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The Cask of

Amontillado
For English Learners

Story by

Edgar Allan Poe

Annotated by

Jakub Marian

First Edition, April 2015

The PDF version has no associated ISBN


Author and Publisher:
Jakub Marian, Sewanstraße 217, 10319, Berlin, Germany

Cover picture of a cask © gabe9000c


licensed from fotolia.com. Overall front cover
design © Jakub Marian. Illustration of Fortunato
in chains by Harry Clarke (Public Domain).
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Table of Contents

Foreword ................................................................... 6

The Cask of Amontillado ................................... 8

Final words ............................................................... 30

Appendix: IPA Symbols ...................................... 31

Alphabetical Index ................................................ 34


Foreword

T he cask of Amontillado is a story of unexplained revenge.


The narrator tells us about a murder he has prepared and
cold-bloodedly executed, with little explanation as to his motiv-
ation apart from a vague mention of an insult.

The truth may be somewhat less poetic. After Poe’s former


friend and fellow writer Thomas Dunn English turned against
him and began to criticize his work (but not before Poe himself
ridiculed several of English’s poems), their hostility escalated,
and English wrote a novel in 1846 featuring a Poe-like character,
portraying him as a drunk who grows insane and ends up in an
asylum. Considering The Cask of Amontillado (published later
in 1846) contains several undeniable references to this novel, it
may be merely a portrayal of Poe’s own “literary revenge”.

Be it as it may, English’s novel faded into oblivion, while


Poe’s short story became one of the best-known literary works
of the English speaking world (and its title is perhaps the only
reason why people know the word Amontillado, which is a type
of Sherry wine).

Like most of Poe’s works, The Cask of Amontillado is not ex-


actly light reading for non-native speakers, but thanks to its
high concentration of uncommon but still relevant words and
idioms, it is a great tool to work with when you want to expand
your vocabulary. I have selected over one hundred expressions
in the story that may be hard to understand for an advanced
English learner and tried to explain them in a manner compre-
hensible to a non-native speaker.

Vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and pronunciation are dis-


cussed in numbered annotations after each paragraph. I recom-
mend to read the annotations carefully during the first reading

v 6 v
and then immediately reread the same paragraph once or sev-
eral times again, until you can fully understand its meaning
without looking at the annotations; repeatedly seeing new
words in context will help you remember them.

Pronunciation is transcribed using the International Phonetic


Alphabet (IPA), in both American and British English. You can
read a brief explanation of the IPA at the end of the book.

v 7 v
The Cask of
Amontillado
T he thousand injuries of Fortunato 1 I had borne2 as I
best could, but when he ventured 3 upon insult4, I
vowed5 revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my
soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance 6 to a
threat.

1 Fortunato /ˌfɔːrtʃʊˈnɑːtoʊ/ US, /ˌfɔːtʃʊˈnɑːtəʊ/ UK; a family


name.

2 borne /bɔːrn/ US, /bɔːn/ UK is the past participle of the verb


bear in all senses not related to giving birth (here in the sense
of “tolerate”). In the sense of bearing a child (giving birth),
the past participle is born (pronounced the same as “borne”).

3 venture (up)on /ˈvɛntʃɚ/ US, /ˈvɛntʃə/ UK; to go somewhere or


do something even though it might be unpleasant or
dangerous; to dare to do something.

4 the wording of the first sentence is a play on the English


idiom to add insult to injury, which means “to make an
already bad situation worse” or “to further mock someone
who has already been hurt”.

5 vow /vaʊ/; make a formal promise (of).

6 to give utterance /ˈʌtərəns/ means “to speak about”.

At length1 I would be avenged2; this was a point definitely


settled—but the very definitiveness with which it was re-
solved, precluded3 the idea of risk. I must not only pun-
ish, but punish with impunity4. A wrong is unredressed5
when retribution6 overtakes its redresser. It is equally un-
redressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as
such to him who has done the wrong.

1 at length; after a long time; finally.

2 avenge /əˈvɛndʒ/; when you avenge something, you punish


someone for causing it (e.g. “avenge your brother’s death”).

v 9 v
The difference between “avenging something” and “taking
revenge” is that revenge is usually taken for personal
satisfaction, whereas you avenge for rightful reasons. In other
words, when you avenge something, it is an act of justice, and
when you take revenge, it is an act of passion.

3 preclude /prɪˈkluːd/; to make something impossible to


happen.

4 impunity /ɪmˈpjuːnɪti/; if you do something with impunity,


you do it in such a way that you cannot be punished for it.

5 redress /rɪˈdrɛs/; to correct something that is unfair;


unredressed is an uncommon word meaning “morally
uncorrected”.

6 retribution /ˌrɛtrɪˈbjuːʃn/; punishment or revenge for


something very wrong.

It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had


I given Fortunato cause1 to doubt my good will. I contin-
ued, as was my wont2, to smile in his face, and he did not
perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his im-
molation3.

1 give cause means “give reason”.

