Edgar Allan Poe The Cask of Amontillado
The Cask of Amontillado, the short story (first published in the November 1846 issue of Godey’s Lady Book, the most popular American periodical) takes place in a nameless Italian city in an unspecified year (probably in the 18th century), narrated in the first person point of view. The Narrator is Montresor, the protagonist.
The Cask of Amontillado Meaning
The Cask– meaning wine barrel, is derived from the same root word used to construct ‘casket’, meaning “coffin”. It ironically indicates the “Coffin of Fortunate” The cask is capable of holding 31.5 gallon barrel. Amontillado’ is a kind of Sherry, a product of Spain, called ‘Montilla.’
The Cask of Amontillado Characters
1.Character Sketch of Monstresor :
The very name ‘Monstresor’ means ‘my treasure’. He, the teller of the tale, narrates the story of his killing Fortunato fifty years before. He hails from an established wealthy family, living in a large “palazzo” with a staff of servants. His speeches are interspersed with Latin and French phrases. He cherished a grudge against Fortunato who has been engaged in several offences against him. His planning of revenge-taking is in Jacobean spirit. He lures his friend into the deepest catacombs beneath the ‘palazzo’, chains him to the walk of a small alcove, seals him in behind a new brick wall, in spite of Fortunato’s fervent appeal for mercy and leaves him to court death. Montresor is made of different metal than generally met with Poe’s horror fiction. Having no regret, he reveals the story of revenge fifty years later.
A subtle manger of macabre setting and situations, Montresor is a ruthless, quick-witted, planner with careful manipulating power of revenge-taking. His predecessors can be detected in the Jacobean Revenge Tragedies of England. He is a skilled utilizer of the twilight dusk. Determined in avenging his strange motive, he has a Machiavellian psyche, though he has endured “the thousand injures of Fortunates”. He “vowed revenge.” He deliciously relishes the fortune of Fortunants. The unique burial is itself a sort of dramatic irony.
2. Luchesi : He is familiar both to Montresor and Fortunato and a wine expert. He never appears in the plot, but his interest remains embedded in the story. His name in introduced to lure Fortunato to his tomb. His is Poe’s unique device.
3. Fortunato : The name indicates “fortunate”. Of course he is fortunate ironically to meet his death. He is an Italian friend of Montresor. He remains totally unaware of his friend’s revenge-motive. Wine leads him to the grim world of death. His dress or costume a comic sense which is ironic at last.
The Cask of Amontillado Theme
The main theme of the Cask of Amontillado written by Edgar Allan Poe is revenge. The narrator Montresor wanted to seek revenge on Fortunato in an effort to support his time-honored family motto “nemo me impune lacessit” or ‘no one assails me with impunity’ (no one can attack me without being punished).
The Cask of Amontillado Analysis
The Cask of Amontillado Plot
Poe’s philosophy of the short story deeply influenced his practices as a writer and the critical examination of The Cask of Amontillado (1846) will reveal how he embodied his principles of unity in his own art. The revenge theme is common place enough, but it is how Poe treats the theme that makes this story interesting. He wastes no time on introductory Preambles; the first paragraph establishes the situation, and the reader calls to mind Poe’s dictum that not one word in a tale should be wasted.
The plot of the story is made up of mutually dependent parts that spring inevitably out of Montresor’s craving for revenge. The time of the story is evening, the place Italy during a carnival. Montresor the revenger meets his victim, the ironically named Fortunate, who is drunk and dressed in a clown’s outfit with bells that jangle from the top of his cap. We never learn the exact nature of the wrong Montresor alleges he has suffered at the hands of Fortunate, and we never need to know because this is not a part of Montresor’s story.
We see things only through Montresor’s ironic, obsessional mind, and he is not interested in reasons for his revenge if any indeed exist, but only in how he carries it out. The events in the story evolve not out of accidental occurrences, but directly out of characters of the two protagonists. Once Montresor brooding obsessively over his peculiar revenge meets Fortunate who is drunk, but still self-confident and motivated by an arrogant pride in his knowledge of wines, the denouement is in sight; Fortunato’s foolish complacency is a perfect complement to Montresor’s cunning and mock humility.
Irony in The Cask of Amontillado
The story’s tone derives from the patterns of irony that permeate and unify it. The victim’s name and his fool’s dress are obvious examples of irony, but the conversational exchanges between the two protagonists are more complex, Montresor encourages Fortunato into the cellar by pretending to discourage him; he tells him of its dangers and inconvenience, and then cunningly suggests that Fortunato’s rival Luchesi ; might be consulted.
Three patterns of irony add a further dimension to the story—that of acute psychological realism, through which we can follow the cruel cunning of Montresor, and watch him destroy Fortunato’s word- the discussion about masons, the Montresor family motto and the buried bones are part of Montressor’s revenge ; the conversations and the plot of the story are indistinguishable. Montresor is an artist with words; he knows the exact meaning of what he says, whereas Fortunato does not until the very end when the jingling of the bells on the fool’s cap mock his wordless recognition of his fate.
The Cask of Amontillado Story in Brief
During the excitement of the carnival in an Italian city, Monstressor determines to seek revenge for “the thousand injuries” inflicted on him by Fortunato, a wine-connoisseur. He inveigles the drunken Fortunate to his under-ground vault to taste a choice- Amontillads he claims to have stored there. When they reach a crypt at the end of a passage, Montresor shackles the stupefied Fortunato and proceeds to wall him up with stone and mortar. Fortunato cries for help, but there is no one to hear, and Montresor completes his work, the last sound from his victim being a faint Jingling of bells on his carnival motley.
