illustration of Fortunato standing in motley behind a mostly completed brick wall with a skull superimposed on the wall where his face should be

The Cask of Amontillado

by Edgar Allan Poe
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In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado," what are Montresor's rules for revenge?

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There is no passage in Edgar Allan Poe’s 1846 short story The Cask of Amontillado in which the narrator, Montresor, favors us with a list of rules by which he planned and executed the death of Fortunato.  To the extent that Montresor could be said to have rules guiding his plan to avenge the repeated insults of Fortunato, they are offered in the story’s opening paragraph.  The “thousand injuries” to which Montresor ascribes his growing need for vengeance, culminating in an unspecified “insult,” provides his motivation to exact vengeance upon his supposed friend.  In beginning his story of how he came to satisfy his need for vengeance, Montresor provides what could be interpreted as Rule #1:

“You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat.”

So, we can surmise that Rule #1 is: do not alert your intended victim or anybody else as to your plans to conduct a murder or even to the sense of injury to which you have been subjected.  In other words, do not telegraph your punches.

Rule #2 is a little more explicit:

“I must not only punish, but punish with impunity.”

If Rule #1 is to provide no indication whatsoever that you harbor murderous designs upon a particular individual, then Rule #2 is to plan so carefully before carrying out the crime so as to ensure that nobody will ever know what you did.  That Montresor was successful on both counts is evident in his well-executed plan to entice Fortunato to his home under the pretext of asking his intended victim to sample an expensive wine, specifically, the Amontillado, to ensure that is the genuine substance for which Montresor has paid.  By appealing to an already intoxicated Fortunato’s vanity, Montresor is able to lure his victim into the trap.  That Montresor was successful in ensuring that Rule #2 was secured is evident in the story’s final sentences. Referring to the quality of his planning and execution of the murder and the concealment of the victim’s remains, Montresor concludes his narration by saying,

“For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!”

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