The Cask of Amontillado

THE THOUSAND INJURIES of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely, settled—but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.

He had a weak point—this Fortunato—although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on his connoisseur-ship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity, to practise imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack, but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially;—I was skilful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

I said to him—“My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking to-day. But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts.”

“How?” said he. “Amontillado, A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!”

“I have my doubts,” I replied; “and I was silly enough to pay the full Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain.”


“I have my doubts.”


“And I must satisfy them.”


“As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchesi. If any one has a critical turn it is he. He will tell me—”

“Luchesi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry.”

“And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own.”

“Come, let us go.”


“To your vaults.”

“My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good nature. I perceive you have an engagement. Luchesi—”

“I have no engagement;—come.”

“My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold with which I perceive you are afflicted. The vaults are insufferably damp. They are encrusted with nitre.”

“Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing. Amontillado! You have been imposed upon. And as for Luchesi, he cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontillado.”

Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my arm; and putting on a mask of black silk and drawing a closely about my person, I suffered him to hurry me to my palazzo.

There were no attendants at home; they had absconded to make merry in honour of the time. I had told them that I should not return until the morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house. These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was turned.

I took from their sconces two flambeaux, and giving one to Fortunato, bowed him through several suites of rooms to the archway that led into the vaults. I passed down a long and winding staircase, requesting him to be cautious as he followed. We came at length to the foot of the descent, and stood together upon the damp ground of the catacombs of the Montresors.

The gait of my friend was unsteady, and the bells upon his cap jingled as he strode.

“The pipe,” he said.

“It is farther on,” said I; “but observe the white web-work which gleams from these cavern walls.”

He turned towards me, and looked into my eves with two filmy orbs that distilled the rheum of intoxication.

“Nitre?” he asked, at length.

“Nitre,” I replied. “How long have you had that cough?”

“Ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!”

My poor friend found it impossible to reply for many minutes.

“It is nothing,” he said, at last.

“Come,” I said, with decision, “we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter. We will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides, there is Luchesi—”

“Enough,” he said; “the cough's a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough.”

“True—true,” I replied; “and, indeed, I had no intention of alarming you unnecessarily—but you should use all proper caution. A draught of this Medoc will defend us from the damps.

Here I knocked off the neck of a bottle which I drew from a long row of its fellows that lay upon the mould.

“Drink,” I said, presenting him the wine.

He raised it to his lips with a leer. He paused and nodded to me familiarly, while his bells jingled.

“I drink,” he said, “to the buried that repose around us.”

“And I to your long life.”

He again took my arm, and we proceeded.

“These vaults,” he said, “are extensive.”

“The Montresors,” I replied, “were a great and numerous family.”

“I forget your arms.”

“A huge human foot d'or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel.”

“And the motto?”

“Nemo me impune lacessit.”

“Good!” he said.

The wine sparkled in his eyes and the bells jingled. My own fancy grew warm with the Medoc. We had passed through long walls of piled skeletons, with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of the catacombs. I paused again, and this time I made bold to seize Fortunato by an arm above the elbow.

“The nitre!” I said; “see, it increases. It hangs like moss upon the vaults. We are below the river's bed. The drops of moisture trickle among the bones. Come, we will go back ere it is too late. Your cough—”

“It is nothing,” he said; “let us go on. But first, another draught of the Medoc.”

I broke and reached him a flagon of De Grâve. He emptied it at a breath. His eyes flashed with a fierce light. He laughed and threw the bottle upwards with a gesticulation I did not understand.

I looked at him in surprise. He repeated the movement—a grotesque one.

“You do not comprehend?” he said.

“Not I,” I replied.

“Then you are not of the brotherhood.”


“You are not of the masons.”

“Yes, yes,” I said; “yes, yes.”

“You? Impossible! A mason?”

“A mason,” I replied.

“A sign,” he said, “a sign.”

“It is this,” I answered, producing from beneath the folds of my roquelaire a trowel.

“You jest,” he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces. “But let us proceed to the Amontillado.”

“Be it so,” I said, replacing the tool beneath the cloak and again offering him my arm. He leaned upon it heavily. We continued our route in search of the Amontillado. 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.

At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another less spacious. Its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to the vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris. Three sides of this interior crypt were still ornamented in this manner. From the fourth side the bones had been thrown down, and lay promiscuously upon the earth, forming at one point a mound of some size. Within the wall thus exposed by the displacing of the bones, we perceived a still interior crypt or recess, in depth about four feet, in width three, in height six or seven. It seemed to have been constructed for no especial use within itself, but formed merely the interval between two of the colossal supports of the roof of the catacombs, and was backed by one of their circumscribing walls of solid granite.

It was in vain that Fortunato, uplifting his dull torch, endeavoured to pry into the depth of the recess. Its termination the feeble light did not enable us to see.

“Proceed,” I said; “herein is the Amontillado. As for Luchesi—”

“He is an ignoramus,” interrupted my friend, as he stepped unsteadily forward, while I followed immediately at his heels. In niche, and finding an instant he had reached the extremity of the niche, and finding his progress arrested by the rock, stood stupidly bewildered. A moment more and I had fettered him to the granite. In its surface were two iron staples, distant from each other about two feet, horizontally. From one of these depended a short chain, from the other a padlock. Throwing the links about his waist, it was but the work of a few seconds to secure it. He was too much astounded to resist. Withdrawing the key I stepped back from the recess.

“Pass your hand,” I said, “over the wall; you cannot help feeling the nitre. Indeed, it is very damp. Once more let me implore you to return. No? Then I must positively leave you. But I must first render you all the little attentions in my power.”

“The Amontillado!” ejaculated my friend, not yet recovered from his astonishment.

“True,” I replied; “the Amontillado.”

As I said these words 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.

