Poe’s intergrown house and family of Usher are artworks of morbidity and malaise worthy of the spectacular climax he devised for them. He has preferred to make mood everything, saving almost all dialogue and explicit action for the closing scene. There is no moral, no tragic flaw, no explanation. Poe rather gives us the logic of the nightmare, and on this plane his logic is airtight. Probably the safest course in dramatizing this gothic masterpiece would have been to save both letter and spirit as intact as possible. In fact, I found myself taking liberties.
To start, I have made Poe himself the narrator who lives to tell the tale. More radically, I have conceived him and the doomed siblings as types of an ante-bellum warmth and gallantry which hardly exist anywhere in the prose of the real Poe, and must be counter to his purposes here. I have added other gothic staples – forbidden knowledge, a Faustian pact, ghostly ancestors – and have shifted all into a tale of good and evil and redemption. Good means Poe and the siblings, evil means Primus and the ancestors, and Madeline becomes the agent of redemption.