Edgar Allan Poe — “The Cask of Amontillado”


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Commentary:

Characters:

  • Montressor (narrator) - The main protagonist. Only his last name is given. Montressor is apparently a nobleman, but from a family which has substantially lost a portion of its fortune or social rank. He is a connoisseur of wines.
  • Fortunator - The victim of Montressor’s obessive plot for revenge. He is a nobleman, and a connoisseur of wines. Montressor, in relating the tale, presents him as something of a buffoon, a view that may be colored by Montressor’s own perspective. He has, in some way, deeply insulted Montressor, but is apparently unaware of the real nature of their friendship and in no way suspects that his security (let alone his life) is endangered by being alone with Montressor. (Montressor has been careful not to reveal his true feelings of resentment and burning hostility.)
  • Luchresi (also Luchesi) - A connoisseur of wines. Mentioned, but not directly present in the tale. Montressor brings up his name chiefly to antagonize Fortunato, so that Fortunato will assert himself as the only fit judge of the Amontillado.
  • Lady Fortunato - The wife of Fortunato. Mentioned, but not directly present in the tale.
  • Household servants of Montressor (unnamed) - Mentioned.
  • An unnamed person or persons - At least one person may be implied by Montressor’s comment “You who so well know the nature of my soul.” It has been put forth that Montressor may be making a confession, which would suggest a clerical figure. On the other hand, the entire story may be a written account left for someone who is, at least not properly, present in the tale and thus not actually a character.

Setting:

Location - No location is specified, although the ancient house of Montressor, with its elaborate catacombs, certainly suggests a European setting. Mabbott, based on the name of Montressor, posits that the setting is likely French (Tales & Sketches, 3:1255), although one might just as easily argue that Montressor may be a foreigner living in a land not his own. In this case, the names Fortunato (who we are told is Italian) and Luchresi (which certainly sounds Italian) imply an Italian setting. (At one point, Montressor refers to his house as his “palazzo,” which is an Italian word.) Venice is famous for its annual carnival, although the idea of deep catacombs beneath a building in a city which is itself surrounded and cross-cut by water, seems unlikely.

Date - No particular date is established for the story. It may be presumabed, however, that it is related by Montressor in a setting contemporary with the year of first publication, thus 1846. Because we are told at the end of the tale that the events described occurred half a century before, it may be reasonable to consider the main part of the story as having transpired about 1794. In Italy, Carnevale is celebrated 40 days prior to Lent, thus about the second half of February.

Summary:

Montressor, perhaps on his death-bed, recalls the events of 50 years before. He had secretly harbored a deep grudge against Fortunato, someone he felt committed an unforgivable offence that is never detailed for the reader. Pretending to be surprised at meeting Fortunato in the middle of carnival celebrations, Montressor tricks his hapless victim into coming back to his own family home. There, Montressor lures Fortuato down into the extensive catacombs, and enacts a terrible revenge.


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Reading and Reference Texts:

Reading copy:


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Historical Texts:

Manuscripts and Authorized Printings:

  • Text-01 — “The Cask of Amontillado” — 1846 — no original manuscript or fragments are known to exist (but this version is presumably recorded in Text-02)
  • Text-02 — “The Cask of Amontillado” — November 1846 — Godey’s Lady’s Book — (Mabbott text A)
  • Text-03 — “The Cask of Amontillado” — 1846-1849 — speculated revised copy of Godey’s (Text-02), perhaps in anticipation of reprinting elsewhere. (These revisions are presumably recorded in Text-04. The changes are slight enough that a new manuscript is highly unlikely, but not so minor that they would reasonably have been made during typesetting or in correcting proofs for Text-04. At least some of these changes are significant enough that they suggest the hand of the author rather than of Griswold as editor.)
  • Text-04 — “The Cask of Amontillado” — 1850 — WORKS — (Mabbott text B)  (This is Mabbott’s copy-text)

 

Reprints:

  • “The Cask of Amontillado” — November 14, 1846 — New England Weekly Review (reprinted from Text 02) (noted by Ljungquist)
  • “The Cask of Amontillado” — 1852 — Tales and Sketches: to which is added The Raven: A Poem, London, George Routledge & Co.
  • “The Cask of Amontillado” — 1867 — Prose Tales of Edgar Allan Poe, first series (New York: W. J. Widdleton), pp. 346-352 (This collection is extracted from the 1850-1856 edition of Poe’s Works. It was reprinted several times.)
  • “The Cask of Amontillado” — 1874 — Works of Edgar A. Poe, edited by J. H. Ingram, vol. 1, pp. 258-265 (This collection was subsequently reprinted in various forms)
  • “The Cask of Amontillado” — October 19, 1914 — New York: Winthrop Press (edited by John H. Eggers) (miniature edition, illustrated, in color) (copyrighted October 8, 1914)
  • “The Cask of Amontillado” — April 1951 — Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine   (New York, NY) (vol 17, no 89)  (This is a pulp magazine, bearing the subtitle: “An Anthology of the Best Detective Stories, New and Old.” A blurb on the cover notes that the issues contains “stories by the eight best mystery writers of all time, as ranked by the Gallup poll.” The eight names are: Erle Stanley Gardner, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ellery Queen, Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Rex Stout, and Dashiell Hammett. It is curious that in this case, the magazine selected a Poe tale which is not, in any technical sense, a mystery story and certainly not a detective story.)
  • “The Cask of Amontillado” — Nov.-Dec. 1952 — Fantastic, vol. 1, no. 3  (a pulp science fiction quarterly, with illustrations)