I had scarcely laid the first tier of the masonry when I discovered that the intoxication of Fortunato had in a great measure worn off. The earliest indication I had of this was a low moaning cry from the depth of the recess. It was not the cry of a drunken man. There was then a long and obstinate silence. I laid the second tier, and the third, and the fourth; and then I heard the furious vibrations of the chain. The noise lasted for several minutes, during which, that I might hearken to it with the more satisfaction, I ceased my labours and sat down upon the bones. When at last the clanking subsided, I resumed the trowel, and finished without interruption the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh tier. The wall was now nearly upon a level with my breast. I again paused, and holding the flambeaux over the mason-work, threw a few feeble rays upon the figure within.

A succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from the throat of the chained form, seemed to thrust me violently back. For a brief moment I hesitated, I trembled. Unsheathing my rapier, I began to grope with it about the recess; but the thought of an instant reassured me. I placed my hand upon the solid fabric of the catacombs, and felt satisfied. I reapproached the wall; I replied to the yells of him who clamoured. I re-echoed, I aided, I surpassed them in volume and in strength. I did this, and the clamourer grew still.

It was now midnight, and my task was drawing to a close. I had completed the eighth, the ninth and the tenth tier. I had finished a portion of the last and the eleventh; there remained but a single stone to be fitted and plastered in. I struggled with its weight; I placed it partially in its destined position. But now there came from out the niche a low laugh that erected the hairs upon my head. It was succeeded by a sad voice, which I had difficulty in recognizing as that of the noble Fortunato. The voice said—

“Ha! ha! ha!—he! he! he!—a very good joke, indeed—an excellent jest. We will have many a rich laugh about it at the palazzo—he! he! he!—over our wine—he! he! he!”

“The Amontillado!” I said.

“He! he! he!—he! he! he!—yes, the Amontillado. But is it not getting late? Will not they be awaiting us at the palazzo, the Lady Fortunato and the rest? Let us be gone.”

“Yes,” I said, “let us be gone.”

“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—


No answer. I called again—


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. My heart grew sick; it was the dampness of the catacombs that made it so. I hastened to make an end of my labour. I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up. Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!


  1. Poe has to have Montresor describe Fortunato's reactions to finding himself chained to the rock wall in the stygian darkness. Fortunato's horror must be thoroughly established. Otherwise, Montresor's revenge would not be complete. Fortunato will moan, rattle the chains, emit "a succession of loud and shrill screams," yell, clamour, try to pretend he thinks it is a joke, try to frighten Montresor into releasing him by pretending he is expected at his home, and finally beg for mercy when he says, *"For the love of God, Montresor!" *All of this is music to Montresor's ears. 

    — William Delaney
  2. A palazzo was an old Venetian mansion, probably built in Venice's glory days before Columbus and Vasco da Gama, and now deteriorating. If anyone were to remember seeing the two men together on the night of Fortunato's disappearance, the witness would not say that Fortunato was being led but rather that he was leading the other man and forcing him to keep up a fast pace. Fortunato is obviously in a hurry. He doesn't know how soon word might get out about the newly arrived cargo of Amontillado. 

    — William Delaney
  3. Fortunato forces himself upon Montresor in order to prevent him from going to Luchesi. Although this man Luchesi never appears in the story, he is an important factor. Montresor hasn't the slightest intention of going to Luchesi, but Fortunato is afraid that he might do so. Luchesi is presumably a wealthy man like Fortunato and could buy up the entire cargo of Amontillado if he knew about it.

    — William Delaney
  4. Fortunato is not motivated by a desire to display greater connoisseurship than Luchesi. He disparages Luchesi's taste because he wants Montresor to prefer himself as a judge of the wine. He doesn't want Luchesi to hear anything about this supposedly newly arrived shipment of Amontillado. Fortunato probably believes just the opposite of what he says. He is only saying that Luchesi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry for Montresor's benefit.

    It looks as if Montresor really wanted to go to Luchesi, even though he happened to run into Fortunato on his way. Fortunato has to force himself on Montresor, which is just what Montresor wants. This is excellent strategy. Instead of Montresor taking Fortunato to his vaults, he actually has Fortunato taking him there practically by force. Fortunato is so determined to taste this fictitious wine that it would be impossible for Montresor to talk him out of it. Why is Fortunato so strongly motivated? It is not because he wants to show off his connoisseurship. It is not because he would go to all that trouble to do a friend a favor. It is not because he is so anxious to drink a glass of Amontillado in a dank, dark catacomb. What motivates him is the idea of a "bargain." 

    Evidently nobody but Montresor knows about the Spanish ship full of great casks of Amontillado being sold at a bargain price. Montresor wants to buy more--but only if he can be sure it is genuine. Montresor is a poor man. He could only afford to buy one or two more casks. But Fortunato is rich. He could buy the entire cargo. He visualizes a Spanish ship filled from top to bottom with big oak casks of Amontillado. Such wine will keep indefinitely and only improve with age. He could make a small fortune--but he doesn't want to show too much interest in the ship because he might make Montresor suspicious of his intentions. He wants Montresor to think he is just doing him a favor. In truth, he probably intends to sample the wine and say it is only ordinary sherry. If it is genuine, he will get away from Montresor and find the ship in the harbor and negotiate with the seller on board. Montresor seems gullible, but he knows from past experience, from his "thousand injuries," that that is exactly what Fortunato is planning to do.

    — William Delaney
  5. Montresor is genuinely pleased to see Fortunato because he wants to kill him that night. There would be no better time, with all his preparations made and Fortunato drunk. The streets are packed with noisy, intoxicated celebrants mostly disguised in costumes including various kinds of masks. Montresor immediately pretends to be in a hurry and pretends to think that Fortunato has an engagement. Why should Montresor be in a hurry? The implication is that he wants to buy more of the Amontillado at a bargain price that night, before word gets around that it is available, but only if he can verify that it is genuine. Most potential buyers haven't heard about it because, like Fortunato, they have all been drinking and not paying attention to business.

