Please respond to the following regarding Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado”:
* What is the central theme of the story?
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* What role does pride play in the story?
* Discuss Poe’s use of irony and humor in the story.
THE CASK OF
EDGAR ALLAN POE
COPYRIGHT INFORMATION Short Story: “ The Cask of Amontill ado” Author: Edgar All an Poe, 1809–49 First publi shed: 1846
The original short story is in the public domain in the United States and in most, if not all , other countries as well . Readers outside the United States should check their own countries’ copyright laws to be certain they can legally download this e-story. The Onli ne Books Page has an FAQ which gives a summary of copyright durations for many other countries, as well as li nks to more off icial sources.
This PDF ebook was created by José Menéndez.
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 definiti vely settled— but the very definiti veness 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 fail s 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 connoisseurship in wine. Few Itali ans have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity—to practise imposture upon the Briti sh and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, li ke 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 skil ful in the Itali an 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- fitti ng parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by
THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO 4
the conical cap and bell s. 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 Amontill ado, and I have my doubts.”
“ How?” said he. “ Amontill ado? A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!”
“ I have my doubts,” I repli ed; “and I was sil ly enough to pay the full Amontil lado price without consulti ng you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain.”
“ Amontill ado!” “ I have my doubts.” “ Amontill ado!” “ And I must satisfy them.” “ Amontill ado!” “ As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchesi. If
any one has a criti cal turn, it i s he. He will t ell me——” “ Luchesi cannot tell Amontill ado from Sherry.” “ And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match
for your own.” “ Come, let us go.” “ Whither?” “ 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 affli cted. The vaults are insuff erably damp. They are encrusted with nitre.”
“ Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing. Amontill ado! You have been imposed upon. And as for Luchesi, he cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontill ado.”
EDGAR ALLAN POE 5
Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my arm. Putting on a mask of black sil k, and drawing a roquelaire closely about my person, I suff ered him to hurry me to my palazzo.
There were no attendants at home; they had absconded to make merry in honor of the time. I had told them that I should not return until the morning, and had given them expli cit orders not to stir from the house. These orders were suff icient, 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 foll owed. 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 of my friend was unsteady, and the bells upon his cap ji ngled as he strode.
“ The pipe?” said he. “ It is farther on,” said I; “ but observe the white web-
work which gleams from these cavern wall s.” He turned toward me, and looked into my eyes with two
fil my orbs that distill ed the rheum of intoxication. “ Nitre?” he asked, at length. “ Nitre,” I repli ed. “ 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;
THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO 6
you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it i s no matter. 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 m e. I shall not die of a cough.”
“ True—true,” I repli ed; “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 fell ows that lay upon the mould.
“ Drink,” I said, presenting him the wine. He raised it to his li ps with a leer. He paused and
nodded to me famili arly, whil e his bell s ji ngled. “ I drink,” he said, “ to the buried that repose around us.” “ And I to your long li fe.” He again took my arm, and we proceeded. “ These vaults,” he said, “ are extensive.” “ The Montresors,” I repli ed, “ 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 bell s ji ngled. My
own fancy grew warm with the Medoc. We had passed through wall s of pil ed bones, with casks and puncheons intermingli ng, 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.
EDGAR ALLAN POE 7
“ The nitre!” I said; “ see, it i ncreases. It hangs li ke moss upon the vaults. We are below the river’ s bed. The drops of moisture trickle among the bones. Come, we wil l go back ere it i s 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 li ght. He laughed and threw the bottle upward 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 repli ed. “ Then you are not of the brotherhood.” “ How?” “ You are not of the masons.” “ Yes, yes,” I said; “ yes, yes.” “ You? Impossible! A mason?” “ A mason,” I repli ed. “ A sign,” he said. “ It is this,” I answered, producing a trowel from beneath
the folds of my roquelaire. “ You jest,” he exclaimed, recoili ng a few paces. “ But
let us proceed to the Amontill ado.” “ 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 Amontill ado. 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 wall s had been li ned with human
THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO 8
remains, pil ed to the vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris. Three sides of this interior crypt were stil l ornamented in this manner. From the fourth the bones had been thrown down, and lay promiscuously upon the earth, forming at one point a mound of some size. Within the wall t hus exposed by the displacing of the bones, we perceived a still i nterior 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 wall s of soli d granite.
It was in vain that Fortunato, upli fting his dull t orch, endeavored 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 Amontill ado. As for Luchesi——”
“ He is an ignoramus,” interrupted my friend, as he stepped unsteadily forward, whil e I foll owed immediately at his heels. In an instant he had reached the extremity of the niche, and finding his progress arrested by the rock, stood stupidly bewil dered. 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 li nks 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 feeli ng the nitre. Indeed it i s very damp. Once more let me implore you to return. No? Then I must positively leave you. But I must first render you all t he littl e attentions in my power.”
EDGAR ALLAN POE 9
“ The Amontill ado!” ejaculated my friend, not yet recovered from his astonishment.
“ True,” I repli ed; “ the Amontill ado.” As I said these words I busied myself among the pil e of
bones of which I have before spoken. Throwing them aside, I soon uncovered a quantity of buil ding 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 earli est 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 sil ence. 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 labors 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 soli d fabric of the catacombs, and felt satisfied. I reapproached the wall . I repli ed to the yell s of him who clamored. I re-echoed—I aided—I surpassed them in volume and in strength. I did this, and the clamorer grew still .
THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO 10
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 positi on. 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 diff iculty in recognizing as that of the noble Fortunato. The voice said—
“ Ha! ha! ha!—he! he!—a very good joke indeed—an excell ent jest. We will have many a rich laugh about it at the palazzo—he! he! he!—over our wine—he! he! he!”
“ The Amontill ado!” I said. “ He! he! he!—he! he! he!—yes, the Amontill ado. But is
it not getting late? Will not they be awaiti ng 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 call ed aloud: “ Fortunato!” No answer. I call ed again: “ Fortunato!” No answer still . I thrust a torch through the remaining
aperture and let it fall within. There came forth in reply only a ji ngli ng of the bell s. My heart grew sick—on account of the dampness of the catacombs. I hastened 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 of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!
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