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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Dramatic Irony In The Cask Of Amontillado

When is dramatic irony shown in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

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The entirety of The Cask of Amontillado is told with dramatic irony. Dramatic irony is when the audience knows something that a character in a story doesn't, it typically creates a feeling of suspense. In Poe's story Montressor reveals early on that he is going to get revenge on Fortunado. With this information we are forced to hold our breath as he plays out his grand scheme. Fortunado has no idea what's coming and that pushes the reader further into the story because they become invested in his eventual reaction. 

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The whole story is an example of dramatic irony because Fortunato is unaware of Montresor's plot to kill him while the reader knows this from the very beginning. Montresor goes through an elaborate plan to lure Fortunato to the catacombs beneath his house in order to punish him for an unknown insult Montresor feels Fortunato has inflicted upon him. We know what Montresor is doing, but poor Fortunato has no idea until it's too late. Poe's use of dramatic irony allows us, the readers, to be a part of Montresor's plan and to watch how he skillfully carries it out. We see Fortunato's reaction when he realizes what is happening. We know what's coming, but it adds suspense to see how Fortunato will react to it.

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Dramatic irony is when we as the audience (or reader) know something that the characters, or a character, does not.

As we read The Cask of Amontillado we know that Montressor is going to seek revenge on an unnamed insult on Fortunado. So as Montressor is luring Fortunado there is a heightened sense of conflict or suspense because we know the outcome is not going to be good for Fortunado.

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What is an example of dramatic irony in the story "The Cask of Amontillado"?

Throughout his short story "The Cask of Amontillado" Poe employs dramatic irony.  Remember, dramatic irony is when the audience or reader knows details that the characters on stage do not yet know.  As the reader, we know that Montressor is planning on seeking revenge against Fortunato, but Fortunato is unaware of this plan.   Montressor begins the story by talking directly to the audience and delineating his plan to get his revenge.

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat.

Throughout the story Montressor exploits Fortunato's pride and greed and uses it to entice him to come to his catacomb and check out his Amontillado.  Again, this is dramatic irony because the audience knows Montressor is don't really planning on visiting Luchesi, instead he's lying because he knows that it will only make Fortunato more interested.

“As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchesi. If any one has a critical turn it is he. He will tell me—”

“Luchesi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry.”

“And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for...

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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. Luchesi—”

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What is an example of dramatic irony in the story "The Cask of Amontillado"?

Dramatic irony is a literary device by which an author makes his readers privy to a character’s situation while keeping the character in the dark. He may employ this device to elicit a particular emotional response in readers as well as to keep them hooked until the character himself discovers the final outcome of his actual situation.

Dramatic irony constitutes the framework of Poe’s "The Cask of Amontillado." As readers, we do know the sinister designs of Montresor when he coaxes Fortunato to the catacombs under his house, but Fortunato doesn’t. He doesn’t even have the slightest idea that with each step he nears his death.

At the very outset of the story we are informed about the secret macabre plan of Montresor. He has been nurturing a deep-seated grudge against Fortunato for some insult and so he wants to avenge himself:

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 wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.

We pity Fortunato when he keeps on drinking more and more of the wine Montresor offers him, and descends deeper into the eerie cellar. We know that this is a part of Montresor’s plan. Our knowledge about Montresor’s macabre designs keeps us on toes until the moment when finally Fortunato learns about his tragic situation. It’s too late by then. He can’t escape his death any more. The dramatic irony sharpens our sense of fear, pity and helplessness in the story.  

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

Dramatic irony is so called because it is often used on stage.  In this kind of irony, a character in the play or story believes one thing is true, but the audience or reader knows otherwise.  In Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Cask of Amontillado," there is obvious dramatic irony present in the characterization of the ironically named Fortunato.  For, he foolishly believes that Montesor invites him to taste the Amontillado because Montesor desires his expertise as a connossieur.  Of course, the reader knows that Montesor is bent upon revenge for "the thousand injuries of Fortunato" he has supposedly borne and lures Fortunato into his catacombs on the pretext of tasting the wine when he fully intends to kill him instead.

In fact, the narrative of Poe's story revolves upon the exploitation of this irony by Montesor as he feigns concern for Fortunato's health and pretends to be a Freemason with his trowel and casually shows Fortunato his family coat of arms whose motto suggests revenge. Through all this pretense of Montesor's, the unsuspecting Fortunato is lured deeper and deeper into the catacombs where he will soon be buried himself. 

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