Man in the Iron Mask (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Man in the Iron Mask (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593082338
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 11/01/2005
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 768
Sales rank: 23,215
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.54(d)

About the Author

One of the most widely read French authors famed for his historical fiction of high adventure, Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) wrote more than a hundred plays and novels, including the famous Three Musketeers trilogy, The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Man in the Iron Mask. His books have been translated into more than 100 languages.

Read an Excerpt

From Barbara Cooper’s Introduction to The Man in the Iron Mask

It is not at all surprising that Dumas, like Vigny, Hugo, and other writers of their day, would be drawn to the story of a masked prisoner held in isolation and accorded special consideration and respect by his jailors. As Victor H. Brombert demonstrated in his study The Romantic Prison: The French Tradition, the prison occupied a significant place in the Romantic imagination. On the one hand, it offered Romantic writers the opportunity to exploit some of the dark atmospherics and melodramatic villainy traditionally associated with the Gothic novels of Ann Radcliffe and others. On the other hand, it also provided them with a space in which to explore the inner being and the superior nature of an exceptional individual. Dumas’s early novels, from Le Chevalier d’Harmental to Georges, already included prison episodes. So did The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After. But Dumas’s most famous fictional prisoner prior to The Man in the Iron Mask was, of course, Edmond Dantès, better known as the count of Monte Cristo—a name Dantès adopted after his escape from the Château d’If. There are some superficial similarities between Dantès and the Mask. Both men are held in solitary confinement. Both are eventually visited in prison by priests and are finally able to leave their cells as a result of that encounter, although the circumstances of their flight are totally different. Far more important than these rather facile parallels is the fact that both men are innocent victims of arbitrary decisions designed to protect another individual’s political and personal future. Those decisions lead not only to the prisoners’ unjust incarceration, but also to the erasure of their identity (Dantès’s name is replaced by a number so as to prevent others from locating him, and the Mask—whom we eventually learn is Louis XIV’s twin brother, Philippe—is given the name Marchiali and is later [in chapter 52] forced to wear an iron mask).3 Beyond that, however, the stories Dumas tells about Dantès and the Mask are more different than they are alike. Dantès uses the wealth he acquires after his escape from prison to undertake an elaborate scheme of revenge against those who wronged him. Philippe is returned to prison after a very brief period of contact with those who are responsible for his fate and is subject to even greater isolation.

The story of the fictitious masked prisoner might have been little more than another of the many interpolated episodes found in Dumas’s Musketeers trilogy (for example, Milady’s sequestration in and escape from her brother-in-law’s castle in England) were it not so clearly an illustration of the political and historical struggles that are central to Bragelonne.4 Indeed, in this final volume of the trilogy generally, and in The Man in the Iron Mask in particular, the focus is not only on the eponymous Viscount Bragelonne, son of the Comte de la Fère (known in his Musketeer days as Athos), but also on the rise to power of King Louis XIV.5 Long subject to the tutelage of his mother, Anne of Austria (widow of Louis XIII of France), and of his prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin (successor to Cardinal Richelieu), young Louis has also had to overcome the efforts of a faction of rebellious French aristocrats known as La Fronde who wished to place his uncle Gaston d’Orléans on the throne. In his minority, then, the young king not only lacked control over his political destiny but also was subject to personal humiliation. He likewise had little influence over royal finances that were managed principally by Nicolas Fouquet, the surintendant (superintendent) of finances, who was named to that post with the support of Mazarin.

