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The story begins during the carnival season, in an ancient city of palazzi. The first person narrator, Montresor, bears a grudge ?the reader never learns exactly what ?against one of his "friends", ironically called Fortunato, and explains that has found a way to avenge himself that satisfies the two conditions he has: that Fortunato knows for sure that Montresor is behind it, and that he himself escape revenge or punishment.

Montresor finds his friend inebriated, and dressed in carnival costume as a jester at dusk. Using reverse psychology, he cleverly induces Fortunato, whose knowledge of fine wine he admires, to follow him into the catacombs underneath his palazzo to determine if his newly-acquired cask of amontillado ?a kind of Spanish sherry ?is indeed authentic, and thus worth the price he paid. They walk and talk, deep into the basement, discussing Fortunato's health, the Montresor family motto (Nemo me impune lacessit ?"No one provokes me with impunity"), and membership in the Freemasons (with double meaning). The ominous atmosphere increases as they continue to the damp, nitrous air of the Montresor crypt.

Dumbfounded at the absence of the amontillado at the end of their passage, Fortunato stands "stupidly bewildered" and Montresor takes advantage of the situation, suddenly chaining Fortunato to the wall in a small alcove roughly the size of a coffin. Montresor proceeds to seal the doorway with bricks as Fortunato slowly regains his sobriety and starts to plead in desperation. During the processing of entombing Fortunato alive (a recurring and symbolic theme in Poe's works), Montresor ironically taunts him with his freedom, but in the end walls him up completely and leaves him, concluding his story with an exclamation in Latin "In pace requiescat!" ("May he rest in peace!"). He tells us that this all happened fifty years ago, and nothing has happened since, fulfilling his original plan.



The story horrifies the reader both through its plot and, more importantly, the character of Montresor.

Despite Montresor's use of the word "immolation" early on to describe his plan for Fortunato, the reader assumes due to his refined language, respect for Fortunato's knowledge of wine and social status that his revenge will take the form of some elaborate, if cruel, practical joke. When it becomes clear that he intends to actually not only kill Fortunato but inflict a horrible death upon him, it comes as a shock.

Montresor himself may qualify as a sociopath: he shows no signs of remorse for his actions and is extremely manipulative. He may be considered an unreliable narrator for that reason. Since we never learn what his grudges were, and Fortunato as we see him does not seem like the kind of person capable of giving such offense, it is possible that they are purely imaginary.

Since Montresor's telling of the story offers no distance for the reader from his singleminded yet calculating devotion to his homicidal intentions, it compounds the horror.

There are also many instances of irony and dark humor in the story. The names of the two main characters in the story are suggestive of victory and good fortune: Fortunato's name ironically suggests "fortune", while Montresor's suggests "surmounting". Also, Montresor and Fortunato discussing Freemasonry as they descend into the crypt is dark humor, dramatic irony and foreshadowing, as Montresor intends to use his actual masonry skills to kill Fortunato. He also drinks to Fortunato's long life and health, which will in actuality make his death more protracted and painful.


Possible allegory

One reading has it that the story is part of the war of the literati in which Poe wants to intimidate his enemies in the field of literature. Fortunato represents Thomas Dunn English, a contemporary who insulted him several times ("The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne...") and Luchresi (in proper Italian pronounced as "Look crazy") represents Hiram Fuller, editor of the Evening Mirror in New York.

The previous reading misses the fact that the man called "Luchresi" is really "Luchesi." That sounds nothing like "Look crazy."


Stories influenced by "The Cask of Amontillado"

Wikisource has original text related to this article:

The Cask of AmontilladoStephen King's "Dolan's



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