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 humorous elements can be found in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

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"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe contains elements of dark humor and irony. Examples include the ironic name of the victim, Fortunato, and his foolish harlequin outfit. Montresor's manipulation of Fortunato's pride, the use of the trowel as a sign of the Masons, and the puns on words like "De Grâve" and "mason" also contribute to the story's black humor. Montresor's final words "In pace requiescat" (Rest in peace) after walling Fortunato in, add a chilling touch of humor.

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While Poe's narrative is sinister, there is a certain black humor in The Cask of AmontilladoHere are some examples:

  • The unfortunate victim of Montresor's revenge is named Fortunato.
  • Fortunato is dressed in harlequin, a foolishly appropriate suit for the position he holds.
  • Against the feigned objections of Montresor, the coughing Fortunato continues through the catacombs, overriding the objections as he says in a way that amuses Montresor's twisted humor since he knows what will really happen:

"Enough...the cough is a mere nothing, it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough." 

  • After shackling Fortunato and walling him in, Montresor boasts that for fifty years no one has disturbed the place. With dark humor, he declares, "In pace requiescat." (Rest in peace.)

In addition to this black humor, there are puns, or plays on words, such as the one about Montresor being a "mason" as he means that, like a mason, he will build a wall about his victim. Another pun is on the word "De Grâve," the name of the wine that Fortunato drinks before going to his own grave in the catacombs.

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Edgar Allan Poe is not usually thought of in terms of humorous writing. His short story "The Cask of Amontillado" is not typically considered to be very humorous. However, this story, like many other stories by Poe, contains elements of humor, it just happens to be very dark humor.

Poe's use of irony creates a great deal of dark humor for the story. In this story there is humor to be found in Montresor's use of reverse psychology as he lures Fortunato to his death. The way he manipulates Fortunato through his pride and using Luchesi to anger Fortunato to blurt drunken insults and insist on continuing. 

There is also ironic humor when Montresor produces  the trowel and shows it to Fortunato as "a sign" of "the brotherhood" of The Masons. This is later used to erect the wall.

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The humorous elements in the story would, I think, be uniformly regarded as dark humor, or perhaps sarcasm, knowing what we know of Montresor's intentions and true opinion of Fortunato.

The humor mostly comes from the occasional turn of phrase by Montresor, or an unfortunately comment by Fortunato, both of which are generally foreboding and making light of Fortunato's impending demise. For example, Montresor attempts to get Fortunato even more drunk while in the catacombs, to ensure his compliance with the plan. Montresor drinks to Fortunato's "long life", knowing perfectly well that it won't be very long at all. He also drops little comments like "you are a man to be missed" and the mention of his family motto, which translated means "no one insults me without punishment". 

Perhaps the final point which can be considered humorous is the verbal exchange where Fortunato attempts to determine whether Montresor is a Freemason (a fraternal society commonly referred to as Masons), and Montresor responds by showing him a trowel, a comment tool of masonry, as if he takes Fortunato's term "mason" literally. This is, of course, another foreshadowing of what Montresor intends for him. 

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What does the humor add to the story "The Cask of Amontillado"?

The elements of dramatic irony add to the humor of the story.

Dramatic irony is when the reader knows something that one of the characters does not.  There is a great deal of humor in this story that makes an otherwise dark tale more fun.  Humor helps to characterize both Montresor and Fortunato.  It also keeps the reader engaged to the very end.

The first example of humor is the way that Montresor messes with Fortunato’s head when he is trying to get him to go into the catacombs.  The scene is quite absurd.  Fortunato is drunk and dressed as a clown, and Montresor is deadly serious but pretending to be friendly.

He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

When Montresor tricks Fortunato into going into the catacombs by telling him he has an expensive and rare cask of wine and he is planning to show it to someone else, the reader is sure to chuckle.  The dramatic irony is that we know that Montresor really needs to get Fortunato into that cellar.  He wants to kill him!

Another example of comic relief is the humor regarding the Masons.  Montresor is carrying a trowel, and to explain its presence away he makes a joke about being one of the Masons.

"You are not of the masons."

"Yes, yes," I said; "yes, yes."

"You? Impossible! A mason?"

"A mason," I replied.

"A sign," he said, "a sign."

"It is this," I answered, producing from beneath the folds of my roquelaire a trowel.

"You jest," he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces. "But let us proceed to the Amontillado."

Masons are actually a very prestigious secret society, and when Fortunato makes the gesture Montresor pretends he understands, and then produces the trowel.  Fortunato actually does belong to the secret society, and so he laughs it off.

