The Cask of Amontillado Summary

In the short story “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe, a man named Montresor describes his revenge against his friend Fortunato, who did him “a thousand injuries.”

  • In Italy during Carnival, Montresor tells Fortunato that he has obtained some rare Amontillado wine and invites him back to his cellar to appraise it.

  • After luring a drunken Fortunato into his family’s catacombs, Montresor chains Fortunato to a wall and bricks up the opening. Fortunato screams, but Montresor only mocks him.

  • Fortunato’s body remains undiscovered for fifty years.

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The Cask of Amontillado” has one of the most straightforward plot lines of all of Poe's tales, though much of the story's detail raises questions left unanswered and mysteries that are unexplained.

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The tale begins with the narrator, a man named Montresor, telling us he has suffered a “thousand injuries” from his friend Fortunato. Now that Fortunato has added “insult” to these injuries, Montresor has finally decided to seek vengeance. Montresor appears to be addressing his narrative to a particular individual, for he refers to his reader, or auditor, as “you who know me so well.” The setting is an unnamed Italian town during Carnival season. Though the period in which the story takes place is not made explicit, probably it is some time in the past. Montresor meets Fortunato at night, while the festivities are going on, and tells him that he has a “pipe” (a large amount, approximately five hundred liters) of Amontillado, a type of wine, which he wants Fortunato to taste and verify the identity of. Fortunato is dressed in “motley,” a traditional jester's costume for Carnival that includes a cap adorned with jingling bells. He already appears to be drunk. Evidently Amontillado is such an unusual wine that Fortunato doesn't at first believe Montresor that he has secured a quantity of it. Montresor suggests that another man, named Luchesi, can try the wine, but Fortunato asserts that Luchesi isn't a true connoisseur and wouldn't know Amontillado from sherry. He can't turn down the opportunity to sample the Amontillado and agrees to go with Montresor to Montresor's palazzo, where the wine is stored in his cellars, which also happen to be the catacombs where the bones of Montresor's ancestors are buried.

Though Montresor asserts that when it comes to other areas of expertise, such as painting and gemmary, Fortunato is, “like most Italians,” a quack, he acknowledges that Fortunato is in fact knowledgeable about wines, as Montresor himself is. Interestingly, Montresor specifically refers to “Italian wines” as their specialty, though Amontillado is a Spanish wine. One also has to note that while the setting is Italy, Montresor is not an Italian name, though the estate that his family has held for generations is there, in Italy.

Montresor, telling the reader that his servants will not be at the house precisely because he has ordered them not  to leave, leads Fortunato on. They descend to the catacombs and go through several passageways, stopping to sample other wines, a Medoc and a De Grave, on the way to the place where the Amontillado is stored. Fortunato observes that a “white web-work” coats the walls of the damp cavern, which Montresor tells him, in answer to his guess, is nitre. Fortunato is seized by a severe fit of coughing, which seems inwardly to evoke Montresor's sympathy despite his intention to avenge himself. The two men digress for a few moments, with Montresor...

(The entire section contains 805 words.)

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