2 wont /wɔːnt/ or /woʊnt/ US, /wəʊnt/ UK; an archaic word for a


habit. It is pronounced the same as won’t in British English
but usually sounds the same as want in American English.

3 immolation /ˌɪməˈleɪʃn/; burning to death.

He had a weak point—this Fortunato—although in other


regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He
prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine. Few Itali-
ans have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their
enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity—
to practise imposture1 upon the British and Austrian mil-

v 10 v
lionaires. In painting and gemmary2, Fortunato, like his
countrymen, was a quack3—but in the matter of old
wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from
him materially4: I was skillful in the Italian vintages 5 my-
self, and bought largely whenever I could.

1 imposture /ɪmˈpɑːstʃɚ/ US, /ɪmˈpɒstʃə/ UK; pretending to be


someone else. A person involved in such an act is called an
impostor.

2 gemmary /ˈdʒɛməri/; now an obsolete word, referring to (the


art of) making jewellery; a gem /dʒɛm/ is a precious stone.

3 quack /kwæk/; a charlatan; a person claiming to have skills


they don’t have, usually referring to medical knowledge.

4 materially /məˈtɪriəli/ US, /məˈtɪəriəli/ UK; substantially,


largely, heavily.

5 vintage /ˈvɪntɪdʒ/; here a noun referring to a good year in


which a certain sort of wine was produced. The word is also
commonly used as an adjective meaning “having an old-time
appeal”.

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme mad-


ness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend.
He accosted1 me with excessive warmth, for he had been
drinking much. The man wore motley 2. He had on a
tight-fitting parti-striped3 dress, and his head was sur-
mounted4 by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to
see him, that I thought I should never have done
wringing5 his hand.

1 accost somebody /əˈkɔːst/ or /əˈkɑːst/ US, /əˈkɒst/ UK; to


approach someone and start talking to them although they
find it unpleasant.

2 motley /ˈmɑːtli/ US, /ˈmɒtli/ UK; a multicoloured costume of


a jester.

v 11 v
3 parti-striped /ˈpɑːrtiˌstraɪpt/ US, /ˈpɑːtiˌstraɪpt/ UK; having
stripes of different colours.

4 surmount /sɚˈmaʊnt/ US, /səˈmaʊnt/ UK; to be placed on top


of something. A more common meaning of the verb is “to
overcome”; for example, you can “surmount difficulties”.

5 wring /rɪŋ/; to hold tightly while twisting or squeezing; you


can also wring wet clothes in order to force the liquid out.

I said to him—“My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met.


How remarkably well you are looking to-day1! But I have
received a pipe2 of what passes3 for Amontillado4, and I
have my doubts.”

1 an archaic spelling of “today”.

2 a pipe or butt is a unit of measurement in wine making


defined as 108 imperial gallons (c. 491 litres), usually stored in
a cask (a wooden barrel used for storing liquids). It is not
without interest that the slang term buttload (meaning “a
large amount”) comes originally from the name of this unit.
Since “butt” is more commonly used to refer to one’s
buttocks, many people consider “buttload” to be vulgar,
although this is not etymologically justified.

3 pass for means “to be believed to be”.

4 Amontillado /əˌmɑːntɪˈlɑːdoʊ/ US, /əˌmɒntɪˈlɑːdəʊ/ UK is an


expensive variety of Sherry wine.

“How?” said he. “Amontillado? A pipe? Impossible! And in


the middle of the carnival!”

“I have my doubts,” I replied; “and I was silly enough to


pay the full Amontillado price without consulting you in
the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of
losing a bargain.”

v 12 v
“Amontillado!”

“I have my doubts.”

“Amontillado!”

“And I must satisfy them.”

“Amontillado!”

“As you are engaged1, I am on my way to Luchesi. If any


one has a critical turn, it is he. He will tell me—”

1 engaged /ɪnˈɡeɪdʒd/ or /ɛnˈɡeɪdʒd/; here used as a formal


word for “busy”. The more common meaning is “having
agreed to marry someone”.

“Luchesi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry.”

“And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match
for your own.”

“Come, let us go.”

“Whither1?”

“To your vaults2.”

1 whither /ˈwɪðɚ/ US, /ˈwɪðə/ UK; an archaic word for “where”.

2 vault /vɔːlt/; an enclosed secure underground area, used for


storing valuables (such as in a bank) or for burying people
(rich families commonly owned a large family vault in which
their deceased members were buried). Here it refers to the
family vault of the Montresors (the narrator’s family).

v 13 v
“My friend, no; I will not impose1 upon your good nature.
I perceive you have an engagement2. Luchesi—”

1 impose (up)on one’s good attribute /ɪmˈpoʊz/ US,


/ɪmˈpəʊz/ UK; to take advantage of someone’s good character
to make them do something for you when it is not
convenient for them; for example, you can impose on
someone’s good nature or patience. Another, more common
meaning of impose is to “force somebody to accept
something”, such as when you impose your values on
someone else.

