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In seventeenth-century France, young D'Artagnan initially quarrels with, then befriends, three musketeers and joins them in trying to outwit the enemies of the king and queen.
From Alexandre Dumas, a precise and candid description of his particular view of history:
I start by devising a story. I try to make it romantic, moving, dramatic, and when scope has been found for the emotions and the imagination, I search through the annals of the past to find a frame in which to set it; and it has never happened that history has failed to provide this frame, so exactly adjusted to the subject that it seemed it was not a case of the frame being made for the picture, but that the picture had been made to fit the frame.
This is the point of view of the historical novelist, who approaches the past as theater–the unending melodrama of saints and sinners, and who knows that history, eternally surprising, inspiring, disheartening, sometimes described as “one damn thing after another,” will never fail him. It is all there. And it is all there to be used.
Dumas was in his early forties when he wrote The Three Musketeers, an age when novelists are believed to be entering their best creative years. He is traditionally described as “a man of vast republican sympathies,” which, in contemporary terms, made him a believer in democracy, equality, and the rights of man. He had fought in the streets of Paris during the July revolution of 1830; would man the barricades in 1848; would aid Garibaldi, with guns and journalism, in the struggle for Italian independence in 1860.
Such politics came to him by inclination, and by birth. His father, Thomas-Alexandre Davy de La Pailleterie, had taken the name of his African slave mother, Marie Dumas, and spent the early years of his life on the island of Santo Domingo. When the French Revolution made it possible for men without wealth or social connections to rise to power, the soldier Alexandre Dumas became General Alexandre Dumas, commanding the Army of the Alps in 1794, serving under Napoleon Bonaparte in Italy, and later in Egypt. But his relationship with Bonaparte deteriorated; his health was destroyed by two years in an Italian prison; and he died, a broken man, in 1806. His son, in time the novelist Dumas, was then four years old, but he would be told of his father’s life, and he knew what it meant.
By 1844, France was ruled by Louis-Philippe, duc d’Orleans, a constitutional monarch known as “the bourgeois king,” who presided over the golden age of the French bourgeoisie, a propertied class animated by the slogan “Enrichissez-vous!” (Enrich yourselves!) This was a period of transition, when corrupt capitalism was opposed by passionate idealism–the age of monarchy was dying, the age of democracy was just being born. The best insight into the period is to be found in the novels of Honoré de Balzac–Dumas’s fierce literary rival. Balzac was virtually the same age as Dumas, and, like Dumas, rose from social obscurity and penury by producing a huge volume of work at an extraordinary pace. But Balzac wrote about contemporary life–the vanity, corruption and sexual politics of Paris in the 1840s–and was, throughout his fiction, essentially a novelist of vice. Dumas, on the other hand, was a novelist of virtue, though he had to go back two hundred years to find it.
Setting The Three Musketeers in the year 1625–at that distance, a contemporary American novelist might use the revolution of 1776–Dumas was summoning up a remote and heroic era. Yes, it was all different back then. Better. Still, it may be worth remembering that Dumas’s musketeers are proud, courageous men, men without inherited money or the support of prominent family, who must fight their way through a world of political intrigue dominated by predatory, immoral people who scheme and connive, who will do virtually anything, to keep their wealth and position. So, if it is about anything, The Three Musketeers is about betrayal, fidelity, and, like almost all genre fiction, it is about honor. Honor lost, honor gained, honor maintained at the cost of life itself. By 1894, the sale of Dumas’s works totaled three million books and eight million serials.
The Three Musketeers, the first book of the d’Artagnan trilogy, with Twenty Years After and The Vicomte de Bragelonne to follow, appeared in installments in the journal Le Siècle from March to July in 1844. It was written with help of a collaborator, Auguste Maquet, who also participated in the writing of The Count of Monte Cristo. Maquet would later claim significant authorship, and haul Dumas into court.
Dumas was accused, as well, of plagiarism, having used The Memoirs of Monsieur d’Artagnan, by one Courtilz de Sandras, published in Cologne in 1701, as source material. There he found not only d’Artagnan but Athos, Porthos, and Aramis; Tréville and his musketeers; Milady and her maid; and the Cardinalist Guards. From the annals of French history, he took the machinations, real or reputed, involving Louis XIII, Anne of Austria, Cardinal Richelieu, and the duke of Buckingham. Then he threw out whatever reality he found inconvenient and wrote what he liked.
