In the year 1847, approximately fifty years after the occurrence, evidence has been found in the vaults of Montresor and in his short account “The Cask of Amontillado” which indicates that a man with the last name of Fortunato was murdered. I will investigate how Fortunato was murdered, and why.
When one first entered the crypt, they could see a decaying body of a man wearing a jester’s costume. One was drawn to stare at the six by four-inch photograph of a woman tucked carefully into the loose hem of his fool’s hat. With her head tilted to one side her observant eyes faintly glimmer, her dark brows are firm, and her mouth is curved pensively, showing a reflective countenance. She wears a lightly layered wedding dress, and her dark hair thickly curls to her waist. Signed ‘Viola,’ the photograph could be the image of a married lady involved in the Fortunato Case; and perhaps, because of the photograph’s placement, the woman was involved in the motivation of the murder.
After further investigation of the vaults, an account on parchment of a conversation between Montresor and his friend Spada was discovered against the left side of a hollow, facing away and hidden from the oncoming viewer. This account demonstrates how Montresor discovered Fortunato’s weakness. An anonymous person wrote—
“This is what I heard between the esteemed Montresor and Spada—
Spada: “How do you fair after the ill-fated and lamentable death of your wife? Forgive me if I am being indelicate. My wish is for you to share your trouble with me as your friend.”
Montresor: “Friend, I find it difficult to think of her without being vexed. I must incessantly quell my grief. Indeed, if I were to utter her name, I would pine away; I would swiftly suffer and expire because of the deep and intense sorrow of my wife’s stolen life. I was once happy, indeed, but I can be happy nevermore—this is my weakness.”
Spada: “Your grief creates vexation in me. I remember when you arrived to me that momentous evening, weeping. And Fortunato—he has been in the tavern at the liquor. I have spoken to him since your wife’s death. When I attempted to request wine, he would not let me, and poured me a glass from his own bottle. It is evident that in his grief he is drowning himself in his enthusiastic pride; that is his weakness.”
Montresor: “Yes—yes, when faced with tribulation, I have always known Fortunato to have this weak point.””
Montresor’s casket was found beside his wife’s, near the foot of the stairs. When opened, a journal was found under his arms. Montresor explains how Fortunato offended him and became his enemy. On February 9th, 1795, Montresor wrote that he attended Spada’s dinner party; he described how he gambled, and looked up to see his wife Viola arrive, passing through the room with her arm linked with Fortunato’s. Montresor invited Fortunato to a ‘friendly’ gamble. Fortunato kept winning, and Viola kept urging Montresor to stop before he lost all of his wealth. Montresor explained that his judgement had not been accurate because he had been drinking wine, and when she said sharply “Enough, husband, you are disgracing yourself, and me,” he replied, “I assure you Viola, I do not disgrace myself. I am merely a shame to you for you are pining for Fortunato.” Montresor challenged Fortunato to a duel, unsheathing his sword, and by then, Fortunato had drunk a large quantity of wine, and he enthusiastically unsheathed his sword too. They were too disoriented to properly fight, but they appeared to Viola to be fierce enough to kill each other. Montresor remembered hearing her say, quietly, “You have abandoned me, and forsaken my love, and now I must go and abandon you.” Half an hour later a man ran in to tell Montresor that his wife had perished in the snow. Montresor laments about seeing his wife like a statue in the silent moonlit frost, and being forced to give up the pleasure of her presence for Lent. Montresor describes the nature of his spirit as impassioned, passive, enduring, and vengeful.
Beside Fortunato on the floor, there is a rather bizarre device. One would call it a time capsule, except it cannot be a thing invented in the past. It is black and thin, and when small objects are pressed with one’s fingers, a square section of it alights. When its two small phones are held to the ears, music can be heard. On the lighted screen are the words, ‘Addio, del passato bei sogni ridenti [Farewell to the past, beautiful happy dreams]’ which is Violetta’s aria in the opera ‘La traviata’ by Giuseppe Verdi. Violetta sings about how she is dying, she feels that her husband does not love her, and that she is allowing her possible life and future of happiness with her husband to be taken from her by death. The names ‘Violetta’ and ‘Viola’ both have the same meaning of ‘violet.’ Perhaps the person who placed this here was connecting this aria to how Viola passed away.
Once Fortunato’s motley fool’s hat of red and purple was discovered (Poe, 287-288), it was asked in the newspaper if there was any family of this man who were with him at the carnival until his disappearance. Alfredo Fortunato (Fortunato’s son), now fifty-seven, sent his and his deceased mother’s letters discussing Fortunato’s disappearance, with his response to the public notice of “I believe that this man is my father, whom I lost when I was seven years old in 1797, on February 9th, the first day of the carnival.” When Alfredo Fortunato was shown the fool’s hat, he confirmed that he had witnessed his father purchase the hat and wear it for the carnival. Alfredo Fortunato recalls overhearing his mother Lady Fortunato reminding Fortunato to be gentle and delicate when in the presence of Montresor, after all that he lost on the night of ‘the accident.’ Alfredo Fortunato smiled nostalgically when he rang the bells of the hat, and said that his father was a humorous man.
The small room was “a depth of about four feet, in width three, in height six or seven,” and it was “the interval between two of the colossal supports of the roof of the catacombs.” There is evidence that this room was purposefully hidden. Around the entrance of the room were the remains of “building stone and mortar.” The first tier was still intact. The archaeologists studied the bones which were scattered before the entrance, and they discovered physical marks, such as scrapes and cracks, as if the bones were moved recently. This evidence indicates that Montresor built the wall and covered it with bones (Poe, 290-292).
A short steel chain rested in Fortunato’s lap. Perhaps Montresor chained him to the wall. There were iron staples on the wall’s surface. One had partly disintegrated from rust. Perhaps with Fortunato’s assistance from struggling, it broke away from the rock. (Poe, 290-291).
A black piece of clothing was found beneath the skeletal remains at the entrance of the small room. It appeared to be a roquelaure. The short cloak was soiled with patches of mortar. Perhaps Montresor wore this cloak when he murdered Fortunato. Then, he hid it under the bones, knowing that it would not be easily found because of its blackness (Poe, 290).
Montresor did murder Fortunato, and perhaps it was because he believed that Fortunato was going to injure his ego one last time, and that it would destroy him. Fortunato dared to offend Montresor in the past by adding an “insult” to a “thousand injuries.” Montresor felt trapped by Fortunato’s actions; he decided to oppress his oppressor, to allow himself freedom (Poe, 286). Perhaps Montresor’s son passed away, as well as his wife, which is why he acted so recklessly and relentlessly when punishing Fortunato. While he had no wife, and no children, Fortunato had a son, and a wife. Perhaps Montresor decided that Fortunato was unjustified to have his current state of life, after his past deed of killing his wife. By determining Fortunato’s state of life, and retributing him with justice, Montresor gave himself the role of a consequential force: he became the one to perform the action that he believed should result from Fortunato’s action.
Poe, Edgar A. “The Cask of Amontillado.” Elements of literature: third course, edited by Rief, et al. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009, 286-292.