The narrator, Montresor, states that complete revenge implies impunity and makes some suggestions to ensure that the avenger is above all suspicion. Montresor acted as a friend to Fortunato, with “neither by word nor deed” (28), making his enemy doubt his genuine friendship. Another implicit advice is to observe and exploit the weaknesses of the intended victim: “He had a weak point —this Fortunato” (28). Fortunato liked wine and deemed himself a fine connoisseur, and Montresor used these traits to perpetrate his crime.
The paragraph provides some info about Montresor. It is clear that he is not Italian, and when he says that “in painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack” (37), he shows a certain prejudgment about Italians. By deduction, Montresor considers himself a connoisseur of art, which suggests that he was from a noble family and had received an excellent education. The name Montresor suggests that the narrator was French; the hypothesis is supported by the hint to the Catacombs “below the river’s bed” (86), which seems to locate the setting of the story in Paris.
When Montresor met Fortunato during the Carnival peak, he was pleased because he looked precisely for him. Complimenting Fortunato was a way to flatter him before arousing his pride with the cask of Amontillado. As soon as Montresor perceived that Fortunato was suffering from a terrible cold, he used the new info to further exciting his curiosity and actuate his diabolic plan. Moreover, the cough added a touch of sadism to the plan, which entailed burying Fortunato alive in a cold and humid place.
The hint to the coat of arms underlines, once again, the noble lineage of Montresor. Both the emblem and the motto are perfectly fitting the topic. The coat of arms depicts a golden foot that “crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel” (76). The rampart snake represents Fortunato, who will be annihilated for the offenses caused in the past. Moreover, the emblem highlights a social contrast between the ancient gentry such as that of the Montresor and a rampant nobility without lineage, represented by trivial characters such as Fortunato. The motto, “Nemo me impune lacessit” (76), means ‘no one provokes me with impunity and reaffirms the same concept.
Before venturing in the search for Fortunato, Montresor had told his servants that he would have been outside all night long and ordered them not to leave the house (56). The instructions were given to make sure that nobody was at home during the evening. Montresor knew his servants and was sure of “their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as” his “back was turned” (56). While this passage appears ironic to the reader, it reveals Montresor’s ability to analyze human behavior and the cold ruthlessness with which he planned his revenge.
The first common trait between Montresor and Fortunato is the flair for vintages. At the beginning of the story, Montresor describes Fortunato and himself as refined experts “in the matter of old wines” (37). Another common characteristic is belonging to the high ranks of society. Both of them are rich, powerful, and live in prestigious “palazzos” (55; 127). Unlike Fortunato, however, Montresor can boast roots in the most thoroughbred nobility, and he is not a member of the Masonry (92). Unlike Montresor, Fortunato seems to indulge excessively in the inebriation of wine (28) and has a wife, Lady Fortunato (127).
Although the text does not clarify whom Montresor is telling the story, it is likely his confessor. In the first paragraph, Montresor defines his interlocutor as someone who has deep knowledge of his soul’s nature (28). Moreover, he has no reason to bragging fifty years after having committed the crime, and such a long span suggests that Montresor’s life was turning towards the end. Hence, a confession, in the Catholic meaning of the term, seems logical.
Poe, Edgar A. The Cask Of Amontillado, Kindle Ed., Feedbooks, 1846.