Nemo me impune laccesit: The Cask of Amontillado Essay

            The Cask of Amontillado is a short story on the macabre genre focusing on the use of ‘dark’ themes such as revenge, murder, and death. Narrated in the first-person view, the story is told in the perspective of the murderer, Montresor as he exacts cold revenge upon Fortunato, a fellow nobleman, at the height of frenzy during the Italian Carnivale celebration.

Fifty years after the murder, Montresor remains unrepentant of his actions as the numerous injuries that Fortunato had given him acted as an enough reason to commit murder. He was never caught of the crime and discloses that Fortunato’s body still hangs on the chains in the catacombs.

At the height of the celebrations during the festival, Fortunato himself approaches Montresor and greets him with unusual warmth, as he had already consumed copious amounts of wine. With the knowledge that Fortunato prided himself to be a sincere connoisseur in wine, he decides to use this weakness against him as Montresor himself was learned in the mastery of old wines. Montresor casually praises him and hints that he has recently acquired a barrel of Amontillado, a Spanish sherry wine valued for its rarity. He impliedly states his doubt on the genuineness of the wine and asks a man named Luchresi to examine it. Fortunato confidently exclaims the ineptitude of the man and insist that the both of them go to Montersor’s cellars to examine it. At Montersor’s pallazo, the two enter the damp catacombs and Montresor offers him wine to combat the dinginess of the catacombs. Fortunator makes an elaborate gesture with the wine bottle. He asks whether Montresor is of the Masons and he presents a trowel to show proof. The two march on toward the catacombs with Fortunato continuing to drink from the wine bottle to resist the nitre present in the tombs while Montresor continue to suggest to go back, falsely concerned with his friend’s health yet luring him on. Fortunato’s cough continues to get worse as they ventured deeper into the catacomb yet he remains foolishly strong in his attempt to examine the wine. They reach a niche and Montresor states that the Amontillado is inside. Already drunk from the wine and the celebrations outside, Fortunato remains unsuspecting as Montresor chains him to a wall. Using the trowel, he slowly walls up the niche to entomb his friend alive. As Fortunato slightly sobers up, he tries to break away from the chains while Montresor stops building the wall to enjoy the sound. Fortunato attempts to call for help but remains hopeless as they were in the deepest part of the catacombs; Montresor merely mocks the cries of help. As the last brick is placed, the victim becomes silent, only the jingling of his jester’s outfit could be heard. After half a century, no one knew of this event and Montresor ends with in pace requiescat (rest in piece).

The story is indeed filled with dark images coupled with the ‘coldness’ of the plot as the narrative style of the story presents the events in amazing detail. The story gives a feeling of apprehension and tension as the murderer himself narrates his own actions. Because of the first-person perspective, the narration provides a sense of excitement and intrigue as I continue to read wondering what will happen to Fortunato even though death was the final end. I was also impressed with Montresor’s word play as he cleverly lures his victim to his doom through his well-placed wit, flattery, and persuasion. In the scene where the two characters venture in the catacombs, Montresor kept suggesting to go back which inevitably increased Fortunato’s somewhat foolish interest in the wine and strengthened his flamboyant and imposing nature. His own conviction of wine knowledge encouraged his attempt to further disgrace Montresor which blinded him from his impending doom. The act of revenge itself is cold and in a sense, perfect. The slow walk in the catacombs already caused Fortunato to suffer, which symbolizes his revenge against the ‘thousands of injuries’ he had experienced. The slow process of building the wall also increased the essence of the revenge itself as death approached slowly and painfully rather than quick and painless. The entombing in the niche is the final representation of Montresor’s sensitivity to insult as he consequently insults his enemy by burying him alive wearing a jester’s outfit.

Reference

Poe, E. A. (1846). The Cask of Amontillado. Retrieved April 7, 2009, from             http://www.literature.org/authors/poe-edgar-allan/amontillado.html.