The Cask of Amontillado Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

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What are three examples of dramatic irony in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

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Dramatic irony occurs when characters in a story are unaware of things known by the reader, thereby creating suspense or humor. In the case of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado," we know from the very first paragraph that Montresor, the narrator, seeks vengeance for the unspecified "thousand injuries" inflicted upon him by Fortunato. However, Fortunato remains blissfully oblivious to Montresor's malice until the end of the tale, meaning that many of the two characters' statements take on different meanings when viewed from the perspective of Fortunato or from the perspective of readers. Here are three examples:

When Montresor first brings up the cask, he tells Fortunato, "My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good nature." Fortunato accepts this compliment blindly, but readers know that Montresor is lying through his teeth.

Shortly thereafter, the two have this conversation:

"Enough," he said; "the cough's a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough."

"True—true," I replied . . .

Here, Montresor's agreement that the cough won't be fatal sounds to Fortunato like simple acknowledgement. Yet readers understand that Montresor knows the cough won't kill Fortunato, because Montresor plans to kill Fortunato long before the disease has time to turn deadly!

A third example occurs when Montresor describes his coat of arms, "A huge human foot d'or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel." Fortunato takes the statement at face-value as a factual description of the Montresor family crest. But readers know that Montresor believes that he represents the foot stomping upon the snake that is Fortunato, an inference supported by a Latin motto that translates to "no one attacks me with impunity." Moreover, in a second layer of irony, readers know that Montresor is obsessed and murderous. In all likelihood, they see Montresor, not Fortunato, as the treacherous serpent biting at the heel.

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