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"The Cask of Amontillado"
by Edgar Allan Poe
The Original Story

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Annotated for easier reading
Annotated manuscript Copyright 1988
by Balance Publishing Company
all rights reserved

The thousand injuries [bad treatment] of Fortunato I had borne [tolerated] as I best could; but when he ventured upon [started to] insult, I vowed [decided upon] revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to [spoke of] a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitively [completely] settled--but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved [settled],  precluded [blocked] the idea of risk. I must not only punish, but punish with impunity [without fear of punishment]. A wrong is unredressed [not satisfied] when retribution [punishment] overtakes [is given to] its redresser [the person righting the wrong]. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong. [It is also unsatisfied when the person seeking to get even is unknown to the wrong doer.]

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

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 connoisseurship [expert judgement] in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso [masterful] spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity--to practice imposture [fraud] upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary [Jewelry] Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack [fake]--but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially [in any important way]; I was skillful in the Italian vintages [types and years of wine] myself, and bought largely whenever I could.

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness [height] of the carnival season, that I encountered [came upon] my friend. He accosted [greeted] me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motely [a many colored costume]. He had on a tight fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical [cone shaped] 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 today! But I have received a pipe [keg] 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."

"Amontillado!"

"I have my doubts."

"Amontillado!"

"And I must satisfy them."

"Amontillado!"

"As you are engaged [busy], 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."

"Whither [where to]?"

"To your vaults."

"My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good nature. I perceive [sense] 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 [have]. The vaults [wine cellars] are insufferably [very] damp. They are encrusted with nitre [salt deposits]."

"Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing. Amontillado! You have been imposed [taken advantage of] upon. And as for Luchesi, he cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontillado."

Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my arm. Putting on a mask of black silk, and drawing a roquelaire [a long, heavy cloak] closely about my person, I suffered [allowed] him to hurry me to my palazzo [home].

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

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

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

"The pipe?" said he.

"It is farther on, " said I; "but observe the white webwork which gleams from these cavern walls."

He turned toward me, and looked into my eyes with two filmy orbs that distilled the rheum of [revealed his] intoxication.

"Nitre?" he asked, at length.

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

"Ugh! ugh! ugh! ugh! uhg! 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 mater. We will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides, there is Luchesi--"

"Enough," he said; "the cough is 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 [drink] of this Medoc [a type of wine] 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 [a hollow in which wine bottles lie on their side].

"Drink," I said, presenting him the wine.

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

"I drink," he said, "to the buried that repose [lie] around us."

"And I to your long life."

He again took my arm, and we proceeded.

"These vaults," he said, "are extensive [large]."

"The Montresors," I replied, "Were a great and numerous family."

"I forget your arms [coat of arms--a group of emblems and figures representing a family history]."

"A huge human foot d'or [of gold], in a field azure [blue]; the foot crushed a serpent rampant [upright] whose fangs are imbedded in the heel."

"And the motto [saying]?"

"Nemo me impune lacesit [No one attacks me with impunity]."

"Good!" he said.

The wine sparkled in his eyes and the bells jingled. My own fancy grew warm the Medoc. We had passed through walls of piled bones, with casks and puncheons [a large cask] intermingling [mixed in], into the inmost recesses [nooks] 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 [container] of De Grave. He emptied it at a breath. His eyes flashed with a fierce light. He laughed and threw the bottle upward with a gesticulation [signal] I did not understand.

I looked at him in surprise. He repeated the movement--a grotesque [weird] one.

"You do not comprehend [understand]?" he said.

"Not I," I replied.

"Then you are not of the brotherhood."

"How?"

"You are not of the masons [a fraternal organization]."

"Yes, yes," I said, "yes, yes."

"You? Impossible! A mason?"

"A mason," I replied.

"A sign," he said.

"It is this," I answered, producing a trowel [a flat, pointed instrument for spreading mortar] from beneath the folds of my roquelaire [cloak].

"You jest," he exclaimed, recoiling a pew 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 [tomb], in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame.

At the most remote [back] 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 [decorated] in this manner. From the fourth the bones had been thrown down, and lay promiscuously [haphazardly] 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 recess, in depth about four feet, in width three, in height six or seven. It seemed to have been constructed for no especial [particular] use within itself, but formed merely the interval [space] between two of the colossal [heavy] supports of the roof of the catacombs, and was backed by one of their circumscribing [surrounding] walls of solid granite.

