Introduction to The Cask of Amontillado

“The Cask of Amontillado” is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. It was originally published in Godey’s Lady’s Book in November of 1846. The story is narrated in the first-person by Montresor, who informs readers that he is writing in retrospect about the revenge he once enacted upon a man named Fortunato. The reason for the narrator’s revenge is never specified, adding to both the mystery and horror elements of the story. As in Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat,” the narrator of “The Cask of Amontillado” is unreliable and immoral. However, in contrast to the narrators of the other stories, whose madness becomes increasingly undeniable, Montresor emerges as a uniquely calm, cunning, and unrepentant figure.

One of Poe’s central philosophies was that short stories should strive for a “unity of effect,” meaning that all of the elements of a composition should support a central feeling or impression. “The Cask of Amontillado” is a horror story, specifically one that features a chilling scene of live burial. Poe's imagery and diction combine to create a tone that is fittingly tense, dark, and claustrophobic.

A Brief Biography of Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) was an American writer who gained fame for his gothic tales. Poe’s life story makes it easy to see where the author got his ideas and how his work relates to his experience. First, his father abandoned the family; then his mother died when he was very young, and his foster father, John Allen, erratically swung between lenience and extreme discipline; finally, Poe married his much younger cousin Virginia, who died at an early age. It’s no wonder, then, that Poe's work focused on the macabre, the bizarre, and the outcast—the wonder is that he found a way to make such striking art from his suffering. Before his death at age forty, Edgar Allan Poe raised the American short story to a new level, writing works that completely modernized detective fiction, science fiction, and, of course, the horror story. His most well-known works include the poems “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee”; the short stories ”The Black Cat,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher”; and the novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Cask of Amontillado

The Cask of Amontillado

According to the narrator, a man called Montresor, Fortunato's weakness is his pride in his connoisseurship of wine. Fortunato believes himself to be an expert. It does, indeed, seem to be...

Latest answer posted October 9, 2020, 11:21 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Cask of Amontillado

In "The Cask of Amontillado," Montresor tells his revenge story of how he murdered his "friend" Fortunato by entombing him inside his family's extensive catacombs. Montresor vaguely informs the...

Latest answer posted October 8, 2020, 1:09 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Cask of Amontillado

Montresor makes sure that Fortunato is drunk so that there is no chance that Fortunato will be able to foresee or prevent Montresor from carrying out his vicious plan for revenge. As the pair...

Latest answer posted October 9, 2020, 2:17 pm (UTC)

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The Cask of Amontillado

Fortunato isn't very fortunato—the Italian word for “fortunate”—at all. In fact, he is the exact opposite: very unfortunate indeed. For there is something particularly unfortunate about the matter...

Latest answer posted October 9, 2020, 11:10 am (UTC)

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The Cask of Amontillado

In "The Cask of Amontillado," Montresor tells the story of his horrific crime fifty years after murdering his enemy Fortunato. At the beginning of the story, Montresor provides an outline for the...

Latest answer posted October 8, 2020, 12:37 pm (UTC)

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The Cask of Amontillado

In "The Cask of Amontillado," Montresor gets revenge on Fortunato by carefully plotting and executing his murder. Montresor is determined to punish his enemy and takes several precautions to avoid...

Latest answer posted October 9, 2020, 12:54 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Cask of Amontillado

Montresor's family motto is the Latin expression "Nemo me impune necessit," which can be roughly translated as “No one who insults me gets away with it.” It's clear from this motto that Montresor...

Latest answer posted October 9, 2020, 11:22 am (UTC)

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The Cask of Amontillado

At the end of "The Cask of Amontillado," Montresor chains and walls up his enemy, Fortunato, in a dark, damp catacomb where nobody will hear him, no matter how loudly he screams. In the final...

Latest answer posted October 9, 2020, 11:34 am (UTC)

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The Cask of Amontillado

As the unfortunate Fortunato is being walled up alive inside the catacombs, he makes a last, desperate plea to Montresor, the man who is about to kill him: For the love of God, Montresor! The...

Latest answer posted October 9, 2020, 1:34 pm (UTC)

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The Cask of Amontillado

The phrase "no one assails me with impunity" appears in "The Cask of Amontillado" as a Latin motto: Nemo me impune lacessit. This is the family motto of the Montresors, which the narrator repeats...

Latest answer posted October 9, 2020, 11:18 am (UTC)

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The Cask of Amontillado

In "The Cask of Amontillado," Montresor gets revenge on the unsuspecting Fortunato by persuading him to journey deep into his catacombs, where he eventually buries him alive. At the beginning of...

Latest answer posted October 9, 2020, 2:15 pm (UTC)

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The Cask of Amontillado

During the course of "The Cask of Amontillado," Fortunato is dressed in a court jester's garb, complete with little bells on his headwear. Within the story itself, his reason for doing so is plain:...

Latest answer posted October 9, 2020, 11:25 am (UTC)

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The Cask of Amontillado

The reader's first insight into the character of Fortunato in "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe appears in the opening line of the short story. The narrator, Montresor, states, The...

Latest answer posted October 9, 2020, 1:57 pm (UTC)

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The Cask of Amontillado

A symbol is something that has both literal and figurative meaning. In other words, it signifies something more than what it literally is, at least in a particular literary work. Montresor...

Latest answer posted October 9, 2020, 11:39 am (UTC)

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The Cask of Amontillado

If Montresor is Fortunato's friend, one shudders to think what Fortunato's enemies might do to him. Fortunato, however, appears to think that the two of them are friends, in a rather casual,...

Latest answer posted October 9, 2020, 11:43 am (UTC)

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The Cask of Amontillado

"The Cask of Amontillado" is an example of the horror genre, of which Poe was a master. A horror story is meant to raise feelings of terror in a reader and most often does so through creating a...

Latest answer posted October 8, 2020, 11:20 am (UTC)

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The Cask of Amontillado

In burying Fortunato alive, Montresor was also burying the poisonous feelings he harbored toward the man who'd insulted him in a "thousand" different ways. That being the case, it's hard to believe...

Latest answer posted October 8, 2020, 11:13 am (UTC)

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The Cask of Amontillado

Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Cask of Amontillado" begins with the following paragraph: The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I...

Latest answer posted October 8, 2020, 11:22 am (UTC)

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The Cask of Amontillado

In Poe's classic short story "The Cask of Amontillado," Montresor does not go into specific detail regarding the exact reason he decides to murder Fortunato by entombing him alive inside his...

Latest answer posted October 8, 2020, 2:54 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Cask of Amontillado

"The Cask of Amontillado" is an exercise in unreliable narration and ambiguity. It is a revenge story in which the wronged party appears much more evil and aggressive than the one who has...

Latest answer posted October 8, 2020, 11:39 am (UTC)

1 educator answer
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Summary