Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado"

Summary of Material - David M Peter (terrehaute19@earthlink.net)

Edgar Allan Poe's brief story, "The Cask of Amontillado," for many is a story of the sordid side of friendship. Upon reading the story from a Masonic perspective, there are many slight, and somewhat obvious, references to many of the rituals from Freemasonry.

The narrator meets Fortunato, and asks him to return to his house. The narrator has a bottle of Amontillado, and wants to share it with Fortunato.

'Come, let us go.'
'To your vaults.' (Poe, page 279)

We are aware of the symbolism attached to the vaults. According to Waite (page 465), the vault was a place that was secret, where great riches were often hidden, away from prying eyes.  

The two arrive at the home of the narrator, and begin their descent to the cellars.

I took from their scones two flambeaux, and giving one to Fortunato, bowed him through several suites of rooms to the archway that led into the vaults. I passed down a long and winding staircase, requesting him to be cautious as he followed. We came at length to the foot of the descent, and stood together on the damp ground of the catacombs of the Montresors. (Poe, page 279)

The mention of two scones has possible significance to the two pillars of the temple (See 1 Kings 7:13-22) and since these pillars were the beginning of a staircase, there is further relevance to Masonry (Waite, page 279). (Note: If one searches for the term "tracing boards" using an Internet search engine, there are many examples of the winding staircase, which will either ascend from two pillars, or descend from two pillars.)

Once in the catacombs, the two share a drink and proceed further. At one point in the story, there is an interesting exchange:

He laughed and threw the bottle upwards with a gesticulation I did not understand.
I looked at him in surprise. He repeated the movement - a grotesque one.
'You do not comprehend?' he said.
'Not I,' I replied.
'Then you are not of the brotherhood.'
'You are not of the masons.'
'Yes, yes,' I said, 'yes, yes.'
'You? Impossible! A mason?'
'A mason,' I replied.
'A sign,' he said.
'It is this,' I answered, producing a trowel from beneath the folds of my roquelaire. (Poe, page 281)

Is there a connection between the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe and Freemasonry? One can only wonder. Some have labeled Poe as "anti-Masonic" and "anti-Catholic." Yet, for those who know of the mysteries, can these passages be merely indications of such a fact, or do they hold much deeper meaning.


Edgar Allan Poe, "The Cask of Amontillado," from "Selected Tales." Edited by Julian Symons. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, 1980, pages 278-284.  

Arthur Edward Waite, "A New Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry." Published by Wings Books, New York, New York, 1996.

Go to previous page

Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!