Like many others in that era who either purchased their positions at court or were appointed as a result of patronage, the Surintendant ostensibly served at the pleasure of the King.6 But in fact, because he is responsible for filling the state’s coffers and for funding the personal and political expenses of the Crown, the Surintendant wielded a great deal of power over the King’s affairs. Indeed, as keeper of the King’s purse, the Surintendant will play a key role in determiningg whether or not Louis can go to war with his enemies, support his allies, assert his personal authority, and bring the nobility to heel. Fouquet’s power and wealth, and the shadow they cast over the King’s authority, are most concretely represented here by the magnificent castle and elaborate gardens the Surintendant has had constructed at Vaux-le-Vicomte (located to the south and east of Paris).7 That estate far outshines any of the King’s royal properties. (Louis would later order Versailles, not yet the elaborate palace familiar to thousands of visitors today, to be developed and decorated by some of the very same men Fouquet employed at Vaux.) Louis counts this ostentatious display of affluence and artistic patronage by a subject as yet another insult to his majesty, as Dumas clearly shows via repeated expressions of the King’s ire before, during, and after his brief stay at Vaux. It is, moreover, at Vaux that the entirely fictional attempt to replace Louis with his long-hidden, unknown twin takes place. Though unaware of that plot—indeed, he ultimately helps to foil it—Fouquet is nonetheless implicated in the undertaking because it transpires under his roof.8 The King—seconded by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, a man who is determined to undermine and then replace Fouquet— will spend much of the rest of the novel seeking to punish the Surintendant for this and other acts of lèse-majesté (offense against the dignity of the sovereign of a state), including the fortification of the island of Belle-Isle-en-Mer off the Atlantic coast of France.9

