Fortunato is an Italian friend of Montresor's, and his sworn enemy, whom Montresor has planned to ‘‘punish with impunity. ‘‘Although Montresor's explains that Fortunato has committed a "thousand injuries’’ and a final "insult," no details of these offenses are given. Fortunato displays no uneasiness in Montresor's company, and is unaware that his friend is plotting against him. Fortunato, a respected and feared man, is a proud connoisseur of fine wine, and, at least on the night of the story, he clouds his senses and judgment by drinking too much of it. He allows himself to be led further and further into the catacombs by Montresor, stepping past piles of bones with no suspicion. He is urged on by the chance of sampling some rare Amontillado, and by his unwillingness to let a rival, Luchesi, have the pleasure of sampling it first. His singlemindedness, combined with his drunkenness, leads him to a horrible death.
Luchesi is an acquaintance of Montresor's and Fortunato's, and another wine expert. He never appears in the story, but Montresor keeps Fortunato on the trail of the Amontillado by threatening to allow Luchesi to sample it first if Fortunato is not interested.
Montresor is the "I" who narrates the story, telling an unseen listener or reader about his killing of Fortunato fifty years before. Montresor is a wealthy man from an established family, who lives in a large "palazzo'' with a staff of servants. He speaks eloquently and easily drops Latin and French phrases into his speech. He has been nursing a grudge against his friend Fortunato, who has committed several unnamed offenses against him, and has been coldly planning his revenge. Meeting Fortunato in the street one evening, Montresor takes this opportunity to lure his friend into the deepest catacombs beneath his palazzo, and there he chains Fortunato to the wall of a small alcove, seals him in behind a new brick wall which he builds even as Fortunato begs for mercy, and leaves him to die. Montresor's coldness sets him apart from many murderous characters and many Poe protagonists. Even as he tells the story fifty years later, he reveals no regret for his actions, and no real pleasure in them. This lack of feeling made Poe's early readers uncomfortable, and led some to accuse Poe of immorality in creating such a character.