The female counterpart to an Abbot, Abbesses were nuns in charge of convents. During the middle ages and the renaissance, convents gained a bad reputation as houses of licentious behaviour, due in large part to the fact that many nuns did not willingly choose holy orders, but rather were exiled there for political or dynastic reasons. In Shakespeare, the famous quote - "Get thee to a nunnery!" is actually calling the woman a prostitute, so synonymous had convents become with promiscuous sexual behaviour, at least in the public imaginations.
Here death seizes the abbess, while a nun screams.
Next: The Gentleman
The Dance of Death is an important allegory commenting on human mortality and the passing transience of life. It depicts Death as a fairly jovial skeleton armed with a scythe, who invites his victims to a dance which invariably ends in their demise. The point of the allegory is that no one can refuse its invitation to the dance: hgh church officials, kings or paupers, all must dance and eventually die.