The Cask of Amontillado | Quotes


cask of amontillado quotes

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. 


This line opens the story and establishes the character of Montresor, the narrator. It sketches an intriguing potential backstory, but a vague one: it is possible (however unlikely) Fortunato did, in fact, harm Montresor a thousand times, but he doesn’t tell the reader any specific thing Fortunato did. It also establishes the role of pride in the story: a thousand injuries hurt Montresor less than one insult. The pledge of revenge foreshadows the story’s ending, and the overall tone warns readers not to trust Montresor.



 You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. 


Early and late in the story, Montresor pulls back from the story itself to give just a bit of framing commentary. Montresor never identifies who he is talking to, so it is not clear if the reader in general is meant to know his soul’s nature or if he’s addressing some specific person. In either case, this line does, in fact, reveal a lot about Montresor’s soul: he hates Fortunato but has enough control that he says nothing. Montresor’s words and emotions are completely dissociated.



 A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong. 


This establishes Montresor’s very specific idea of justice. If someone is punishing another person for an offense, he is only successful if he doesn’t suffer himself and if the other person knows what is going on and why.



 It must be understood, that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. 


This line establishes Montresor’s fundamental dishonesty: even though Fortunato has injured and insulted him a thousand times, Montresor claims the man has no clue Montresor hates him. This indicates that Montresor is exceptionally good at deception, Fortunato is exceptionally dim, or both. It also indicates how Montresor approaches life: he holds onto things, especially negative things. This foreshadows the story’s end.



 He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley. 


This sequence communicates three important points. First, Fortunato is a friendly drunk. Second, he is already partially drunk, which will make Montresor’s revenge easier. And third, he’s in costume. Motley is how jesters dressed in the commedia dell’arte tradition. This means readers can expect him to act broadly and stupidly (as he does).



 Ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh! My poor friend found it impossible to reply for many minutes. ‘It is nothing,’ he said, at last. 


This sequence is amusing in itself. This many coughing sounds in a row makes the story suddenly read like a children’s book, or like it has a soundtrack of special effects. It also shows the reader more about Fortunato. For him to explain away a cough like this and say it’s “nothing” means he really is a fool (and that he values the wine he wants to taste and his ego in out-tasting Luchesi more than his own health). The verbal irony of the situation—coughing so hard he is unable to speak but labeling it as nothing—aligns well with the larger story, where there is a disconnect between words and reality that ultimately threatens Fortunato’s life.



 ‘Come,’ I said, with decision, ‘we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter. We will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides, there is Luchesi—’. 


This little speech by Montresor achieves two very different functions. First, the ending goads Fortunato along by mentioning Luchesi—which ensures that Fortunato will ignore the suggestion to turn back and instead surge forward (to his death). Second, tucked away in the middle are four telling words: “as once I was.” This seems to indicate that Montresor has had some fall from grace socially (whether real or imagined by him), perhaps connected with the wrongs he attributes to Fortunato.



 A huge human foot d’or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel. 


The Montresor coat of arms, as described here, has two meanings, the general and the specific. The general meaning is that Montresor comes from a socially important family. They are old enough and important enough (likely nobility) to have their own coat of arms. The more specific meaning is the attitude communicated. Montresor’s entire family values revenge. He comes from a lineage that kills when injured. This is disturbing, and it is another clue Fortunato misses.



Nemo me impune lacessit


Like the coat of arms, this Montresor family motto has both general and specific meanings. The general meaning is, again, the Montresors are an old and noble family (this was, in fact, the motto of the English royal Stuart family). The more specific meaning comes from its translation: no one hurts or attacks me with impunity. This is another sign that the entire Montresor family line is committed to revenge. Because Fortunato hears this and does not take it as the warning it is, it is another sign of his foolishness.



 ‘It is this,’ I answered, producing a trowel from beneath the folds of my roquelaire


Fortunato has just made a hand gesture signaling he is a member of the Masons, a fraternal order (with some history of secret practices). In making the sign to Montresor, Fortunato is signaling their brotherhood. However, Montresor responds by pulling a trowel out from under his cloak, which is a tool used by an actual mason. Fortunato laughs at the sight and treats it as a joke, but it is yet another sign something is deeply wrong, and another sign Fortunato misreads.



 It was in vain that Fortunato, uplifting his dull torch, endeavored to pry into the depths of the recess. Its termination the feeble light did not enable us to see. 


On a literal level, this passage simply sets the scene: it is so dark in the crypt and the crypt so large that the torch can’t light it to make it visible. However, light is also associated with understanding and vision with knowing (think of phrases such as “the Enlightenment”). Fortunato’s reason is not able to guide him in these dark areas, nor does he see what’s about to befall him. Torches and other fires have also long been used symbolically in funerals and monuments. Torches pointing upward symbolized life; torches pointing down symbolized death. This torch is growing dull, foreshadowing impending death.



For the love of God, Montresor!


These are Fortunato’s last words, which Montresor then echoes back to him (“‘Yes,’ I said, ‘for the love of God!'”). Though they have been passing bones and skulls, neither man was moved to mention the divine until this moment. Fortunato introduces an appeal to Christian mercy as his final attempt to persuade Montresor to let him go. When Montresor echoes him, he is refusing that request (and claiming the dark privilege of punishing Fortunato as a way of pleasing God).

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