In the real world of Europe in 1625, the continent was being torn apart by the Thirty Years War–a rather pallid name that obscures the cruel and brutal nature of its reality. Fighting on behalf of royal houses in conflict over religious issues and rights of succession, mercenary armies were paid by the right of pillage and ravaged the countryside, a strategy described as “war supports the war.” In France, French Catholics suppressed a French Protestant minority, the Huguenots, who were supported by English Protestant money and arms. Serving as virtual regent for a weak king Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu was perhaps the greatest political figure of his time. Famously eloquent, determined and brilliant, Richelieu was a deeply ambitious man, but a devoted and faithful servant of king and country.
A popular novelist, however, must produce an archvillain, and Dumas gave the job to Richelieu. As the servant of Dumas’s fictional requirements, Richelieu is merely political on the surface, as he undertakes a series of intrigues in a struggle for power with the king or with his English Protestant enemy, Buckingham. In The Three Musketeers, Richelieu is discovered to have deeper motives, a lust for revenge inspired by a romantic slight–a spurned advance–and, in general, by sexual jealousy. The cardinal, according to Dumas, was in love with the queen, Anne of Austria. The reader of 1844, hurrying off to buy this week’s chapter in Le Siècle, likely suspected as much.
Serialized fiction read as a novel can, at times, be a slightly bumpy ride. The twists and turns of the story are intended not only to keep the reader reading, but to keep the reader buying. Thus the plot tends toward precipitous dives and breathtaking ascents, as peril and escape follow each other at narrow intervals, characters disappear and are brought back to life, and what seemed like the central crisis of the narrative is suddenly resolved, to be replaced by a second crisis.
The perfidious Cardinal Richelieu is a good example of this principle at work. He’s a useful éminence grise at the beginning of the novel, as Cardinalist guards fight the king’s faithful musketeers. But, when it’s time for the story to end, he’s too historical a figure to be vanquished with all the force that the conclusion of a romantic adventure demands. Thus the role of villain is shifted to Milady; the story can then take its chilling and violent turn; and justice, when it is at last achieved, can be, to say the least, severe.
Since writers of serials wrote for a weekly deadline, there was no such thing as regret or revision, and the reader may see rather more of the novel’s scaffolding than the author would like. Dumas, characteristically, solved this problem with talent, and produced the best writing in The Three Musketeers in the latter third of the novel, for example the combination of battle and picnic at the Bastion Saint Gervais, during the attack on the Protestant stronghold at La Rochelle. This is easily one of the most insouciant scenes in all of literature, as the musketeers, intent on winning a tavern bet, occupy the bastion; sip wine; discuss matters of love and strategy; push a wall over on a raiding party; use the dead as mock defenders; and, finally, after four-hundred pages of action and intrigue, actually fire muskets!
This is but one pleasure among many. There is, throughout The Three Musketeers, a vast and magnanimous intelligence at work. The critic Jules Michelet described Alexandre Dumas as “an inextinguishable volcano,” and “one of the forces of nature.” He was certainly that. Born to write, and born to write about mythic times and mythic deeds, Dumas loved his characters and the elaborate story he fashioned for them. This is a telling trait in a novelist, the reader instinctively feels it, so gives himself to the story, lives in the time and place of its setting, and escapes, as surely as d’Artagnan ever escaped, from the drone of daily existence. That’s the job of romantic fiction and it’s done in The Three Musketeers on virtually every page. “All for one, and one for all!” And all for us.