    How can Montresor pretend to think Fortunato has an engagement? Because he has had a hard time finding him. He has to suggest that Fortunato has an engagement two times before he gets the information he wants. Fortunato finally says, "I have no engagement;--come." Montresor doesn't want his victim to be missed and searched for that night. He wants to leave a cold trail. No one will be surprised if Fortunato doesn't come home that night. They would assume that he was sleeping it off at someone's home. The earliest he will be missed will be tomorrow morning. The streets will be empty, strewn with debris. Some people will remember seeing Fortunato in a jester's costume, but they won't remember a companion all in black and wearing a black mask. Even if one or two remember a shadowy figure, how could they know it was Montresor?

    Montresor lies that he is on his way to Luchesi. He has no intention of going to Luchesi because (1) he has nothing against Luchesi, and (2) he doesn't really have any Amontillado. Why the pretense of hurry, since he has already paid for the big cask of wine and had it delivered to his palazzo? It can only be because he would like to buy more--but only if he is sure of what he is getting. He tells Fortunato, "i was fearful of losing a bargain." Fortunato becomes interested because he would like to get in on this bargain himself. Both men call the cask "a pipe," which is a barrel containing 126 gallons. Neither man would want to drink that much sherry, however fine.

    Some people might remember hearing Fortunato shouting, "Amontillado!" This wouldn't hurt Montresor a bit because he has no Amontillado on his premises. It could also send searchers off on a false trail, looking for someone who was selling Amontillado or serving it to visitors.

    — William Delaney
  6. This criticism does not apply to all household servants in Venice but only to Montresor's. They have no respect for him. He is poor and may frequently have a hard time paying them any money. They stay on because they have rooms and food and can get by with doing little work. They know that Montresor cannot fire them because he couldn't replace them.


    It would appear that Montresor manages to survive by dealing in one-of-a-kind luxury items such as oil paintings, statues, tapestries, antique furniture, and sometimes in gourmet wines. He would not buy a "pipe" containing 126 gallons of Amontillado for his personal consumption. He bought it (he says!) because it was a bargain. Therefore he could expect to make a profit--if the wine really existed. The "pipe" would produce 500 quart bottles of wine. If he could make a profit of the equivalent of, say, two American dollars per bottle, that would net him a thousand dollars. He could survive for a year or two on that amount of money with its greater buying power in the nineteenth century.

    Montresor appears to be a hustler. He has to know wealthy buyers and impecunious aristocrats, of whom there are many in the decaying city. He has to put on a front by living in a palazzo with servants. He puts up with Fortunato's insults because Fortunato is an insider and can be useful to him in many ways. There would be cases in which Montresor had a chance to buy, let us say, a valuable oil painting but didn't have enough capital. He might often turn to his "friend" Fortunato to go into an ad hoc partnership. Fortunato might insist on more than a fifty-fifty split if he put up the capital. He might even take over the deal and just pay Montresor a finder's fee. This is an example of what Montresor would consider one of the thousand injuries he had suffered.

    — William Delaney
  7. Montresor says this to distract Fortunato's attention. He doesn't want his victim asking questions about the Amontillado.

    — William Delaney
  8. The fact that Montresor acts as if he is in a great hurry to find out whether his purchase is true Amontillado suggests that he intends to buy more of it if it is genuine. But he has to act fast, before word gets out that the Amontillado is supposedly available at a bargain price. Evidently it is being sold at a bargain price because everybody (except Montresor) is neglecting business affairs while celebrating the carnival. Montresor does not identify with Italians and therefore is not participating in the carnival. Rather than wearing a costume, he is wearing a black cloak, but he condescends to wear a black silk mask from time to time. The mask, of course, is really to conceal his identity when he and Fortunato go off to Montresor's palazzo. Fortunato is dressed in the most conspicuous possible costume and even wears a hat with bells on it. He attracts all the attention, while his companion in black cloak and black mask, is like a shadow. Montresor does not want merely to lure Fortunato to his vaults, but he wants to do this without being recognized as Fortunato's companion. There is sure to be a big investigation after Fortunato's relatives realize that he has disappeared. Montresor is thinking far ahead of the actual murder. It is to his great advantage that everyone on the streets is drunk. They will remember seeing Fortunato but will not remember seeing anyone with him.

    — William Delaney
  9. This is not merely verbal irony. When Fortunato drinks the Medoc "with a leer" and says, "I drink to the buried that repose around us," he is being intentionally hurtful and disingenuous. He knows that all these bones are not the bones of Montresor's ancestors. Montresor is a Frenchman. His family is relatively new to Italy. Montresor must be renting his palazzo and has to take all the bones along with it, since there is no place else to put them, and the owner of the palazzo would not want them moved anyway. When Montresor says, "And I to your long life," he is bitterly angry at the insult. This is just one more of the "thousand injuries" he has suffered from Fortunato.

    When Fortunato then asks about Montresor's coat of arms, he is being equally cruel and disingenuous. He thinks Montresor is bourgeois and never had a coat of arms. This is probably true. The coat of arms Montresor describes--"a huge human foot d'or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel"--is undoubtedly appropriate to this occasion but intentionally bizarre and even ridiculous. Imagine a huge golden human foot on a shield!

    — William Delaney
  10. One of Poe's many plot problems involves the question of what these two men are going to talk about during their long trip to Montresor's palazzo and through the catacombs. It would be perfectly natural for Fortunato to ask questions about this cask of Amontillado. But Montresor does not want to be asked such questions because, for one thing, Fortunato knows more about the wine than he does. The author fortuitously provides Fortunato with a "severe cold," so it will be difficult for him to talk. This is demonstrated later in the story when Fortunato has a coughing fit.

    “How long have you had that cough?”

    “Ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!”

