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 happens to Fortunato in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

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Your question might concern what may have happened to Fortunato after Montresor walled him up in the niche and left him there. Naturally Fortunato would have died, but some writers have assumed that he died immediately of suffocation while others have assumed that he died of starvation. I believe it was Poe's intention to have the reader believe that Montresor's revenge included a long, lingering death for his victim. There was undoubtedly plenty of water, since the text specifies that there is water dripping everywhere and that they are in fact under a river. So poor Fortunato could have quenched his thirst by licking water off the rock wall to which he was chained. Poe also specifies that there is some air down there.

We passed through a range of low arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a deep crypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame.

Montresor also makes repeated references to the abundance of nitre. This substance contains a large quantity of oxygen. So it would seem that Fortunato could get water and some air in his confinement. The rough stone wall constructed by Montresor may contain enough chinks to allow the passage of some of the foul air from the other side. Montresor does not say so, but he might have left a few air holes in his wall.

So it would seem that Fortunato died of starvation while standing up. Perhaps in time his skeleton would have slipped through the chain and crumpled to the ground in the rags of his jester's costume. Montresor would have wanted his victim to suffer a long, lingering death. At the end, Montresor receives no answers from Fortunato, but that doesn't necessarily mean the man is already dead. That is unlikely. He has probably fainted or even refusing to answer.

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Fortunato, more than a little intoxicated and dressed as a jester, is led from a party by Montresor, who feels that he has been wronged by Fortunato in countless ways, into his family catacombs with the pretense of showing off a cask of precious Amontillado, a rare sherry. Fortunato eagerly follows only to be chained to a niche in the wall where he watches as Montresor builds a brick wall to enclose him inside where he will be left to die with no hope of survival or rescue. For a detailed summary, check the link below.

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How does Montresor kill Fortunato in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

Montresor wants to kill a man but naturally doesn't want to be exposed and punished for murder and doesn't even want to be a suspect. He decides that the only way to commit a murder with impunity would be to make the victim disappear without a trace. The chains attached to the granite wall of the catacombs under his palazzo have probably been there for centuries. Montresor must have discovered them while exploring the catacombs by torchlight. No doubt the chains had been used by feudal lords to execute rebellious subjects. Montresor realized that he could murder Fortunato in the same way if he could get him underground without being seen in his company on the night of his disappearance. This inspired Montresor to invent the cask of imaginary Amontillado. It wasn't sufficient to invite Fortunato to come to his palazzo to sample it as a favor to a friend. Montresor embellished his falsehood with the statement that he had bought a big amount at a bargain price. Both Fortunato and Montresor refer to the cask as a "pipe," which is a wine-barrel containing 126 gallons. Fortunato does not seem like a sherry drinker. Sherry is a sipping wine, and Fortunato is characterized as a glutton and a guzzler. Fortunato is interested in the "bargain" aspect of the purchase. The fact that he refrains from asking Montresor where he bought it and how much he paid for it suggests that Fortunato is planning to sample the wine and judge it to be ordinary sherry. Montresor is in a big hurry to get an opinion on his Amontillado that night, either from Fortunato or from Luchesi. This suggests that Montresor plans to buy more if he can be assured that it is genuine. Montresor is a poor man, as he himself acknowledges. He is not the kind of man who would want 126 gallons of sherry for personal consumption, and he certainly would not want to buy additional casks for that purpose. Fortunato--as Montresor knows and expected--would put Montresor off by disparaging the wine and then rush off to find the cargo, apparently newly arrived by ship from Barcelona, and buy it all up for himself. An excellent jest! This is probably an example of the kinds of injuries that have made Montresor decide to kill him. So Montresor uses Fortunato's greed and duplicity to lure him into the catacombs and chain him to the granite wall. The fact that his murder plot was completely successful is shown in the last words of the tale:

 For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!

Fortunato has turned into a skeleton dressed in the rags of a jester's costume. Montresor no longer has any reason to hate him. When he concludes with "In pace requiescat" ("Rest in peace") he means it sincerely. He has been thoroughly cleansed of his hatred and can now feel pity for his victim

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How does Montresor kill Fortunato in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

Montresor walls up Fortunado in the catacombs under the city by sticking him in a crevice and bricking him in.

Montresor is upset because of some perceived injury Fortunado has done him.  He tricks him by saying he needs him to look at a rare cask of wine in the catacombs, tunnels under the city.  Then he brings him deeper and deeper, and since the man is drunk he is not aware of what is happening until it is too late.