2 engagement /ɪnˈɡeɪdʒmənt/ or /ɛnˈɡeɪdʒmənt/; the act of being


engaged, here in the sense of “busy”.

“I have no engagement;—come.”

“My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe


cold with which I perceive you are afflicted 1. The vaults
are insufferably damp2. They are encrusted3 with nitre4.”

1 afflict /əˈflɪkt/; to trouble; to affect in a negative way.

2 damp /dæmp/; slightly wet in an unpleasant way.

3 encrust /ɛnˈkrʌst/; to cover with a crust (a hard layer that


covers the material beneath it).

4 nitre /naɪtɚ/ US, /naɪtə/ UK (spelled niter in modern American


English); the mineral form of potassium nitrate (KNO 3). Cave
walls are commonly encrusted with nitre when water
containing it soaks through them.

“Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing.


Amontillado! You have been imposed upon. And as for
Luchesi, he cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontil-
lado.”

v 14 v
Thus1 speaking, Fortunato possessed 2 himself of my arm.
Putting on a mask of black silk, and drawing a roquelaire3
closely about my person, I suffered4 him to hurry me to
my palazzo.

1 thus /ðʌs/; in this way.

2 posses oneself of /pəˈzɛs/; an archaic expression meaning to


take, seize. Note the pronunciation of the word “possess”.

3 roquelaire (usually spelled roquelaure) /ˈrɔːkəˌlɔːr/ US;


/ˈrɒkəˌlɔː/ UK; a type of coat worn by men during the 18 th
century.

4 to suffer someone to do something means to tolerate that


someone does something.

There were no attendants1 at home; they had absconded2


to make merry3 in honour of the time. I had told them
that I should not return until the morning, and had given
them explicit orders not to stir 4 from the house. These
orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their imme-
diate disappearance, one and all 5, as soon as my back was
turned.

1 attendant /əˈtɛndənt/; a person who devotes his or her


services to another person.

2 abscond /əbˈskɑːnd/ US, /əbˈskɒnd/ UK; to escape from a place


without permission.

3 make merry; to have fun.

4 stir /stɝː/ US, /stɜː/ UK; to move. The verb is more commonly
used in connection with liquids; for example, when you stir
your tea, you make it move with a spoon to mix it.

5 one and all means “everyone, without exception”.

v 15 v
I took from their sconces1 two flambeaux2, and giving
one to Fortunato, bowed3 him through several suites 4 of
rooms to the archway that led into the vaults. I passed
down a long and winding5 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.

1 sconce /skɑːns/ US, /skɒns/ UK; a holder in which a torch is


placed, usually made of metal and attached to a wall.

2 flambeau /ˈflæmboʊ/ US, /ˈflæmbəʊ/ UK; plural flambeaux,


pronounced the same as the singular or with /-z/ at the end; a
historical expression for a burning torch.

3 somewhat figuratively, the narrator says that he “bowed


Fortunato through the rooms”, meaning that he repeatedly
bent his upper body in a gesture saying “please, come
further”. Note that bow in this sense is pronounced /baʊ/
(rhyming with “cow”), whereas the name of the weapon used
by archers, the tool for playing string instruments such as the
violin, and the name of a knot with two loops (as in bow tie)
are all pronounced /boʊ/ US, /bəʊ/ UK (rhyming with “low”).

4 suite /swiːt/; a set of rooms. Note that the word is


pronounced exactly the same as “sweet”.

5 wind /waɪnd/; if something winds /waɪndz/, it has many


bends and turns. Note the pronunciation which differs from
that of the noun wind /wɪnd/ meaning “fast moving air”.

The gait1 of my friend was unsteady, and the bells upon


his cap jingled as he strode2.

1 gait /ɡeɪt/; the way in which you walk.

2 stride /straɪd/, past tense strode /stroʊd/ US, /strəʊd/ UK; to


walk with long steps.

v 16 v
“The pipe,” said he.

“It is farther on,” said I; “but observe the white web-work


which gleams1 from these cavern walls.”

1 gleam /gliːm/; shine, glitter.

He turned towards me, and looked into my eyes with two


filmy1 orbs2 that distilled the rheum3 of intoxication.

1 filmy /ˈfɪlmi/; covered with a thin film (thin layer of another


material).

2 orb /ɔːrb/ US, /ɔːb/ UK; a literary word for an object


resembling a ball.

3 rheum /ruːm/; biologically speaking, rheum is mucus


discharged from the mucous membranes of the eyes when
you sleep, which then dries off and forms a crusty material
commonly referred to as sleep (for instance, mothers
commonly “wipe the sleep from their children’s eyes”). The
word is sometimes poetically used to refer to tears. Watery
eyes are one of the symptoms of heavy alcohol consumption,
which is what Poe is hinting at here.

“Nitre?” he asked, at length.

“Nitre,” I replied. “How long have you had that cough?”

“Ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!—ugh!


ugh! ugh!—ugh! ugh! ugh!”

