Poe’s Short Stories “The Cask of Amontillado” (1846) Summary & Analysis | SparkNotes (2022)

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“For the love of God, Montresor!”

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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. He decides to use Fortunato’s fondness for wine against him. During the carnival season, Montresor, wearing a mask of black silk, approaches Fortunato. He tells Fortunato that he has acquired something that could pass for Amontillado, a light Spanish sherry. Fortunato (Italian for “fortunate”) wears the multicolored costume of the jester, including a cone cap with bells. Montresor tells Fortunato that if he is too busy, he will ask a man named Luchesi to taste it. Fortunato apparently considers Luchesi a competitor and claims that this man could not tell Amontillado from other types of sherry. Fortunato is anxious to taste the wine and to determine for Montresor whether or not it is truly Amontillado. Fortunato insists that they go to Montresor’s vaults.

(Video) The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe | Summary & Analysis

Montresor has strategically planned for this meeting by sending his servants away to the carnival. The two men descend into the damp vaults, which are covered with nitre, or saltpeter, a whitish mineral. Apparently aggravated by the nitre, Fortunato begins to cough. The narrator keeps offering to bring Fortunato back home, but Fortunato refuses. Instead, he accepts wine as the antidote to his cough. The men continue to explore the deep vaults, which are full of the dead bodies of the Montresor family. In response to the crypts, Fortunato claims to have forgotten Montresor’s family coat of arms and motto. Montresor responds that his family shield portrays “a huge human foot d’or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel.” The motto, in Latin, is “nemo me impune lacessit,” that is, “no one attacks me with impunity.”

Later in their journey, Fortunato makes a hand movement that is a secret sign of the Masons, an exclusive fraternal organization. Montresor does not recognize this hand signal, though he claims that he is a Mason. When Fortunato asks for proof, Montresor shows him his trowel, the implication being that Montresor is an actual stonemason. Fortunato says that he must be jesting, and the two men continue onward. The men walk into a crypt, where human bones decorate three of the four walls. The bones from the fourth wall have been thrown down on the ground. On the exposed wall is a small recess, where Montresor tells Fortunato that the Amontillado is being stored. Fortunato, now heavily intoxicated, goes to the back of the recess. Montresor then suddenly chains the slow-footed Fortunato to a stone.

(Video) The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe | Plot Summary

Taunting Fortunato with an offer to leave, Montresor begins to wall up the entrance to this small crypt, thereby trapping Fortunato inside. Fortunato screams confusedly as Montresor builds the first layer of the wall. The alcohol soon wears off and Fortunato moans, terrified and helpless. As the layers continue to rise, though, Fortunato falls silent. Just as Montresor is about to finish, Fortunato laughs as if Montresor is playing a joke on him, but Montresor is not joking. At last, after a final plea, “For the love of God, Montresor!” Fortunato stops answering Montresor, who then twice calls out his enemy’s name. After no response, Montresor claims that his heart feels sick because of the dampness of the catacombs. He fits the last stone into place and plasters the wall closed, his actions accompanied only by the jingling of Fortunato’s bells. He finally repositions the bones on the fourth wall. For fifty years, he writes, no one has disturbed them. He concludes with a Latin phrase meaning “May he rest in peace.”

Analysis

The terror of “The Cask of Amontillado,” as in many of Poe’s tales, resides in the lack of evidence that accompanies Montresor’s claims to Fortunato’s “thousand injuries” and “insult.” The story features revenge and secret murder as a way to avoid using legal channels for retribution. Law is nowhere on Montresor’s—or Poe’s—radar screen, and the enduring horror of the story is the fact of punishment without proof. Montresor uses his subjective experience of Fortunato’s insult to name himself judge, jury, and executioner in this tale, which also makes him an unreliable narrator. Montresor confesses this story fifty years after its occurrence; such a significant passage of time between the events and the narration of the events makes the narrative all the more unreliable. Montresor’s unreliability overrides the rational consideration of evidence, such as particular occurrences of insult, that would necessarily precede any guilty sentence in a non-Poe world. “The Cask of Amontillado” takes subjective interpretation—the fact that different people interpret the same things differently—to its horrific endpoint.

(Video) The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe (Summary and Review) - Minute Book Report

Read more about Montresor.

