The Cask of Amontillado
"The Cask of Amontillado" (sometimes spelled "Casque of Amontillado") is a short story, written by Edgar Allan Poe and published in 1846. It is set in 19th century Italy and concerns the deadly revenge taken by the insane narrator on a friend who he claims has insulted him. Like several of Poe's stories, and in keeping with the 19th century fascination with the subject, the narrative revolves around a person being buried alive. As in The Black Cat and The Tell-Tale Heart, Poe tells the story from the murderer's point of view.
Montresor tells the story of the night, half a century before, that he took his revenge on Fortunato, an Italian nobleman. Angry over some unspecified insult, he plots to murder his friend, then finds the perfect opportunity to carry out his plan when he finds him drunk and wearing motley at the carnival.
He baits Fortunato by telling him he has obtained, out of season, what he believes to be a pipe of Amontillado (a Spanish sherry); he isn't sure, however, and wants his friend's expert opinion on the subject. Fortunato goes with Montresor to the wine cellars of the latter's palazzo, where they wander deep underground in the catacombs. The two continue drinking; at one point, Fortunato makes an elaborate, and, to the narrator's eyes, grotesque gesture with an upraised wine bottle. When Montresor fails to recognise the gesture, Fortunato says "You are not of the masons" - whereupon Montresor displays a trowel he's been hiding.
Montresor repeatedly warns Fortunato of the damp and suggests they go back; then, when they come to a niche, he tells his victim that the Amontillado is within. Fortunato enters, and, drunk and unsuspecting, doesn't resist as Montresor quickly chains him to the wall. Montresor then declares that, since Fortunato won't go back, he must "positively leave [him]."
Montresor then remorselessly walls up the niche, entombing his friend alive. At first, Fortunato shakes the chains furiously, trying to escape; the narrator stops working for a while so he can enjoy the sound. Fortunato then screams for help, but Montresor mocks his cries, knowing nobody can hear them; later, Fortunato laughs weakly and tries to pretend it's all been a joke. As the murderer finishes the topmost row of stones, Fortunato wails despairingly "For the love of God, Montresor!" Montresor replies calmly "Yes; for the love of God!" and places the last stone.
In the last few sentences, we learn that Montresor has never been caught, and Fortunato's body still hangs from its chains in the niche where he left it so many years before. The murderer, obviously unrepentant, ends the story by quipping: In pace requiescat!
Works influenced by "The Cask of Amontillado"
Stephen King's "Dolan's Cadillac" (from the 1993 collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes), is arguably a modern version of the same story. King even includes some nods in the original work's direction: as he finishes burying the eponymous car, Robinson, the main character, says he is "trying to be as neat as a mason laying a wall ... or bricking up a niche" and there is some dialogue that echoes that in the Poe story ("For the love of God, Robinson!" "Yes ... for the love of God!"). King even describes the character as "Poe-like" in his explanation of the story's origins, but doesn't directly admit "The Cask of Amontillado" as an inspiration. Unlike Poe, however, King makes his protagonist sympathetic. Robinson is given a plausible reason for revenge (the death of his wife), the lengthy planning and preparations he takes are shown, and he fears that Dolan will return from the dead to kill him.
The story also bears comparison with James Thurber's "The Catbird Seat," another tale of perfect (although nonlethal) revenge for a rather minor slight.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short story "The Lost Catacomb" has a plot which is virtually identical to Poe's tale.
In the short story "Usher II" by Ray Bradbury (from The Martian Chronicles), the main character exacts revenge on a posh, censoring society (censorship is a major theme in Bradbury's works) using methods from various books. He ends by sealing an FBI-type agent in the catacombs below the house. He then taunts the agent, urging him to quote the story. The main character then leaves, telling the agent that if he had read Poe, he could have escaped this fate.
The title of Victor Milan's 1979 short story "The Casque of Lamont T. Yado" is a deliberately labored pun on the original, as is the story's closing line. The narrator (the Montresor figure) is a 'jumper', capable of jumping through hyperspace. His antagonist Trago, the Fortunato figure, is a 'tracer', capable of tracing hyperspace routes for jumpers. Trago worships 'Tracergod' and speaks in an affected Jamaican accent. The narrator blames Trago for giving him false directions which resulted in his being badly wounded and his companions killed. Feigning a truce with Trago, the narrator helps him to steal an alien time helmet which Trago believes will accelerate his mind and body to superhuman speed. But the narrator, on the pretext of removing a booby trap, alters its controls so that it causes Trago's body to slow down irreversibly while his mind remains at normal speed. When he realises what is happening Trago cries, "For the love of Tracergod, mon!" but the narrator does nothing to prevent him from slowing into eternal immobility.
The March 2003 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction contains a short story by John Morressy entitled "The Resurrection of Fortunato." The premise of the story is that Fortunato escapes Montresor's trap and flees into the nearby forest. He lives with some woodsmen for a time and then returns to the city to discover his family has died of the plague. After some violent run-ins, he ends up spending years in a monastery, leaving only after a plague kills off the other monks. He returns to the city and a servant (who believes he is a priest) brings him to the bedside of the dying Montresor, who unknowingly confesses his crime to his would-be victim. After Montresor dies, Fortunato forgives him and utters "In pace requiescat."