By the time we get to the actual bricking up stage, there is a sort of macabre humor in Fortunato’s actions, but we know that Montresor is not kidding.  Fortunato takes a while to become suspicious, but by the time he does it is too late.

Throughout the story humor is created through dramatic irony.  We the reader know what is going on, while Fortunato has no clue. He thinks that he is just out on a harmless outing with a friend, but Montresor manipulates him carefully until he finally succeeds in killing him.

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In "The Cask of Amontillado," can you find any evidence of humor in the story?

Like egraham, I, too, enjoyed the verbal irony. For example, when Montesor encounters Fortunato by design, he exclaims,

My dear Fortuntao, you are luckily met.  How remarkably well you are looking today!

Another example of humor in "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe" occurs with Montesor's parodying of a mason and his pun upon the word both in a grotesque manner, but at the same time so ridiculous as to be funny--the black humor to which an allusion has been made.  And, it is humorous that Fortunato says to Montesor, "You jest," since he understands that Montesor parodies the Masons, but he does not comprehend the significance of this parody.

Added to these references to humor, there is a grotesque parody of lovemaking as the narrator first mentions that he and Fortunato have arrived at the "most remote end" of the crypt where "bones had been thrown down and lay promiscuously..."  Fortunato vainly lifts his "torch, endeavoring to pry into the depth of the recess."  But, he cannot see, and Montesor throws the chain around his waist, capturing his victim:

'Pass you hand,' I said,'over the wall; you cannot help feeling the niter.  Indeed it is very damp.  Once more let me implore you to return...

'The Amontillado!' ejaculated my friend, not yet recovered from his astonishment.

Later, Montesor "unsheathes" his rapier and the screams "erected the hairs upon [his] head" as the sad voice of Fortunato cries, "For the love of God, Montesor."

Clearly, in addition to the other instances of dark humor and parody, at the end of the story, Poe parodies in yet another grotesque manner the seductions that must have been going on during the carnival in other dark, clandestine places. 

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In "The Cask of Amontillado," can you find any evidence of humor in the story?

On a personal note, I find the verbal irony throughout the story humorous in an almost uncomfortable way. When Fortunato tells Montresor not to worry about his health, for he "shall not die of a cough," Montresor replies "True, true." Of course, we know that Montresor is leading him to his death, but the fact that he is essentially hinting at his plan lends a very dark humor to the scene. Similarly, each time he warns Fortunato to watch his step, and delights in showing him the mold growing on the walls, it offers a gallows humor rarely matched. Also, as Fortunato's drunkenness increases, his gestures and quips become more and more comical.

One last note about humor in the story (an anecdote, if you'll indulge me): When I was in college at UCLA, I worked in the theatre. Every Halloween, a tribute to Edgar Allan Poe would be produced. Celebrities and musicians would read stories and poems, and one year Will Ferrell read "The Cask of Amontillado." He performed so well, and at the point where Fortunato coughs repeatedly, Ferrell drew the cough out to a full minute's time. He would cough a bit, seem to be about to move on, and then continue coughing. It truly added humor to the story, breaking up the suspense of the narrative and providing comic relief. I've read the story like that a few times to my students, and I'm certainly no Will Ferrell, but I've found that it lends itself as a natural catalyst for laughter.

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In "The Cask of Amontillado," can you find any evidence of humor in the story?

Although a very disturbing tale of revenge gone too far, there are elements of humor to "The Cask of Amontillado."   First of all, Poe puts the bumbling Fortunado in a jester's outfit.  Court jesters were paid comedians to entertain kings at at all times; typically, they dressed in very bright, absurd outfits in order to be amusing and entertaining.  And, they wore hats that had little jingling bells all over them--so, they jingled as they walked about.  Fortunado's particular hat was "conical," so, shaped like a big cone on his head--very comical.  It is hard not to be amused, in a sad sort of way, picturing Fortunado in this absurd outfit, jingling around in the catacombs.  Poe writes,

"The gait of [Fortunado] was unsteady, and the bells upon his cap jingled as he strode."

