Poe the Poet

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  • Topic: The Cask of Amontillado, Edgar Allan Poe, Nemo me impune lacessit
  • Pages : 2 (719 words )
  • Download(s) : 76
  • Published : February 19, 2013
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An apocryphal legend holds that the inspiration for "The Cask of Amontillado" came from a story Poe had heard at Castle Island (South Boston), Massachusetts, when he was a private there in 1827. According to this legend, while stationed at Castle Island in 1827 he saw a monument to Lieutenant Robert Massie. Massie had been killed in a sword duel on Christmas Day 1817 by Lieutenant Gustavus Drane, following a dispute during a card game. According to the legend, other soldiers then took revenge on Drane by getting him drunk, luring him into the dungeon, chaining him to a wall, and sealing him in a vault (though the last part is untrue, as Drane was courtmartialled and acquitted, living until 1846). A report of a skeleton discovered on the island may be a confused remembering of Poe's major source, Joel Headley's "A Man Built in a Wall" (1844), which recounts the author's seeing an immured skeleton in the wall of a church in Italy. Headley's story includes details very similar to "The Cask of Amontillado"; in addition to walling an enemy into a hidden niche, the story details the careful placement of the bricks, the motive of revenge, and the victim's agonized moaning. Poe may have also seen similar themes in Honoré de Balzac's "Le Grande Bretêche" (Democratic Review, November 1843) or his friend George Lippard'sThe Quaker City; or The Monks of Monk Hall (1845). Poe may have borrowed Montresor's family motto Nemo me impune lacessit from James Fenimore Cooper, who used the line in The Last of the Mohicans (1826).

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Poe wrote his tale, however, as a response to his personal rival Thomas Dunn English. Poe and English had several confrontations, usually revolving around literary caricatures of one another. Poe thought that one of English's writings went a bit too far, and successfully sued the other man's editors at The New York Mirror for libel in 1846. That year English published a revenge-based novel called 1844, or, The Power of the S.F. Its plot was...
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