Investigate the history of the Free and Accepted Masons, a 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?
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?
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."
Learn what you can about European gentlemen's attire in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Fortunato has been enjoying the carnival, and 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?