…I busied myself among the pile of bones of which I have before spoken.  Throwing them aside, I soon uncovered a quantity of building stone and mortar. With these materials and with the aid of my trowel, I began vigorously to wall up the entrance of the niche.

Fortunado screams, but they are deep below the city and no one can hear him.  Montresor has plenty of time to wall him in, and eventually he will suffocate to death and no one will ever know what happened to him or suspect Montresor.  Montresor comments that it is important that he commit his act of revenge without getting caught.  This is why it is important to commit the perfect crime.

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What does Fortunato believe is actually happening in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

Fortunato prides himself on being a connoisseur of wines. He also believes that he is still good friends with Montresor. Montresor lets readers know from the beginning of the story that their friendship is tenuous at best and that he is planning on getting revenge against Fortunato. Montresor seeks out Fortunato during the carnival celebration and lets it be known that he has miraculously obtained a full pipe of Amontillado sherry. Montresor states that he isn't convinced it is real, and Fortunato excitedly volunteers his palate and tells Montresor to lead the way to the wine vaults.

“Come, let us go.”

“Whither?”

“To your vaults.”

This is all part of Montresor's plan, so he begins taking Fortunato to his home. Fortunato believes that he is going to get to taste an amazing wine when, in reality, he is being led to his death.

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What is the ultimate fate of Fortunato in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

Montresor, Fortunato's friend, leads him down into his family crypt with the promise of showing Fortunato a pipe of a liquor called Amontillado. It is in the vaults that Fortunato meets his demise. Montresor claims that he doubts the liquor really is Amontillado, and he wants Fortunato to pass judgment on it, as Fortunato is a wine connoisseur. The two men descend into Montresor's vault, and Fortunto begins to cough. Montresor tells Fortunato that they must turn back, but Fortunato refuses. The friends share some wine, and they finally arrive, bearing torches, at a deep crypt. They notice a gap within the wall of human remains (where people were buried), and they enter this gap. Montresor fetters Fortunato to the granite walls within the crypt, and Montresor walls up the gap in the crypt with mortar and stone, capturing Fortunato inside. Though Fortunato calls to be released, Montresor seals him in the crypt, and, at the end of the story, says that no one has disturbed Fortunato's resting place for half a century. 

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What is the ultimate fate of Fortunato in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

Fortunato offended Montresor numerous times in the past, and Montresor seeks revenge by burying him alive. After running into Fortunato, who had been drinking excessive amounts of wine throughout the night, Montresor invites him over to try some Amontillado, which is a very rare wine. Fortunato enthusiastically follows Montresor through his family's catacombs in order to try the Amontillado wine. While traveling through the catacombs, Fortunato continues to drink until he walks into a small room where Montresor shackles him. Fortunato is helpless and cannot escape as Montresor begins to build a wall out of stones until Fortunato's voice cannot be heard. Fortunato ends up dying behind the stone wall in the catacombs, and Montresor says he has been buried for fifty years.

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What happens to Fortunato at the end of "The Cask of Amontillado"?

The end of "The Cask of Amontillado" is a little ambiguous. It is not quite clear whether Fortunato is dead or stubbornly remaining silent. 

“For the love of God, Montresor!”

“Yes,” I said, “for the love of God!”

But to these words I hearkened in vain for a reply. I grew impatient. I called aloud—

“Fortunato!”

No answer. I called again—

“Fortunato!”

No answer still. I thrust a torch through the remaining aperture and let it fall within. There came forth in return only a jingling of the bells. 

It seems unlikely that Fortunato could have died of fright. More likely, he has just given up trying to escape from his tight chains and is resigned to his fate. The jingling of the bells on his cap suggests he is still alive in there. He might have remained alive for days or weeks. He would not die of thirst because there was plenty of water dripping along the granite wall. He could have licked the wall to assuage his thirst. He was more likely to have died of starvation. There may have been just enough oxygen in his crypt to allow him to breathe.

If Fortunato remained alive for several weeks, he must have suffered terrible mental torture. He may have imagined he heard footsteps coming outside the stone wall. He might hope searchers would rescue him, or that Montresor had relented and was coming back. Edgar Allan Poe leaves the rest of the story up to the reader's imagination. One way or another, Fortunato died in his chains.

For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!

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