So, there is Fortunado's outfit that is a bit funny.  Also, Montresor, though not trying to be, is a bit funny at times.  He leads Fortunado through the house, which is empty.  Normally, the house would have been full of servants, and hence witnesses to the fact that he was leading Fortunado down to the catacombs.  How did he get them to leave?  He knew their natures well.  He states,

"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 is a rather amusing commentary on the situation at hand.  Tell the servants they'd better not leave, which ensured their departure.  In addition to little quips like this, Montresor's very intensity is a bit funny, also in a sad satirical sort of way.  He can't have revenge, he must "punish with impunity."  And, how DARE Fortunado "insult" him!!  The audacity!  Of course the ONLY conclusion to draw is that Fortunado must die a slow, painful, terrifying death.  Yes, that's what a sane human being would conclude....Montresor is so extreme in his hatred and avowal of revenge that it is almost ridiculous.

Those are just a few moments of potential humor in the tale; I am sure that there are many more, but that should get you started.  Good luck!

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What is the humor in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

The humorous elements in "The Cask of Amontillado" are extremely dark and ironic, in keeping with the general tone of the story. One particularly chilling example occurs when the hapless Fortunato starts coughing:

"Enough," he said; "the cough's a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough."

"True—true," I replied.

Many a true word spoken in jest, as they say. Montresor knows full well that Fortunato won't die of a cough; instead, he'll die from being walled up alive inside the catacombs. But Fortunato doesn't know this, which makes the above excerpt a particularly good example of dramatic irony as well as dark humor.

A further example comes when Montresor makes a toast to Fortunato's long life. Once again, Montresor is making light of his deadly murder plot without letting on to Fortunato what he's really up to. He knows that if all goes according to plan, Fortunato won't have much time left upon this earth and that this little drink will be his last.

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Can you identify humorous elements in the story "The Cask of Amontillado," and what does the humor add to the story?

Edgar Allan Poe's use of irony is rich in his story "The Cask of Amontillado." Elements of black humor draw us into the story and provide moments of suspense even though the narrator, Montresor, strongly hints at the ending of the story from the first sentence. 

First, there is irony and black humor in Fortunato's name. As the target of Montresor's plot for vengeance, he is anything but fortunate. Next, the meeting between Fortunato and Montresor takes place during Carnival. Fortunato is dressed like a court jester. Consider the quote below: 

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

This is loaded with black humor. It paints a picture in the reader's mind of a stumbling drunken Fortunato, dressed as a court jester, a person who used their wits to earn their living. In this story, Fortunato seems to lack wit and common sense. There is black humor in the fact that both men are so pleased to see each other. Fortunato greets Montresor with excessive warmth, and Montresor says he could not stop shaking his hand because he was so happy to see Fortunato. In the lines following this quote, Montresor tells Fortunato he is "luckily met" while the reader knows he is anything but lucky in this meeting. 

Another humorous element is when Montresor calls Fortunato a quack but says that when it came to his knowledge of wine, he was sincere. 

When Montresor lures Fortunato into the catacombs, he gives Fortunato several chances to change his mind and let him turn back from the catacombs. However, the readers know that he has plotted Fortunato's demise carefully, so he is not really sincere in his admonishment to Fortunato to turn back and take care of himself. His expressions of concern are like a cat playing with a mouse before it kills the poor creature, and in this story Montresor's playing with Fortunato is black humor that heightens the suspense and horror. When Fortunato answers that his cough is nothing, that he will not die of a cough, Montresor answers "True...true" knowing that he has plotted his demise.

Finally, there is an element of black humor when Fortunato gives Montresor the secret sign of the Masons and then ascertains that Montresor is not a part of the secret society because he does not give the sign back. Montresor says that he is a Mason, and Fortunato demands a sign. Montresor produces the trowel he will use to build the wall that will entomb Fortunato.

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Can you identify humorous elements in the story "The Cask of Amontillado," and what does the humor add to the story?

Any humor in Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" is dark humor, indeed.  I can only tell you what I have found amusing when I read this story.  I'm always a little amused when Montressor says he told his servants he wouldn't be home until the next day but expected them to be there to do their jobs--knowing full well they'd all take off for Carnival.  I also enjoy the picture Poe draws of Fortunato in his crazy "parti-colored" jester-like outfit.  It's slightly amusing to see Fortunato get lured into the catacombs, though it's not funny to think of what happens to him there.  Finally, I always like the picture of Fortunato giving secret Masonic signals to a very confused Montressor.  These are not, as I said, wildly comical; instead, they are amusing incidents in a very dark work.  If the humorous elements were truly outrageously funny, it would clash dramatically with the somber and melancholy tone found in the rest of the work.  These moments are a perfect accompaniment and contrast to that darkness, I think, and each of them serves to advance some dramatic element of plot in the story. 

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