Contrast the characters of Montresor and Fortunato in Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado."

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Presumably the protagonist and antagonist of Edgar Allan Poe's Gothic tale, Montresor and Fortunato are apparently victimizer and victim. While there exists an ambiguity regarding "the thousand injuries" committed by Fortunato against Montresor, it is clear that Montresor has planned redress against his perceived enemy.  With the motif of disguise, Montresor feigns a friendly invitation to Fortunato to taste his recently-acquired Amontillado.  Priding himself on his expertise in judging wine, the fatuous Fortunato, who considers himself a connossieur, agrees to accompany Montresor to his catacombs where the wine is stored because he wants to prevent his rival Luchesi from having this honor. But, there he is victimized.

While pretending solicitude for Fortunato's cough and health, Montresor lures the inebriated Fortunato through recesses covered with niter and filled with skeletal bones, giving him more libation.  He argues that Luchesi can come instead, and the enraged Fortunato counters with dramatic irony,

"Enough...the cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me.  I shall not die of a cough."

Speaking in double entendres, Montresor displays his family coat of arms and declares himself a mason.  Finally, having seduced Fortunato far enough into the catacombs, Montresor fetters his victim, who is "too astounded to resist." Fortunato screams. It is at this point that the horror of what he has done strikes Montresor. He replies to the screams of his victim; the low laugh of Fortunato "erected the hairs upon [his] head" and he bemoans that the voice behind is not that of "the noble Fortunato." After Montresor finishes walling in Fortunato, the victim suggests that Montresor may be jesting with him, and laughs,

"He!he!he!...yes, the Anomtillado. But is it not getting late?  Will they not be awaiting us at the palazzo...Let us be gone....For the love of God, Montresor. 

In a reversal of meaning, Montresor repeats, "Yes,...for the love of God."  His "heart grew sick" and he hastens to make "an end of [his] labor." Ironically, it seems that Montresor has also become victim.  For, he realizes that the real horror lies within himself for what he is capable of doing.  Ironically, then, Montresor has meant to victimize and terrorize Fortunato and has done so; however, at the same time he has also terrorized himself. In her essay, "'The Cask of Amontillado': Duplicity and Doubling," Cynthia Bily writes,

When they reach the end of the final passageway, Poe presents a flurry of twos: two men in ‘‘the interval between two of the colossal supports’’ confronted with ‘‘two iron staples, distant from each other about two feet.'' But as soon as Montresor fastens the padlock on the chain around Fortunato's waist, the two are one.

The two become dopplegangers as the redressed becomes also a redresser and vice versa.

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The Cask of Amontillado

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