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Mixing a bit of seventeenth-century French history with a great deal of invention, Alexandre Dumas tells the tale of young D’Artagnan and his musketeer comrades, Porthos, Athos and Aramis. Together they fight to foil the schemes of the brilliant, dangerous Cardinal Richelieu, who pretends to support the king while plotting to advance his own power. Bursting with swirling swordplay, swooning romance, and unforgettable figures such as the seductively beautiful but deadly femme fatale, Milady, and D’Artagnan’s equally beautiful love, Madame Bonacieux, The Three Musketeers continues, after a century and a half of continuous publication, to define the genre of swashbuckling romance and historical adventure.
Barbara T. Cooper is Professor of French at the University of New Hampshire. She is a member of the editorial boards of Nineteenth-Century French Studies and the Cahiers Alexandre Dumas and specializes in nineteenth-century French drama and works by Dumas.
From Barbara T. Cooper’s Introduction to The Three Musketeers
If Dumas’s serialized novel quickly attracted a faithful and fervent audience, it was not only because the author proved to be a master storyteller whose writing was vividly alive with emotions and actions, dialogues and duels, but also because it skillfully combined literary genres then popular with readers. By the time Dumas composed The Three Musketeers, Honoré de Balzac and others had already made the novel of initiation, or Bildungsroman, a familiar and successful form of French realist fiction. The Three Musketeers shares many of the characteristics of that genre. Like most such works, Dumas’s story focuses on an inexperienced youth who travels from the provinces to Paris in search of a broader knowledge of the world and in the hope of earning fame or fortune or both.
In chapter 1 of Dumas’s book, young D’Artagnan leaves his parents’ home in southwestern France and sets off on the road to Paris, where he hopes to join the corps of the King’s Musketeers. Before D’Artagnan leaves, his father gives him three “gifts”—fifteen crowns; a letter of introduction to Monsieur de Tréville, a fellow Gascon and former comrade-in-arms of D’Artagnan père and now the captain of the Musketeers; and a horse whose peculiar yellow color and old age significantly detract from the young man’s image as a noble and dashing hero. He also gives the lad his sword. Together with these items, the senior D’Artagnan offers his son three bits of advice: Never sell this horse; do not brook insults or fear duels for, although by law the latter are illegal, “it is by his . . . courage alone, that a gentleman can make his way nowadays”; and always serve the King and the Cardinal.
Soon after leaving home, D’Artagnan’s paternally encouraged susceptibility leads him to quarrel with a gentleman whom he will subsequently refer to as “the man from Meung” (the name of the town where they meet and where he also glimpses a beautiful woman addressed as Milady). The encounter does not end well for young D’Artagnan. Not only will he be wounded in the confrontation with the man from Meung; he will also have his letter of introduction taken from him and his sword split in two. Later, when he arrives in Paris, D’Artagnan will already be short of funds and will sell his risible and exhausted horse for cash. That sale provides him with the means to procure inexpensive lodgings and to have a new blade made for his sword. This inauspicious beginning is followed by a series of squabbles with three men (the Musketeers Athos, Porthos, and Aramis) he meets shortly after his arrival in the French capital. He agrees to a duel with each and, with the same brash courage that he has already displayed in Meung, schedules those contests back to back.
D’Artagnan’s impetuous bravado in these early encounters, along with his ignorance of the codes of behavior and the political rivalries at work in Paris and at the royal court, make it clear that the young man will need more than daring and a certain native intelligence if he is to achieve his goals. He will have to find mentors who can help him understand the complicated relationships, hidden truths, and moral subtleties of modern (that is, seventeenth-century) French life. He finds that help in the form of two surrogate father figures: Monsieur de Tréville, the captain of the King’s Musketeers, and Athos, the oldest of the three Musketeers with whom he has recently quarreled. D’Artagnan also meets Constance Bonacieux, the young and beautiful wife of his Parisian landlord and laundress to Queen Anne.
Constance will not only offer the young man an opportunity to prove his mettle, but will also win his heart. She tells D’Artagnan that the King has ordered the Queen to wear the diamond studs he gave her to an upcoming ball. Unfortunately, Anne no longer has those studs in her possession. She has given them, with her affections, to England’s handsome Duke of Buckingham. Cardinal Richelieu, who is in love with the Queen and has been spurned by her, knows this and hopes to take advantage of the difficulty the situation presents. He sends a ruthlessly seductive agent in his employ—Milady—to England to obtain the diamonds from Buckingham. If she succeeds and is able to bring the studs back before the ball, the Cardinal will be able to prove that the Queen has been unfaithful to Louis and to France. To save the Queen’s reputation and perhaps even her life, D’Artagnan must also seek out Buckingham and return the studs to Anne instead. He must overcome the obstacles of time and distance and evade the Cardinal’s agents who have been sent out to prevent him from crossing the English Channel. However determined he may be, young D’Artagnan cannot hope to prevail alone against his cunning and dogged adversaries. He therefore enlists the help of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, who will accompany him on this crucial and dangerous voyage. The journey, the final stages of which the young man completes alone (his friends having been variously rendered hors de combat along the way), lies at the heart of the novel. Success, which he achieves with Buckingham’s help, will earn D’Artagnan the gratitude of the Queen and Constance, but also the animosity of Richelieu and Milady.
