English Composition II
May 2, 2008
Death-Despair-Revenge: A Recipe for a Good Drama
“Scorching my seared heart with a pain, not hell shall make me fear again.” Edgar Allan Poe, Tamerlane, Part II
Death, despair, and revenge, these three words form a treacherous triangle to any reader who dare enter the mind of Edgar Allen Poe. In many of his works these expressions seem to form a reoccurring theme. Comparing the works “The Mask of the Red Death” and “The Cask of Amontillado”, we will discuss these themes while analyzing the method behind Poe’s madness. In much of Poe’s Work, the presence of revenge and death seem to precede each other. In both stories, if someone dies, then revenge follows. If someone commits revenge, death seems to find that person. With the death of the commoners in "The Masque of the Red Death", revenge seems to follow the prince who abandoned them. When Fortunato betrays Montresor in "The Cask of Amontillado", death follows shortly after. In the end of the stories the characters come full circle with fate, whether it fortune or misfortune. In the story "The Cask of Amontillado", Edgar Allen Poe tells the story of Montresor and Fortunato. This story has a much lighter mood to it, but from the beginning there is some tension between Fortunato and Montresor. The story its self has a Vargas 2
rushed tone and you are held on the edge by the suspense that something dark could happen at anytime. There are hints throughout the storyline that give innuendos that there is revenge in the near future. The dreary tone of death looms in the air as the two characters interact with one another. Montresor, although he is all smiles in front of Fortunato, is planning the demise of his foe in his head. Fortuna mistreats Montresor and this is why he has such a hatred for the man. The story seems to take place at night. The two men, Fortunato and Montresor, are together. Fortunato seems very condescending towards Montresor. It seems as if Fortunato is sick and Montresor is taking care of him. Although Montresor is taking care of him and seems as if he cares about the health of his companion, his intentions are deceiving, and he is planning the death of Fortunato. Montresor maps out his revenge with much care. He waits for the right moment to carry it out. He waits until he spots a weakness. Fortunato’s love for wine was the perfect thing and Montresor plays right along with Fortunato’s vanity to ensure that he will not notice anything. Montresor will stop at nothing to see the end of the person who has mistreated him; he will see his plan out until the end. Montresor baits Fortunato by telling him that he has a very rare bottle of vine called Amontillado. He wants Fortunato advice to see if it’s the real deal. They wander underground into the catacombs, where Fortunato will soon meet his fate. Montresor even reconsiders killing his fellow nobleman and suggests that they go back up. This seems that he may have had cold feet or even a change of heart. Either way, Montresor is determined to find out if this is truly a wine of value. Vargas 3
The irony of the story happens as they walk through the tombs, when Montresor mentions his family coat of arms, which a golden foot is crushing a snake whose fangs are in the heel of the foot. Underneath the crest is the motto Nemo me impune lacessit, which means no one strikes me with impunity. When they finally to the spot where the wine is held, Montresor insists that Fortunato go first. It is at that time that Montresor chains his drunken friend to the wall and his plans are solidified. As soon a time permits, Montresor chains Fortunato to the wall before he sobers up. It is at this point that Montresor turns to repairing the hole in the wall in which they entered, sealing Fortunato’s tomb. Fortunato sobers up before his companion thought he would and trys to break free from his state, shaking the chains vigorously. Montresor stops for a while to...