My poor friend found it impossible to reply for many


minutes.

“It is nothing,” he said, at last.

v 17 v
“Come,” I said, with decision, “we will go back; your
health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, be-
loved; you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be
missed. For me it is no matter. We will go back; you will
be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides, there is
Luchesi—”

“Enough,” he said; “the cough is a mere nothing; it will


not kill me. I shall not die of a cough.”

“True—true,” I replied; “and, indeed, I had no intention


of alarming you unnecessarily—but you should use all
proper caution. A draught1 of this Medoc2 will defend us
from the damps.”

1 draught /dræft/ US, /drɑːft/ UK (spelled draft in modern


American English); a gulp, the amount of liquid swallowed in
one go. Note the pronunciation.

2 a famous wine region in France.

Here I knocked off the neck of a bottle which I drew from


a long row of its fellows that lay1 upon the mould2.

1 lay /leɪ/; here the past tense of lie (“be located”). This may be
confusing because “lay” can also be a verb meaning “to put
something somewhere”, whose past tense is laid. So, if you
lay something somewhere, it lies there. If you laid something
somewhere in the past, it lay there. Also note that the past
tense of “lie” in the sense of “not tell the truth” is “lied”, not
“lay”.

2 mould /moʊld/ US, /məʊld/ UK (usually spelled mold in


modern American English); the word most commonly refers
to a fungus (usually green or white) growing on decomposing
organic matter. Considering the protagonists are travelling
through damp catacombs, it would make sense for the bottles

v 18 v
to lie on a mouldy floor, but the intended meaning here is
most likely a different one. A mould (or mold in American
English) is a hollow form used to give a liquid a certain shape,
such as when casting a glass bottle. The bottles here lay on a
conveniently shaped mould.

“Drink,” I said, presenting him the wine.

He raised it to his lips with a leer1. He paused and nodded


to me familiarly, while his bells jingled.

1 leer /lɪr/ US, /lɪə/ UK; a side glance (look) that expresses
passion, nowadays mostly in the sense of inappropriate
sexual desire.

“I drink,” he said, “to the buried1 that repose2 around us.”

1 bury /ˈbɛri/; to place the body of a dead person into a grave.


Notice that “bury” is pronounced exactly the same as “berry”.

2 repose /rɪˈpoʊz/ US, /rɪˈpəʊz/ UK; to lie in rest.

“And I to your long life.”

He again took my arm, and we proceeded.

“These vaults,” he said, “are extensive.”

“The Montresors,” I replied, “were a great and numerous


family.”

“I forget your arms1.”

1 referring to the coat of arms (symbolical design representing


a place or an aristocratic family).

v 19 v
“A huge human foot d’or1, in a field azure2; the foot
crushes a serpent3 rampant4 whose fangs are imbedded5
in the heel.”6

1 d’or is French for “of gold”. The word “or” is used in heraldry
(the art of making and studying coats of arms) for a golden
colour.

2 azure /ˈæʒɚ/ US, /ˈæʒə/ or /ˈæzjʊə/ UK; a bright blue colour.

3 serpent /ˈsɝːpənt/ US, /ˈsɜːpənt/ UK; a large snake.

4 rampant /ˈræmpənt/; usually used in the sense of “spreading


uncontrollably”, e.g. a rampant disease. In heraldry, a beast
rampant refers to an animal shown in a standing position.

5 imbed /ɪmˈbɛd/ (usually spelled embed); to fix something


firmly into something else, here referring to biting.

6 The narrator describes his coat of arms as a huge golden


human foot in azure background which crushes a snake that,
at the same time, bites the foot that is crushing it in the heel
with his fangs (teeth). The crushing leg is a reference to
unspecified injuries and insults mentioned at the beginning
of the book and the biting snake is a symbol of Montresor’s
revenge.

“And the motto?”

“Nemo me impune lacessit.”1

1 Latin for “no one attacks me with impunity” – remember the


phrase “with impunity” meaning “in such a way that you
cannot be punished”? This exact Latin phrase is also the
motto of Scotland.

“Good!” he said.

The wine sparkled in his eyes and the bells jingled. My


own fancy1 grew warm with the Medoc. We had passed

v 20 v
through walls of piled bones, with casks and puncheons 2
intermingling, into the inmost recesses of catacombs. I
paused again, and this time I made bold to seize Fortu-
nato by an arm above the elbow.

1 fancy /ˈfænsi/; imagination, thoughts.

2 puncheon /ˈpʌntʃən/; a cask of the size of one third of a tun


/ˈtʌn/, which is defined as 252 wine gallons or 954 litres.

“The nitre!” I said; “see, it increases. It hangs like moss


upon the vaults. We are below the river’s bed. The drops
of moisture trickle among the bones. Come, we will go
back ere1 it is too late. Your cough—”

1 ere /ɛɚ/ US, /ɛə/ UK; a literary word meaning “before”.

“It is nothing,” he said; “let us go on. But first, another


draught of the Medoc.”

