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The Cask of Amontillado

Edgar Allan Poe

❶Moffitt Cecil of Texas Christian University argues that his actions in the story make that assumption questionable. After Fortunato is chained to the wall and nearly entombed alive, Montresor merely mocks and mimics him, rather than disclosing to Fortunato the reasons behind his exacting revenge.

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by Edgar Allan Poe
In the story “William Wilson,” the character known as The Other is
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Angry over numerous injuries and some unspecified insult, Montresor plots to murder his "friend" during Carnival , while the man is drunk, dizzy, and wearing a jester 's motley. Montresor lures Fortunato into a private wine-tasting excursion by telling him he has obtained a pipe about gallons, [1] litres of what he believes to be a rare vintage of Amontillado. He proposes obtaining confirmation of the pipe's contents by inviting a fellow wine aficionado, Luchesi, for a private tasting.

Montresor knows Fortunato will not be able to resist demonstrating his discerning palate for wine and will insist that he taste the amontillado rather than Luchesi who, as he claims, "cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry".

Fortunato goes with Montresor to the wine cellars of the latter's palazzo , where they wander in the catacombs. Montresor warns Fortunato, who has a bad cough, of the dampness, and suggests they go back, but Fortunato insists on continuing, claiming that he "shall not die of a cough".

During their walk, Montresor mentions his family coat of arms: At one point, Fortunato makes an elaborate, grotesque gesture with an upraised wine bottle.

When Montresor appears not to recognize the gesture, Fortunato asks, "You are not of the masons? When they come to a niche , Montresor tells his victim that the Amontillado is within.

Fortunato enters drunk and unsuspecting and therefore, does not resist as Montresor quickly chains him to the wall. Montresor then declares that, since Fortunato won't go back, Montresor must "positively leave" him there.

Montresor reveals brick and mortar, previously hidden among the bones nearby, and proceeds to wall up the niche using his trowel, entombing his friend alive. At first, Fortunato, who sobers up faster than Montresor anticipated, shakes the chains, trying to escape.

Fortunato then screams for help, but Montresor mocks his cries, knowing nobody can hear them. Fortunato laughs weakly and tries to pretend that he is the subject of a joke and that people will be waiting for him including the Lady Fortunato. Before placing the last stone, he drops a burning torch through the gap. He claims that he feels sick at heart, but dismisses this reaction as an effect of the dampness of the catacombs. In the last few sentences, Montresor reveals that 50 years later, Fortunato's body still hangs from its chains in the niche where he left it.

Although the subject matter of Poe's story is a murder, "The Cask of Amontillado" is not a tale of detection like " The Murders in the Rue Morgue " or " The Purloined Letter "; there is no investigation of Montresor's crime and the criminal himself explains how he committed the murder. The mystery in "The Cask of Amontillado" is in Montresor's motive for murder. Without a detective in the story, it is up to the reader to solve the mystery.

Montresor never specifies his motive beyond the vague "thousand injuries" and "when he ventured upon insult" to which he refers. Some context is provided, including Montresor's observation that his family once was great but no longer so , and Fortunato's belittling remarks about Montresor's exclusion from Freemasonry. Many commentators conclude that, lacking significant reason, Montresor must be insane , though even this is questionable because of the intricate details of the plot.

There is also evidence that Montresor is almost as clueless about his motive for revenge as his victim. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong".

After Fortunato is chained to the wall and nearly entombed alive, Montresor merely mocks and mimics him, rather than disclosing to Fortunato the reasons behind his exacting revenge. Montresor may not have been entirely certain of the exact nature of the insults for which he expected Fortunato to atone. Additional scrutiny into the vague injuries and insults may have to do with a simple matter of Montresor's pride and not any specific words from Fortunato.

His house had once been noble and respected, but has fallen slightly in status. Fortunato, as his name would seem to indicate, has been blessed with good fortune and wealth and is, therefore, viewed as unrefined by Montresor; however, this lack of refinement has not stopped Fortunato from surpassing Montresor in society, which could very well be the "insult" motive for Montresor's revenge.

There is indication that Montresor blames his unhappiness and loss of respect and dignity within society on Fortunato. Montresor even imparts this blame to Fortunato when he states, "You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was". This interchanging of fortunes is a suggestion that, since the names Montresor and Fortunato mirror one another, there is a psychological reciprocal identification between victim and executioner.

It is with this converging of the two characters that one is able to see the larger symbolism of the Montresor crest — the foot steps on the serpent while the serpent forever has his fangs embedded in the heel. Upon further investigation into the true nature of character, double meaning can be derived from the Montresor crest.