 

Scholarly and Noteworthy Reprints:

  • “The Cask of Amontillado” — 1894-1895 —  The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, vol. 1: Tales, ed. G. E. Woodberry and E. C. Stedman, Chicago: Stone and Kimball (1:274-282)
  • The Cask of Amontillado” — 1902 — The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, vol. 6: Tales V, ed. J. A. Harrison, New York: T. Y. Crowell (6:167-175, and 6:294)
  • The Cask of Amontillado” — 1978 — The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, vol. 3: Tales & Sketches II, ed. T. O. Mabbott, Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (3:1252-1266)
  • “The Cask of Amontillado” — 1984 — Edgar Allan Poe: Poetry and Tales, Patrick F. Quinn (New York: Library of America), pp. 848-854

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Comparative Texts:

Instream Comparative Texts:

 

Plain Text Files for Juxta:


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Associated Material and Special Versions:

Miscellaneous Texts and Related Items:

  • “[The Cask of Amontillado]” — 1855 — Fortaellinger [Tales] (Copenhagen)  (Danish translation, noted by Anderson, p. 14)
  • “La tonne d’Amontillado” — December 6, 1855 — Le Mousquetaire   (French Translation by W. L. Hughes)
  • “La barrique d’amontillado” — 1857 — Nouvelles histoires par Edgar Poe, Paris: Michel Lévy frères (French translation by Charles Baudelaire)
  • “[The Cask of Amontillado]” — 1882 — Valda noveller (Stockholm)  (Swedish translation, noted by Anderson, p. 54)
  • “La tonne d’amontillado” — 1885 — Oeuvres Choisies d’Edgar Pöe, Paris: A. Hennuyer  (French translation by William L. Hughes)
  • “Het Vat Amontillado” — about 1930 — Fantastische Vertellingen van Edgar Allan Poe, Haarlem: H. D. Tjeenk Willink & Zoon (Dutch translation by Machiel Elias Barentz, with elaborate illustrations by Albert Hahn, somewhat reminiscent of those by Harry Clarke)
  • “The Cask of Amontillado” — April 9, 1944 — a radio show broadcast on The Weird Circle show. (As was often the case with dramatic presentations of Poe’s works, the story has been modified.)
  • “The Cask of Amontillado” — February 20, 1947 — a radio show broadcast on The Hall of Fantasy show, introduced as “dedicated to the supernatural, the unusual and the unknown.”  (As was often the case with dramatic presentations of Poe’s works, the story has been modified.) (This show as apparently rebroadcast on December 10, 1949, and again on April 14, 1950.)
  • “The Cask of Amontillado” — June 1951 — Classics Illustrated (number 84)  (a comic-book)
  • “The Cask of Amontillado” — January 19, 1953 — a radio show broadcast on The Hall of Fantasy show, introduced as “dedicated to the supernatural, the unusual and the unknown.”  (This episode is available on CD as part of a 6-CD set of “Smithsonian Legendary Performers,” issued in 2004. As was often the case with dramatic presentations of Poe’s works, the story has been modified.) Performers include Carl Dreyson, Richard Thorne, and Eloise Kummer. This show as rebroadcast on January 4, 1954.
  • “The Cask of Amontillado” — 1956 — a reading by Nelson Olmsted on Edgar Allan Poe: Tales of Terror, issued on the Vanguard label (VRS-9007)
  • “The Cask of Amontillado” — 2009 — Audio book (unabridged), read by Chris Aruffo

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Bibliography:

