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
" 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 [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
"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
"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
"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
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
"The pipe?" said he.
"It is farther on, " said I;
"but observe the white webwork which gleams from these
He turned toward me, and looked into my
eyes with two filmy orbs that distilled the rheum of [revealed
"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
"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
"Enough," he said; "the
cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of
"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
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
"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
"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
"It is nothing," he said,
"let us go on. But first, another draught of the
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]?"
"Not I," I replied.
"Then you are not of the
"You are not of the masons [a
"Yes, yes," I said, "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
"The Amontillado!" ejaculated
my friend, not yet recovered from his astonishment.
"True," I replied, "the
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
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
"For the love of God,
"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:
No answer. I called again:
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]!
"The Cask of Amontillado"
Copyright © 1998
Balance Publishing Company
all rights reserved
- 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
- 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.]
- 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.]
- 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
- 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
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.]
- Had Montressor really purchased
the wine, as he said he had? [No, it was only a trick to lure
Fortunato into the catacombs.]
- 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.]
- 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.]
- 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
Amontillado" is available as a Deluxe Read-Along kit.