    My poor friend found it impossible to reply for many minutes.

    There is another, more subtle and more sinister, reason why Fortunato does not ask awkward questions about where Montresor got the Amontillado, how much he paid, etc. Montresor mentioned that he bought the cask because it was a "bargain." Fortunato is not assisting Montresor because he wants to help him, or to show off his connoisseurship, or to drink a glass of Amontillado in a dank catacomb full of human bones; he is doing it because he senses the possibility of getting in on this bargain that very night, before word gets around that a ship has arrived from Barcelona with a cargo of Amontillado being offered at a bargain price. Fortunato is rich enough to buy up the whole cargo. He doesn't want to give Montresor any hint that he might be interested in doing so. Therefore he doesn't bring up the subject of the wine. Montresor knows that Fortunato is capable of telling him that the wine (if it existed) is not genuine Amontillado, thus eliminating Montresor as a competitive bidder for the wine aboard the Spanish ship. Fortunato has already eliminated Luchesi as a competitor by accompanying Montresor to his vaults rather than letting him go on to Luchesi, as he said he was doing when he met Fortunato. 

    So there are two reasons why Fortunato says nothing and asks nothing about this Amontillado. One is that he has a bad cold and finds it hard to talk. The other is that he plans to buy up the cargo if he tastes Montresor's wine and finds it to be genuine. This forces the author, Edgar Allan Poe, to fill up space with other dialogue, since the two men would have to talk about something. They talk about the masons, about Montresor's coat of arms, and miscellaneous things instead. Poe himself may have known nothing about Amontillado except that it was an expensive gourmet sherry (but not really rare or precious). Poe probably didn't want to have to invent a lot of dialogue about Amontillado partly because he really knew nothing about it. It would seem that neither Montresor nor Fortunato is much of a sherry drinker. They seem to prefer dry red wines rather than "sipping wines" like sherry. Neither would want 126 gallons of Amontillado for his own consumption. 

    — William Delaney
  11. Poe includes this sentence in order to explain why it would not have been possible to store the cask of Amontillado closer to the foot of the stairs. Both Montresor and Fortunato refer to the cask as a "pipe." This is a very large barrel containing 126 gallons when full. If Fortunato wonders why the Amontillado has been stored so far into the catacombs, he may assume there was no room for it elsewhere.

    Puncheons are also large barrels, but not as large as pipes. It seems likely, because of Montresor's straitened circumstances, that many of his "casks and puncheons" may be empty. 

    — William Delaney
  12. Montresor is rationalizing when he says his heart grew sick because of the dampness of the catacombs. If Montresor feels any pity for his victim or has any misgivings about what he has done, it is too late to change his mind. Poe may have added this sentence in order to assure his reader that Montresor is not insane and not a total fiend. If so, it was because Poe wanted the reader to identify with Montresor, although the reader could not help feeling some pity for his victim. This is also the reason the whole story is narrated by Montresor and remains strictly in his point of view.

    The many references to the dampness of the setting are partly intended to show that Fortunato will not die of thirst but more likely will die of starvation.

    — William Delaney
  13. Fortunato is tightly fastened to the rock wall. There would be no clanking or clattering of the chain, only vibrations. Poe wanted to establish that it would be impossible for Fortunato to interfere with work of building the wall. Since the mortar would stay damp for a long time, especially in that wet atmosphere, it would be easy to push the wall down if Fortunato could reach it. However, the niche is four feet deep and Fortunato could only reach out for about three feet at most.

    — William Delaney
  14. Notice how often Montresor addresses Fortunato as "My friend" and also how often he refers to him as "My friend" and "My poor friend," etc. He is doing this for a reason, of course, but he has conditioned himself to think of Fortunato as his good friend even though he hates him enough to murder him in a horrible manner.

    — William Delaney
  15. This is the only time in the story that Fortunato calls Montresor by name. Montresor had specified that to achieve the perfect revenge it was necessary that the victim know the identity of the avenger. Since Fortunato had been so drunk, it might have been possible to chain him inside the niche and build the wall without the victim ever really understanding what was happening to him. But Poe establishes that Fortunato has quickly sobered up, realizes what is happening, and understands that it is Montresor who intends to murder him. That is why Fortunato is made to call Montresor by name at this point. When Montresor replies, "Yes, for the love of God!" he is expressing his satisfaction that he has succeeded in accomplishing his plan for revenge. He wanted to hear Fortunato beg for mercy. When Montresor says, "Yes, for the love of God!" he means, "Yes, that was exactly what I wanted to hear you say."

    — William Delaney
  16. Poe has already created his "single effect" by chaining Fortunato to the stone wall inside the narrow niche. Now the author wants to close the story as quickly as possible. However, Montresor still has the task of building a stone wall at the entrance to the niche and then plastering over the entire wall to disguise the fact that it is a wall. Poe manages to make all of this seem to be done very quickly. He has the "building stone and mortar" already available. It would be awkward to have to describe how Montresor mixed the mortar in a trough. At the same time, it has to be explained how the mortar stays moist when Montresor is not sure when he is going to use it. He has covered the mortar with human bones. The atmosphere down there is very damp. There is a continual dripping of water. This is probably sufficient to assure the reader that the mortar could have stayed moist for some time. Montresor would not have left his trowel down there because such a tool would rust quickly in that damp environment. That seems to explain why he carries it under his cloak--although he couldn't be sure when he would get the chance to lure Fortunato down into his death-trap. Montresor's apparent skill with building his wall explains why he earlier told Fortunato that he was a mason. Montresor must have had some experience with masonry. Perhaps he practiced elsewhere in the catacombs to make sure he would be able to handle this present job effectively. It would seem that the color of the plastered-over wall hiding the niche would be different from the color of the granite on both sides of it. Montresor does not explain how he coped with this--but he may have done something with his mortar to make it darker, so that it would match the granite when he plastered over the entire exterior of his stone wall to hide the fact that there were tiers of stones there.