  • Adler, Jacob H., “Are There Flaws in ‘The Cask of Amontillado’?,” Notes & Queries (January 1954), 199:32-34.
  • Anderson, Carl L., Poe in Northlight: The Scandanavian Response to His Life and Work, Durham, NC: Duke Unversity Press, 1973.
  • Appel, Alfred, Jr., “Three Observations on ‘Amontillado’ and Lolita,” Poe Newsletter (December 1972), 5:51.
  • Bales, Kent, “Poetic Justice in ‘The Cask of Amontillado’,” Poe Newsletter (December 1972), 5:51.
  • Benton, Richard P., “The Phantom Listener in ‘The Cask of Amontillado’; or, ‘Is There Anybody There?’,” Masques, Mysteries, and Mastodons: A Poe Miscellany, ed. Benjamin F. Fisher, Baltimore: Edgar Allan Poe Society, 2006, pp. 115-132
  • Benton, Richard P., “Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’: Its Cultural and Historical Backgrounds,” Poe Studies/Dark Romanticism, 1996, 29:19-26
  • Brown, Arthur A., ’A Man Who Dies’: Poe, James, Faulkner and the Narrative Function of Death, PhD disseration, University of California, Davis, 1995
  • Campbell, Killis, “Three Notes on Poe,” American Literature (January 1933), 4:385-388.
  • Cervo, Nathan, “Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’,” Explicator (1993), 51:155-156.
  • Clark, George P., “A Further Word on Poe and Lolita,” Poe Newsletter (December 1970), 3:39.
  • Clark, George P., “Three Observations on ‘Amontillado’ and Lolita,” Poe Newsletter (December 1972), 5:51.
  • Dedmond, Francis B., “An Additional Source of Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’,” Notes & Queries (May 10, 1952), 197:212-214.
  • Dedmond, Francis B., “ ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ and the War of the Literati,” Modern Language Notes (1954), 15:137-146.
  • Del Vecchio, Rosa Maria, ”Into that Material Nihility”: Poe’s Criminal Persona as God-Peer, PhD disseration, Case Western University, 1994
  • Doxey, William S., “Concerning Fortunato’s ‘Courtesy’,” Studies in Short Fiction (Spring 1967), 4:266-267.
  • Engel, Leonard W., “Victim and Victimizer: Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’,” Interpretations (1983), 15:26-30.
  • Foote, Dorothy N., “ ‘The Cask of Amontillado’,” Explicator (November 1961), vol. 20, item 27.
  • Fossum, Richard H., “Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’,” Explicator (November 1958), vol. 17, item 16.
  • Freehafer, John, “Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’: A Tale of Effect,” Jahrbuch fur Amerikanstudien (1968), 13:134-142.
  • Gargano, James W., “ ‘The Cask of Amontillado’: A Masquerade of Motive and Identity,” Studies in Short Fiction (Winter 1967), 4:119-126.
  • Goldhurst, William, “Three Observations on ‘Amontillado’ and Lolita,” Poe Newsletter (December 1972), 5:51.
  • Harris, Kathryn Montgomery, “Ironic Revenge in Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’,” Studies in Short Fiction (1969), 6:333-336.
  • Heartman, Charles F. and James R. Canny, A Bibliography of First Printings of the Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Hattiesburg, MS: The Book Farm, 1943.
  • Hirsch, David, Poe as Moralist: “The Cask of Amontillado” and the Transvaluation of Values, Baltimore: The Edgar Allan Poe Society, 1998.
  • Ljungquist, Kent P., “Some Unrecorded Reprints of Poe’s Works,” ANQ (Winter 1995), 8:20-22.
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, ed., The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (Vols 2-3 Tales and Sketches ), Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1978.
  • Randall, John H., “Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ and the Code of the Duello,” Studia Germanica Gandensia (1963), 5:175-184.
  • Rasor, C. L., “Possible Sources of ‘The Cask of Amontillado’,” Furman Studies (Winter 1949), 31:46-50.
  • Rea, J., “In Defense of Fortunato’s Courtesy,” Studies in Short Fiction (Spring 1967), 4:267-269.
  • Rea, J., “Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’,” Studies in Short Fiction (1966), 4:57-69.
  • Rocks, James E., “Conflict and Motive in ‘The Cask of Amontillado’,” Poe Newsletter (December 1972), 5:51.
  • Shick, Joseph, “The Origin of ‘The Cask of Amontillado’,” American Literature (March 1934), 6:18-21. (A response to Schick’s article, by James Pole, appears in the same issue.)
  • Snow, Edward R., “The Roving Skeleton of Boston Bay,” Yankee (Dublin, New Hampshire) (April 1961), 25:52-55 and 109-110.
  • Solomont, Susan and Ritchie Darling, Four Stories by Poe, Norwich, VT: Green Knight Press, 1965
  • Sorenson, Peter J., “William Morgan, Free Masonry, and ‘The Cask of Amontillado’,” Poe Studies (1989), 22:45-47.
  • Steele, Charles W., Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’,” Explicator (April 1960), vol. 18, item 43.
  • Strepp, Wlater, “The Ironic Double in Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’,” Studies in Short Fiction (1976), 13:447-453.
  • Waterman, Arthur E., “Point of View in Poe,” College English Association Critic (1965), 27:5.
  • White, Patrick, “ ‘The Cask of Amontillado’: The Case for the Defense,” Studies in Short Fiction (1989), 26:550-555.
  • Wyllie, John Cooke, “A List of the Texts of Poe’s Tales,” Humanistic Studies in Honor of John Calvin Metcalf, Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 1941, pp. 322-338.

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[S:0 - JAS] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Tales - The Cask of Amontillado