Posted November 30, 2009
"The Three Musketeers" by Alexandre Dumas is now one of my favorite books ever! Yes, it is slightly boring until the chapter "A Court Intrigue", but stick with it, and you'll love it as much as I did. It is an extremely romantic novel that is filled with wit, action, sadness, and complexity. Because of its intricate plot, I would recommend it to any lovers of Dumas' English contemporary, Charles Dickens. It also contains one of my new favorite literary character: the femme fatale, Milady.
27 out of 33 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 August 4, 2010
I was a bit hesitant to read this book... while I find classics extremely appealing this just seem too... I don't know boyish? adventurous? But I couldn't have been more wrong! Adventure is teamed with romance, suspense, politics, and it couldn't produce a better read! One of my top 3 favorite classics of all time!
11 out of 13 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 1, 2009
Disregard for the law, but very, very funny. These men are in the king's guard and could care less about the law against dueling. Every few pages, someone feels insulted and challenges the offender to a duel. It's amazing how men act when they have a sword and no proper supervision - and an evil cardinal who is an utter pain. Of course this is just the fly-over version; it ends up being much more complicated than a bunch of sword-fights and ridiculous taunting.
8 out of 12 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 November 9, 2008
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Posted November 12, 2010
This story has everything you would ever want - romance, friendship, heroism, and, adventure. The Three Musketeers is written with such eloquence and style that it is obvious why it has gone down in history as a distinguished novel. The sword fights are described with such detail that you feel you are standing with Athos and Porthos to fight the Cardinal's guards.
As a hopeless romantic, I am always looking for a great romance. So if there is one negative, it would be the love story. I don't want to give away the ending. But as an avid reader of Jane Austen, if the lovers don't end up happy and together, I finish the book feeling unfulfilled. Dumas does, however, compensate with the wonderful relationship of the band of musketeers. Even though in the end they follow their own paths, you know they will always be able to rely on each other.
In all other regards, The Three Musketeers is excellent. It leaves you exhilarated and reminds you that true friends come together in troubled times.
3 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 February 15, 2005
Imagine a story where Medieval European history is combined with a Romantic, action packed theme. That¿s exactly what you get from Alexander Dumas¿ The Three Musketeers. Written in 1840, the book begins in France during the time of King Louis XIII. The classic novel begins rather humorously and light-hearted, with a young man named Gascon who leaves his home in search of Monsiuer de Treville. He takes with him his father¿s blessing of ¿bravery and determination can achieve anything¿ On arriving in Paris, Gascon, who is portrayed as very proud and strong, yet nervous in numerous situations, meets three of the King¿s Musketeers: Aramis, Porthos and Athos. At first the newcomer did not fit in well with the three musketeers leading to several duels and brawls, however, Gascon works hard to prove himself as worthy as the others. Eventually the three become very hospitable and King Louis XIII invites Gascon to join the Musketeers. At first life continues normally for the Musketeers as they continue doing their best to defend the king in what seem to be insignificant fights. Dumas does an amazing job of describing the duels in an exciting and engaging way that really draws the reader in. Eventually the excitement really picks up through rescuing a kidnapped mistress, traveling to England to deliver a letter, falling in love with all the wrong people, love affairs that lead to much larger fights and becoming involved in Cardinal Richelieu's plots to embarrass the royal family. Through it all the Musketeers stick to their famous motto ¿all for one and one for all!¿ They show that even if it means death, they are willing to stand up for one another. The Three Musketeers is a really great novel that is enjoyable in almost every aspect. The creativity and hard work put in by Dumas really comes out in all of the character descriptions, as well as the detailed and dramatic fighting scenes. He does a really great job of describing each character in a way that makes the reader feel close to each one, and also allows judgments to be passed and a favorite to be chosen. During this time period there was a very significant rivalry going on between King Louis and the Cardinal Richelieu of France, so one of the main purposes of this novel was to portray this on-going feud. Instead of simply listing the exact happenings the author tried to show other seemingly smaller events that represented the larger picture. Dumas does a good job of keeping the nonfiction historical part of the story somewhat separate from the plot of the novel. It keeps the story interesting without boring the audience with drawn- out historical facts. Although the story did have a bit of a disappointing ending, overall it was a book that is and always will be a classic for all ages. Get your copy today!
3 out of 5 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 1, 2012
Posted May 12, 2012
This book is great! As the main characters and D'artagnan fights the cardinals gaurdsmen, gets stronger, and eventually becomes a Musketeer. This book uses an advanced used of vocabulary, and old styled dialogue
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Posted February 12, 2012
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Posted June 14, 2012
If you like swash-bucklers or adventure stories, you can't beat Dumas in general and especially his Three Musketeers stories.
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Posted April 22, 2012
Posted March 14, 2012
I absolutely love this book! Best one ever!!! It's also my favorite and I've read it ten times, going to my eleventh. I hope you like it too!
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Posted March 4, 2012
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