    — William Delaney
  17. Fortunato is undoubtedly examining the chains and the padlock very closely to see if there is any possibility of getting free. If so, he would probably decide to wait until Montresor had finished building the wall and had left. Fortunato, who is unarmed, may know that Montresor has a rapier. It would be hard to conceal such a weapon under a cloak, especially under a roquelaire, which is a short cloak. If Fortunato could free himself after Montresor departed, he would have no trouble breaking down the wall while the mortar was still damp.

    — William Delaney
  18. Fortunato is now completely sober and trying desperately to get out of his trap. He suggests that a number of people will be expecting him at his home and that if he doesn't appear they may go out searching for him. He also implies that they will be expecting Montresor to arrive with him, trying to plant the idea in Montresor's mind that many people have seen them walking together just that evening and have assumed they were heading towards Fortunato's palazzo to join a big social gathering. Fortunato is not only trying to frighten Montresor into aborting his murder plans but also giving him an alibi for doing what he has already done, i.e., for tricking Fortunato into coming down into his catacombs and chaining him to the rock wall. He is letting Montresor think he takes it as a terribly funny joke, and trying to tempt Montresor to pretend it was indeed a practical joke and release him. But Montresor has taken pains to establish that Fortunato was not expected anywhere that night. Earlier he twice pretends to believe Fortunato has an "engagement." The second time, Fortunato replies,:

    "I have no engagement;--come."

    Montresor is well aware that if he were to release Fortunato his own life would be in grave peril. Fortunato would not do anything immediately. He would just want to get out of there. But later on he would probably have Montresor murdered. Even if Fortunato did nothing, Montresor would never again have an opportunity to kill him. Fortunato would never forgive him. Their relationship would be at an end.

    — William Delaney
  19. Montresor has specified at the beginning of his tale that for perfect revenge the victim must be aware of the identity of avenger.

    It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

    Poe shows that Fortunato, in spite of all the wine he has drunk, is rapidly becoming sober because of his terrible predicament. Montresor wants to be sure that Fortunato fully understands what is happening to him and who is responsible. Later Fortunato will call him by name for the only time in the story. He says:

    "For the love of God, Montresor!"

    This satisfies Montresor that Fortunato fully understands everything.

    — William Delaney
  20. Montresor continues to refer to Fortunato throughout the story as his friend, his good friend, and his poor friend. He is not being ironic. He has conditioned himself to think of Fortunato as his best friend and to speak of him as such at every opportunity. This has at least two purposes. One is to throw Fortunato off guard. Another is to protect himself from suspicion when Fortunato disappears forever. No one will suspect Montresor of having anything to do with it because everyone will believe that the two men were the best of friends. The authorities may conduct an exhaustive search for Fortunato, since he is an important citizen, but they will not even consider searching Montresor's premises. No doubt Montresor intends to show as much concern about Fortunato's future disappearance as anyone. He may continue to make inquiries about him for years. As Montresor says, "I must not only punish but punish with impunity." By "impunity" he means he wants to avoid the slightest possible risk that anyone would even suspect him. 

    — William Delaney
  21. At least Fortunato will not die of thirst. He will be licking drops of water off the granite wall until he finally starves to death. 

    — William Delaney
  22. The niche has to be at least four feet deep. The chains are very short. Fortunato would be pinned tightly against the granite wall. Montresor specifies earlier that his victim is wearing a "tight-fitting" costume, so his clothing would not give him any extra freedom of movement. At best he could only reach out three feet in an attempt to push down a portion of the wall. So he would not be quite able to touch it. 

    — William Delaney
  23. Montresor has left everything needed to build a wall across the front of the niche where he intends to chain Fortunato, except for the trowel. No doubt he does not want to leave that metal tool in the damp catacomb because it could easily rust. However, he wants it readily accessible, so he carries it under his cloak.

    — William Delaney
  24. Poe has to emphasize Fortunato's intoxication to account for the fact that he is so easily duped into going down into these catacombs and for the fact that he does not ask a lot of difficult questions. For one thing, he might ask why Montresor stored the cask of Amontillado so far away from the bottom of the stairs. He might also ask why Montresor didn't simply draw off a bottle or two and bring them upstairs where they could be tasted in comfort in Montresor's living room. But Poe wants Fortunato to be sober when he realizes he has been trapped. Montresor has specified that for his perfect revenge he wants his victim to know what is happening, why it is happening, and who is responsible. So towards the end of the story Montresor states:

    I had scarcely laid the first tier of the masonry when I discovered that the intoxication of Fortunato had in a great measure worn off. The earliest indication I had of this was a low moaning cry from the depth of the recess. It was not the cry of a drunken man.

    Fortunato sobers up quickly when he understands that Montresor has brought him there to kill him. He knows that his only chance of getting out of this horrible predicament is in using his wits to try to talk Montresor out of going through with his plan. 

    — William Delaney
  25. The skeletons are there because the city is at sea level, and is actually sinking into the Adriatic very slowly over the centuries. Bodies cannot be buried in the ground because there is water only a few feet down. So the dead are interred above ground and gradually decompose.

    — William Delaney
  26. Montresor pretends to have doubts about the authenticity of his nonexistent Amontillado. When Fortunato says, "You have been imposed upon," it suggests that he is already thinking of tricking Montresor by telling him his wine is only ordinary sherry--assuming, of course, that it is genuine. Fortunato does not have to sample Montresor's wine. He knows that it must have come in aboard a ship from Barcelona. He could easily find a newly arrived Spanish ship in the Venice harbor and sample the wine on board. However, if he doesn't go to Montresor's palazzo immediately that night, but makes up some excuse, such as his cold, then Montresor would go straight to Luchesi. Fortunato thinks if he works things right he can buy up the whole cargo of Amontillado without any competition from either Montresor or Luchesi.