I broke and reached him a flagon 1 of De Grave. He emp-


tied it at a breath. His eyes flashed with a fierce light. He
laughed and threw the bottle upwards with a gesticulation
I did not understand.

1 flagon /ˈflæɡən/; a large container with a handle used for


serving drinks.

I looked at him in surprise. He repeated the movement—


a grotesque one.

“You do not comprehend?” he said.

“Not I,” I replied.

v 21 v
“Then you are not of the brotherhood.”

“How?”

“You are not of the masons1.”

1 mason /ˈmeɪsn/; a person who builds with stone or brick or


who prepares stone for building. However, Fortunato is
referring to Freemasonry, a private fraternal organisation.
The gesticulation used by Fortunato was a secret
Freemasonic gesture, and because Montresor wasn’t able to
comprehend the gesture, Fortunato inferred he was not a
Freemason.

“Yes, yes,” I said; “yes, yes.”

“You? Impossible! A mason?”

“A mason,” I replied.

“A sign,” he said, “a sign.”

“It is this,” I answered, producing a trowel 1 from beneath


the folds of my roquelaire.

1 trowel /ˈtraʊəl/; a small shovel used in building for spreading


cement.

“You jest1,” he exclaimed, recoiling2 a few paces. “But let


us proceed to the Amontillado.”

1 jest /dʒɛst/; an archaic word meaning “to joke” or “a joke”,


here to be understood as “You are joking”.

2 recoil /rɪˈkɔɪl/; to quickly step away, especially when


disgusted or shocked.

v 22 v
“Be it so,” I said, replacing the tool beneath the cloak and
again offering him my arm. He leaned upon it heavily.
We continued our route in search of the Amontillado. We
passed through a range of low arches, descended, passed
on, and descending again, arrived at a deep crypt, in
which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather
to glow than flame.

At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared an-


other less spacious. Its walls had been lined with human
remains, piled to the vault overhead, in the fashion of the
great catacombs of Paris. Three sides of this interior crypt
were still ornamented in this manner. From the fourth
side the bones had been thrown down, and lay promiscu-
ously1 upon the earth, forming at one point a mound 2 of
some size. Within the wall thus exposed by the displacing
of the bones, we perceived a still interior recess, in depth
about four feet in width three, in height six or seven. It
seemed to have been constructed for no especial use
within itself, but formed merely the interval between two
of the colossal supports of the roof of the catacombs, and
was backed by one of their circumscribing walls of solid
granite3.

1 promiscuously /prəˈmɪskjuəsli/; a formal word meaning “in


an uncontrolled way”. It is much more commonly used when
referring to sexual behaviour in the sense “in a manner
characterized by having many sexual partners”.

2 mound /maʊnd/; a large pile of something or a small hill.

3 granite /ˈɡrænɪt/; a type of stone commonly used in building.


Note the pronunciation which does not rhyme with “night”.

v 23 v
It was in vain that Fortunato, uplifting his dull torch, en-
deavoured to pry1 into the depth of the recess. Its termin-
ation the feeble2 light did not enable us to see.

1 pry into something /praɪ/; to look at something closely or


curiously. The expression is more commonly used in the
sense of being curious about other people’s affairs when such
behaviour is not welcome.

2 feeble /ˈfiːbl/; very weak.

“Proceed,” I said; “herein is the Amontillado. As for


Luchesi—”

“He is an ignoramus1,” interrupted my friend, as he


stepped unsteadily forward, while I followed immedi-
ately at his heels. In an instant he had reached the ex-
tremity of the niche2, and finding his progress arrested by
the rock, stood stupidly bewildered3.

1 ignoramus /ˌɪɡnəˈreɪməs/; an ignorant person, i.e. someone


who lacks knowledge.

2 niche /niːʃ/, sometimes also /nɪtʃ/; a small hollow place; a


nook.

3 bewilder /bɪˈwɪldɚ/ US, /bɪˈwɪldə/ UK; to confuse.

A moment more and I had fettered 1 him to the granite. In


its surface were two iron staples2, distant from each other
about two feet, horizontally. From one of these de-
pended3 a short chain, from the other a padlock 4. Throw-
ing the links about his waist, it was but the work of a few
seconds to secure it. He was too much astounded5 to res-
ist. Withdrawing the key I stepped back from the recess.

v 24 v
1 fetter /ˈfɛtɚ/ US, /ˈfɛtɚ/ UK; to bind up with a fetter, i.e. small
chain used to restrict a person’s movement, usually by
binding their legs together. The verb “fetter” is also used
figuratively in the sense of restricting someone’s freedom.

2 a staple /ˈsteɪpl/ is a U-shaped nail with two points and no


head. Hence also the name “paper staple” used for a piece of
thin wire that is used to join several sheets of paper.

3 depend /dɪˈpɛnd/; here a formal verb meaning “to hang


down”.

