The Cask of Amontillado Characters

The main characters in “The Cask of Amontillado” are Montresor and Fortunato.

  • Montresor is the narrator, who calmly tells the story of his revenge against Fortunato. Montresor lures Fortunato into his catacombs, chains him to a wall, and buries him alive.

  • Fortunato is a friend of Montresor’s who is unaware that Montresor is plotting to kill him. According to Montresor, Fortunato has perpetrated “a thousand injuries” against him.

Characters

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 819

Montresor

Montresor narrates “The Cask of Amontillado,” relating the story of Fortunato's death fifty years earlier. Montresor's profession is unspecified, but it is clear that he is educated and wealthy, with a taste for fine things. Montresor holds a grudge against his “friend” Fortunato, claiming to have borne Fortunato’s insults to the best of his ability before deciding to seek revenge. Montresor reveals himself to be a skilled manipulator as he exploits Fortunato’s pride to lure him deep into the catacombs. Montresor’s conversation with Fortunato (who is drunk) reveals his ironic and darkly humorous nature: when Fortunato asks him if he is “of the masons,” Montresor pulls out the trowel that he will soon use to bury Fortunato alive. Once he lures the unsuspecting Fortunato into the deepest catacombs, Montresor mercilessly chains him up and walls him into a small alcove, leaving him to die. After Montresor has successfully walled Fortunato in, he appears to feel a momentary pang of regret but quickly attributes the feeling of sickness in his heart to the dampness of the catacombs.

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For some readers, Montresor’s vague description of the “injuries” he has suffered at the hands of Fortunato brings into question his reliability as a narrator. Could Fortunato truly have offended Montresor so terribly, or is the offense only in Montresor’s head? On the other hand, Montresor’s cool, detached narration and his methodical planning of Fortunato’s demise suggest that though he is ruthless, he may be quite sane. As Montresor’s story is addressed to an unidentified person (who, presumably, knows things that the reader does not), readers cannot be certain to what extent Montresor’s revenge is justified. Just as we cannot be sure of Montresor’s motives, Poe leaves us in the dark as to Montresor’s feelings about the crime; is his exclamation “in pace requiescat!” (rest in peace) sarcastic or sincere? Some readers have speculated that Montresor’s decision to relate the story after all these years is a form of confession or an admission of guilt. Others interpret the retelling of his perfect crime as a form of bragging. By focusing on the events of the murder itself rather than the motive or aftermath, Poe leaves the reader guessing as to the true nature of the characters.

Fortunato

In “The Cask of Amontillado,” Fortunato is Montresor’s wealthy Italian “friend” and the object of his revenge. Fortunato’s name means “blessed” in Italian though, in an ironic twist, he ends up being the victim of murder. The story takes place during an Italian carnival, and Fortunato is dressed in a jester costume complete with bells that jingle. It is an appropriate outfit and reinforces Fortunato’s foolish nature. Montresor’s well-thought-out crime shows a deep understanding of Fortunato’s temperament and personality. Believing himself to be a connoisseur of fine wine, Fortunato is easily lured into Montresor’s catacombs by the promise of Amontillado. Though his drunkenness renders him especially foolish and incautious, it is his strong sense of pride that makes him exceptionally vulnerable to Montresor’s flattery. For example, to encourage Fortunato to follow him, Montresor suggests taking another wine expert, Luchesi, to see the Amontillado instead, knowing that Fortunato cannot bear being second to Luchesi. Fortunato follows Montresor deeper and deeper into the catacombs, his inebriation preventing him from picking up on several ominous clues as to his fate. Indeed, Montresor suggests multiple times that they turn back, knowing that the stubborn and single-minded Fortunato will insist on pressing forward.

Though it seems likely that Fortunato’s murder is undeserved, the story suggests that he is somewhat oblivious or even insensitive. We see from their conversation that Fortunato often subtly insults Montresor, casually mentioning that he has forgotten Montresor’s family arms and expressing incredulity at the thought of Montresor belonging to the same exclusive brotherhood as himself. Throughout their conversation, Montresor’s sycophantic and friendly comments to Fortunato are not reciprocated. Indeed, it is worth noting that Fortunato only addresses Montresor by name once he has realized that Montresor means to trap him. It is perhaps this insensitivity that prevents Fortunato from recognizing Montresor’s grudge in the first place. Through the character of Fortunato, Poe dramatically illustrates how weaknesses of character can lead to one’s demise.