    — William Delaney
  27. Montresor twice pretends to think Fortunato is expected somewhere. If so, Montresor probably would not want to murder him that night. He wants to leave a cold trail. By tomorrow morning the revelers on the streets would have forgotten seeing Fortunato in his jester's costume--or at least they could not tell which way he was going or whether anybody was with him. Fortunato in his gaudy costume is attracting all the attention. Montresor, in a black cloak and a black mask would be like a shadow.

    The second time Montresor suggests that Fortunato has an "engagement," his intended victim says, "I have no engagement;--come." That is exactly what Montresor wants to hear. Fortunato's own wife won't miss him until the following day at the earliest. No doubt this hedonistic man has spent many nights away from home in someone's bed.

    — William Delaney
  28. This strongly suggests that both Montresor and Fortunato are gentlemen businessmen who deal with a select clientele. They are sometimes partners and sometimes competitors. This could explain the "thousand injuries" and also explain why Montresor does not simply sever his relationship with a man who injures and insults him. Montresor is poor and Fortunato is rich. Montresor may need Fortunato's good will.

    — William Delaney
  29. By creating the fiction that this narrative is addressed to one particular person who knows Montresor very well, Poe avoids a great deal of exposition and can focus on the dramatic aspects of the story. Some readers have guessed that Montresor is supposedly confessing to a priest. It seems more likely that the narrative is intended to be regarded as a personal letter to an old friend. This letter would have been found among some old papers and published by Edgar Allan Poe. Montresor might have written the letter one night while intoxicated and then decided against sending it when he read it over the next morning. So it would have been found among his papers after his death. It might have been written in Italian, in French, or even in Latin and translated into English by a Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. This fictional device brings to mind the theory of a much later writer, Ernest Hemingway, and his well-known "Iceberg theory."

    *If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his *
    *Death in the Afternoon *(1932)

    One of the things Poe omitted in "The Cask of Amontillado" is any example of the "thousand injuries of Fortunato." Poe does not even tell the reader where the story is taking place, but it can be inferred from the carnival and the palazzi that this happened in Venice, Italy over fifty years ago. The reader is involved in the story because he has to keep making deductions based on the evidence the author provides.


    — William Delaney
  30. Poe wants to bring his story to an end quickly now that his "effect" has been achieved. Obviously Montresor has accomplished his purpose. He has Fortunato chained to the wall. Now it is a question of wrapping up the story as quickly as possible. The materials are already prepared and Montresor works "vigorously." He builds the wall with amazing rapidity, especially for a gentleman who cannot have had much experience at that sort of labor. Poe intentionally makes the niche very narrow in order to make the wall-building go faster.

    *Within the wall thus exposed by the displacing of the bones, we perceived a still interior crypt or recess, in depth about four feet, in width three, in height six or seven. *

    The wall only has to be three feet wide and six or seven feet high, a total of about twenty square feet. Such a wall would be easy to build and easy to hide by plastering it over with the same mortar used for holding the stones. Any searchers would not be likely to look for it because they would have no reason to think that such a tiny niche might have existed.

    — William Delaney
  31. This description of all the bones suggests, among other things, that they do not belong to Montresor's ancestors. The walls "had been" lined with human remains. The bones "had been" thrown down. Montresor apparently has no idea who did these things or when they were done. He is living in a palazzo, but he could be only a renter, using the big place as a "front" to impress people and create the illusion that he belongs to the upper class. These old palazzi could be rented cheaply. In Henry James's story "The Aspern Papers" the subject is brought up.

    "If she didn't live in a big house how could it be a question of her having rooms to spare? If she were not amply lodged herself you would lack ground to approach her. Besides, a big house here, and especially in this quartier perdu, proves nothing at all: it is perfectly compatible with a state of penury. Dilapidated old palazzi, if you will go out of the way for them, are to be had for five shillings a year. And as for the people who live in them--no, until you have explored Venice socially as much as I have you can form no idea of their domestic desolation. They live on nothing, for they have nothing to live on."

    Five shillings a year would be equivalent to about one American dollar. The owner of the palazzo would have no incentive to tear it down, because there would be no point in constructing something else in its place. If he rented it at a token price he would at least have someone to look after it and keep it in some state of repair.


    — William Delaney
  32. A roquelaire is not a full-length cloak but a short cloak which would leave Montressor free to build his stone wall without having to remove it. 

    — William Delaney
  33. This is the information Montresor was fishing for. Fortunato is not expected anywhere that night. Montresor wants to leave a cold trail. He does not want people to be out looking for Fortunato and asking questions about him that night. Tomorrow morning everybody will be sleeping off their hangovers and will have forgotten about seeing Fortunato with a companion or which way their were headed. People's minds will be preoccupied with remembering all the foolish things they did the night before. And Fortunato's wife will assume that her husband spent the night at someone's home, if not in someone's bed. Everybody will remember seeing Fortunato. He was well known, and he was conspicuous in his jester's costume. But they won't remember a companion dressed all in black and wearing a black mask. Montresor will be like Fortunato's shadow. Among the many purposes served by the jester's costume, it will make Fortunato seem carefree and full of mirth.

    — William Delaney
  34. It is the word "bargain" that sparks Fortunato's interest. He is not anxious to help Montresor or to show off his connoisseurship or to drink some Amontillado. But he senses the possibility of buying many casks of Amontillado at a bargain price and selling them off at a substantial profit. He is rich and can afford to buy many of these 126-gallon pipes, which produce 500 quart bottles. He assumes that the wine is being offered at a bargain price because there are no buyers at this time of year. Everybody is drinking and neglecting business--except for Montresor, who is not Italian and is not participating in the supreme madness of the carnival.

