The Cask of Amontillado
, a gothic tale of revenge written by Edgar Allan Poe, is a classic example of the so-called perfect crime. The narrator, Montresor, is a member of the nobility. He is mortally offended by an insult wittingly or unwittingly unloosed by Fortunato. Thus, he plots his revenge in which two conditions must concur. First, he must punish, but he himself must escape punishment. Second, Fortunato must know it is he (Montresor) who carries out the act of retribution. To avert suspicion, he carefully preserves his good relations with his friend, pretending not to have taken any offense. Knowing his friend is susceptible to flattery, Montresor tells him he has bought a cask of old wine – the Amontillado - but he doubts its authenticity. Craftily, he appeals to his friend’s vanity by pretending to rue the fact that he had paid the entire price without consulting his friend. While his friend, very intoxicated, is excited and eager to see the Amontillado at once, Montresor dangles the irresistible bait: he pretends to be on his way to consult Luchresi, another wine connoisseur whom Fortunato despised or is jealous of.
He accosts his prey at the height of the carnival season, while people are engaged in drunken carousel in the streets. As the merry-makers are in costume, nobody notices the stranger who accosts Fortunato in very cordial terms. Montresor carefully plots what the police would call a premeditated murder.
Fortunato’s end is most gruesome: Montresor entombs him alive in the catacombs, leaving him alone to suffer his final hours in utter darkness. He tells us the rampart of bones covering Fortunato’s death chamber was not disturbed for half a century: he had punished and escaped unscathed.