|1||The Three Gifts of Monsieur d'Artagnan the Elder||27|
|2||Monsieur de Treville's Ante-Room||42|
|4||Athos' Shoulder, Porthos' Shoulder-Belt, and Aramis' Handkerchief||65|
|5||The King's Musketeers and the Cardinal's Guards||73|
|6||His Majesty King Louis XIII||84|
|7||The Musketeers at Home||105|
|8||A Court Intrigue||115|
|9||D'Artagnan takes Command||124|
|10||A Seventeenth-Century Mouse-Trap||133|
|11||The Plot Thickens||144|
|12||George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham||162|
|14||The Man of Meung||180|
|15||Soldiers and Magistrates||191|
|16||In which Seguier, the Keeper of the Seals, looks again for the Chapel Bell which in his youth he rang so furiously||201|
|17||The Bonacieux at Home||213|
|18||The Lover and the Husband||228|
|19||The Plan of Campaign||236|
|21||My Lady de Winter||259|
|22||The Merlaison Ballet||269|
|29||In Search of Equipment||369|
|31||English and French||386|
|32||Lunch at the Lawyer's||394|
|33||Mistress and Maid||403|
|34||How Aramis and Porthos Found Their Equipment||413|
|35||All Cats are Grey at Night||422|
|36||Plans for Revenge||430|
|1||How Athos Found His Equipment Without Bestirring Himself||447|
|4||The Siege of La Rochelle||473|
|5||The Anjou Wine||484|
|6||The Red Dovecote Inn||492|
|7||The Advantage of Stove Pipes||500|
|8||A Conjugal Scene||508|
|9||The Bastion of St Gervais||514|
|10||A Council of War||521|
|11||A Family Affair||539|
|13||Conversation Between Brother and Sister||561|
|15||First Day of Captivity||579|
|16||Second Day of Captivity||586|
|17||Third Day of Captivity||593|
|18||Fourth Day of Captivity||601|
|19||Fifth Day of Captivity||609|
|20||Histrionics in the Grand Manner||623|
|22||What Happened at Portsmouth on 25 August 1628||638|
|24||The Carmelite Convent at Bethune||654|
|25||The Female and the Male||668|
|26||A Drop of Water||674|
|27||The Man in the Red Cloak||690|
|30||A Messenger from the Cardinal||709|
1. Discuss Dumas's use of historical events in the novel. Do you think a knowledge of history is necessary or unnecessary in order to enjoy the novel? Discuss the ways in which Dumas alters or takes liberties with real events in order to suit the story. Is his view of history sanitized in any way?
2. Dumas is thought of as the chief popularizer of French Romantic drama. In considering The Three Musketeers, do you think this reputation is an accurate one? How does Dumas use dramatic effect in the novel?
3. Contemporary critics were offended by the scenes depicting vice and violence in the novel. Do you find these scenes arbitrary or not?
4. Many critics have described the musketeers as well-developed stereotypes, but are there ways in which the musketeers transcend these stereotypes? Are there other, perhaps more complex ways of interpreting the four protagonists?
5. Discuss Dumas's female characters, in particular Milady. What is her role in the novel, and what does this reveal about Dumas's views of women, if anything? Does Dumas depict a war between the sexes?
6. How do the chapter endings contribute to Dumas's masterly maintenance of pace? How does this kind of device recall a play, and how does this speak to Dumas's strengths stylistically?
7. In what ways is The Three Musketeers a bildungsroman? Would you characterize the work as a youthful novel?
Posted November 26, 2007
This is the translation you want. Most others are obtusely Victorian bowdlerizations. This manages to keep the formality of French but make the characters and story fresh and rollicking ... like the serial it is.
7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 20, 2005
Countless movies have been made over the years on Alexandre Dumas¿ The Three Musketeers. Regardless of how many times you have seen these movies or which ones you have seen, nothing can compare to the book. This book is a timeless classic with an extremely action-packed plot that will glue itself to your fingers until you have read the last two words of the book: ¿THE END.¿ I have enjoyed this book tremendously and would recommend it. For guys, this book is the perfect book with the most interesting things in life engraved in it. D¿Artagnan, a zealous young man from a somewhat poor family, has come to Paris in search of his life long dream, becoming a musketeer. In doing so he plays his cards wrong and although securing it well with the leader of the musketeers, secures himself three duals at the same time: He had one with Athos, one with Porthos, and one with Aramis. Although humorous, this then builds their friendship and they accept D¿Artagnan as one of them. The next thing they know they are defending the Queen against the hatred of the Cardinal, hunting down a beautiful spy, taking on armies by themselves, and a whole lot more. One of the more interesting parts of this book is the culture that is so very evident in it. For instance, the four of them drink more wine than the country of Italy has to offer. For every meal, snack, or tea time they bring out the bottles. This is one of the many humorous things that happen on a regular basis with the musketeers. So, what will happen to the inseparable quartet of musketeers? The only way of finding out is by taking the time and effort and reading it. You will not be disappointed.