Poe’s use of color imagery is central to his questioning of Montresor’s motives. His face covered in a black silk mask, Montresor represents not blind justice but rather its Gothic opposite: biased revenge. In contrast, Fortunato dons the motley-colored costume of the court fool, who gets literally and tragically fooled by Montresor’s masked motives. The color schemes here represent the irony of Fortunato’s death sentence. Fortunato, Italian for “the fortunate one,” faces the realization that even the carnival season can be murderously serious. Montresor chooses the setting of the carnival for its abandonment of social order. While the carnival usually indicates joyful social interaction, Montresor distorts its merry abandon, turning the carnival on its head. The repeated allusions to the bones of Montresor’s family that line the vaults foreshadow the story’s descent into the underworld. The two men’s underground travels are a metaphor for their trip to hell. Because the carnival, in the land of the living, does not occur as Montresor wants it to, he takes the carnival below ground, to the realm of the dead and the satanic.

(Video) THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO by Edgar Allan Poe Summary & Analysis

Read more about masquerades and carnivals as motifs.

To build suspense in the story, Poe often employs foreshadowing. For example, when Fortunato says, “I shall not die of a cough,” Montresor replies, “True,” because he knows that Fortunato will in fact die from dehydration and starvation in the crypt. Montresor’s description of his family’s coat of arms also foreshadows future events. The shield features a human foot crushing a tenacious serpent. In this image, the foot represents Montresor and the serpent represents Fortunato. Although Fortunato has hurt Montresor with biting insults, Montresor will ultimately crush him. The conversation about Masons also foreshadows Fortunato’s demise. Fortunato challenges Montresor’s claim that he is a member of the Masonic order, and Montresor replies insidiously with a visual pun. When he declares that he is a “mason” by showing his trowel, he means that he is a literal stonemason—that is, that he constructs things out of stones and mortar, namely Fortunato’s grave.

(Video) The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe – Thug Notes Summary & Analysis

Read more about Fortunato.

The final moments of conversation between Montresor and Fortunato heighten the horror and suggest that Fortunato ultimately—and ironically—achieves some type of upper hand over Montresor. Fortunato’s plea, “For the love of God, Montresor!” has provoked much critical controversy. Some critics suggest that Montresor has at last brought Fortunato to the pit of desperation and despair, indicated by his invocation of a God that has long left him behind. Other critics, however, argue that Fortunato ultimately mocks the “love of God,” thereby employing the same irony that Montresor has effectively used to lure him to the crypts. These are Fortunato’s final words, and the strange desperation that Montresor demonstrates in response suggests that he needs Fortunato more than he wants to admit. Only when he twice screams “Fortunato!” loudly, with no response, does Montresor claim to have a sick heart. The reasons for Fortunato’s silence are unclear, but perhaps his willing refusal to answer Montresor is a type of strange victory in otherwise dire circumstances.

(Video) The Cask of Amontillado

Read more about the meaning of Fortunato’s final words.

FAQs

What is Cask of Amontillado about short summary? ›

The plot summary of ''The Cask of Amontillado'' is about revenge, deceit, and murder, as Montresor tricks a drunk Fortunato by trapping him inside an ancient catacomb. Poe's story uses irony incredibly well in the elements of his characters and setting.

What is the analysis of The Cask of Amontillado? ›

Analysis. The terror of “The Cask of Amontillado,” as in many of Poe's tales, resides in the lack of evidence that accompanies Montresor's claims to Fortunato's “thousand injuries” and “insult.” The story features revenge and secret murder as a way to avoid using legal channels for retribution.

What are 3 main ideas for The Cask of Amontillado? ›

The main themes in “The Cask of Amontillado” are ambivalence, self-delusion, and substance abuse.

What happens at the end of The Cask of Amontillado? ›

End of the story is horrifying and shocking: Montresor traps and entombs living Fortunato behind the brick wall. The victim cries to the executioner: "For the love of God"(Poe, 214) but the only respond is ironical repeat of his own words.

What happens to Fortunato in the end? ›

At the end of the story Fortunato is left walled off in the far reaches of the catacombs to die.

What is the central theme of The Cask of Amontillado? ›

Answer and Explanation: The major theme of ''The Cask of Amontillado'' is revenge. Montressor, the main character, is livid over the fact that Fortunato, his enemy, has insulted him in some way that is left unclear to the reader.

