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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What are two lines in "The Cask of Amontillado" that foreshadow the tale's grisly end?

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A line that foreshadows the grisly event at the end of "The Cask of Amontillado" is when Fortunato says that he will not die of a cough, and Montresor responds by saying, "True—true." Montresor's comment foreshadows his plan to take Fortunato's life. Another example of foreshadowing takes place when Montresor removes a trowel from underneath his cloak. Montresor producing a trowel foreshadows his plan to bury Fortunato alive inside the walls of the catacombs.

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In the first paragraph of "The Cask of Amontillado," Montresor explains his vow of revenge. The tone is foreboding already. He is vauge in how he will carry out his vengeance, but he is clear that he will do something. In the second paragraph, Montresor notes that Fortunato has no idea about his true malicious feelings.

So, Fortunato doesn't know what's coming. But the reader gradually does. Montresor provides the reader/auditor with hints and continues to foreshadow his eventual revenge. This is a great example of dramatic irony—when the reader knows something important that a character (Fortunato) does not.

They go into the catacombs to retrieve the wine. A catacomb is an underground cemetery or tomb. They are literally going into a grave. This is an overt example of foreshadowing. The further they go in, the more bones they see. Montresor also plays with his oblivious friend by pretending to be concerned with his cough as they pass by the bones.

"The nitre!" I said; "see, it increases. It hangs like moss upon the vaults. We are below the river's bed. The drops of moisture trickle among the bones. Come, we will go back ere it is too late. Your cough—"

Montresor then gives Fortunato a bottle of "De Grave," a wine that comes from the Graves wine region. The name, clearly connoting a "grave," foreshadows Fortunato's eventual grave.

Also note that Montresor's coat of arms foreshadows things about both men. The motto (Nemo me impune lacessit) means "No one insults me with impunity." The family motto is a threat of revenge. This foreshadows Montresor's inevitable revenge.

The coat of arms might suggest something more. The image is of a golden foot crushing the head of a serpent as the serpent's fangs are "imbedded in the heel." Symbolically speaking, even as Montresor (the heel) crushes/buries his foe, Fortunato does get his fangs into Montresor's heel. This could suggest that the figurative poison of his crime (from the fangs) is still a part of Montresor. Fortunato's death is still a burden to him; it has stayed with Montresor. Perhaps he feels some guilt. Or, given how he bragged about his crime, his confession is not really contrite; thus, his sin will not be forgiven (by God, the priest he is confessing to, and so on). This is a kind of foreshadowing that goes beyond the story: that Montresor has and never will be contrite nor forgiven for his sin.

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In the short story, Poe utilizes foreshadowing to hint at the details of Montresor's disturbing crime without completely revealing the extent of his evil plan, which contributes to the suspense of the story and heightens the reader's anticipation. One example of foreshadowing takes place when Montresor leads the unsuspecting Fortunato into the depths of his family's extensive catacombs. Shortly after entering the vaults, Fortunato begins coughing and Montresor pretends to be concerned about his health. When Fortunato remarks that he will not die of a cough, Montresor responds by saying, "True—true." Montresor's response is an example of foreshadowing because the reader recognizes his plan to murder Fortunato. Although Montresor does not explicitly detail how he will kill Fortunato, the audience knows that he plans on taking his life.

Another example of foreshadowing happens when Fortunato makes a "grotesque" gesture and asks if Montresor is a mason. Montresor uses verbal irony by saying that he is a mason and dramatically removes a trowel from underneath his roquelaire. When Montresor produces a trowel from his cloak, he foreshadows his plan to bury his enemy alive inside the walls of the catacombs. After Fortunato arrives at the end of the vault, Montresor shackles him to the back wall and uses his trowel to construct a wall around his body.

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Like with most of Poe's short stories that brim with creepiness, tension, and everything morbid, the ending of "The Cask of Amontillado" gets foreshadowed throughout the build-up to it.

