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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1. Investigate the history of the Free and Accepted Masons, the group to which Fortunato apparently belongs. How were Masons perceived in the United States during the nineteenth century? Why might Poe have chosen to make Fortunato a member?

2. Identify similarities and differences between "The Cask of Amontillado" and another Poe story, such as "The Premature Burial" or "The Tell-Tale Heart."

3. What is nitre (also known as potassium nitrate or saltpeter)? How would it form on the walls of the catacombs? Why might it be harmful?

4. Research the field of heraldry, the medieval system of assigning and describing symbols displayed on a shield to identify families. Learn enough of heraldry's special vocabulary to explain the conversation between Montresor and Fortunato on the subject of Montresor's "arms."

5. Learn what you can about European gentlemen's attire in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Fortunato, who has been enjoying the carnival, is dressed in motley. Montresor wears a silk mask and a roquelaire. What does the men's clothing reveal about their station in life or about their character?

6. Compare and contrast Poe's style of horror in "The Cask of Amontillado" with that of another well-known writer of the genre, such as Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, H. P. Lovecraft, or Stephen King.

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