What Is the Symbolism in “The Cask of Amontillado”?

The name “Fortunato” and the coat of arms serve as symbols in Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Cask of Amontillado.” Many of Poe’s stories weave symbolic objects into the suspenseful plots, and this story is no different.

The name “Fortunato” is an ironic symbol in “The Cask of Amontillado.” While the name means “the lucky one” in Italian, Fortunato ends up with a much less sanguine outcome, falling victim to the vengeance of Montresor. The fact that Fortunato has on the costume of a jester makes the irony even stronger. Fortunato whiles away in jest, but Montresor actually ends up fooling him, and the results are fatal.

The coat of arms of the Montresor family is rich in symbolism. The shield features a huge golden human foot, with an azure field (or background), and the foot is stomping on a serpent, whose fangs have already sunk into the heel of the foot. The significance appears obvious: Fortunato is the snake who has bitten Montresor, and the giant foot brings justice to the snake. The motto is “Nemo me impune lacessit” — which is not only Scotland’s national motto but also means “no one attacks me with impunity.” Learning these two details makes it fairly clear that the coat of arms is a fake, made by Montresor to serve as a fantasy of what he would love to have happen. However, Fortunato does not understand this. Even the blue of the background serves as a symbol, giving a sense of freedom to revenge.