Cue Card

The Cask of Amontillado


Bibliographic Information:


            Poe, Edgar Allan.  “The Cask of Amontilladofrom Great Tales of Terror. Watermill

                        Press, Mahwah, New Jersey.  1980.  p. 26-37. 


Ethnic Origin:


            America (mid 19th century)


Running Time:


            7 minutes, approx


Power Centers:


            Suspense (how will Montressor get his revenge on Fortunato):  the creepiness of

            Montressor’s varying forshadowing (“I drink to your long life”, showing him the

            trowel, pointing out how very, very damp the catacombs are).


            Terror: Fortunato’s screams as he’s waiting for Montressor to wall him up- bury him





            Montressor (narrator), Fortunato (victim), Luchresi (not appearing, but still part of story)




            Montressor and Fortunato dressed for carnival talking about Amontillado

            Montressor and Fortunato walking through Montressor’s house to the catacombs

            Montressor and Fortunato walking through the catacombs, drinking wine and looking at

                        the niter on the walls (the moisture drips between the bones…)

            Montressor and Fortunato finding the final crypt with the pile of bones in front

            Fortunato chained to the granite slab while Montressor bricks him in

            Fortunato and Montressor screaming together (climax)

            Montressor alone in the catacombs (in pace requiescat)




            Montressor, a nobleman from Italy, presumably, is very angry with another aristocrat, Fortunato.  He vows revenge, but only in such a way that he will not be discovered (with impunity).  So, Montressor meets Fortunato during carnival- Fortunato is dressed in “motley”, or a jester’s suit, Montressor in a black silk mask and a knee-length roquelaire or cloak, and lures Fortunato back to M’s house with promises of a rare and expensive wine tasting (Amontillado, probably a rare sherry of some kind from Spain).  They get there (no one is home) and wander through several suites until they reach the archway that leads to the catacombs.  They descend and wander down, down, down- your attention is drawn to the dampness, the darkness, the “niter” on the walls (an interesting feature- niter, Potassium nitrate, wasn’t discovered until 40 years after Poe’s death, so he is probably talking about some kind of fungus or fungus-like plant), and the rows upon rows of bottles, casks, and wooden supports- and of course all of the dead people lining the walls (in the fashion of the Paris catacombs).  Fortunato reveals that he’s a Mason with a “grotesque” gesture with a wine bottle and Montressor responds by brandishing his trowel; Fortunato doesn’t get the sick joke.  Soon they reach the end of the catacombs and come upon a room that’s only about 3x4x6 feet- granite on all sides except for the pile of bones in the front.  Fortunato wanders in, looking for the Amontillado, but gets chained to the wall by Montressor instead (there are two iron staples, a padlock, and a chain waiting for him in the little room).  Fortunato thinks it’s a joke at first but as tier upon tier is added to the wall that Montressor is building (the materials were hidden under the aforementioned bone pile) he realizes that he’s about to be buried alive.  That’s when he starts screaming- and Montressor screams back!  Then midnight strikes, the eleventh tier is laid, Fortunato tries once again to talk about what a great joke this is, and then screams “For the love of God, Montressor!” and Montressor replies “yes, for the love of God.”  Then there’s abrupt silence- Montressor feels sick at heart, blames it on the dampness, and hides his work with the old bones again.  Final phrase: in pace requiescat (may he rest in peace). 


Special Phrases:


            Nemo me impune lacessit (no one attacks me with impunity)

            In pace requiescat (may he rest in peace).




            Young adult


            Young adults like to be scared, can identify with a concept like revenge, and would probably be enticed to read the story (and hopefully other stories) themselves. 

Also, with the Eriksson “intimacy vs. isolation” stage that young adults tend to go through, there will probably be a subconscious identification and twisting of these sorts of feelings (the pseudo-intimacy fostered by Montressor in the name of isolating Fortunato and the subsequent isolation that Montressor feels after he has done such an awful thing- though there’s less emphasis on the latter). 

You could also see it as an allegory about the conflict between a lack of imagination and creativity. 




            Edgar Allan Poe, though out of copyright, is the only person who wrote this story.