The Humor and Horror Aspects in the Setting of The Cask of Amontillado

A horror story by American author and poet Edgar Allan Poe, The Cask of Amontillado revolves around the actions of a character Montresor who endeavors, for no apparent reason, to seek revenge against his former friend Fortunato. The only hint the reader gets is that Fortunato ventured upon insult. Fortunato makes a visit to Montresor family estate in Italy where Montresor employs the promise of a selected barrel of Spanish sherry (the cask of Amontillado) to entice Fortunato into the family tunnels. Montresor murders Forunato through the creation of a burial bulwark around him. It is important to note that the place, time as well as other details regarding the setting contribute to the horror of the story.

The narrative takes off at dusk of one evening in the course of the carnival season taking place in an unnamed city within Europe. The setting changes from the cheerful undertakings related to such a festival to the gloomy, damp catacombs under below the Montresor’s palazzo which aids in enhancing the menacing ambiance of the story. Written in 1846, The Cask of Amontillado, is a captivating short story that accentuates the irony about the narrators revenge against Furtunato (Levine et al, 1990). Poe demonstrates his ability to make use of horror as well as humor in creating the setting of the story.

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Having being hurt and insulted by Furtunato for several times, Montresor comes up with a scheme to kill him by using a trick that preys on Furtunato’s craving for wine. On Montresor announcing that he had the Amontillado, Fortunato recites the “Amontillado” phrase three times, which is not only humorous but makes his appearances seem amusing. Fortunato’s death becomes apparent when he insists of being taken to the vault instead of Luchresi. Humor is highlighted by the dressing of Fortunato, who was adorned in a funny-looking jester’s outfit that is popular with comedians. The jester’s outfit comes with little bells in its head. With Poe describing the bells upon Fortunato’s cap jingling as he strode brings out a very amused character although he is about to face his death (Levine et al, 1990). Further, Poe enhances his humor when Fortunato’s cough gets worse in the basement as they stroll through the catacomb but he insists that Montresor should go farther down, claiming the cough is a mere nothing and he would not die of a cough. Fortunato becomes more intoxicated on the way down and the dampness becomes more suffocating ensuring Furtunato is not in a position to fight back.

The presence of niter adds to the horror in the underground setting. Since they are in an underground setting it is likely that the narrator is referring to potassium nitrate that is mostly found in caves due to decomposing organic life. The niter hence points to decomposing corpses in the vaults. Niter is also known to exasperate respiratory illness, which explains the worsening of Fortunato’s cough. Another aspect of horror in the setting of the story is the bones of the dead (Sova, n.d.). The two men come across human remains scattered in the catacombs rendering it a ghastly setting. Montresor makes note, “We had passed through walls of piled bones, with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of the catacombs.”(Poe, 1846). As he starts to build the wall around Fortunato, the narrator claims moving the bones about in a bid to execute the task. Montresor sits on this pile of bones to take delight in the screams of Furtunato.

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