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
Start Free Trial

In "The Cask of Amontillado," why does Montresor vow revenge on Fortunato?

Expert Answers

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

In the first line of the story, the narrator vows revenge on Fortunato because he claims he had insulted him in the past.

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had bourne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.

However, he doesn't really say how...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In the first line of the story, the narrator vows revenge on Fortunato because he claims he had insulted him in the past.

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had bourne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.

However, he doesn't really say how Fortunato had insulted him, and he even refers to him throughout as "my friend." Fortunato seems to be completely unaware of any bad blood between them. The only clues Montresor gives as possible offenses are his family emblem and the suggestion of a possible disbarment from the masons.

Montresor's family motto, for example, underneath a picture of a foot crushing a serpent, is "Nemo me impune lacessit," meaning, "no one attacks me with impunity." This could suggest that the attack was not on Montresor personally but on someone in his family, or even on his family as a whole. After all, he doesn't seem that comfortable in confronting Fortunato about what happened. It is almost as if he didn't experience it firsthand.

Finally, there is a strange exchange between them about the masons. After Montresor, perhaps jokingly, states he is a mason, Fortunato says, "You? Impossible! A mason," leaving the reader to wonder why Fortunato thinks it is impossible, particularly if Montresor is from a good family. Maybe Fortunato blocked his membership in the society.

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

Clearly, the specific reasons why Montresor feels that Fortunato has injured and finally insulted him are not stated in the story. We only know that Montresor has taken great offense and has created a diabolical plan to gain revenge. The story does contain some clues as to Montresor's personality and family history that no doubt played a role in his anger and actions.

Some casual and sarcastic comments to Fortunato suggest that Montresor feels great jealousy toward him and resents his standing and success. We also learn that the coat of arms for the Montresor family reads as follows: Nemo me impune lacessit ["No one insults me with impunity."] Montresor, then, comes from a family heritage that embraces both pride and payback. They seem to have been people who were perhaps quick to take offense against perceived slights. If so, and if Montresor inherited this family nature and philosophy, then perhaps poor Fortunato was not guilty of much of anything, except in Montresor's mind.

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

The answer to this question can be found in the first few lines of the story itself, and more fully fleshed out with a little bit of inference, or guessing.  Montresor opens the story by stating that he had planned revenge, and he stated that he was upset at Fortunado for two main reasons.  He states:

"THE THOUSAND INJURIES of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge."

So, here he states two reasons:  1.  "Thousand injuries," and 2.  "insult".  So, apparently, Fortunado had inflicted thousands of injuries upon Montresor.  He probably doesn't mean literal physical injuries, probably more injuries to his pride, teasing, taunting, mocking, things of that sort.  So, for some reason that is not clear nor stated in the text, Montresor felt that Fortunado had slighted and injured him over and over again.  We don't know exactly what he did, but can guess that Fortunado probably just made Montresor feel offended or slighted--whether intentionally or simply from being clueless.  The second reason, insult, was probably a more direct insult directed at Montresor, but, they two seem like pretty good pals when the meet to discuss the wine, so Fortunado can't hold too much of a grudge against him.  But, Montresor feels insulted nevertheless, and vows revenge.

The revenge he enacts is cruel and vicious indeed, and one has to wonder whether or not the bumbling Fortunado actually deserved it.  I hope that those thoughts help a bit; good luck!

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

Edgar Allan Poe's chilling short story "The Cask of Amontillado" is a tale of retribution. In the outset, the first person narrator Montresor vows revenge against his supposed friend Fortunato over some "insult." The affront, which must have been significant, is never revealed. It is, however, egregious enough for Montresor to devise a devious and horrible plan to lure Fortunato into the catacombs below his estate with the pretense that he wishes to have Fortunato's opinion about a bottle of rare wine. While in the underground chamber, Montresor chains Fortunato to the catacomb and proceeds to wall him in with brick and mortar. There are two important elements to Montresor's plan. First, it must be well known to Fortunato that Montresor is the one bringing about his demise. Second, Montresor sets up his plan so he will never be apprehended for the crime. Fortunato simply disappears. Some critics believe Montresor is telling his story to a priest at the end of his life, revealing a certain amount of remorse on Montresor's part. Whatever the reality, the reader is never made aware of the exact motive which prompted Montresor to kill Fortunato in such a ghastly way.     

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team