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Man in the Iron Mask (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 654 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In life, he was sentenced to a cruel fate--in death, he would become a legend. Alexandre Dumas tells the tale of the mysterious man who was imprisoned in the Bastille starting in the 168o's until his death some thirty years later. During that time his face had been hidden by an iron mask. While his identity remains a mystery, there are some tantalizing clues which might remove the mask from the man. Most prisoners of the French prison were usually important people who had fallen out of favor with King Louis XIV. Given strict orders by the king, the Musketeers were to kill him if he removed his mask. He ate in the mask, slept in the mask, and eventually died in the mask. In 1717, Voltaire was imprisoned at the Bastille. According to him, the man in the iron mask was around 60 when he died, and bore a striking resemblance to a very famous aristocrat. Of course, the most famous aristocrat in France at that time was King Louis XIV, who was also in his 60's. Another prisoner at the Bastille, Joseph de Lagrange, asserted that Benigne d'Auvergne de Saint, the governor of Sainte Marguerite, treated the mystery man deferentially and referred to him as 'prince'. Stories about the mysterious prisoner are conflicting. Some state that he wore a mask of velvet, not iron. Evidence has surfaced saying that the prisoner was buried under the name M. de Marchiel. And later, a death certificate giving the prisoner's name as Marchioly and his age of 45 was found. Another states, that in 1789 Frederic Grimm, a famous writer, claimed that a valet had revealed to him that Louis XIV had an identical twin. And that Louis XIII, feared the brothers would grow up to fight over the throne, so he sent the second-born baby away to be raised in secret. The boy was taken into a nobleman's household and treated with great respect, but he was never told who he really was. As he grew up, he saw a portrait of King Louis XIV and guessed the truth. He was immediately arrested, and spent the rest of his life as the Man in the Iron Mask. Many people believed this to be false, and believe it was elaborated and embroidered by Alexandre Dumas as the years passed. It has been said that when the Bastille was stormed by a revolutionary mob, the prince's skeleton was discovered, still wearing his iron mask. Of course, there is no record that this actually happened.
apanteva More than 1 year ago
Great story and excellent reading
Guest More than 1 year ago
In life, he was sentenced to a cruel fate--in death, he would become a legend. Alexandre Dumas tells the tale of the mysterious man who was imprisoned in the Bastille starting in the 168o's until his death some thirty years later. During that time his face had been hidden by an iron mask. While his identity remains a mystery, there are some tantalizing clues which might remove the mask from the man. Most prisoners of the French prison were usually important people who had fallen out of favor with King Louis XIV. Given strict orders by the king, the Musketeers were to kill him if he removed his mask. He ate in the mask, slept in the mask, and eventually died in the mask. In 1717, Voltaire was imprisoned at the Bastille. According to him, the man in the iron mask was around 60 when he died, and bore a striking resemblance to a very famous aristocrat. Of course, the most famous aristocrat in France at that time was King Louis XIV, who was also in his 60's. Another prisoner at the Bastille, Joseph de Lagrange, asserted that Benigne d'Auvergne de Saint, the governor of Sainte Marguerite, treated the mystery man deferentially and referred to him as 'prince'. Stories about the mysterious prisoner are conflicting. Some state that he wore a mask of velvet, not iron. Evidence has surfaced saying that the prisoner was buried under the name M. de Marchiel. And later, a death certificate giving the prisoner's name as Marchioly and his age of 45 was found. Another states, that in 1789 Frederic Grimm, a famous writer, claimed that a valet had revealed to him that Louis XIV had an identical twin. And that Louis XIII, feared the brothers would grow up to fight over the throne, so he sent the second-born baby away to be raised in secret. The boy was taken into a nobleman's household and treated with great respect, but he was never told who he really was. As he grew up, he saw a portrait of King Louis XIV and guessed the truth. He was immediately arrested, and spent the rest of his life as the Man in the Iron Mask. Many people believed this to be false, and believe it was elaborated and embroidered by Alexandre Dumas as the years passed. It has been said that when the Bastille was stormed by a revolutionary mob, the prince's skeleton was discovered, still wearing his iron mask. Of course, there is no record that this actually happened.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was so cool. I had not read the Three Musketeers, but after this book, I'm hooked. Alexandre Dumas is a great writer with a flare for suspenseful scenes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written by a true master. This is not Randall Wallace's 1998 film version, which bears very little in common with Dumas' masterpiece. It will make you curse, it will make you weep, and it will make you appreciate the demise of monarchy and the creation to democracy, no matter how flawed our system may be. Enjoy, if for no other reason than the beauty of the words.
jfb More than 1 year ago
The Man in the Iron Mask was not my favorite of Dumas work, but still it was an interesting read. The plot was disjointed and clumsy, and Dumas's style of writing only increased this effect. The actual "man in the iron mask" plot/character played a relatively insignifigant role in the novel, the rest of the book dealt mainly with political intrigue. The action was relatively slow in the beginning, but gets better as it progresses. I personally liked many of the final scenes near the end the best. And i did enjoy some of his interesting depictions of historical characters, like Louis XIV and Fouquet. Overall, not Dumas best, but not bad
gypsysmom on LibraryThing 10 hours ago
This is the third and final episode of the Musketeers story. At the start of the book the musketeers are still in their glory. D¿Artagnan is the captain of the Musketeers and has the confidence of the king, Louis XIV. Aramis is a high-ranking churchman (and in fact is the head of a secret society within the church). Porthos is wealthy and still a strongman. Athos is a Count and has the only child, Raoul, whom he adores. Raoul is also beloved by the three other musketeers. Unfortunately, Raoul has had his heart broken and is desperately unhappy. His fiancé fell in love with the King and became his mistress.The title character really plays a minor role in the story. He is the twin brother of Louis XIV but he has been hidden away by his parents so that the succession will not be in doubt. Aramis has learned of his existence as a prisoner in the Bastille and conceives a scheme to free him and substitute him for his brother. This would give Aramis control over the King of France and allow him to achieve his ultimate aim, the papacy. Aramis involves Porthos in the scheme but not the other two since he knows they would not go along with it.The scheme fails and Aramis and Porthos must flee. They take refuge