Who is the main character in the story The Cask of Amontillado? ›

The main characters in “The Cask of Amontillado” are Montresor and Fortunato. Montresor is the narrator, who calmly tells the story of his revenge against Fortunato.

What point of view is used in the story The Cask of Amontillado? ›

First Person (Central Narrator) Montresor is our vile narrator. He is dedicated to his own point of view, which is cold, merciless, brutal, conniving, and vengeful.

What is the climax of The Cask of Amontillado? ›

The climax

climax
climax: The culmination of a narrative's rising action, the turning point.
https://en.wiktionary.org › wiki › klimaks
in The Cask of Amontillado is when Montresor strikes Fortunato with a rock, then approaches him while stunned, and chains him to the wall. As these events happen, the author creates tons of other questions for the readers.

Is Montresor guilty? ›

Montresor tried to commit a crime in order to extract revenge. In the end, he successfully killed Fortunato, but destroyed himself in the process. The guilt of the crime weighed heavy on Montresor for fifty years until he could no longer hide the crime he committed.

Why is Fortunato's name ironic? ›

The first aspect of irony, in the story is of the characters name Fortunato. It is derived from the word “Fortun” which means fortunate. This makes it an ironic name to have for a man that is about to an unfortunate fate.

Why did Fortunato become silent at the end? ›

As Montresor fills in the fatal wall and Fortunato sobers up, Fortunato cries out and rattles his chains, laughing nervously at Montresor's “excellent jest.” When the penny finally drops, Fortunato's pleas get more and more desperate: “For the love of God, Montresor!” But Montresor meets all of Fortunato's begging with ...

What were Fortunato's last words? ›

1. “For the love of God, Montresor!” In “The Cask of Amontillado,” Fortunato addresses this plea—his last spoken words—to Montresor, the man who has entombed him alive.

Why did Montresor bury Fortunato? ›

Fortunato believes they are going to the catacombs to taste a fine wine, the Amontillado, however Montresor secretly plans to kill him. The men travel to the depths of the catacombs, and Montresor covertly entombs Fortunato. Sealing the tomb, Montresor leaves Fortunato to die.

Who died in The Cask of Amontillado? ›

In 'The Cask of Amontillado,' Fortunato is killed by the narrator of the story, Montresor.

What does Montresor say at the end? ›

Even though Montresor wants the audience to believe that he despises Fortunato in actuality he deeply admires his cherished friend. At the end of The Cask of Amontillado, Montresor proceeds to say, “For half a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!”

Why did Montresor's heart grew sick? ›

Why did Montresor's "heart grow sick"? The dampness of the catacombs. In the last portion of the story, Montresor often repeats Fortunato's words.

What is the conflict of The Cask of Amontillado? ›

What is the conflict in the "The Cask of Amontillado"? Montresor wants revenge on Fortunato for insulting him.

What is the revenge in The Cask of Amontillado? ›

In the story, the narrator seeks revenge on Fortunato because he mortally insulted him. Montresor succeeds in luring Fortunato to his death without raising any suspicion. A horrible revenge made significantly more awful by the way that the retribution is being taken when no genuine offense had been given.

What lines did you remember from the story The Cask of Amontillado? ›

″'I shall not die of a cough. ' 'True – true,' I replied.” “For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them.” “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.”

Who is the villain in The Cask of Amontillado? ›

Type of Villain

Montresor is the protagonist villain

protagonist villain
A villainous protagonist, or protagonistic villain is a character who is the central focus of a story but isn't the hero of its story. In short, these villains are the main characters of their own stories.
https://villains.fandom.com › wiki › Category:Protagonists
of Edgar Allen Poe's short story "The Cask of Amontillado."

What is the irony in cask of Amontillado? ›

A prime example of verbal irony in "The Cask of Amontillado" is when an unsuspecting Fortunato is being led to his death by his former acquaintance, Montresor. As Montresor lures him into the catacombs, he questions Fortunato about his well-being.

Is Montresor a man or woman? ›

The story is narrated by Montresor, a man with a grudge. He claims that he has suffered many injuries from another man, Fortunato, but when he is finally insulted by Fortunato, Montresor decides it's time for revenge.

What is the main setting of The Cask of Amontillado? ›

The Cask of Amontillado is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in November 1846. It is set in an unnamed city in Italy, during the carnival and tells the story of Montresor, who seeks revenge on Fortunato, a fellow nobleman who insulted him several times.