(Spoiler alert. The story ends when the narrator, Montresor, gets revenge on Fortunato by basically burying him alive: trapping him in a vault and walling him up there.)

As the story opens, the narrator reveals directly to us that he's going to take revenge on Fortunato by exploiting the man's obsession with and knowledge of fine wines. But even if we didn't know that already, we could pick up on more foreshadowing as the story continues.

Check out these lines that directly foreshadow that grim ending:

"There were no attendants at home; they had absconded to make merry in honour of the time. I had told them that I should not return until the morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house. These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was turned."

This happens right as Fortunato is going to Montresor's house with him. We know that something awful is about to happen if Montresor has told all of his servants to make themselves scarce. (He doesn't want any witnesses if he's about to commit a terrible crime.)

A moment later, "the bells upon his cap jingled as he strode." Fortunato is wearing some kind of party hat with jingle bells on it, which is hilarious: he's literally a fool, marching forward willingly toward his own death.

Then this bit of dark humor also happens: Fortunato has a coughing fit because something in the atmosphere of the vault irritates him. But he says, "I shall not die of a cough," and Montresor replies "True, true." By this point, we know that Montresor is definitely going to murder Fortunato. So the fact that Montresor agrees that it won't be the cough that kills Fortunato is not just foreshadowing but also darkly funny.

Before the murder finally happens, there's actually a lot more foreshadowing of it. Here's one more example, when Montresor tells Fortunato about his family's coat of arms and their family motto:

"A huge human foot d'or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel."

"And the motto?"

"Nemo me impune lacessit."

Right then, Montresor is telling Fortunato that his family's coat of arms has a foot crushing the snake that bites it and that their motto is Latin for "No one attacks me with impunity" (meaning "nobody gets away with attacking me"). He's literally telling his soon-to-be victim that his chief family value is taking revenge on people.

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What are some instances of foreshadowing in Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Cask of Amontillado"? (Please provide illustrative quotations and explain why you chose them.)

Foreshadowing is a major and effective technique used by Edgar Allan Poe in his famous short story “The Cask of Amontillado.” Often the foreshadowing is combined with a kind of dark irony. Among examples of such foreshadowing are the following:

  • The opening paragraph of the story opens with Montresor’s announcement that because Fortunato has injured him, Montresor vows both revenge and punishment. Practically everything about this paragraph involves ironic foreshadowing of some sort. Thus, Fortunato will later prove most unfortunate; Montresor will indeed accomplish the revenge he vows to achieve; and that revenge will be punishing in a particularly horrific way.
  • The third paragraph mentions Fortunato’s love of wine, thus foreshadowing the method by which Montresor will entice Fortunato into an underground wine vault.
  • The story is set at dusk, thus foreshadowing the literal and symbolic darkness that will grow as the story proceeds.
  • Montresor refers to the “supreme madness of the carnival season,” thus ironically and symbolically foreshadowing the supreme madness of his own later highly effective plot.
  • Montresor mentions that Fortunato has been “drinking much,” thus foreshadowing the drunkenness that will allow Montresor to deceive Fortunato so easily.
  • Fortunato tells Montresor that the latter has been “imposed upon,” not realizing that Montresor will later “impose upon” Fortunato himself in a much more serious way.
  • When Montresor and Fortunato reach Montresor’s house, Montresor notes to himself (and us) that

There were no attendants at home; they had absconded to make merry in honour of the time. I had told them that I should not return until the morning and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house. These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was turned.

This passage foreshadows (1) the privacy Montresor will enjoy as he disposes of Fortunato; (2) the contrast between carnival season and the horrific death Montresor will impose on Fortunato; (3) Montresor’s cleverness in manipulating the behavior of other people (including Fortunato); and (4) Montresor’s ability to take advantage of the flaws of other people (including Fortunato).

In short, the story is brimming with ironic foreshadowing, and anyone who reads the story more than once can see how artfully it uses this technique.

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