at Belle-Isle, an island off France near Nantes. The King orders D¿Artagnan to capture them which puts D¿Artagnan in quite a quandary. The King has foreseen that D¿Artagnan will try to help his friends and prevents him being able to. D¿Artagnan returns to the King to tender his resignation and while he is away from Belle-Isle the troops capture it. Aramis and Porthos try to get away in a small boat but in the ensuing fight Porthos is killed. Aramis does manage to escape to Spain.Meanwhile, Athos and Raoul have parted because Raoul has joined the army to fight in Algeria. Athos knows Raoul intends to seek death and he declines physically and mentally waiting for word. When it comes and Raoul is confirmed dead Athos dies as well.Four years later D¿Artagnan (who did not end up resigning) goes to war for France against the Dutch. He is promised to be made a Marshal if his troops do well. At the moment he receives word that he has been made Marshal he is killed.Thus of the four, only Aramis is left at the end of the book. According to the afterword to the book Dumas intended this to show the death of chivalry and honour. It makes for a very sad ending and I wonder how this was received by the public at the time it was published.I had not read the middle book, Twenty Years After, and my recollection of the original Three Musketeers is quite dim so I¿m not sure how this book compares to the others. My feeling though is that there was much more action and not so much politics and court intrigue. Maybe some day I¿ll reread the first book and read the second to see how they compare.
TakeItOrLeaveIt on LibraryThing 15 hours ago
back in the days Leo was cool I guess I thought it was cool to read this book. I was into it, but it isnt the best Dumas and its very comical/goofy. made for my age at the time 11-13.
theokester on LibraryThing 3 days ago
First I must admit that even though I've seen a few movie renditions, this is the first time I've read this book. Furthermore, this is the first book I've read by Dumas¿and it is kind of a strange place to start considering this is the ending of one of his famous series.The first thing I noticed about the writing was that it was VERY detailed. Not only in terms of descriptions but also in terms of the character and political development. I quickly found myself overwhelmed with dozens of names, roles and relationships (personal and political) throughout France and neighboring countries. It was dizzying to try to keep them all straight, especially considering a number of similar names as well as the habit of referring to some people by different names at different times (sometimes by their common name, sometimes by their political/professional title). After a while, I sank in and was able to keep at least the principal characters straight. and I got caught up in the intriguing machinations that were unfolding.Having seen two movie versions, I felt like I had a good feel for what to expect from the plot. However, it quickly became apparent that the movie versions I've seen (and from what I can tell, this is true of most of the movie versions out there) are rather different from the novel.Interestingly, the story of the "man in the iron mask" is only a small portion of the overall plot of this particular book. And that plot segment unravels itself through the first third of the book and then disappears completely. In the movie versions, the way the "iron mask" plot ends is strikingly different from what happens in the book. The remaining half+ of the book has nothing to do with the "man in the iron mask" (except for the consequences of the plot) and instead follows the famous musketeers to the ends of their careers/lives.It was still adventurous and a lot of fun¿but was different from what I expected. So, now that I know that I shouldn't compare the book to the movie at all, and feeling more comfortable with the characters and plot¿I am able to look back over the book as a whole in an entirely different light. As I said, the writing was very detailed. In some cases it felt like the details were a littler superfluous and over the top, but mostly I found it very immersive to be provided with that level of detail. Some of the characters felt a bit stereotypical but the main characters were unique and intriguing. They had significant depth which provided them with believable motivations to their various actions and dialog. The one exception I saw was the prince in the scene where he was anticipating D'Artangan's every action. We had previously been given to expect the prince to be incapable of strategic planning or foresight and suddenly we find him anticipating the motivations and reactions of a thoughtful and strategic man. To me, that was a bit of a stretch. I can discount it a bit based on the other character who was feeding the prince with various ideas and can thus attribute the insight to this other character (being vague to try and avoid spoilers).I really found myself enjoying the overall story. The "man in the iron mask" portion was very interesting and fun. I was shocked to see it end so different from the movies, but it felt more natural and believable. Then to have so much adventure after that plot arc, I had a ton of fun. While the intrigue and machinations of carrying out the "iron mask" plot were fun and intriguing, I'd heard/scene them so often that they became commonplace. Thus, the adventure that happened after the "iron mask" was fresh to me and that made it so much more fun.Overall I will admit that, if this book is any indication, Dumas is a heavy read. This book was filled with very detailed accounts of places, people, politics and other comings and goings of France. This was both a joy and a hindrance at times. There were moments when I felt bogged down by the text, but mostly I really
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He entered the room a strange chill went up his back.he loked up saw glowing red eyes and then ran 5mins later Dead
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Most of the "reviews" are just garbage and have nothing to do with this book. Just pages of nonsense.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I came to see if this book had any good reviews. I'm sure other people have too. Please don't use it as a chatroom!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mistress_Nyte More than 1 year ago
If you are familiar with the main characters from The Three Musketeers, you are pretty much set for a new adventure with this book.  However, please keep in mind that the Musketeers we have all grown to know and love have aged, albeit gracefully, when this story starts. Prepare for court intrigues, musket battles, plots and twists, and of course Musketeer adventure!  The good Musketeers learn of a twin for the Prince, but he has been secreted away for all of his life.  This secret creates havoc as the Musketeers feel their duty is to right the wrong done to the young prince.  However, this causes chaos between the noble swordsmen to the King and the Royal family.   Loyalties are tested, and friendships are tried.  This book is full of everything that one can expect of a Musketeer tale, including bloodshed and tears.  It definitely lives up to its predecessors.
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Amen. Find a chat room. Great book. Love the story behind it all. DrewDog
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stop chatting/rp on a book review either get a life, or find a chat room.