In "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe, where has Montresor been, both figuratively and literally?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Montresor has literally been looking all over the central part of Venice for Fortunato because he wants to kill him that night, if possible. Montresor tells Fortunato he has just received a cask of Amontillado, implying he received it at his palazzo and had it stored in the vaults down...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Montresor has literally been looking all over the central part of Venice for Fortunato because he wants to kill him that night, if possible. Montresor tells Fortunato he has just received a cask of Amontillado, implying he received it at his palazzo and had it stored in the vaults down below. He tells Fortunato that he came looking for him because he doubts whether the cask is really Amontillado or only ordinary Spanish sherry. Both figuratively and literally, Montresor has been looking for Fortunato to get him to taste his nonexistent wine and tell him whether it is real Amontillado. Montresor justifies his hurry to get an expert to judge it the Amontillado that night by saying he already bought the wine and had it delivered to his home.

The most important part of Montresor's ruse is contained in the following words:

“I have my doubts,” I replied; “and I was silly enough to pay the full Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain.”

Without saying so, Montresor implies three important things in this excerpt. One is that a ship from Barcelona has arrived in port carrying a cargo of Amontillado sherry. Another is that Montresor bought a cask of this sherry at a bargain price. The third is he would like to buy more if only he can be sure it is genuine, implying the Amontillado will only be sold for a short period of time.

Both Montresor and Fortunato refer to the cask as a "pipe." This is a barrel containing 126 gallons of wine. It is hard to imagine Montresor buying 126 gallons, or approximately 500 quart bottles, of sherry for personal consumption. It is also impossible to imagine Montresor would buy another 126 gallons of sherry for the same purpose. That would be a little over a thousand quarts of sherry! Fortunato must assume Montresor bought the wine as an investment and intends to bottle and sell it. 

Montresor knows what will interest Fortunato is not tasting a glass of sherry or showing off his connoisseurship; rather, it is the idea of getting in on the bargain. Fortunato is a rich man and could buy up the entire shipload of Amontillado, which is probably what he intends to do. Why, then, doesn't he ask Montresor a lot of questions about this wine?

Fortunato is eager, but he doesn't want to appear eager. He wants Montresor to think he is just doing him a favor by tasting his wine. That is why he doesn't ask, for example, how much Montresor paid for his nonexistent pipe of Amontillado.

It should be noted that Fortunato doesn't have to go to Montresor's home to taste his wine. If there is a Spanish ship in the harbor, Fortunato could easily find it and taste the wine on board. That is why Montresor lies that he is on his way to Luchesi, saying, 

As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchesi. If any one has a critical turn it is he. He will tell me—

Fortunato doesn't want Luchesi to hear about the bargain-priced Amontillado. Of course, Montresor has no intention of going to Luchesi, since he doesn't want to kill Luchesi and doesn't really have any wine to taste anyway. Montresor's story convinces Fortunato to accompany him to his palazzo and to his doom.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team