What three hints does Montresor give to Fortunato on what he intends to do in Edgar Allen Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado"?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Montresor's hints are used to fulfill the third condition of his vendetta; a condition he clarifies in the exposition of "The Cask of Amontillado": 

It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

While Fortunato certainly becomes aware of Montresor's intent as he is shackled and walled in at the end of the narrative, he does not seem to fully comprehend the meaning behind Montresor's hints until this moment.  

Here are three hints that Montresor gives Fortunato:

  1. Montresor's actions follow the pattern of a requiem mass. The celebrant of this mass would be Montresor, who wears black in the same manner that a priest would wear a black vestment. Also, there is the lighting of candles/"flambeaux," the ringing of bells, and the drinking of wine. This all suggests a funeral. This suggestion of funeral rituals hints suggests that Montresor is performing a blasphemous black mass in which a victim becomes a sacrifice.
  2. As they go deeper into the vaults, there is a certain irony to Montresor's remarks when he tells Fortunato that he drinks to his long life after the man toasts the deceased Montresors. Then, Fortunato says, "I forget your arms." Montresor describes his coat of arms as having a large golden foot crushing a serpent that is rearing up. All of this is against a blue background. The motto reads, "No one assails me with impunity" (i.e. "No one can attack me without being punished"). This description hints at Montresor's intent to avenge himself against Fortunato.
  3. As they go deeper into the catacombs, Montresor points out the niter to Fortunato. However, the drunken Fortunato ignores this warning to his health as he drinks more and gesticulates in the air. He repeats one motion that Montresor finds "grotesque"; it is the sign of the secret fraternal order, the Freemasons. Montresor pretends that he does not understand, so Fortunato asks, "You are not of the masons?" But Montresor says he is. When Fortunato requests a sign from Montresor that he is a Mason, Montresor makes a ridiculous pun on the name by pulling from his cloak a brick mason's, trowel. Fortunato recoils a few steps, and he exclaims, "You jest." At this point, Fortunato seems somewhat suspicious, but the promise of Amontillado lures him on: "But let us proceed to the Amontillado."

With great duplicity, Montresor succeeds in fooling Fortunato even though he has provided his victim with  hints. As Montresor lays brick upon brick, Fortunato can only plead with him for his life.

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vmoriarity's profile pic

vmoriarity | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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The first hint of Montresor's plan is when he says:

You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy as once I was.

Clearly, if Fortunato were paying attention, Montresor is pointing out that he no longer is happy like Fortunato, undoubtedly because of the insults he has endured from Fortunato.

Later, Montresor discusses his family's coat of arms - a huge foot crushing the snake who bit it in the heel along with a motto above.  When Fortunato asks the motto, Montresor says it is "Nemo me impune lacessit", which means  - Noone attacks me with impunity.  Again Montresor is hinting that something bad is to happen to Fortunato.

Finally, Fortunato give him a sign of the Masons.  When Montresor doesn't react to it and Fortunato asks him if he is a Mason and to give him a sign of such, Montresor pulls out a trowell.

"A sign," he said.

"It is this," I answered, producing a trowel from beneath the folds of my roquelaire.

"You jest," he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces. "But let us proceed to the Amontillado."

Clearly this play on words is intentional and offers yet another hint of Fortunato's fate, but the man is too drunk or too unaware to pick up on the pun.