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The Cask of Amontillado

The Cask of Amontillado

by Edgar Allan Poe

The Cask of Amontillado "The Cask of Amontillado" Summary

  • “The Cask of Amontillado” is told in the first person, so we don’t learn the narrator’s name for some time. We’ll call him “the narrator” until his name is revealed.
  • Fortunato has hurt the narrator a thousand times, but when Fortunato almost insults him, the narrator swears there will be payback.
  • The narrator claims that “you” (the reader, and maybe a specific person he’s telling the story to) know “the nature of” his “soul,” and therefore, you also know he’s never told Fortunato he wants revenge.
  • See, the narrator has to do two things: 1) make Fortunato pay, and 2) get away with making Fortunato pay. Things won’t be made right if Fortunato can get revenge on the narrator after the narrator gets revenge on him.
  • Things also won’t be made right if Fortunato doesn’t feel the narrator’s wrath.
  • Again, the narrator tells us that Fortunato doesn’t suspect anything. As Fortunato follows the narrator, he has no idea that the narrator is smiling at him because he’s imagining him…DEAD.
  • Actually the word the narrator uses is “immolation.” To immolate means “to destroy,” “to offer in sacrifice,” and to “burn up.”
  • Fortunato has a “weak point,” his love of wine, but other than that, he’s a “respected” and “feared” person.
  • Even though he is Italian, and most Italians, says the narrator, are phonies who cater to rich British and Australian people.
  • And, according to the narrator, like all Italians, Fortunato is a terrible painter, and doesn’t know beans about fine jewels.
  • But, again, he knows his fine wines, and so does the narrator. (Translation: they are both alcoholics.)
  • At sundown on the night in question, the narrator meets his “friend” Fortunato.
  • Fortunato already has a good drunk on, and he’s dressed like a jester.
  • (Notice the little bells on the hat!)
  • The narrator is so happy to see Fortunato that he can’t stop shaking Fortunato’s hand.
  • Hey Fortunato, he says, guess what I’ve got – a bottle of that fine alcoholic beverage, Amontillado!
  • Fortunato can’t believe that the narrator found a bottle of the stuff – right during the middle of Carnival.
  • The narrator says he’s not sure it’s real Amontillado. He had wanted Fortunato’s opinion, but Fortunato wasn’t around, so he took a chance and bought it.
  • He tells Fortunato that he’s on his way to see Luchesi, who will be able to tell him if the Amontillado is the real thing.
  • Fortunato says Luchesi doesn’t have the refined taste buds to tell.
  • The narrator says “some fools” think Luchesi and Fortunato are equals in the area of wine tasting.
  • That’s the last straw for Fortunato, who says, hey, let’s go to your “vault” and check this stuff out.
  • The narrator says that he wouldn’t feel right about going when Fortunato is busy, and has a cold.
  • He tells Fortunato it’s wet in the vaults because of the “nitre” growing on the walls.
  • Pshaw, says Fortunato, let’s go. And then he grabs the narrator’s arm.
  • So the narrator puts on his black silk mask and wraps himself up in his “roquelaire” (which is a cloak) and leisurely leads Fortunato toward his place.
  • Nobody is home.
  • The narrator has told the people who work for him that he’s planning to be gone overnight, and that they must not leave the house.
  • So they have all left to go celebrate Carnival.
  • Just as the narrator planned.
  • The narrator picks up two “flambeaux” (which are torches), gives one to Fortunato, and then leads him to the entrance of the “catacombs of the Montresors.”
  • Catacombs are underground burial yards, famous in Italy and France.
  • Fortunato is walking shakily, and the bells on his cap are jingling.
  • He has only one thing in mind: the Amontillado.
  • The narrator assures him they will get to it any minute.
  • Fortunato starts hacking his lungs out, and the narrator asks him if he wants to go back.
  • Regaining his breath, Fortunato declines, saying his cough won’t “kill” him.
  • The narrator agrees and gives him another bottle of wine.
  • Fortunato makes a toast to the dead resting in peace around them, and comments on how big the catacomb is.
  • The Montresors “were” a humungous family, the narrator tells him.
  • “I forget your arms,” Fortunato tells him.
  • By “arms,” he means the Montresor “coat of arms.”
  • The narrator claims that the Montresor coat of arms is a gigantic gold foot, smashing a snake in the blue grass. The snake’s fangs are stuck in the heel of the foot.
  • When Fortunato asks, the narrator tells him that the “motto” that goes with the arms is “Nemo me impune lacessit.”
  • That fancy looking Latin basically means: “You can’t mess with me and get away with it.”
