. I dusted off my “Masque of the Red Death” lesson plans and was ready to teach imagery and symbolism. After five minutes of explaining what an allegory was, three students slammed their heads on the desk. We began the story. Two more students passed out, one soiled himself, and three started bleeding profusely from their eyes and nose. I had unleashed the Red Death of Boredom.

I stopped immediately and took a nap. I woke up in a crooked hallway of multi-colored rooms. Over me stood Prince Prospero. “Your ‘Masque of the Red Death’ lesson plans,” he said, “aren’t very good.”

“I see that,” I replied.”

“Go down to the blue room and grab these “Masque of the Red Death” lesson plans I stole from some peasants. Head to the violet room and grab my symbolism lesson plans I copied from a dead monk. Combine them.” I did as he commanded. When I returned, he was dead. Luckily, I found his “Masque of the Red Death” lesson plans and his symbolism lesson plans. I combine them and share them with you.

Here’s a symbolism in “The Masque of the Red Death” graphic organizer to get you started: Symbolism in “Masque of the Red Death”

ELA Common Core Standards Covered

The following lesson plan covers the following ELA common core standards for reading and writing.  This is for your administrator, not your kids.  Kids need student-friendly worded objectives.

  1. RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  2. RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
  3. RL.9-10.5 Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.
  4. W.9-10.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
  5. W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  6. SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  7. SL.9-10.1a  Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.

Masque of the Red Death Student Objectives

Put these student-friendly objectives on the board in case someone shows up.

  1. Students will analyze plot, character, setting, symbolism, mood, conflict, point of view (and any other literary element you could throw on the board to let everyone know just how smart you are).
  2. Students will interpret literature from different points of view.
  3. Students will transcend genres (This should get some ooohs and aaaahs from stray teachers and administrators walking near your room. You could even “accidentally” leave a copy of this lesson plan in the teacher’s lounge and eagerly wait for praise from your colleagues.).
  4. Students will demonstrate public speaking techniques to communicate clearly.

Examples of Symbolism in “Masque of the Red Death”

A knowledge of symbolism will help students with their assignment.

  • The Red Death represents death in general.
  • The castle and all its barricades represent the futility of man against death.
  • The clock symbolizes the approach of death.
  • Prince Prospero’s rooms progressing east to west represents the stages of life.
  • Prince Prospero’s name, symbolizing financial prosperity, along with the feudal symbols of a castle and the inability of peasants to enter the masquerade may also symbolize the death of the aristocracy and nobility of feudal times.

Masque of the Red Death Lesson Plan Procedures

  1. Read the story.
  2. Divide students into groups of four or five (seven groups is ideal).
  3. Each group must do (all or some of) the following:
  • Make a visual aide or graphic organizer (story maps work best) that lists the story’s major events, main characters, themes, symbols, setting, mood, conflict, resolution, and point of view.
  • Write a one-page analysis and summary of the story. Each group must write it from one of the following points of view: (1) Prince Prospero; (2) One of the Prince’s guests; (3) One of the peasants locked out of the castle; (4) The Red Death.
  •  Find a specific example of imagery in the story and make a poster. For examples of imagery in “The Masque of the Red Death,” follow the link.
  • Create a reenactment of a specific scene in the play, based on the point of view assigned. Each group member must have a part.
  • Create a symbols chart. The symbols chart should include the seven rooms, the seven colors and the ebony clock.

4.   Each group should present their doings to the class.

Short Story Guides

Teaching the Reading Literature Common Core Standards are easy with short stories.

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