    — William Delaney
  35. Here again Montresor shows that he does not consider himself an Italian. It is because he is not Italian that he is handicapped socially and in business transactions. It is deducible that he and Fortunato are gentlemen businessmen. They buy and sell one-of-a-kind luxury items, mainly from the many impecunious Venetian aristocrats who are surviving by sacrificing possessions that have been in the family for generations. It would be likely that the best customers for such merchandise are "British and Austrian millionaires." The two men are sometimes competitors and sometimes partners--but Fortunato, being rich and well connected, has the upper hand and may have cheated Montresor on many deals in the past. These would be the kind of things that Montresor would consider "the thousand injuries of Fortunato" and the kinds of things that Fortunato would consider "clever jests." The injuries would not be known to the general public, so when Fortunato disappeared the public would not suspect that Montresor might have had any reason to dispose of him.

    It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont to smile in his face,and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.

    Why does Montresor continue to associate with Fortunato and even call him his good friend if he is being injured so often? It must be because he needs Fortunato's good will. Fortunato can lend him money, pay him finders' fees, enter into ad hoc partnerships on expensive deals, and help him keep up appearances as a member of upper-class Venetian society. Montresor has conditioned himself to refer to Fortunato as "my friend" and "my good friend," and he is so conditioned that he continues to do so even after he has murdered him. Being a good friend of Fortunato would be socially advantageous.


    — William Delaney
  36. Here Montresor distances himself from Italians. Montresor is obviously a French name. He wears a French-style cloak, a roquelaire. He gives his guest two bottles of French wine while they are underground. His family must have lived in Venice for many generations but could still be regarded as newcomers by Italian aristocrats. Consequently, Montresor may have clung to his French ancestry as a matter of pride. He is obviously not taking part in the Venetian carnival. The fact that he has not been drinking and carousing helps make it plausible that he should have heard about a bargain in Amontillado before anyone else, including Fortunato.

    — William Delaney
  37. Montresor cannot claim to have some special Italian wine in his vault because Fortunato would know that Montresor "was skilful in the Italian vintages" himself. When Montresor says, "[I] bought largely whenever I could," he means that he bought a lot when he could afford to. He is a poor man, as he admits to Fortunato later in the story when they are in the catacombs together. Although he lives in a palazzo, this does not mean he is wealthy or that he is an aristocrat. In Henry James's short story "The Aspern Papers" we learn that dilapidated palazzi in Venice could be rented for next to nothing. This story was published in 1889, only some forty years after publication of "The Cask of Amontillado." Here is the pertinent quote from Henry James's story:

    *I forget what answer I made to this--I was given up to two other reflections. The first of these was that if the old lady lived in such a big, imposing house she could not be in any sort of misery and therefore would not be tempted by a chance to let a couple of rooms. I expressed this idea to Mrs. Prest, who gave me a very logical reply. "If she didn't live in a big house how could it be a question of her having rooms to spare? If she were not amply lodged herself you would lack ground to approach her. Besides, a big house here, and especially in this quartier perdu, proves nothing at all: it is perfectly compatible with a state of penury. Dilapidated old palazzi, if you will go out of the way for them, are to be had for five shillings a year. And as for the people who live in them--no, until you have explored Venice socially as much as I have you can form no idea of their domestic desolation. They live on nothing, for they have nothing to live on."  *

    The fact that Montresor employs household servants means nothing. He may not be able to afford to pay them at times but can only provide room and board. He would have plenty of rooms in a palazzo. They have "absconded" that night against his specific orders because they have little respect for him and know he can't fire them.

    The picture we get of Montresor is of a man who is living from hand to mouth. Why would he buy a cask of 126 gallons of expensive, gourmet Amontillado? Obviously because it was a bargain--or would have been if it had really existed. Fortunato would naturally assume that Montresor planned to bottle it and resell it at a substantial profit in order to earn some money he desperately needs to survive and keep up appearances. Since Montresor pretends to be in a big hurry to get an expert to judge his fictitious purchase, he gives Fortunato the idea that he intends to buy one or two more pipes of the wine that very night if he can be sure it is genuine. Montresor knows that Fortunato will be interested in the potential of making some money in the same way--but since Fortunato is a rich man, he would be thinking of buying up the entire shipment, which he supposes must have just arrived in Venice aboard a ship from Barcelona. Montresor knows that Fortunato would be thinking of tasting the wine and telling him it is only ordinary sherry. Then, assuming it turned out to be genuine, Fortunato would go to find the Spanish ship and buy up the whole cargo, having eliminated both Montresor and Luchesi as competitive bidders. Fortunato thinks of himself as a clever jester. When Montresor found out he had been cheated (if the Amontillado had ever really existed), Fortunato would laugh about it as a clever "jest," and it would be another injury added to the thousand others Montresor mentions in the opening sentence of the story.

    Why doesn't Fortunato question Montresor about the Amontillado while they are still on the streets? Because he doesn't want to show any great interest. He wants Montresor to believe he is just doing him a favor.

    *                                            *

    — William Delaney
  38. This is Latin for "Rest in peace." Montresor is not being ironic. He means it sincerely. These last words in Poe's tale are intended to show that Montresor's revenge has been completely successful. He has achieved "closure." He has been cleansed of all his hatred for Fortunato and can now feel pity for him. Note that Montresor says that no one has "disturbed" the bones for half a century. Montresor has buried Fortunato among his own ancestors and thinks of himself as a caretaker or guardian of his former enemy's remains.

    — William Delaney
  39. Fortunato does not for a moment believe that this is a jest. But he has sobered up fast and realizes that his only way of getting out of this trap is by suggesting that he and Montresor have been seen together heading towards Fortunato's palazzo where his wife and a large party are awaiting them. If Fortunato were expected and did not arrive, a number of people, relatives, friends, and servants, might go out looking for him that very evening--which is something Montresor does not want. But he has already taken care to establish that Fortunato is not expected anywhere. When he met him on the street, he twice pretended to think Fortunato had an "engagement," and Fortunato finally answered, "I have no engagement;--come." If Fortunato could have planted some doubt and apprehension in Montresor's mind, he was offering hid captor an excuse for releasing him from the chain. Montresor could pretend it was only a practical joke. But Montresor knows his man. If he were to release Fortunato now he would pay for it dearly. Fortunato would most likely have Montresor killed by paid assassins. 