Luchesi

Though he is not seen, Luchesi is the only other character in “The Cask of Amontillado.” Like Fortunato, he is a connoisseur of fine wines—a fact Montresor exploits to convince Fortunato to leave the carnival. Fortunato evidently believes that Luchesi’s expertise cannot match his own: “And as for Luchesi, he cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontillado." Cleverly combining his knowledge of Fortunato’s pride with reverse psychology, Montresor tells Fortunato that he will probably go consult Luchesi about the Amontillado. Just as Montresor expects, Fortunato’s response is to insist that he be shown the Amontillado first.

Characters

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Last Updated on April 29, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 388

Fortunato

Fortunato is an Italian friend of Montresor's, and his sworn enemy, whom Montresor has planned to ‘‘punish with impunity". Although Montresor's explains that Fortunato has committed a "thousand injuries’’ and a final "insult," no details of these offenses are given. Fortunato displays no uneasiness in Montresor's company, and is unaware that his friend is plotting against him. Fortunato, a respected and feared man, is a proud connoisseur of fine wine, and, at least on the night of the story, he clouds his senses and judgment by drinking too much of it. He allows himself to be led further and further into the catacombs by Montresor, stepping past piles of bones with no suspicion. He is urged on by the chance of sampling some rare Amontillado, and by his unwillingness to let a rival, Luchesi, have the pleasure of sampling it first. His singlemindedness, combined with his drunkenness, leads him to a horrible death.

Luchesi

Luchesi is an acquaintance of Montresor's and Fortunato's, and another wine expert. He never appears in the story, but Montresor keeps Fortunato on the trail of the Amontillado by threatening to allow Luchesi to sample it first if Fortunato is not interested.

Montresor

Montresor is the "I" who narrates the story, telling an unseen listener or reader about his killing of Fortunato fifty years before. Montresor is a wealthy man from an established family, who lives in a large "palazzo'' with a staff of servants. He speaks eloquently and easily drops Latin and French phrases into his speech. He has been nursing a grudge against his friend Fortunato, who has committed several unnamed offenses against him, and has been coldly planning his revenge. Meeting Fortunato in the street one evening, Montresor takes this opportunity to lure his friend into the deepest catacombs beneath his palazzo, and there he chains Fortunato to the wall of a small alcove, seals him in behind a new brick wall which he builds even as Fortunato begs for mercy, and leaves him to die. Montresor's coldness sets him apart from many murderous characters and many Poe protagonists. Even as he tells the story fifty years later, he reveals no regret for his actions, and no real pleasure in them. This lack of feeling made Poe's early readers uncomfortable, and led some to accuse Poe of immorality in creating such a character.

Themes and Characters

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1237

Revenge is the main theme of the story and the force that drives Montresor to commit the horrible murder of Fortunato. His first words in the story speak of it: "The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge." The idea of revenge is repeated several times in the opening paragraph. Montresor will not rush to act, he says, but "at length I would be avenged"; he is determined to "not only punish, but punish with impunity." The terms of the revenge are quite clear in Montresor's mind. He will not feel fully revenged unless Fortunato realizes that his punishment comes at Montresor's hand; a wrong is not redressed "when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong." In seeking revenge, Montresor is acting out the motto of his people, as it appears on the family coat of arms, Nemo me impune lacessit.

As countless critics have pointed out, the nature of the injuries and offenses is never revealed. Montresor appears to be telling or writing his story to someone who has more knowledge than Poe's reader ("You, who so well know the nature of my soul"), and who may be assumed to know something of Fortunato's conduct before the fateful night. Unlike Montresor's audience, however, Poe's audience/reader has no basis for judging the extent to which Montresor's actions are reasonable. The focus, therefore, is not on the reason for revenge, but on the revenge itself, not on why Montresor behaves as he does, but only on what he does.

Just as Montresor does not reveal his motive for the crime, other than to identify it as a crime of revenge, neither does he share with his audience his response when the deed is done. Does Montresor feel better once Fortunato has paid for his insult? Does he feel vindicated? Does he go back to his rooms and celebrate the death of his enemy, or smile inwardly years later when he remembers how he was able to "punish with impunity"? He does not say. Nineteenth- century audiences scanned the story for hints of negative feelings. Is Montresor sorry for committing murder? Does he regret his actions? As he nears the end of his life, does he look to God for forgiveness? Again, there is no hint or perhaps only the barest of hints. Poe's intention is to focus his story tightly. He explores neither the events leading up to the crime nor the results of the crime, but focuses the story narrowly on the act of revenge itself.

