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The Cask of Amontillado

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By Edgar Allan Poe. The Cask of Amontillado. Why should we read it? First of all, you’ll understand this meme once you’ve read it:. Secondly, the story deals with universal themes like vengeance and conscience, trust and betrayal, human folly (foolishness).

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Why should we read it?

First of all, you’ll understand this meme once you’ve read it:

Secondly, the story deals with universal themes like vengeance and conscience, trust and betrayal, human folly (foolishness).

Finally, Poe is a master of suspense. Notice how he establishes mood and plays with ironic and symbolic elements in the story.


Before we begin reading, let’s get a little background information to aid our comprehension. Let’s start with the title. What is a cask of amontillado anyway?


Do not confuse it with a casket. A casket is used to store people, typically dead ones. (Read Edgar Allan Poe’s “A Premature Burial” to catch the humor of that line).

While you should never confuse these two containers, do notice the shared root word “cask.” Edgar Allan Poe was a master of horror and language. The word similarity was surely not lost upon him.


Okay, but what is Amontillado?

A variety of sherry (fortified wine). It is named for the Montilla region in Spain.

More wine terms from the story:

Medoc – a type of French wine

Pipe – a large cask that

holds 126 gallons.

Flagon - a large usually

metal or pottery vessel

(as for wine) with handle

and spout and often a lid.


Sconce and flambeaux – Flambeaux is a fancy way of saying torch. The sconce refers to the wall attachment that holds the torch.


Catacombs – a subterranean (underground) cemetery of galleries with recesses for tombs —usually used in plural.

There are different styles of catacombs. Some can look like this one. Notice there are recesses for the bodies.


But some can look like this…

Bones and skulls actually form the walls.


Niter, a.k.a. saltpeter, causes respiratory tract irritation if inhaled.

Saltpeter, the common name for potassium nitrate, a white, crystalline solid composed of potassium, nitrogen, and oxygen. It is also called niter. Saltpeter commonly occurs as a crust on the soil and on the surface of rocks in dry climates and in the soil of limestone caves. Its name is derived from the Latin salpetrae, salt of the rock. Naturally occurring saltpeter is found in very limited quantities.


Montresor’s coat of arms:

Is the snake biting the foot because it has been stepped on or is the foot crushing the snake because it has been bitten?

Does the foot or the snake represent Montresor?

Nobody provokes me with impunity.

In other words, nobody gets away with insulting/harming me without punishment/revenge.


Irony found in names:

Fortunato means “fortunate one” or “lucky one” in Italian.

The type of Medoc they are drinking? It is called De Grave.


Dramatic Irony - The audience or reader knows more than the character. Consequently, we may ascribe a different meaning to the character’s words than what he intended.

In “The Cask of Amontillado,” do we know something that Fortunato does not? Are there times where Fortunato says something or Montresor says something and we take it very differently than how Fortunato takes it?


Pay attention to the plot and the setting. Do you notice any allusions (references) or parallels to Hell and Satan? Can you find any symbolism or allegory (a tale with a literal and symbolic meaning)?