Why does the narrator want revenge against Fortunato? ›

Why did Montresor seek revenge on Fortunato in the cask of Amontillado? The narrator, Montresor, is angry with Fortunato because he feels that Fortunato has injured and insulted him. He says, "The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge."

What is the perfect crime according to Montresor? ›

According to Montresor, what makes a perfect crime? You get revenge, and you get away with it.

What is the plot of The Cask of Amontillado quizlet? ›

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.

What point of view is used in the story The Cask of Amontillado? ›

First Person (Central Narrator) Montresor is our vile narrator. He is dedicated to his own point of view, which is cold, merciless, brutal, conniving, and vengeful.

Which best describes the main conflict in The Cask of Amontillado? ›

What is the conflict in the "The Cask of Amontillado"? Montresor wants revenge on Fortunato for insulting him.

What lesson did you learn from the story The Cask of Amontillado Brainly? ›

“The Cask of Amontillado”

The most significant moral lesson to be inferred from the story is that one should not harm others lest one should be harmed by them.

What's the climax of The Cask of Amontillado? ›

The climax

climax
climax: The culmination of a narrative's rising action, the turning point.
https://en.wiktionary.org › wiki › klimaks
in The Cask of Amontillado is when Montresor strikes Fortunato with a rock, then approaches him while stunned, and chains him to the wall. As these events happen, the author creates tons of other questions for the readers.

What is the climax of the poem The Cask of Amontillado? ›

The rising action has now brought us to the turning point, or climax, of the story. Now that Montresor has Fortunato exactly where he wants him, he quickly chains him up! While Montresor binds him to the wall, Fortunato is drunk, dumbfounded and still asking about the Amontillado.

What is the crisis of The Cask of Amontillado? ›

The rising action of The Cask of Amontillado

Amontillado
Amontillado (Spanish pronunciation: [amontiˈʎaðo]) is a variety of sherry wine characterised by being darker than fino but lighter than oloroso.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Amontillado
is when Montresor brings fortunate to his catacombs to taste his Amontillado, an expensive type of wine. During this time Fortunato is slightly intoxicated and not completely aware to what is taking place around him.

What is the main setting of The Cask of Amontillado? ›

The Cask of Amontillado is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in November 1846. It is set in an unnamed city in Italy, during the carnival and tells the story of Montresor, who seeks revenge on Fortunato, a fellow nobleman who insulted him several times.

Why does the narrator want revenge against Fortunato? ›

Why did Montresor seek revenge on Fortunato in the cask of Amontillado? The narrator, Montresor, is angry with Fortunato because he feels that Fortunato has injured and insulted him. He says, "The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge."

What is the perfect crime according to Montresor? ›

According to Montresor, what makes a perfect crime? You get revenge, and you get away with it.

How does the problem get solved in The Cask of Amontillado? ›

Answer and Explanation:

In "The Cask of Amontillado," the conflict is resolved when Montresor, the narrator, is successful in his quest to murder Fortunato.

Did Montresor get away with his crime? ›

The Montresor coat of arms and the plan to punish with impunity are ironic details that serve in foreshadowing Montresor's fate, and his never-ending burden of guilt. In the end, Montresor successfully kills Fortunato, but due to the guilt he can never forget, he never gets away with the crime.

What is the ultimate motive of Montresor in murdering Fortunato? ›

Montresor's motive is generally taken to be the punishment of historical transgressions. James Rocks believes “Montresor's act of killing Fortunato is motivated . . . by a faithful Catholic's hatred and fear of the brotherhood of Freemasonry” (1).

What lines did you remember from the story The Cask of Amontillado? ›

″'I shall not die of a cough. ' 'True – true,' I replied.” “For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them.” “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.”

How did Montresor trick Fortunato? ›

He tricks Fortunato into accompanying him into the catacombs by saying that he would ask Luchesi to taste the Amontillado because he was concerned that Fortunato has a cold. Montresor suggests that the damp walls will make Fortunato ill. But Fortunato insists on going with Montresor to taste the Amontillado.

Who are the two main characters in The Cask of Amontillado describe them? ›

The main characters in “The Cask of Amontillado” are Montresor and Fortunato. Montresor is the narrator, who calmly tells the story of his revenge against Fortunato. Montresor lures Fortunato into his catacombs, chains him to a wall, and buries him alive.

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