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“The Cask of Amontillado”

Plot Summary

The story's unreliable narrator, Montresor, tells the story of the day that he took his
revenge on Fortunato, a fellow nobleman, to an unspecified person who knows him very well.
Angry over some unspecified insult, he plots to murder his friend during Carnival when the man is
drunk, dizzy, and wearing a jester's motley.

He baits Fortunato by telling him he has obtained what he believes to be a pipe of a rare
vintage of Amontillado. He claims he wants his friend's expert opinion on the subject. Fortunato
goes with Montresor to the wine cellars of the latter's palazzo, where they wander in
the catacombs. Montresor offers wine (first Medoc, then De Grave) to Fortunato. 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?" Montresor
says he is, and when Fortunato, disbelieving, requests a sign, Montresor displays a trowel he had
been hiding.

Montresor warns Fortunato, who has a bad cough, of the damp, and suggests they go
back; Fortunato insists on continuing, claiming that "[he] shall not die of a cough." During their
walk, Montresor mentions his family coat of arms: a golden foot in a blue background crushing a
snake whose fangs are embedded in the foot's heel, with the motto Nemo me impune
lacessit ("No one insults me with impunity"). When they come to a niche, Montresor tells his victim
that the Amontillado is within. Fortunato enters and, drunk and unsuspecting, does not resist as
Montresor quickly chains him to the wall. Montresor then declares that, since Fortunato won't go
back, he must "positively leave".

Montresor walls up the niche, entombing his friend alive. At first, Fortunato, who sobers up
faster than Montresor anticipated he would, 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). As the murderer finishes the topmost row of
stones, Fortunato wails, "For the love of God, Montresor!" Montresor replies, "Yes, for the love of
God!" He listens for a reply but hears only the jester's bells ringing. 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 in the 50 years since that night, he has never
been caught, and Fortunato's body still hangs from its chains in the niche where he left it. The
murderer concludes: Requiescat In Pace! ("May he rest in peace!").

ANALYSIS
I. Characters
1. Montresor
 Any critic will tell you that Montresor is “a classic example of an unreliable
narrator.”
 Montresor’s unreliability reveals truths about human nature.
 Montresor is a classically unsympathetic character.

2. Fortunato

 Fortunato is addicted to wine. He’s already really drunk when he meets


Montresor, and he thinks the Amontillado can help him take it to the next level.

 His addiction leaves him vulnerable to Montresor’s attack.

 Whether he really hurt and insulted Montresor or not, he’s so insensitive, he


doesn’t notice that Montresor is mad at him, something any fool can see.

3. Luchesi

 Luchesi isn’t really a character. He’s more of a plot device. He helps drive the
action.

 Luchesi is Fortunato’s rival in wine tasting.

 Luchesi is a kind of insurance for Montresor. He brings Luchesi up whenever he


wants to keep Fortunato distracted – like right before he “fetter[s] him to the
granite.”

II. Setting
1. Undeground Catacombs

2. A Carnival Somewhere in Italy

III. Theme
1. Freedom and Confinement

- The contrast between freedom and confinement is extreme in “The Cask of


Amontillado.” For one character to be free, another must die.

2. Betrayal

- Betrayal drives the action in “The Cask of Amontillado." One character’s betrayal sets
off a hideous chain of retribution, enacted below ground in a mass grave.

3. Drugs and Alcohol

- The only literal drug we see in “The Cask of Amontillado” is wine.

4. Mortality

- “The Cask of Amontillado” has a frightening fixation on death, corpses, and bones.

Source(s):

http://www.shmoop.com/cask-of-amontillado

http://www.gradesaver.com/poes-short-stories/study-guide/section4/