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

"Proceed" I said, "herein is the Amontillado. As for Luchesi--"

"He is an ignoramus [dimwit]" interrupted my friend, as he stepped unsteadily forward, while I followed immediately at his heels. In an instant, he had reached the extremity [back] of the niche [nook], and finding his progress arrested [stopped] by the rock, stood stupidly bewildered. A moment more and I had fettered [shackled] him to the granite. In its surface were two iron staples, distant from each other about two feet, horizontally. From one of these depended [hung] 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 [startled] 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 [beg] you to return. No? Then I must positively leave you. But, I must first render [give] 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 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 [row] 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 [stubborn] silence. I laid the second tier, and the third, and the fourth, and then I heard the furious vibrations [rattling] of the chain. The noise lasted for several minutes, during which that I might hearken [listen] to it with the more satisfaction, I ceased [stopped] my labors [work] and sat down upon the bones. When at last the clanking subsided [stopped], 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 [weak] 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 [removing] my rapier [sword], I began to grope [search] with it about the recess; but the thought of an instant reassured me. I placed my hand upon the solid fabric [structure] of the catacombs, and felt satisfied. I re-approached the wall. I replied to the yells of him who clamored [yelled]. I re-echoed--I aided--I surpassed them in volume and in strength. I did this, and the clamorer 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 [made the hairs stand up] the hairs upon my head. It was succeeded [followed] by a sad voice, which I had difficulty in recognizing as that of the noble Fortunato. The voice said--

"Ha! ha! ha!--a very good joke indeed--an excellent jest. We will have many a rich laugh about it at the palazzo [palace]--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 [listened] in vain for a reply. I grew impatient. I called aloud: "Fortunato!"

No answer. I called again:

"Fortunato!"

No answer still. I thrust a torch through the remaining aperture [opening] and let it fall within. There came forth in return only a jingling of the bells. My heart grew sick--on account of the dampness of the catacombs. I hastened [hurried] to make an end of my labor. I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up. Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart [wall] of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat [Rest in peace]!




 Questions for Discussion/Writing
"The Cask of Amontillado"

Copyright 1998 Balance Publishing Company
all rights reserved

 

  1. Discuss Montressor's act of burying Fortunato alive.

    a. Why did he commit such an act? [Fortunato insulted Montressor. We are never told exactly what the insult was. We assume that there was more than one offense and that Montressor felt it was extremely serious. He felt that the insult reflected poorly upon his good name.]

    b. Is this a reasonable solution to the problem? [Most people would agree that it was not a reasonable act. No reasonable person would have committed it. The play is set in a different era where morals may have been different than they are today. Considering Montressor's reaction to the eerie voice, the reactions of the people around him, and his need to confess to a priest, we must assume that an act such as this was just as terrible then as it is today.]

    c. What other actions could he have taken that would have been more reasonable? [Answers will vary.]

  2. What kind of character was Fortunato? [Fortunato was extremely self-centered, thinking mostly of his own pleasure, looking down upon those around him, and giving little thought to the feelings of others. He drank too much. We know that he was married by what he said near the end of the play when he mentions Lady Fortunato.]
  3. Discuss Luchesi's importance in the story. [Montressor knew that Fortunato would become incensed when he mentioned Luchesi's name. There must have been a great deal of envy and jealously between Fortunato and Luchesi. Fortunato was scornful of Luchesi, saying that he couldn't tell Amontillado from Sherry. Montressor used this knowledge to help him convince Fortunato to accompany him to the catacombs.]
  4. What is the story's setting of time and setting of place? What evidence tells us this?

    [a. Setting of place: Italy. There is the mention of Italian vintages.

    b. Setting of time: The time of the story is in the distant past. Montressor's home is ancient and has catacombs beneath containing the tombs of numerous generations of Montresors. Montressor is wearing a cape or cloak. They use lanterns instead of electric lights. Because the story was written in the 1840's we might assume that the setting of time was in the early 1800's.]

  5. Fortunato made a sign and asked Montressor if he was of the brotherhood, if he was a Mason.

    a. What is a Mason? [Freemasonry--a fraternal organization that originated among British stone masons in the 14th century. One of the organization's most significant purposes is building character in its members.]

    b. Explain the double meaning that Montressor gave the word. [Montressor knew what Fortunato was referring to the fraternal brotherhood of Masons. Because of how he intended to bury Fortunato, Montressor chose the meaning: "one who builds with stone and mortar."]

    c. Explain the significance of this exchange between Montressor and Fortunato as relates to the word "mason." [There are two ironic meanings intended here: (1) Montressor intended to use stone and mortar to bury Fortunato. (2) The fraternal organization of Masons stress character building. Considering Fortunato's character, it seems that the brotherhood was not successful in this endeavor.]

  6. Had Montressor really purchased the wine, as he said he had? [No, it was only a trick to lure Fortunato into the catacombs.]
  7. Why was Montressor's house empty when he arrived with Fortunato? [He had told the servants that he would be gone until morning. He knew that the servants would all go to Carnival.]
  8. Why does Montressor mention the salt deposits on the walls? [He is probably trying to make the experience as unpleasant for Fortunato as he can.]
  9. Why does Montressor continue to insist that Fortunato drink more and more wine? [He realizes that when the time comes, he must fasten Fortunato inside the alcove while he builds the new wall. He knows that a drunk person would be easier to overcome than a sober person.]

An adaptation of

"Cask of Amontillado" is available as a Deluxe Read-Along kit.

 

 
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Last modified: June 04, 2015