What makes Fortunato fall prey to Montresor's murderous plot?

Expert Answers

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

In Edgar Allan Poe's short story "Cask of Amontillado" Montresor plots to murder Fortunato for an "insult" which is never revealed. Montresor chooses the time of Carnival to carry out the deed. Carnival is the celebration just before the fasting and abstinence of the Christian observance of Lent in anticipation of Easter. Carnival literally means a farewell to meat. 

Amid the chaos of the celebration Montresor lures Fortunato to his palazzo. Montresor knows his servants won't be around because they are out celebrating. He also knows that Fortunato will be a little drunk and that the man will not question the sincerity of Montresor's invitation. Montresor says,

It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my in to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my to smile now was at the thought of his immolation.

In order to get Fortunato to go into the catacombs where he later meets his demise, Montresor plays on the man's "connoisseurship in wine." Montresor tells Fortunato that he has a "pipe of Amontillado" and he needs his expert opinion. Partly because Fortunato has already been drinking he is quite interested in the fine vintage.

Montresor further entices the man by saying he can always confer with another supposed expert if Fortunato is too busy. Fortunato has disdain for the other expert, further playing into Montresor's hands. Montresor says,

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

"Luchresi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry."

"And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own.

"Come, let us go."


"To your vaults."

"My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good nature. I perceive you have an engagement. Luchresi--"

"I have no engagement; --come."

As they descend into the vaults where the wine is stored, Montresor continues to discourage Fortunato by saying it's too cold, the walls are covered in nitre (a salty substance that accumulates in underground caverns) and he fears for Fortunato's health, quite ironic considering what is in store for the man. Montresor does this to disguise his true plan to bring the man to the end of the catacombs, chain him and brick him into the wall, never to be heard from again. 

To this means Montresor also offers more drink to his victim until Fortunato is quite inebriated: "He turned towards me, and looked into my eyes with two filmy orbs that distilled the rheum of intoxication." 

In a final irony Fortunato asks Montresor if he is of the "Masons." The term mason has two meanings. Masons, or freemasons, could be a fraternal order or they could simply be those workers who build with masonry. When asked, Montresor reveals the trowl he plans to use to wall up Fortunato deep in the catacombs below the palazzo.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What first allows Montressor to enact revenge against Fortunato for his "thousand injuries" and insult, is that as Montressor states, he never alerted Fortunato to his anger through the issue of a threat, continuing the pretenses of their friendship whilst plotting against him. The crux of what allows Montressor's plan to succeed is, as he states, Fortunato's great weakness is his pride in his "connoisseurship of wine," which allows Montressor to lure him into his company with the promise of a great quantity of Amontillado, a rare vintage. Montressor gets Fortunato drunk and continues to play to Fortunato's pride, eventually luring him into the Montressor house catacombs, where the prized wine is claiming to be stored. Montressor continues to use reverse psychology to get Fortunato farther into the vaults, stating concern for his cough in the damp air, worrying that since he is an important person, people at the carnival will be missing his company. Fortunato, made belligerent through drink and pride, insists on trying the Amontillado, and is eventually led into a niche where Montressor chains him to a wall before entombing him alive.  

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial