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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How would you describe Montresor's character in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

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Montresor is a calculating, manipulative, and vindictive man that exacts a cruel revenge.

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The easiest way to describe Montresor would be as vengeful, single-minded, and unforgiving. We know from the very beginning of the story that he is intent on exacting revenge for the “injuries” and “insults” of Fortunato, and that he is patient, willing to wait “at length” for an opportunity to arise to allow him to achieve his end. He does not once waver in his plan to murder Fortunato, hesitating only once as he is bricking up the recess in which Fortunato is chained; and even then he hesitates not out of indecision, but out of fear that Fortunato has escaped his bindings. And consider the Montresor family’s motto: Nemo me impune lacessit—“no one attacks me with impunity.” Here we have confirmation that the man is vengeful, and learn that this vengeance is rooted in his family’s values and history. The man is proud—he comes, after all, from “a great and numerous family,” with a reputation that he is burdened with upholding.

Given Montresor’s unerring performance in tricking Fortunato into his cellar and his chosen method of murdering his “friend,” we can confidently say that Montresor is a creative man, and clever. His tactics involve a good amount of knowledge about his acquaintances—he knows that Fortunato, a “quack” in many ways, is a genuine connoisseur of wine, and that he believes Luchresi to be “an ignoramus” who “cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry.” Montresor plays off of Fortunato’s own biases and pride to lure him deeper and deeper into his trap, until there is no escape. The fact that Fortunato is led very deep into Montresor’s cellar without having any doubts or suspicions about the events at hand is testament to Montresor’s acting abilities—all this time, harboring the most sinister of intentions, he manages to disarm Fortunato and maintain a friendly demeanor. Also, we know that Montresor is never punished for his crime, which indicates that he feels little to no guilt, and that he has a very strong command of his emotions, such that he can keep his secret and raise no suspicions for decades after the crime is committed.

Montresor is a scheming and intelligent man, patient and careful. He is true to himself and loyal to his family’s legacy, unafraid—indeed, determined—to do anything necessary to free his name from what he perceives as unjust insult. He is strong-willed and innovative, utilizing the resources available to him to maximum effect. And, of course, he is a murderous villain.

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There are many ways you could describe Montresor. He was a man who wanted vengeance and would go to horrible means to get it. He was also a very clever man. One can not say he wasn't very intelligent.

"The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge." From this one quote, we see that Montresor is seeking revenge against one of his "friends". We never know what the thousand injuries are, or what insult he is talking about, all we know is that Montresor is going to make Fortunato pay for his so called crime. The plans that Montresor has for Fortuanto are horrendous. We see that Monstresor has no problem burying a man alive. Montresor is a person who has no conscience at all. He does not feel guilty for what he has done. He is confessing his crime to an unknown person, but he is not asking for absolution, he is almost giddy with what he had done. We see that he as an arrogant attitude because he did 50 years earlier, and has never been caught. He is a typical serial killer. He is also extremely intelligent. He has killed before and never been caught, so this means he was really smart. He was able to commit these horrible crimes and continue to get away with it. 

Poe created such a psychotic character in Montresor, yet we are invested in him. We want to see what he will do next. 

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Montresor is a man obsessed with revenge. He also seems to be rather insecure and sensitive, especially about his family background. For example, he says his reason for killing Fortunato is that Fortunato insulted him. This insult seems to revolve around his family's background. Fortunato makes reference to this when he says, "Of I forgot. The Montresors were a once a great and noble family." Fortunato also makes the sign of a mason, a secret organization of wealthy men. When Montresor obviously doesn't recognize the sign, Fortunato says, Oh, you are not of the masons?" Montresor replies by showing a trowel, a tool of a common mason and using a play on words,tells Fortunato, "Yes. I'm a mason." Montresor is also a cunning observer of people. He has deduced that one of Fortunato's flaws is his pride in knowing about fine wine. He constantly baits Fortunato with the line,"Well, I can always get Luchesi." This hurts Fortunato's pride so he continues on through the catacombs. Montresor, himself, is also proud. He is proud that he planned revenge on someone who insulted his family and he's proud that no one has discovered his crime for 50 years.

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What is a character analysis of Montresor in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

Montresor is portrayed as a vindictive, calculating individual who takes extreme precaution in formulating the perfect revenge on the unsuspecting Fortunato. Montresor mentions that Fortunato has caused him a thousand injuries, and he resolves to get revenge. However, Montresor says that it is imperative to "punish with impunity" and proceeds to formulate a foolproof plan of vengeance. Montresor mentions that he maintains an amiable appearance around Fortunato to prevent him from becoming suspicious and approaches him during the carnival season. Montresor's ability to maintain a false personality around Fortunato indicates that he has a talent for dissembling. Montresor also reveals that he is manipulative by appealing to Fortunato's pride when he mentions that Luchresi would be able to identify whether or not Montresor purchased authentic Amontillado—knowing that Forunato will volunteer to taste the wine.

As Montresor leads Fortunato to his home, he mentions that he told his servants that he would not be home, knowing that they would leave the house. Montresor's forethought and insightful understanding of human nature indicate that he is a perceptive individual. When Montresor leads Fortunato deep into the catacombs, he ends up shackling his enemy and begins building a wall around him. Montresor's malevolent nature indicates that he is a ruthless man. The nature of Fortunato's fate is particularly disturbing and portrays Montresor as a cruel, callous murderer. The fact that Montresor has not told anyone about his crime in fifty years indicates that he is a discreet man who knows how to keep a secret.

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Characterize Montresor in "The Cask of Amontillado." What kind of person is he? What does he value?

Going by Montresor's treatment of Fortunato, Montresor is a cold, calculating, vengeful person. Montresor claims that Fortunato has committed "a thousand injuries" against him, but he gives no real details about any of these injuries. We don't know if the injuries are mental or physical, or if they are in Montresor's mind. When the two meet and start discussing wine, Fortunato greets him as a friend. So, as far as Fortunato is concerned, there is no significant ill will between them. Montresor's grudge is therefore something Fortunato is unaware of or it is something insignificant enough for him to have forgotten it.  Or the grudge is something that Montresor has embellished or created in his own mind, allowing himself to feed into it, and dwell on his thirst for revenge. 

As Montresor lures Fortunato to his death, he does so without a hint of remorse. In fact, he tells the tale fifty years after it has occurred. He still has no remorse. He is a vengeful to the point of being completely immoral. 

Montresor comes from wealth and this is something he values. He values money, his extravagant estate, and most of all, he values his reputation. From this, readers might deduce that perhaps Fortunato spoke ill of Montresor in public or behind his back. We can only speculate as to how (or if at all) Fortunato wronged Montresor. What we do know from the context of the story is that Montresor prides himself on his wealth and his reputation. We also know that Montresor can hold a grudge for over fifty years and that he can commit murder without a hint of remorse. 

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Describe Montresor from the short story "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe.

Montresor suffers many "injuries" at the hands of Fortunato, but only when he feels that Fortunato insults him does he vow revenge. Montresor is a man of wealth and station and cannot forebear insult. He feels that he must only only punish but "punish with impunity," which has a rather different meaning than the American version: he means he must do it in such a way that he will never be caught and punished. 

He catches Fortunato, his "friend," during "the supreme madness of the carnival season." His speaking of him as his friend is disingenuous, and doing this during the carnival season is the height of mad brilliance: Fortunato is celebrating, like all around him. All is chaos, exemplified by the fact that Fortunato wears motley; that is, he wears a joker's outfit, complete with varied colors and bells on his hat. To die in such an outfit is an added indignity. He challenges his "friend's" connoisseurship of wine by suggesting that another man's is just as good, thereby ensuring Fortunato's compliance in his plan; he knows Fortunato will go to great lengths to prove his superiority as a sommelier of Italian vintages. 

He presses the "compassion" of his friendship by noting that Fortunato has a cold and that going into the vaults would only exacerbate his condition, knowing full well that Fortunato is now committed. Every step fo the way, he is overtly concerned for Fortunato's safety, cautioning him to watch his step as they descend into the crypts, and after hearing Fortunato cough, speaks highly of him and urges him to turn back, because there is still Luchresi who can help him determine whether the cask of wine he purchased is truly Amontillado. Of course, Fortunato responds that he shall not die of cough, and Montresor responds, "True, true...." He is, as he has noted before, smiling inside at the difference between his meaning and how Fortunato understands him. 

Fortunato notes that his vaults are huge, and Montresor reminds him that he has a "great and numerous family" whose motto is "Nemo me impune lacessit"--"No one can harm me unpunished." We may be assured that Montresor is deriving a great deal of pleasure in the double meaning of his words. 

Fortunato points out that he is a mason--that is, a Freemason, a fraternity of men who uphold a system of morality. While the Freemasons were originally built on the craft guilds of stonemasonry, and the trowel is one of their symbols, when Fortunato asks for a "sign" to indicate that Monstresor is also a Freemason, he is asking for a hand sign, a secret way of proving he is one. Instead, Montresor produces a trowel from his clothing, which Fortunato takes for a bad joke. It is a good joke to Montresor, of course. :)

At the end, when he is almost finished walling up Fortunato, he holds up his torch to see how Fortunato is faring. Fortunato screams and Montresor's first instinct is to tremble; he is, after all, in a spooky place and momentarily unnerved. Then he pulls out his sword and pokes about in the enclosure until he realizes that this is not what he planned; no one would discover them and no one would hear Fortunato's cries for help. Thus, he himself screams as loud as an louder than his victim, mocking him. He is, without a doubt, sadistic in the extreme. 

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Describe the character of Montresor in "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe.

Montresor narrates “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe. The story describes the perfect murder and murderer.  As a narrator, Montresor is not reliable because the reader only receives the information that he provides. 

The story centers on revenge.  Montresor will seek his vengeance through a carefully planned crime. From the first word of the story, Montresor gives his reasons:

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

This seems to be a rather flimsy reason for murder; nevertheless, Montresor will seek his revenge.

The details about Montresor’s character  are limited:

  • His family is wealthy
  • He has servants
  • His family burial ground is under the house in catacombs
  • His family does will seek revenge on anyone who does them harm
  • He is a meticulous planner

No others details are given by the author.

Montresor despises Fortunato.  He has observed carefully the weaknesses of Fortunato and planned his revenge from this.  As he entices his drunken victim, Montresor knows exactly what to say to   interest Fortunato. The trip through the catacombs is difficult and disgusting. Yet, Fortunato is willing to prove Montresor has made a foolish decision, and he is a better judge of wine.

Montresor carries out his plan with little or no remorse. As he begins to place the last stone, he admits that he has struggles with it. He has not difficulty with any other stone. This is the only time that he demonstrates any true emotion. When he is finishing the bricking up of the wall that will be Fortunato’s grave, he states:  

I thrust the torch through the remaining aperture and let in fall within.  There came forth in return only a jingling of the bells. My heart grew sick; it was the dampness of the catacombs that made it so. 

It is more likely that Montresor has a glimmer of regret realizing that he is condemning another human being to his horrific death.

The character of Montresor represents the dark side of human beings who would like to pay someone back for an affront. His answers to Fortunato appeal to the sarcastic side of man.  Knowing the remarks symbolize dramatic irony allows the reader to admire Montresor's witty retorts.

When the reader learns that the story has been told as a flashback, it is obvious that Montresor has carried out the perfect crime.  No one has discovered the body of Fortunato for fifty years. Finally, Montresor has the opportunity to brag about his detailed murder of his foe Fortunato.

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Identify traits of Montresor from "The Cask of Amontillado."

Montresor, first and foremost, has a great deal of personal pride.  As soon as he felt truly insulted by Fortunato, "[he] vowed revenge."  Thus, it is somewhat ironic that he chooses to exploit Fortunato's one "weak point" -- his pride -- in order to lure him to his death.  In addition to Montresor’s personal pride, he feels a keen sense of family pride. When Fortunato remarks on the size of the family catacombs, Fortunato replies that “’The Montresors […] were a great and numerous family.” Perhaps they are no longer such “a great and numerous family” (he speaks in the past tense) and this is why Montresor feels such a responsibility to live up to the family motto, a Latin phrase that translates to “You will not harm me with impunity.” In the first paragraph, he specifically says that his goal is to “punish with impunity.” In other words, he is going to best Fortunato by harming him in such a way that it can never come back on him. His family pride will not let him be wounded without punishing the one that wounds him, and his personal pride compels him to punish his enemy without fear of being punished in return.

Montresor is also extremely calculating and adept at dissembling. He says, “It must be understood, that neither by word or 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.” He basically lies to the man’s face day in and day out, without making Fortunato suspicious at all, until the right time comes to commit the murder. Then, he arranges it so that all his servants will be away from home and brings along a “mask of black silk” and a long cloak (complete with hidden trowel), to hide his identity so that Montresor will not even be seen with him as they walk back to his palazzo. He is a good liar, and he is so cunning, and his revenge is perfectly staged as a result.

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