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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What irony lies behind Fortunato's name?

In the text, Montresor seems to be a very well-mannered person. He speaks with courtesy and respect and shows that he is not at all greedy or vengeful towards Fortunato. When Fortunato refuses to leave with Montresor, he says “I must positively leave you. But I must first render you all the little attentions in my power." The name Fortunato is also ironic because it means “fortunate” in Italian, but his life is not fortunate at all. He dies a horrible death while his enemy lives on to tell the tale.

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Fortunato translates, in Italian, to "fortunate one," and he does seem to be very fortunate for the majority of his life, up until the events of this story at least.  The narrator, Montresor, in describing his victim, says, "He had a weak point -- this Fortunato -- although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared."  Thus, life had been kind to this man, really.  He has only one weakness and is generally well thought of by the community.  He is, indeed, fortunate in this way.

One might expect, then, that the rest of his life would continue in this vein.  However, as you point out, his name is ironic, and this means that there must be some discrepancy between expectation and reality.  In this case, one would likely conclude from his name that Fortunato would come to a death as fortunate as his life has been.  On the contrary, he meets a most unfortunate death, to be walled up alive in an underground crypt until he asphyxiates.

Another irony surrounding Fortunato's name is that, although his end is most unfortunate, he does have that one weakness, and that one weakness is enough for Montresor to exploit and lead the ultimately unfortunate man to his death.  If Fortunato weren't so proud of his status as a wine connoisseur, if he didn't believe so strongly that his taste and discernment were so far beyond everyone else's, then Montresor would have had no way to lure him to the catacombs where he had supposed stashed a pipe of Amontillado.  So, although the presence of that one flaw was certainly unfortunate for Fortunato, it was extremely fortunate for Montresor!

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The irony that lies behind Fortunato's name is that the basic root word of his name is "Fortun" as in fortune, indicating luck, success or prosperity when Fortunato is the actual victim in the story of "The Cask of Amontillado."  Fortunato is anything but lucky or fortunate in the story, as he is deceived into trusting Montresor, and he ends up losing his life.

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The name Fortunato sounds very much like the word fortunate. Of course, Fortunato is anything but lucky. He is manipulated by Montressor and led to his untimely and horrific death. So the irony lies in the fact that a man whose name would indicate good fortune ends up with the very ill fortune of being buried (or technically walled up) alive--not very fortunate at all.

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What is the irony in the name Fortunato?

Giving this character the name Fortunato was intended to indicate that he was both fortunate and unfortunate. He was fortunate because he was born into a wealthy family and had an easy life with plenty of money to spend and lots of friends. Montresor explains this in the story.

“Come,” I said, with decision, “we will go back; your health is precious.You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was.  You are a man to be missed. For me it is no...

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matter. We will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides, there is Luchesi—”

The irony in the author's choice of Fortunato's name is that this unsuspecting man is about to be very unfortunate indeed. In fact, it is hard to imagine how a man could have anything worse happen to him than being chained in a dark niche underground, walled up, and left to die of starvation, terror and madness. The fact that he had been so fortunate before that awful event only serves to make his fate that much more gruesome by contrast. He dies wearing the colorful jester's costume and the hat with little ringing bells. He was having a great time at the carnival until Montresor enticed him into his trap.

Life had been easy for Fortunato up to that point. The main difference between the two men is that one inherited a lot of money while the other is poor and has to struggle for to stay alive. Throughout the story Fortunato and Montresor sound like rich and poor men, respectively. Montresor is consistently polite, obliging, humble and obsequious. Even when Montresor is leaving Fortunato to die, he talks to him with pretended courtesy and consideration.

“Pass your hand,” I said, “over the wall; you cannot help feeling the nitre. Indeed, it is very damp. Once more let me implore you to return. No? Then I must positively leave you. But I must first render you all the little attentions in my power.”

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What is the irony of Fortunato's name?

Fortunato isn't very fortunato—the Italian word for “fortunate”—at all. In fact, he is the exact opposite: very unfortunate indeed. For there is something particularly unfortunate about the matter of his grisly demise. Montresor's dastardly plot to kill his enemy may well have been meticulously planned, it may well have been many years in the making, but there were still a host of things that could have gone wrong with it. In the end, it was astonishing that Montresor managed to pull it off at all.

For one thing, Fortunato might not have wanted to go down into the cellar to savor a glass or three of amontillado. But because he had such a high opinion of himself as a connoisseur, he willingly agreed to go, just so he could show off his superior knowledge of wine. In that sense, one could say that Fortunato unwittingly contributed to his own demise.

Had Fortunato not decided to accompany Montresor down to the cellar, then it would have been much harder for Montresor to have murdered him. And even if he had still been able to kill him, it would have been very hard to get away with his crime, which is what Montresor wanted all along. But Montresor was fortunato, and Fortunato anything but.

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