Thesis: The Cask of Amontillado is about revenge.
V. Comparison of New Criticism and New Historicism
A. Text’s view similar to Poe’s
B. Text’s view contrasts with Critic’s
“Nemo me impune lacessit” (Poe 21), Latin meaning no one assails me with impunity. In this one line Poe characterizes The Cask of Amontillado. It is a story of the perfect revenge and why it is unattainable. The main character, Montresor, executes a plan, which he hopes will “punish [Fortunato, the wrongdoer,] with impunity” (18). The short story discloses that the act of revenge is not successful if “retribution overtakes its redresser” and if “the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong” (18). This story revolves around those requirements. The idea of revenge has played a major role in history and even today influences our culture. Through Psychoanalytic Criticism the ramifications of revenge will be explored, through New Criticism the story’s viewpoint on revenge will be revealed, through New Historicism history’s view of revenge will be discussed with a comparison to that of the text, and through Reader Response the critic’s reactions to the story will be expounded.
The storyline for The Cask of Amontillado is presented as a memory. Montresor is recalling a dark secret, which has been hidden for half a century, and is confessing his crime to an unknown, silent listener. The crime is the taking of a man’s life in an act of revenge. The vividness of the storyline shows the importance of the memory to Montresor, for even after fifty years he still recalls such minor details as Fortunato’s eyes being “two filmy orbs that distilled the rheum of intoxication.” This memory embodies Montresor’s desires, which looking from a Freudian perspective could be the removal of the father and the taking of the mother. Fortunato could be seen as Poe’s father, John Allan. Poe descri...