A more allegoric meaning of Poe's places the actors in reverse. Though Fortunato is presented as a connoisseur of fine wine, L. Moffitt Cecil of Texas Christian University argues that his actions in the story make that assumption questionable. For example, Fortunato comments on another nobleman being unable to distinguish amontillado from sherry when amontillado is in fact a type of sherry, and treats De Grave, an expensive French wine, with very little regard by drinking it in a single gulp.

Cecil also states that a true wine connoisseur would never sample wine while intoxicated and describes Fortunato as merely an alcoholic. Cecil also suggests that some people might feel Fortunato deserved to be buried alive for wasting a bottle of fine wine. Immurement , a form of imprisonment, usually for life, in which a person is placed within an enclosed space with no exit, is featured in other works by Poe, including "The Fall of the House of Usher", "The Premature Burial", "The Black Cat", and "Berenice".

An apocryphal legend holds that the inspiration for "The Cask of Amontillado" came from a story Poe had heard at Castle Island South Boston , Massachusetts , when he was a private stationed at Fort Independence in Massie had been killed in a sword duel on Christmas Day by Lieutenant Gustavus Drane, following a dispute during a card game. Poe wrote his tale, however, as a response to his personal rival Thomas Dunn English. Poe and English had several confrontations, usually revolving around literary caricatures of one another.

Poe thought that one of English's writings went a bit too far, and successfully sued the other man's editors at The New York Mirror for libel in Its plot was convoluted and difficult to follow, but made references to secret societies and ultimately had a main theme of revenge.

He should, he says, have consulted Fortunato, who prides himself on being an expert on wine, adding that because Fortunato is engaged, he will go instead to Luchesi.

The latter is hooked, and Montresor conducts him to his empty palazzo and leads him down into the family catacombs, all the while plying him with drink. In the deepest crypt there is a small recess, and there Montresor chains Fortunato to a pair of iron staples and then begins to lay a wall of stone and mortar, with which he buries his enemy alive. While he does so, he relishes the mental torment of his victim, whom he then leaves alone in the dark, waiting in terror for his death.

The plot is relatively simple. Montresor seeks revenge on Fortunato for some unspecified insult by luring him down into his family vaults to inspect some wine he has purchased.

In fact, from the very beginning, every action and bit of dialogue is characterized as being just the opposite of what is explicitly stated. The action takes place during carnival season, a sort of Mardi Gras when everyone is in masquerade and thus appearing as something they are not.

Montresor makes sure that his servants will not be at home to hinder his plot by giving them explicit orders not to leave, and he makes sure that Fortunato will follow him into the wine cellar by playing on his pride and by urging him not to go. Moreover, the fact that Montresor knows how his plot is going to end makes it possible for him to play little ironic tricks on Fortunato. When Fortunato makes a gesture indicating that he is a member of the secret society of Masons, Montresor claims that he is also and proves it by revealing a trowel, the sign of his plot to wall up Fortunato.

The irony of the story cuts much deeper than this, however. At the beginning, Montresor makes much of the fact that there are two criteria for a successful revenge—that the avenger must punish without being punished in return and that he must make himself known as an avenger to the one who has done him the wrong.

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Summary The narrator, Montresor, opens the story by stating that he has been irreparably insulted by his acquaintance, Fortunato, and that he seeks revenge. He wants to exact this revenge, however, in a measured way, without placing himself at risk.

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The narrator leads Fortunato deeper and deeper into the catacomb, getting him drunker and drunker along the way. Fortunato keeps coughing, and the narrator constantly .

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Lesson Summary. To wrap it up, Edgar Allan Poe's short story 'The Cask of Amontillado' is the story of a man named Montresor who decides to seek revenge against a man named Fortunato, who has insulted him. He meets Fortunato at a carnival, lures him into the catacombs of his home, and buries him alive. “The Cask of Amontillado” is one of the clearest examples of Poe’s theory of the unity of the short story, for every detail in the story contributes to the overall ironic effect. The plot is relatively simple.

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Because both the audience and Montresor are aware of the unfortunate Fortunato's impending death, dramatic irony also plays a role in the comedy of horrors of "The Cask of Amontillado." Dramatic irony is the result of the disconnect that occurs when a character, namely Fortunato, is not aware of the true meaning of his own actions. Summary "The Cask of Amontillado" has been almost universally referred to as Poe's most perfect short story; in fact, it has often been considered to be one of the world's most perfect short stories.