7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 3, 2012
Hope more of these are coming from Trajectory Comics! I read all the Classics Illustrated comics as a child - having them on the Nook tablet rocks - the panel view is really cool
5 out of 10 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 28, 2006
I love epics, and this series is one of my favorites. Though few people may know it, this book is the first in a series of 5 books, the LAST installment being The Man in the Iron Mask. We have been completely duped by Hollywood in accepting that this story is as shallow as a king, his throne and an ambitious cardinal. It is a classic representative of love and honor in times gone by, with more action than verbage-which is a major accomplishment considering the 5 books are literally over 3,000 pages when combined. If you love d'Artangan, follow him through Twenty Years After, The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Lousie de la Valliere and The Man in the Iron Mask. He will never dissappoint!
4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 8, 2011
This is a converted scan of a physical book, with many uncorrected OCR errors. Too much distraction, there are better quality electronic editions freely available
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 25, 2011
In Alexander Dumas' classic novel, The Three Musketeers, the protagonist is a young Gascon man, D'Artagnan, who leaves his home in search of a career with the Musketeers. He is portrayed as a handsome young man, hotheaded, prideful, intelligent, who cannot stand being insulted. While attempting to enter the Musketeers, he meets three musketeers: Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. As these four have many adventures together, they become best friends. Athos, the eldest of the four, is portrayed as a handsome, father-like figure to the three. He is also very secretive, never talks of past loves and hides his past behind his drink. The friends all believe he had his heart severely broken and it will never be mended. Porthos is described as an intimidating giant, honest, and enjoying the pleasures of life: wine, women, and music. Aramis is portrayed as a man who loves women and enjoys flirting with them. He dreams one day of retiring from the Musketeers and joining a monastery to spend the rest of his life as a religious man. The main antagonist is Cardinal Richelieu, a corrupt member of the Catholic Church who uses many spies and guards. This is his attempt to defeat the Protestants and anyone else who gets in his attempt to show his dominance over Christianity. Another antagonist is Milady de Winter, who is later revealed to be Athos' ex-wife. She was supposed to be executed but somehow miraculously evaded death. She uses her beauty to seduce men and use them as her wishes. The main conflict is the attempt to conceal the love affair between the Queen of France and the Duke of Buckingham. In the process of hiding the secret, they must find the location of Constance and evade the wrath of Milady de Winter. Action that leads to the climax includes the journey to receive the diamond studs from the Duke of Buckingham. Another example in the climax is the disappearance and quest to locate D'Artagnan's missing lover, Constance.
This book was very interesting to read because it has descriptive words to describe the plot with many excellent twists and turns on every page that surprise the reader. I enjoyed reading about D'Artagnan's hotheaded and rash personality, especially when thinks someone has insulted him. For example, when he passes by the town of Meung and sees a man laughing, D'Artagnan assumes that he is amused by his horse and challenges the man to a duel to the death. I also enjoyed the personality of D'Artagnan as he leaves his friends to reach the Duke of Buckingham to save the Queen, and then returns to help each of his friends recover. Another interesting point was when the four decided to have breakfast in the camp of the enemy and talked casually as if nothing was happening as hundreds of soldiers charge the four.
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Posted December 29, 2009
I've only seen the Disney version (the one with Kiefer Sutherland) of this book, so thought I might enjoy it for my classics challenge. Boy, was I surprised. It was not an easy read. It's large and cumbersome. I didn't have to force my way though it, just had to take my time. I was most shocked by the differences. I was under the impression that D'Artagnan was a follower and more of the type to get into trouble. He's actually more of the leader in this book. The musketeers aren't as valiant and courageous as I thought. More along the lines of men who like their women and their wine, and prefer to haggle their way to getting them for free. There wasn't as much suspense, intrigue, coercion, and backstabbing as I anticipated. I was glad when I finished it, but happy I read it
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