Although the action of the story revolves almost entirely around the deception and killing of Fortunato, the questions in readers' minds have revolved around Fortunato's thoughts and deeds before the crime and Montresor's thoughts and deeds afterward. While the time between their chance meeting and the laying of the last stone would have been only five or six hours, the fifty years following are perhaps more intriguing. Is Montresor deceiving himself or his audience when he attributes his momentary sickness to "the dampness of the catacombs"? What has happened to Montresor over the intervening years, and why is he telling the story now? Is he hoping for forgiveness?

For forgiveness to occur, there must first be guilt and then atonement or remorse. Of course, there is no question of Montresor asking forgiveness of Fortunato, or reconciling with him, and no mention is made of Montresor paying any reparations to Lady Fortunato. Atonement, if there is to be any, must be with God alone. At the time of the murder, however, Montresor hears and rejects Fortunato's appeal that he stop "For the love of God, Montresor!" The murderer replies, "Yes, for the love of God!" but he does not stop building his wall. Surely he does not mean that he is acting for the love of God; instead, he is blatantly and defiantly rejecting it.

In other ways Poe keeps the idea of the Christian God in the foreground. Fortunato is chained to the wall in a standing position that some critics have compared to the posture of the crucified Jesus. His narrow space behind the wall echoes Jesus' placement in a tomb. The story's last words, In pace requiescat ("Rest in peace"), are taken from the Roman Catholic funeral ritual spoken in Latin. The critic John Gruesser believes that Montresor tells the story of his crime "as he presumably lies on his deathbed, confessing his crime to an old friend, the 'You' of the story's first paragraph who is perhaps his priest." Clearly Montresor's guilt is established as not just an earthly legal guilt, but guilt in the eyes of a God that both victim and murderer recognize. The question remains: Was Montresor ever sorry for what he did? Poe does not appear interested in answering the question, although he surely knew that he was raising it and knew that he had placed the answer tantalizingly out of reach.

Only two characters appear in "The Cask of Amontillado." Montresor is the "I" who narrates the story, telling an unseen listener or reader about his killing of Fortunato fifty years before. Montresor is a wealthy man from an established family who lives in a large palazzo with a staff of servants. He speaks eloquently and easily drops Latin and French phrases into his speech. He has been nursing a grudge against his friend Fortunato, who committed several unnamed offenses against him, and he has been coldly planning his revenge. Meeting Fortunato in the street one evening, Montresor takes the opportunity to lure his friend into the deepest catacombs beneath his palazzo, and there he chains Fortunato to the wall of a small alcove, seals him in behind a new brick wall, which he builds even as Fortunato begs for mercy, and leaves him to die. Montresor's coldness sets him apart from many murderous characters and many Poe protagonists. Even as he tells the story fifty years later he reveals no regret for his actions, and no real pleasure in them. This lack of feeling made Poe's early readers uncomfortable and led some to accuse Poe of immorality in creating such a character.

The victim, Fortunato, is an Italian friend of Montresor's and his sworn enemy, whom Montresor has planned to "punish with impunity." Although Montresor explains that Fortunato has committed a "thousand injuries" and a final "insult," no details of these offenses are given. Fortunato displays no uneasiness in Montresor's company and is unaware that his friend is plotting against him. Fortunato, a respected and feared man, is a proud connoisseur of fine wine, and at least on the night of the story, he clouds his senses and judgment by drinking too much of it. He allows himself to be led further and further into the catacombs by Montresor, stepping past piles of bones with no suspicion. He is urged on by the prospect of sampling some rare Amontillado and by his unwillingness to let a rival, Luchesi, have the pleasure of sampling it first. His single-mindedness, combined with his drunkenness, leads him to a horrible death.

A third character is mentioned but never seen. Luchesi, another wine expert, is an acquaintance of Montresor's and Fortunato's. Montresor keeps Fortunato on the trail of the Amontillado by threatening to allow Luchesi to sample it first if Fortunato is not interested.

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