TEACHER RESOURCES

STUDY GUIDE

The Conclusion of Edgar Allan Poe

The Conclusion of Edgar Allan Poe was written by local author, Jonathan Olensky. Originally staged at the Playhouse in 2000, it has become one of our most requested productions. The story hinges on the last few moments of Poe’s life as he reflects on some of his writings, as well as on the several romantic relationships of his very short life.

Included in the production are four of his short stories, fully dramatized for the stage: “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Cask of Amontillado”, “The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether”, and “King Pest”. Below is a short plot summary of each story:

"The Tell-Tale Heart" is told by an unnamed narrator who endeavors to convince the reader of his sanity, while describing a murder he committed. The victim was an old man with a filmy "vulture-eye", as the narrator calls it. The murder is carefully calculated, and the murderer hides the body by dismembering it and hiding it under the floorboards. Ultimately, the narrator's feelings of guilt, or a mental disturbance, result in him hearing the dead man's beating heart.

"The Cask of Amontillado" The story, set in an unnamed Italian city at carnival time in an unspecified year, is about a man taking fatal revenge on a friend who, he believes, has insulted him. Like several of Poe's stories, and in keeping with the 19th-century fascination with the subject, the narrative revolves around a person being buried alive – in this case, by immurement. As in "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart", Poe conveys the story from the murderer's perspective.

"The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether" is a dark comedy that centers upon a naive and unnamed narrator's visit to a mental asylum in the southern province of France. Hilarity ensues as the inmates overtake the asylum, and fully demonstrate their own peculiar form of insanity.

King Pest” occurs in 14th century London during the Black Death pandemic. It relates the adventure of two drunken sailors who unwittingly venture into a deserted part of the city, escaping without payment from the local pub. They come across a strange meeting in the house that was previously inhabited by an undertaker. Six people sit around the table, four men, two women. Each of them is grotesque to the point that he or she stops resembling a human being. They are “celebrating” their impending doom by pretending they are in a royal court. Disease has brought them to the point of madness.

Originally staged by Danny Mollise, with underscore by Scott Jolly, and scene and costume design by Pamela Mollise.

 

EDGAR ALLEN POE FACTS 

The man who invented Scrabble, Alfred Butts, was inspired to do so by a Poe short story from 1843, “The Gold-Bug.” In that story, a character solves a cipher based on the popularity ranking of letters in the English language, and it inspired Butts to invent a game that awards different points for each letter.

Poe had a nemesis, Rufus Griswold, who spread rumors of Edgar Allen Poe as an unhinged maniac, by writing a mean spirited obituary about him in which he wrote of Poe’s demise, it “will startle many, but few will be grieved by it.” He went on to publish a biography of the author that further added to his reputation as a wild drunkard.

Edgar Allen Poe attended West Point Military Academy, but got himself kicked out on purpose after he lost interest in attending. He once reported for drills wearing nothing but a belt and a smile. He did beg enough cash from his fellow cadets, however, to pay for the publication of a volume of his poetry once he got kicked out, and he dedicated it to them.

For more than 60 years, a mysterious “Poe Toaster” has visited the author’s Baltimore grave just past midnight on Poe’s January 19th birthday every year, leaving behind 3 blood red roses and a half empty bottle of cognac.

The Baltimore Ravens are named after the famous poem by the famous Baltimorean. The team used to have three mascots named Edgar, Allan, and Poe.

Poe’s cause of death is a mystery that has never been solved.