4 padlock /ˈpædlɑːk/ US, /ˈpædlɒk/ UK; a type of portable lock


that can secure something by sliding a U-shaped piece of
metal.

5 astound /əˈstaʊnd/; to astonish, shock.

“Pass your hand,” I said, “over the wall; you cannot help
feeling the nitre. Indeed, it is very damp. Once more let
me implore you to return. No? Then I must positively
leave you. But I must first render you all the little atten-
tions in my power.”

“The Amontillado!” ejaculated1 my friend, not yet re-


covered from his astonishment.

1 ejaculate /ɪˈdʒækjʊleɪt/ or /ɪˈdʒækjəleɪt/; an archaic expression


meaning to shout something suddenly. You would probably
get a few strange looks if you used it in everyday
conversation because of its modern meaning of ejecting
semen during a male’s orgasm.

“True,” I replied; “the Amontillado.”

As I said these words I busied myself among the pile of


bones of which I have before spoken. Throwing them
aside, I soon uncovered a quantity of building stone and

v 25 v
mortar1. With these materials and with the aid of my
trowel, I began vigorously2 to wall up the entrance of the
niche.

1 mortar /ˈmɔːrtɚ/ US, /ˈmɔːtə/ UK; a mixture of sand, cement,


lime, and water used to bind bricks or stones together.

2 vigorous /ˈvɪɡərəs/; lively, energetic, active and determined.

I had scarcely laid the first tier1 of the masonry2 when I


discovered that the intoxication of Fortunato had in a
great measure worn off. The earliest indication I had of
this was a low moaning cry from the depth of the recess.
It was not the cry of a drunken man. There was then a
long and obstinate3 silence.

1 tier /tɪɚ/ US, /tɪə/ UK; a layer or rank of something.

2 masonry /ˈmeɪsənri/; a structure made of stones or bricks.

3 obstinate /ˈɑːbstɪnət/ US, /ˈɒbstɪnə/ UK; difficult to get rid of.


When used about a person, it means “unreasonably
stubborn”.

I laid the second tier, and the third, and the fourth; and
then I heard the furious vibrations of the chain. The
noise lasted for several minutes, during which, that I
might hearken1 to it with the more satisfaction, I ceased
my labours and sat down upon the bones. When at last
the clanking2 subsided3, I resumed the trowel, and fin-
ished without interruption the fifth, the sixth, and the
seventh tier. The wall was now nearly upon a level with
my breast. I again paused, and holding the flambeaux
over the mason-work, threw a few feeble rays upon the
figure4 within.

v 26 v
1 hearken /ˈhɑːrkən/ US, /ˈhɑːkən/ UK; to listen actively to
something.

2 clank /klæŋk/; to make a sound like pieces of metal hitting


each other. For example chains make a clanking sound.

3 subside /səbˈsaɪd/; to become quieter.

4 figure /ˈfɪɡjɚ/ US, /ˈfɪɡə/ UK; the shape of a person that


cannot be seen clearly.

A succession of loud and shrill1 screams, bursting sud-


denly from the throat of the chained form 2, seemed to
thrust3 me violently back. For a brief moment I hesitated
—I trembled. Unsheathing4 my rapier5, I began to grope6
with it about the recess; but the thought of an instant re-
assured me.

1 shrill /ʃrɪl/; high-pitched and piercing.

2 form /fɔːrm/ US, /fɔːm/ UK; the shape of something or


somebody; here synonymous with “figure” as used in the
previous paragraph.

3 thrust /θrʌst/; to push something forcefully.

4 unsheathe /ʌnˈʃiːð/; to draw from a sheath /ʃiːθ/, a cover of a


sword or a knife.

5 rapier /ˈreɪpiɚ/ US, /ˈreɪpiə/ UK; a very thin, long, light sword.

6 grope /ɡroʊp/ US, /ɡrəʊp/ UK; to fumble; to try to find


something you cannot see using the sense of touch.

I placed my hand upon the solid fabric of the catacombs,


and felt satisfied. I reapproached the wall; I replied to the
yells of him who clamoured1. I re-echoed—I aided—I
surpassed them in volume and in strength. I did this, and
the clamourer grew still2.

v 27 v
1 clamour /ˈklæmɚ/ US, /ˈklæmə/ UK (in modern American
English usually spelled clamor); to demand by shouting.

2 grow still means “become silent”.

It was now midnight, and my task was drawing to a close 1.


I had completed the eighth, the ninth, and the tenth tier. I
had finished a portion of the last and the eleventh; there
remained but a single stone to be fitted and plastered 1 in.
I struggled with its weight; I placed it partially in its
destined position. But now there came from out the
niche a low laugh that erected the hairs upon my head. It
was succeeded by a sad voice, which I had difficulty in re-
cognizing as that of the noble Fortunato. The voice said—

1 draw to a close means “to come to an end”.

2 plaster /ˈplæstɚ/ US, /ˈplɑːstə/ UK; to cover something with


plaster, a type of soft mortar used to coat walls.