  • Fortunato heartily approves the motto, and narrator sees the wine in his eyes.
  • They’ve just walked by “walls of piled bones.”
  • Booze barrels and “puncheons” (another name for casks) are all over the place.
  • They near the furthest, deepest part of this underground graveyard.
  • The narrator grabs hold of Fortunato’s arm and they continue to walk together. Then he tells Fortunato that the catacombs are under the bottom of the river.
  • The water seeps through the ground and drips down into the catacombs, causing the nitre to form, and preserving the bones buried there…
  • He urges Fortunato to turn back, while he still can, for the sake of his health.
  • Fortunato asks for more wine and the narrator give him a bottle of “De Grâve.”
  • Fortunato drinks it in one crazy gulp, and his eyes glow, and he laughs.
  • Then he throws up the bottle and makes a wild gesture.
  • The narrator has no idea what the gesture means, and, he finds it “grotesque.”
  • Fortunato takes his lack of comprehension to mean that the narrator is not of the brotherhood of the Masons.
  • The narrator protests that he is too a mason (person who builds with stone), and pulls out his trowel (a masonry tool) to prove it.
  • You must be kidding, says Fortunato, and then he insists that they continue the search for the Amontillado.
  • Arm in arm, they travel to a stinking, rotting “crypt.”
  • The air is so nasty that it makes their torches “glow” instead of “flame.”
  • They move on to the next crypt, where the walls are decorated with “human remains,” similar to the Parisian catacombs.
  • There is also a big pile of bones on the floor.
  • And there’s a hole in the wall. It’s four feet deep, three feet wide, and six or seven feet high.
  • The back is solid granite.
  • Fortunato tries to get into the hole, but can’t.
  • The narrator brings up Luchesi again.
  • Fortunato says that Luchesi is an “ignoramus.”
  • Then the narrator pins Fortunato to the granite-backed wall of the hole.
  • “Two iron staples” happen to be sticking out of the granite. One has a chain, the other a padlock.
  • Shocked, Fortunato does not resist when the narrator chains him to the staples.
  • Now would you like to go back? the narrator asks Fortunato.
  • “The Amontillado!” Fortunato spews.
  • “True,” the narrator says, “The Amontillado.”
  • Then the narrator goes over to the bone pile and gets some “building stone and mortar,” which he uses to start walling Fortunato in.
  • But, Fortunato isn’t drunk any more. The narrator can tell by the “low moaning cry.”
  • Then silence. Then a rattling of chains.
  • The narrator chills on his bone pile, waiting for Fortunato to stop rattling his chain.
  • When the noise stops, the narrator goes back to finish the job.
  • When the seventh layer of bricks is completed, the narrator takes another break.
  • The bricks are up to the narrator’s chest.
  • He shines his light in the hole, on Fortunato, who starts screaming in the narrator’s face.
  • Frightened for a second, the narrator jumps back, “unsheathe[s] his rapier” (a kind of sword) and pokes it in the hole.
  • Fortunato’s screams reach new heights.
  • The narrator joins in and a total scream-fest ensues.
  • At midnight, the narrator completes three more layers of brick.
  • On the eleventh layer, only one brick remains before Fortunato is bricked in forever.
  • Just as the narrator is about to put in the last brick, he hears a “low laugh” that makes his hair stand at attention.
  • Then he hears “a sad voice” that doesn’t really sound like Fortunato anymore.
  • Fortunato makes sounds. This is all really funny, he says. Great prank. Um, can we go drinking somewhere now?
  • “The Amontillado!” the narrator says.
  • Fortunato says he should be getting back to “Lady Fortunato” and the other people.
  • The narrator agrees that they should “be gone.”
  • And then, Fortunato says, “For the love of God, Montresor!
  • (Finally, we know the narrator’s name!)
  • To Fortunato’s plea, Montresor responds, “Yes, for the love of God!”
  • Fortunato makes no reply, so Montresor calls his name twice.
  • When he still gets no response, Montresor shines his light in the hole, and then hears “a jingling of bells.”
  • His “heart” feels “sick” – because it’s so wet down here.
  • He wants to be done with his work, so he puts in the last brick, covers it with plaster, then sticks a bunch of bones on top of “the new masonry.”
  • ”No mortal” has messed with Fortunato's tomb for fifty years.
  • (Now we know that Montresor is telling the story fifty years after it happened.)
  • The final line is more Latin: “In pace requiescat!” which means what it sounds like: “May he rest in peace.”

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