The Cask of Amontillado


9/17/01


Critical Reading and Writing


“The Cask of Amontillado”, written by Edgar Allen Poe, is a classic tale of revenge. This flawlessly diabolical plan of revenge begins to take shape during a period of great celebration. The Cask of Amontillado begins during the carnival season of an unknown Italian city. Written in 1846, the story takes place on the streets of a carnival and moves into the dark and dreary crypt in the palazzo of the main character, Montressor’s .This location adds to the menacing atmosphere of the story. The scenes and different settings are limited; Poe chooses the perfect scene for the type of image he is trying to portray. This enhances the mood of the story.


After Montressor asserts: "The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge... I must not only punish, but punish with impunity", he takes it upon himself to devise a plan of vengeance. In the time following the insult, Montressor is very wary not arouse the suspicions of Fortunato. He has decided upon revenge and spends his days figuring out how and when his revenge will be most effective. Ultimately, Monteressor decides to use Fortunato’s strengths against him. Since Fortunato is a connoisseur of fine wines, he plans to lure him with wine.


One evening during the carnival season, Montressor encounters the drunken Fortunato dressed as a jester. He lures him back home with him because he exclaims that he is in need of advice. He offers to get the advice from another man, but Fortunato will not let his reputation as the best wine taster become blemished. Montressor explains that he has just purchased a cask of what seems to be “Amontillado” but he is not quite sure whether he was fooled. Fortunato offers to return home with him to settle the matter. After Fortunato has taken the bait, the two proceed towards the palazzo of Montressor. Upon arrival, Montressor is excessively polite and offers to turn back due to the obvious cough and cold of Fortunato. Whether it is due to determination or sheer intoxication, Fortunato refuses to turn back. As they begin to venture into the vaults, Montressor sees his plan taking shape. They finally reach the most remote end of the crypt into a small less spacious room. In a deceitful manner, Montressor gets Fortunato to enter the room, which is no more than four feet deep, three feet wide, and six or seven feet tall. The moment he enters the room, Montressor chains him. Implementing the final stage of his plan, Montressor walls Fortunato in the room using a pile of bricks that he has assembled. Too intoxicated to even attempt resistance, Fortunato spend the whole time screaming. In a last attempt at freedom, he even tries to play off the whole incident as a joke and asks Montressor to release him. Growing sick at heart due to the darkness of the crypt, Montressor hurries and finishes his plan. His revenge was complete. He lives up to the words on his family’s coat of arms: "Nemo me impune lacessit”, which means “No one assails me with impunity."


Discussion


It is a rarity to find a story so rich in its symbolism and dramatic irony. Edgar Allen Poe undoubtedly captures the essence of fear and suspense while perfectly utilizing the aforementioned literary devices. It is through the use of these two devices that he delivers the quality that he is so well known for.


From the beginning of the story the irony is apparent. The first ironic aspect of the story is the name Fortunato. This name suggests good fortune, when in reality; the character of Fortunato experiences quite the opposite. He suffers a terrible death after being lured into a chamber by a friend. A second and perhaps less important example of irony in the story is the setting. The characters meet during a carnival. While carnival is thought to be a time of fun and celebration, it turns out to be a time of death and revenge. The way the narrator treats Fortunato is also very ironic. While the narrator makes it clear to the reader that Fortunato is suffering from