“Ha! ha! ha!—he! he! he!—a very good joke indeed—an


excellent jest. We shall have many a rich laugh about it at
the palazzo—he! he! he!—over our wine—he! he! he!”

“The Amontillado!” I said.

“He! he! he!—he! he! he!—yes, the Amontillado. But is it


not getting late? Will not they be awaiting us at the
palazzo, the Lady Fortunato and the rest? Let us be gone.”

“Yes,” I said, “let us be gone.”

“For the love of God, Montresor!”

“Yes,” I said, “for the love of God!”

v 28 v
But to these words I hearkened in vain for a reply. I grew
impatient. I called aloud—

“Fortunato!”

No answer. I called again—

“Fortunato—”

No answer still. I thrust1 a torch through the remaining


aperture2 and let it fall within. There came forth 3 in reply
only a jingling of the bells. My heart grew sick on account
of4 the dampness of the catacombs. I hastened to make
an end of my labour. I forced the last stone into its posi-
tion; I plastered it up. Against the new masonry I re-erec-
ted the old rampart5 of bones. For the half of a century
no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!6

1 thrust /θrʌst/; the past tense of “thrust” (to push something


forcefully), i.e. the past tense is the same as the present tense.

2 aperture /ˈæpətʃɚ/ or /ˈæpətʃʊr/ US, /ˈæpətʃə/ UK; a small


opening of something; a small hole into something.

3 come forth /fɔːrθ/ US, /fɔːθ/ UK; to emerge, appear.

4 on account of means “because of”, “due to”.

5 rampart /ˈræmpɑːrt/ US, /ˈræmpɑːt/ UK; a strong wall built for


defensive purposes, usually around a castle, here used
figuratively.

6 Latin for may he rest in peace!

v 29 v
Final words

I hope that you enjoyed reading the book. You might be inter-
ested also in my book about the most common pronunci-
ation mistakes made by English learners (entitled Improve your
English pronunciation and learn over 500 commonly mispronounced
words):
http://jakubmarian.com/pronunciation/

or my book about the most common grammatical mistakes


(entitled Most Common Mistakes in English: An English Learner’s
Guide):

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I also write educational articles on various topics, which you can


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v 30 v
Appendix: IPA Symbols

T he little apostrophe signifies stress placement; the syllable


that follows it is pronounced louder. Stress placement is a
very important concept in poetry. It functions as a glue that
rhythmically binds different parts of the poem together. Poly-
syllabic words (words consisting of several syllables) possess ex-
actly one primary stress. Sometimes they also possess a second-
ary stress, which is then denoted by a little comma.

Monosyllabic (one-syllable) words, on the other hand, are


never stressed as such, but they may be stressed when rhythmic
patterns or their position in the sentence call for it.

Most IPA symbols for consonants should be quite clear


without prior instruction, as they represent the same sounds as
they do in English and most other European languages. Let us
take a look at those that may cause problems.

j – pronounced like “y” in you, yellow, and buy.


ŋ – sing, going, thing; pronounced like N, but with the back of
the tongue instead (with the same part of the tongue as the
letter “g” in “go”).
θ – thing, thought, both; pronounced like S, but with your
tongue (instead of your lower teeth) touching your upper
teeth.
ʃ – shy, shall, fish.
w – wow, well, wide.
z – zinc, position, amaze.
ʒ – pleasure, vision, massage; present mostly in the /dʒ/ sound in

v 31 v
English, as in just, gene, jealous.

Note that the standard IPA symbol for the English R is / ɹ/


(whereas /r/ represents the rolled R, as in Spanish or Italian).
However, we will denote the English R by /r/, which is a com-
mon convention in English dictionaries.

Vowels are somewhat more complicated:

ə – the “uh” sound of the indefinite article (as in “a book”).


ɑː – father, bra, palm; the closest sound to the sound of the letter
A in most European languages.
ʌ – but, come, some; a short vowel somewhere between /ə/
and /ɑ/.
a – present only in the diphthongs /aɪ/ (price, ride) and /aʊ/
(mouth, how). It sounds somewhat “clearer” than /ɑ/.

ɛ/e – bed, men, fell; /ɛ/ is also commonly denoted by /e/ in


dictionaries, but /e/ is the standard IPA symbol for a more
“squeaky” vowel present in the English diphthong /eɪ/ (as in
take, make). We will distinguish between the two.

æ – cat, bad, sad; a sound approximately between /a/ and /ɛ/ and
probably the most commonly mispronounced vowel by
English learners. The words but /bʌt/, bat /bæt/, and bet /bɛt/
all sound different. If you pronounce two of them the same,
I recommend listening to all three pronounced by native
speakers (most online dictionaries will allow you to listen to
recordings of words).
iː – feel, mean, see.
ɪ – pit, sit, hit; a short vowel exactly between /ə/ and /i/.
ɔː – fall, hawk, saw.
ɒ – only in British English: lot, John, God. A short vowel similar
to /ɔ/ used in British English to pronounce the letter “o”. It is
usually replaced by /ɑː/ or /ɔː/ in American English.
uː – goose, food, chew.

v 32 v
ʊ – full, good, woman; a short vowel similar to /u/. Words with
“oo” are often mispronounced because some of them are
pronounced with a long /uː/ (e.g. food, mood), while others
are pronounced with a short /ʊ/ (e.g. good, hood), and there
is no way to tell the difference other than remembering the
correct pronunciation.

