I love sharing "The Cask of Amontillado" with my ninth grade students during the first week of school! I am fortunate enough to teach right outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where this not-so-fictional tale occurred. Going over the background of Poe’s time in the military and being stationed at Castle Island brings this dark romantic tale to life. Students love hearing the truth behind the tale. What they love even more is creating and sharing storyboards that show their understanding of the story. With these activities, you can hook your students and teach them the essentials of this gory tale.
"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe, is a short story inspired by true events that took place on Castle Island, a former military fort off of Boston Harbor, in Massachusetts. When Poe was stationed there as young cadet in the Army, he found a peculiar gravestone. After some inquiry, he learned a story of a man who had been walled up alive. Forbidden by his commander to ever repeat the particulars, Poe took the plot line, changed the setting and characters, and wrote this story.
The story is set in Italy, during the Carnival. The narrator, Montresor, without giving the particulars, explains that he has a grudge to settle with Fortunato, who insulted him. Both men being wine connoisseurs, Montresor lures Fortunato into his catacombs by promising him a fine bottle of Amontillado wine.
As the two men travel into the catacombs, Fortunato has no inkling that his friend will betray him. Fortunato is ill, battling a bad cough. Surprisingly, Montresor urges his friend to turn back. Laden with irony and foreshadowing, Fortunato claims, "I will not die of a cough” and continues with Montresor.
When the men finally reach the base of the crypt, Montresor has bricks and mortar awaiting them. He chains Fortunato to the wall and seals him in alive.