Montresor, the first-person narrator of Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado," describes the carnival as "supreme madness." By this, he is referring to the raucous drinking and celebration which occurs during the days before Lent. Lent is a Catholic religious observance leading up to Easter Sunday. During Lent, people often abstain from drinking alcohol and eating meat. Therefore, they view the carnival as a time to drink and eat before a period of abstinence. The term "carnival" literally means a farewell to meat, and the celebration involves a great indulgence in both drinking and eating. People also often dress in bright-colored and absurd clothing.
Montresor says Fortunato "wore motley," including a "tight fitting parti-striped dress" and a "conical cap and bells." Montresor also notes that his servants have all left his estate "to make merry in honor of the time." Thus, the mood of carnival is happy and festive with people enjoying themselves and many becoming quite drunk. In fact, Montresor describes Fortunato as being partially inebriated when they meet. For Montresor, the holiday atmosphere is perfect for his plot. No one is paying attention to what he is doing as he lures Fortunato into the catacombs below his estate with the pretext of getting Fortunato's opinion on a bottle of wine.