The Cask of Amontillado Setting
The setting of this spine-chilling and blood-curdling short story is certainly key to the mood of horror, suspense, and disbelief. Poe was known as a “Dark Romantic” of the twilight, which means he was one of a group of authors who focused their work on the dark side of humanity-evil, sin and the capacity within us all to do terrible things. The focus is on the catacombs but also how they function as a psychological symbol for the state of mind of the narrator, in a tale of
The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge
The setting of the story is key in this respect too it is set during carnival before Lent, probably in Florence, Italy, when characters wore masks and fine clothing. It is perhaps ironic that Montresor chooses this time to reveal his true inner-self.
The symbolic function of the catacombs:
We had passed through walls of piled bones, with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of the catacombs.
As Montresor leads Fortunato on into the ever-deeper depths of the labyrinthine catacombs, we as readers are treated to a special voyage into the psychological state of Montresor-the deeper we get, the more devilish, sadistic and horrific his thinking and actions become It is key that Montresor commits his heinous crime once they have penetrated the depths of the catacombs and reached the finish he is able to express his psychologically disturbed state to the extreme.
Yet we do not know whether the bricking-in case of Fortunate represents the psychological repression of Montresor’s evil desires and actions- we can only guess that after chillingly Sealing in Fortunato and leaving him there to die, Montresor is able to put on his mask of respectability and operate in Venetian society once more. Having “buried” his unacceptable psychological side he can freely partake of “normal” society again. The labyrinthine catacombs represents the mood of terror and horror.
The Cask of Amontillado Summary
Edgar Allan Poe’s the Cask of Amontillado is a story of death, revenge, irony and horror. The Cask of Amontillado is a criminal’s account of a crime committed fifty years earlier by Montresor, the narrator- a crime for which he was never caught but now confesses.
The story begins with Montresor the narrator of the story explaining the reason for the crime. According to Montresor all the Fortunato has committed numerous injuries against him but it wasn’t until Fortunato insulted him that he vowed to revenge. Montresor then makes a statement that generates much of the controversy and discussion surrounding the story. Montresor says “You who so well nor the nature of my soul.” Montresor never tells us or defines the ‘you’ to whom he is speaking. Many of the interpretations of the story hinge on that one cryptic statement Montresor never gave any indication to Fortunato that he was angry with him or that he was seeking revenge because as Montresor states “I must not only punish but punish with impunity”.
As a result Montresor does not let any realize that he is angry to the point of vengeance. Consequently when Montresor meets Fortunato during Carnival Fortunato has no reason not to trust the smiling Montresor. Montresor studied his enemy thoroughly and knew of his weakness for good wines. As a result Montresor used to want to trap his victim. He mentions to Fortunato that he has acquired a Cask of Amontillado but that he is unsure that it is the real deal. He bemoans the fact that he paid full Amontillado price without consulting for Fortunato, thus playing on Fortunato’s sprite.
Montresor then mentions that he knows that Fortunato is busy and that he is on his way to ask Luchesi to taste the wine. Consequently Fortunato’s competitive spirit comes to the forefront. Fortunato claims that Luchesi knows nothing and that he is a better judge of wine. Montresor protests that Fortunato is too busy for such an errand. Montresor’s protest is designed to increase for Fortunato’s anxiety to go and taste the Amontillado. Once Montresor feels that Fortunato is completely sold on the errand he agrees to allow him to be the one to taste the wine before they move down the street.
Montresor protects his identity by putting on a black mask and pulling a clock around himself. Montresor arrived home to an empty house just as he had planned. He had told his employees that he would be gone all night and that they were not to leave the house, thus ensuring that as soon as he was out of sight they would all leave. They make their way in the Montresor’s family catacombs. The knighter lined walls cause Fortunato to cough and Montresor encourages him to forsake the errand and go home. Fortunato assists that “I shall not die of cough” – which Montresor replies with irony “True, True”.
As they travel deeper they discuss Montresor‘s family motto which is “nemo me impune lacessit” (no one insults me with impunity). They drink as they go along in order to ward off the chill. The ironic name of one of the wines they imbibe is ‘de grave.’ at one point Fortunato asks Montresor for the design of the Masons which Montresor did not understand because he is not a Mason. When they reached the depths of the catacombs Montresor tricks Fortunato into stepping into a small recess where he changed him to two staples in the wall and begins to wall him in.
At first Fortunato does not understand what is going on. However he soon realizes his situation and begins to mourn and test the chains. Montresor stops so that he can listen more easily to Fortunato’s dismay. When Fortunato quiets he precedes walling up Fortunato. At one point he raises his torch and look inside the Crypt and view his handiwork. When the light falls on him, Fortunato begins screaming. At first Montresor is alarmed fearing that someone will hear the cries then he remembers the security of his position and joins Fortunato’s yells trying to yell louder than him.
Eventually Fortunato becomes quiet and Montresor continues his task. Just as Montresor is about to complete the wall Fortunato begins to laugh and make comments as if the situation where a simple prank. However Montresor’s responses caused Fortunato to realize the sincerity of his actions. Fortunato begs for mercy God “For the love of God” but Montresor simply because the phrase and finishes the task the last sound we hear from Fortunato is the jingling of his gestures cap. Montresor finishes his account with the ‘May he rest in peace’.