Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Told in the first person by an Italian aristocrat, “The Cask of Amontillado” engages the reader by making him or her a confidant to Montresor’s macabre tale of revenge. The victim is Fortunato, who, the narrator claims, gave him a thousand injuries that he endured patiently, but when Fortunato dared insult him, he vowed revenge. It must be a perfect revenge, one in which Fortunato will know fully what is happening to him and in which Montresor will be forever undetected. To accomplish it, Montresor waits until carnival season, a time of “supreme madness,” when Fortunato, already half-drunk and costumed as a jester, is particularly vulnerable. Montresor then informs him that he has purchased a pipe of Amontillado wine but is not sure he has gotten the genuine article. 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. Knowing his victim’s vanity, Montresor baits him by saying that some fools argue that Luchesi’s taste is as fine as Fortunato’s. 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. Through underground corridors with piles of skeletons alternating with wine casks, Montresor leads Fortunato, whose jester’s bells jingle grotesquely in the funereal atmosphere. In the deepest crypt there is a small recess, and there Montresor...
(The entire section is 297 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Cask of Amontillado Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
“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. Montresor seeks revenge on Fortunato for some unspecified insult by luring him down into his family vaults to inspect some wine he has purchased. However, Montresor’s plot to maneuver Fortunato to where he can wall him up alive is anything but straightforward. 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. Every time Montresor urges Fortunato to turn back for his health’s sake, he succeeds in drawing him further into the snares of his revenge plot.
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. For example, when Fortunato says he will not die of a cough, Montresor knowingly replies, “True, true.” When Fortunato drinks a toast to the dead lying in the...
(The entire section is 728 words.)
"The Cask of Amontillado" was first published in 1846. The first-person narrator, Montresor, is unreliable and is attempting to explain his actions of 50 years before. The story begins with Montresor addressing someone familiar, who knows the "nature of my soul." He explains that he had borne "the thousand injuries of Fortunato," but finally Fortunato went too far, and he devised a plan for revenge.
Fortunato does not suspect Montresor's plan. In fact, when they meet in the street during carnival, Fortunato is very glad to see him. Fortunato is dressed like a jester, and has been drinking. Throughout the story, Montresor exploits Fortunato's interest in wine. First, he tempts Fortunato by claiming he has purchased a cask of Amontillado, which is a dry sherry, but he is unsure if its authentic. Instead of asking Fortunato directly to examine the Amontillado, Montresor says he will ask another because Fortunato is busy, thereby playing upon both Fortunato's pride and greed.
Fortunato agrees to accompany Montresor home, where the servants have all gone to enjoy the festivities. Montresor grabs two torches and leads the way into the family catacombs, which are lined with nitre and cause Fortunato to cough. Montresor says they will go back, but Fortunato wants to see the Amontillado, claiming, "I shall not die of a cough," to which Montresor replies, "True—true."
While they walk deeper into the catacombs, Montresor describes his family's coat of arms and motto, which is "Nemo me impune lacessit," or "No one insults me with impunity." They also consume more wine. When Fortunato makes a secret sign of the masons, Montresor does not understand. Fortunato asks him for a sign he is of the masons, and Montresor produces a trowel from his cloak. Although Fortunato seems to be confused, he still wants to see the Amontillado, and they continue deeper into the tombs.
At the end of the crypt, there is a room lined with bones, with a pile of bones on one side. Fortunato, looking for the cask, steps into a small interior recess, and Montresor quickly chains him to the wall, taunting him with all the opportunities he had allowed for Fortunato to back out. Fortunato, in shock, can't comprehend what is happening as Montresor uses the trowel and stone and mortar buried under the pile of bones to wall up the crypt.
Fortunato comes to his senses and begins to moan and test the chains. Montresor waits until...
(The entire section is 1238 words.)
"The Cask of Amontillado" was first published in the November 1846 issue of Godey's Lady's Book, a monthly magazine from Philadelphia that published poems and stories by some of the best American writers of the nineteenth century, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The story next appeared in the collection Poe's Works, edited by Rufus W. Griswold, Poe's literary executor, in 1850. By the time Poe wrote this story, he was already nationally known as the author of the poem "The Raven" and of several short stories collected in a book called, simply, Tales (1845). These earlier stories were widely reviewed and debated by critics who found them brilliant and disturbing, and their author perplexing and immoral. Although "The Cask of Amontillado" was not singled out for critical attention when it appeared, it did nothing to change the opinions of Poe's contemporary admirers and detractors. Like Poe's other stories, it has remained in print continuously since 1850.
The story is narrated by Montresor, who carries a grudge against Fortunato for an offense that is never explained. Montresor leads a drunken Fortunato through a series of chambers beneath his palazzo with the promise of a taste of Amontillado, a wine that Montresor has just purchased. When the two men reach the last underground chamber, Montresor chains Fortunato to the wall, builds a new wall to seal him in, and leaves him to die....
(The entire section is 1767 words.)