Television & Film
In an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street (a TV series set in Baltimore, which claims Poe as a native son due to his death there), a criminal not only mimics Montresor's unusual method of murder but reads Poe aloud as he does so.
In an episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, while Gendo Ikari and Kozo Fuyutsuki are descending into the Geofront, Gendo smiles and says "...worried, Montresor?". This is strange, because in this context it would make more sense for him to say "Fortunato". This could either be an error in the screenplay, or there could be an unknown explanation to this dialogue within the story.
In an episode of Angel, a mother entombs her son in a wall in her apartment to punish him for his engagement.
Two movies entitled Buried Alive share similar plots in which the protagonist is seemingly killed but returns to exact revenge and bury the antagonist alive.
In an episode of Ren and Stimpy, Ren buries Stimpy in a similar fashion.
An episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation featured a victim who had been "buried" in a similar fashion. Character Sara Sidle also made reference to another of Poe's works, "The Tell-Tale Heart."
Season 14, Episode 15 of The Simpsons, Mr. Burns attempts to bury Homer in a similar fashion after drugging him, saying, "Brick by brick, I seal his doom."
Toby Keith plays a character in his video for "A Little Too Late" that attempts to entomb his girlfriend behind a wall in their basement after resolving that the only way to get over her is to get rid of her. At the end of the video, he realizes that he is on the wrong side of the wall and has actually walled himself in.
Rammstein's song "Stein um Stein" (from the album Reise, Reise) is a brooding monologue somewhat similar to "The Cask of Amontillado," describing the preparations and plans of entombing a person alive in a garden-shed.
The Adicts's song "Viva La Revolution" contains the lyrics "Drink the wine from the rich man's cask", a direct allusion to this short story.
This was one of several Poe stories set to music by The Alan Parsons Project on their 1976 album Tales of Mystery and Imagination.
In the At the Drive-In song "Give it a Name," the line "Scream amontillado at the top of your lungs" may refer to this tale.
In a portion of the 1995 computer game "The Dark Eye," the player fills the roles of both Montresor and Fortunato in alternating segments.
In the computer game "Quest for Glory IV," the player drinks from "The Cask of Amontillado" in order to receive a vision and a ritual scroll.
In the board game "Kill Doctor Lucky," one can earn extra points by killing Dr. Lucky in the wine cellar with a trowel.
A legend holds that the inspiration for "The Cask of Amontillado" came from a story Poe had heard at Castle Island in Massachusetts when he was a private there in 1827 (Bergen 106). According to this legend, Poe was told the story of a brawl in which one lieutenant named Drane killed another officer, named Massie, after a disagreement at cards. Some versions of the legend hold that Drane was subsequently buried alive by friends of Massie, but this report appears to be an inaccuracy influenced by Poe's story, as Drane is known to have been alive years later. A report of a skeleton discovered on the island may be a confused remembering of Poe's major source, Joel Headley's "A Man Built in a Wall," which recounts the author's seeing an immured skeleton in the wall of a church in Italy (Mabbott 1254).
- "The Cask of Amontillado" - Full text of the first printing, from Godey's Lady's Book, 1846
- The Cask of Amontillado, found online at Ye Olde Library
- The Cask of Amontillado at American Literature
- Full text on PoeStories.com with hyperlinked vocabulary words.
- Free-to-download MP3 dramatisation of the story (Yuri Rasovsky)
- The Tell-Tale Heart website
"Nightmares from the Mind of POE"contains "The Cask of Amontillado "!
About the movie...
Throughout Edgar Allan Poe’s life he was plagued with nightmares and the deaths of those he loved. Those nightmares and his tragic life were many times the basis for his stories and poems; often he found himself in the middle of those nightmares and stories as the victim or antagonist. “Nightmares from the Mind of Poe” brings to life those nightmares with Poe as part of the stories, as he dreamed and wrote them. In the movie, he struggles with nightmares, insomnia, sadness and despair in his own life as he creates his stories. The film brings to life four of the most well known tales from the master of suspense and horror - “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Cask of Amontillado”, “The Premature Burial” and “The Raven” ... CLICK HERE FOR TRAILER AND INFO
"Nightmares from the Mind of POE"
What is "The Bell Witch Haunting" movie?
"The Bell Witch Haunting" is Willing Hearts Production's acclaimed motion picture based on America's greatest true haunting. It is a powerful supernatural thriller that boldly mixes a frightful ghost story with a great suspense plot. This historic thriller is based on actual events that happened from 1817 to 1821, in which a vengeful spirit tormented John Bell and his family, leaving him in a terrifying fight to save his children and his own life! Over a four year period, hundreds of people witnessed the Spirit's amazing demonstrations and heard it speak... Click here for more information and to see trailer
"I would rather face the whole British army, than face the Bell Witch again!"
-Andrew Jackson, President of the United States