    — William Delaney
  40. This is intended to indicate that Montresor will have plenty of time to plan and refine his entrapment scheme. He will also have plenty of time to create the impression that he and Fortunato are very good friends. Notice how he refers to the man he hates as "my friend," "my good friend," and "my poor friend" throughout the tale. He has even conditioned himself to think of Fortunato as his good friend. This shows foresight. When Fortunato disappears, no one will think for a moment that Montresor had anything to do with it, since the two men were such good friends. No doubt Montresor planned to continue making earnest inquiries about his friend after he turned up missing. Montresor would show more concern than anybody else until, after perhaps several years, the strange disappearance had been completely forgotten.

    — William Delaney
  41. Montresor suggests going back several times. This has been called an example of reverse psychology. It also has the effect of making Montresor seem harmless and innocent. Why would he keep offering to go back if he had any ulterior motive for going forward? Montresor is characterized as a fiendishly clever man. One of the ways in which he displays his fiendish cleverness is in pretending to be practically simple-minded. He lets Fortunato injure him a thousand times and doesn't seem to know it. He keeps calling the man his friend, his good friend, and his poor friend throughout the tale.

    — William Delaney
  42. It would take some time for Montresor to lead Fortunato to his palazzo and down into the caverns to his doom. During that time it would only seem natural that Fortunato would want to ask some questions about this bargain-priced cask of Amontillado. Where did it come from? How much did Montresor pay? When did he get it? Poe wanted to avoid questions that might reveal the truth, that there was no Amontillado in the caverns, that it was a trap. The author tried to deal with this plot problem by various means. For one thing he gives Fortunato a very bad cough and even devotes fifteen "ughs" to representing it. This cough is solely intended to help explain why Fortunato doesn't ask questions about the wine.

    It was still necessary for the men to have some kind of conversation. So Poe has them talking about extraneous matters, such as Montresor's coat of arms and the Masons. They also drink a couple of bottles of wine. Fortunato is very drunk--another reason why he is not able to think clearly or ask difficult questions. The fact is that Fortunato knows more about Amontillado than Montresor, who may really know nothing about the gourmet Spanish wine except that it is supposed to be highly regarded by connoisseurs. Poe himself may have known very little about Amontillado himself, except that it was expensive and came from Spain. He could not use Italian wine or French wine because Montresor could not pretend to be ignorant about such vintages. The only alternative seemed to be Spanish wine, and the best Spanish wine is widely known to be Amontillado sherry. 


    — William Delaney
  43. Montresor twice pretends to think that Fortunato has an "engagement," i.e., that he is expected somewhere. Montresor wants to leave a cold trail. He wants to make sure Fortunato is not expected at home or at some other place where his absence would be noted that very night. He would much prefer that Fortunato should not be missed at least until tomorrow morning. It would probably not seem too strange if he did not return home that night, because he is the type of man who could be having a secret love affair. But Montresor wants to be sure that people do not go out looking for him that night. Tomorrow the streets will be deserted, and everybody will be sleeping off their hangovers. Some people would remember seeing Fortunato but not remember a companion dressed all in black and wearing a black mask. And nobody will agree on which direction Fortunato was headed in that whirl of drunken revelers in masks and colorful costumes.

    The second time Montresor suggests that Fortunato has an engagement he gets the answer he hoped to hear.

    "I have no engagement;--come."

    — William Delaney
  44. Poe did not choose to outfit Fortunato in a jester's costume to indicate that he was a fool. Fortunato's choice of that costume shows that he considers himself a funny fellow, a man who likes to play jokes on other people. This should account for at least some of the "thousand injuries" Montresor claims to have received. 

    The fact that the costume is tight-fitting shows that Fortunato cannot be wearing or carrying a weapon, which would be inappropriate with a jester's costume anyway, and also that he does not have anything he could use as a tool to escape from his chains. Since the niche is only four feet deep, the tight-fitting costume will enable Montresor to pin him tightly to the granite wall, so that he cannot slip out of the chain encircling his torso and so that he cannot interfere with the wall that Montresor is building only four feet in front of him.

    — William Delaney
  45. Fortunato probably does not understand the Latin. But the astute reader could figure it out even if he has never studied the language. "Nemo" obviously means nobody. "Me" means me. "Impune" is obviously related to the English "impunity." And "lacessit" suggests English words like "lacerate" and "laceration" possibly even "lash." All together we can guess that the motto says: "Nobody with impunity injures me."

    — William Delaney
  46. Monresor has been lying to Fortunato since he encountered him in the street. There is no reason to believe him when he describes his coat of arms as "A huge human foot d'or [in gold], in a field azure [blue]; the foot crushes a serpent rampant [raised to strike] whose fangs are imbedded in the heel [of the golden foot]." This is obviously a fantastic picture, and Montresor is apparently just having fun with Fortunato, who is too drunk to realize he is being kidded. How could the foot be raised to strike the serpent if its fangs are already imbedded in the heel of that foot. The owner of the foot would have to raise the other foot to strike the serpent, which sounds impossible. Does the golden foot represent the Montresors? Or is it the serpent? How could the foot "crush" a serpent if it is rampant, that is, with part of its body erect above the coiled remainder. Montresor seems to be describing an impossible picture--and the huge golden foot sounds ridiculous. The word "rampant" is often used in heraldry to describe coats of arms. It usually applies to a lion, a horse, a unicorn, or some other animal which is depicted as rearing up on one or both hind legs to attack.

    — William Delaney