The Conqueror Worm

Poe, Edgar Allan

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela
  • Date of entry: Aug-08-1994
  • Last revised: Jan-09-2007


The poem describes a theater performance. The play is the tragedy "Man" and it is watched by a horde of angels. As the actors run in circles, a "crawling shape" emerges. It is the hero of the play, the worm. It eats the actors and the curtain falls.


Death, captured in the image of the corpse-eating maggot, is the hero of mankind's drama. In one sense, the poem points out that all lives end in death and are therefore rather meaningless. In another sense, man's drama, his death included, is but a play for angels to watch. Death is not so full of meaning that we should worry about it. Further, if death is the "hero" of the play, it is connected with the force that motivates all other experiences.


First published: 1843

Primary Source

Selected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe


Houghton Mifflin

Place Published





Edward H. Davidson