The Characters
1. How many characters does Poe include in The Cask of Amontillado? What are there names? answer

2. What drink are the French most famous for? answer

3. Does Montresor have something of great value to him which we might consider to be his treasure? answer

Hint: It is not the Amontillado wine (which is Spanish anyway, not French, and doesn't really exist-it is merely a trick to get Fortunato to go down into the catacombs).

Poe is not easy reading. His language is old-fashioned and his sentences are long and often complex. One of the main purposes of this on-line lesson is to guide teachers and students through the events of the story, and their interpretations.
The Insult
How did Fortunato cause Montresor to lose face in the story? The third paragraph of the story appears in full below. Read it carefully and try to imagine how Fortunato might have insulted Montresor.

"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 Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity to practice 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 skillful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could."

4. Does Montresor seem to have much respect for Italians? Which lines in the paragraph above reveal his contempt? answer

5. What was Fortunato's insult? answer

The trail of bottles

Edgar Allen Poe was fond of drinking alcohol and knew his wines as well as the characters in The Cask of Amontillado. As they go deeper and deeper into Montresor's catacombs, they drink two bottles of French wine and Fortunato believes they are on their way to find a third bottle of fine old Spanish wine.

6. Find the names of the two wines, they drink and the one that Montresor uses to lure Fortunato into the catacombs. answer

7. Why does Montresor entertain Fortunato with wines from his collection? answer

8. In what two ways does Montresor imprison Fortunato? answer

The story, The Cask of Amontillado, first appeared in an anthology of Poe's stories entitled Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. Arabesque comes from the word Arab and refers to ornaments, decorations and motifs in Arabic art, where figures of flowers, fruits and sometimes animal outlines appear in elaborate patterns of interlaced lines. particularly those which have been borrowed by other cultures. Such arabesque patterns are reflected in some of the designs and motifs of the batik of Indonesia and Malaysia.

By analogy, then, an arabesque story is one of intricate design, which is told through the use of fanciful language. Because arabesque graphic designs sometimes depict fantastic creatures, Poe and others also applied this term to tales that dealt with fantastic or supernatural happenings.

Grotesque refers to something distorted, ugly, abnormal, fantastic, or bizarre to the point of being ludicrous or absurd. In a grotesque story, characters are physically or psychologically deformed and engage in actions which may be abnormal or comically absurd.

9. In what ways is The Cask of Amontillado grotesque? First, which of Montresor's actions are abnormal? answer

10. Is there anything grotesque about Fortunato? answer

Humor Hunt
There are also numerous comic touches which Poe adds to this grotesque tale. Try to find 10 examples of Poe's use of grotesque humor.

Follow this trail of humor chronologically through the story.

  1. Fortunato's name means lucky in Italian. This is ironic language play, as he was hardly the lucky one in this story.
  2. Fortunato is dressed in a court jester's or fool's garb, complete with striped outfit and cap and bells.
  3. The jingling of the bells of the cap in the catacombs.
  4. Montresor's exaggerated concern for Fortunato's health.
  5. A joke: Not knowing Montresor plans to kill him, Fortunato says, I shall not die of a cough. To which Montresor replies, True-true.
  6. Pun: Montresor telling Fortunato he is a mason. (Fortunato was referring to members of the society of Freemasons). Montresor reveals the trowel (a tool used to apply mortar or cement) which he will use to build the wall which entombs Fortunato.
  7. Fortunato's drunken condition.
  8. Fortunato bumping into the dead end of the niche where he will be entombed and then looking bewildered.
  9. Fortunato's delirious laughter at the end.
  10. Another pun: Let us be gone. Montresor repeats Fortunato's words, not saying that they shall leave together, but that Fortunato will be gone from this life.
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