Furthermore, there are three additional vowels arising from


the pronunciation of the letter R:

ɜː – only in British English: bird, heard, curd. A vowel almost


identical with a long schwa /əː/.
ɝː – the American version of /ɜː/ which sounds like a long “rr”:
brrd, hrrd, crrd. It is sometimes transcribed somewhat
inaccurately as /ɜːr/ in dictionaries.
ɚ – -er is pronounced just as /ə/ in British English (as in minister
/mɪnɪstə/). In American English, -er is pronounced as /ə/
and /r/ spoken simultaneously, and this sound is denoted / ɚ/
(e.g. /mɪnɪstɚ/). Some dictionaries again somewhat
inaccurately denote it by /ər/.

v 33 v
Alphabetical Index

abscond .................................. 15 draw to a close ..................... 28


accost ...................................... 11 ejaculate ................................. 25
afflict ...................................... 14 embed .................................... 20
Amontillado ......................... 12 encrust ................................... 14
aperture ................................. 29 engaged ................................. 13
astound .................................. 25 engagement .......................... 14
at length ................................... 9 ere ........................................... 21
attendant ............................... 15 fancy ....................................... 21
avenge ...................................... 9 feeble ...................................... 24
azure ....................................... 20 fetter ....................................... 25
ball .......................................... 17 flagon ..................................... 21
barrel ...................................... 12 flambeau ............................... 16
bear ........................................... 9 form ........................................ 27
beast ........................................ 20 Fortunato ................................ 9
before ..................................... 21 gait .......................................... 16
bewilder ................................. 24 gemmary ............................... 11
borne ........................................ 9 give cause .............................. 10
bow ......................................... 16 give utterance ........................ 9
bury ........................................ 19 gleam ...................................... 17
butt .......................................... 12 glitter ...................................... 17
cask ......................................... 12 granite .................................... 23
cause ....................................... 10 grope ...................................... 27
clamour ................................. 28 grow still ................................ 28
clank ....................................... 27 hearken .................................. 27
coat of arms .......................... 19 heraldry ................................. 20
come forth ............................ 29 ignoramus ............................. 24
consonants ............................ 31 imbed ..................................... 20
d’or .......................................... 20 immolation ........................... 10
damp ...................................... 14 impose ................................... 14
depend ................................... 25 imposture .............................. 11
draught .................................. 18 impunity ........................ 10, 20
injury ........................................ 9 rapier ...................................... 27
insult ......................................... 9 recoil ...................................... 22
jest ........................................... 22 redress .................................... 10
lay ............................................ 18 repose ..................................... 19
leer .......................................... 19 rest in peace ......................... 29
lie ............................................. 18 retribution ............................ 10
make merry .......................... 15 rheum .................................... 17
mason .................................... 22 roquelaire ............................. 15
masonry ................................ 26 sconce .................................... 16
materially .............................. 11 serpent ................................... 20
Medoc .................................... 18 sheath ..................................... 27
mortar .................................... 26 Sherry .................................... 12
motley .................................... 11 shine ....................................... 17
mould ..................................... 18 shrill ........................................ 27
mound ................................... 23 sleep ........................................ 17
niche ....................................... 24 snake ....................................... 20
nitre ........................................ 14 staple ...................................... 25
obstinate ................................ 26 stir ........................................... 15
on account of ....................... 29 stress ....................................... 31
one and all ............................ 15 stride ...................................... 16
or ............................................. 20 subside ................................... 27
orb ........................................... 17 suffer ...................................... 15
padlock .................................. 25 suite ........................................ 16
parti-striped ......................... 12 surmount .............................. 12
pass for .................................. 12 sword ...................................... 27
pipe ......................................... 12 thrust ............................... 27, 29
plaster .................................... 28 thus ......................................... 15
posses oneself of ................. 15 tier ........................................... 26
preclude ................................ 10 to-day ..................................... 12
promiscuously ..................... 23 trowel ..................................... 22
pry ........................................... 24 tun ........................................... 21
puncheon .............................. 21 unredressed .......................... 10
quack ...................................... 11 unsheathe .............................. 27
R .............................................. 33 utterance .................................. 9
rampant ................................. 20 vault ........................................ 13
rampart .................................. 29 venture ..................................... 9
vigorous ................................. 26 wine ................................. 11, 12
vintage ................................... 11 wont ........................................ 10
vow ............................................ 9 wring ...................................... 12
vowels .................................... 32 figure ...................................... 27
whither .................................. 13 filmy ....................................... 17
wind ........................................ 16