Summary of The Three Musketeers

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The Three Musketeers book summary

Literary Classic

  • Historical fiction
  • Realism

What It’s About

Adventure for the Ages

Alexandre Dumas, author Victor Hugo once wrote, “is more than French…He is universal…He inspires the soul, the mind and the intelligence; he creates a thirst for reading; he fosters human genius.” Indeed, there are few who can hold a candle to Dumas when it comes to page-turning storytelling, and The Three Musketeers is no exception. This swashbuckling adventure tale – rife with intrigue, passion, bravery, revenge, loyalty and unswerving friendship – has kept readers entertained for nearly two centuries. The novel never flags in its energy, moving swiftly from one incident to the next as it blends the fantastical with real figures and events from 17th-century France. Though some may quibble over Dumas’s free and easy handling of the past, even the most serious-minded reader would struggle not to enjoy the larger-than-life inventiveness of The Three Musketeers. 

Take-Aways

  • Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers remains the epitome of swashbuckling adventure for nearly two centuries after its initial publication.
  • A young Gascon named d’Artagnan comes to Paris to seek his fortune. There he befriends three Musketeers: Athos, Porthos and Aramis. The four thwart the cardinal’s plans to turn the king against his queen, pursue affairs of the heart, fight the cardinal’s guards, and perform acts of bravery in battle. They punish Athos’s former wife – the evil Milady – for her many crimes, and d’Artagnan receives a promotion and becomes a lieutenant in the Musketeers.
  • The remarkably prolific Dumas preferred working with others when writing.
  • The Three Musketeers shuns the traditional, three-act structure: Subplots abound, and exciting events follow one another in quick succession.
  • Actual historical figures and events anchor plot points of The Three Musketeers, though Dumas takes substantial liberties with these elements.
  • In keeping with Romance genre conventions, both the novel’s heroes and its villains engage in morally questionable behavior.
  • The July Monarchy – a period of two decades following the ouster of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814 – was a time of great uncertainty in France.
  • Initial inspiration for the novel came from a 17th-century work entitled Mémoires de d’Artagnan.
  • Like the d’Artagnan character, Porthos, Aramis and Athos were also based on real Musketeers.
  • “All for one, and one for all.”
 

Summary

D’Artagnan Seeks His Fortune

In April 1625, a young man from Gascony, fiery-tempered and intelligent, arrives in Meung – a small French town. The young man, d’Artagnan, has left home to seek his fortune in Paris, carrying a letter of introduction to the famed leader of the king’s Musketeers and King Louis XIII’s right-hand man, M. de Treville – a fellow Gascon. At a tavern, d’Artagnan overhears a gentleman mocking the traveler’s steed. The proud young man immediately picks a fight and ends up soundly beaten by the man’s accomplices. Later, d’Artagnan spies the stranger outside the window, speaking with a beautiful blonde woman in a carriage, a woman whom he calls Milady. The next morning, he realizes his letter to M. de Treville is missing. The host confesses that the stranger stole the letter. Undaunted, d’Artagnan continues on to Paris.

The king’s Musketeers are a rowdy lot, who love nothing more than annoying their counterparts: the cardinal’s Guards. D’Artagnan watches two Musketeers – a tall, loud, flamboyantly-dressed fellow named Porthos and a stout, delicately featured man, Aramis, who aspires to a position in the Church – bickering, before d’Artagnan was taken to meet M. de Treville. M. de Treville calls out for three of his Musketeers. Two of the trio, Aramis and Porthos appear. M. de Treville scolds the men for losing a recent fight with the cardinal’s Guards. As the pair protest, Athos – a noble-looking, slightly older man – appears, pale from a wound he received in the fight. Suddenly, he collapses.

Three Duels

Once a doctor is called for Athos, d’Artagnan is at last able to tell M. de Treville about himself. Though M. de Treville is sympathetic to d’Artagnan, he worries that d’Artagnan might be working for the cardinal. He tests him by praising the cardinal, betting that an enemy would mock the so-called Red Duke. To M. de Treville’s surprise, d’Artagnan states that his father taught him that the cardinal was worthy of his respect. Pleased, but still cautious, M. de Treville offers to help d’Artagnan obtain a place at the Royal Academy. Before M. de Treville can compose the letter, however, d’Artagnan spies the thief from Meung outside and runs out the door to catch him.

In his flight, d’Artagnan inadvertently crashes into Athos, freshly released from the doctor’s care. When Athos takes him to task, d’Artagnan’s pride rears its head, and he sets a duel at noon to settle the matter. D’Artagnan next knocks into Porthos, who calls him “blind,” and d’Artagnan retorts by mocking Porthos’s new sword belt. The two set a duel for one o’clock. Once on the street, d’Artagnan spots Aramis chatting with two other Musketeers. Seeing a handkerchief on the ground near Aramis’s foot, d’Artagnan picks it up and tries to return it. The other Musketeers tease Aramis about the handkerchief’s owner. Afterward, Aramis upbraids d’Artagnan for his lack of gallantry, and the pair make an appointment to duel that day two o’clock.

“All for one, and one for all.”

Athos arrives at the appointed place and time to duel d’Artagnan, and Porthos and Aramis come too, to act as Athos’s seconds. After the three Musketeers get over their surprise, D’Artagnan apologizes to Porthos and Aramis since it’s probable they won’t have a chance to fight him. Athos and d’Artagnan are preparing to duel, when a troop of the cardinal’s Guards suddenly appears and threatens the Musketeers with arrest. D’Artagnan joins with the Musketeers to fight the Guards. He defeats the leader of the group and helps Athos defeat his man, too. Later, d’Artagnan gets into a dispute with another guard: a great swordsman named M. Bernajoux. The conflict sparks a larger fight between crowds of Musketeers and Guardsmen. Though the cardinal tries to blame the Musketeers for starting the brawl, in the end, they are exonerated and the king gifts d’Artagnan with a large sum of money. At his friends’ advice, d’Artagnan uses the king’s money to engage a servant named Planchet. Athos’s servant is named Grimaud and has been trained to be totally silent; Porthos’s servant is named Mousqueton; and Aramis’s servant, who can’t wait for his master to join the Church, is named Bazin.

Falling for Mme. Bonacieux

One day, d’Artagnan arrives home to find his landlord, M. Bonacieux, waiting for him. The man claims his wife, one of the queen’s ladies, has been kidnapped by a man who sounds like the letter thief from Meung — possibly due to her knowledge of the queen’s affair with the English Duke of Buckingham. D’Artagnan says he will do what he can. His friends agree to help him find Mme. Bonacieux. The cardinal’s Guards arrive and arrest M. Bonacieux. When Mme. Bonacieux herself returns to the house, d’Artagnan, who has been listening from his apartment above, bursts in and rescues the woman. Mme. Bonacieux tells d’Artagnan that she must get a message to the Louvre. D’Artagnan, who has fallen quite head over heels for the pretty, dark-haired young woman, agrees to take the missive.

On his way back from the Louvre, d’Artagnan decides to go see Aramis. Outside his apartment, he spies Mme. Bonacieux knocking on his friend’s door. Another woman answers. The pair exchange handkerchiefs. His curiosity piqued by this mystery, d’Artagnan returns home to find that Athos has been arrested: the police thought he was d’Artagnan. On his way to talk to M. de Treville about the arrest, d’Artagnan again sees Mme. Bonacieux, this time in the company of a man he thinks is Aramis. D’Artagnan jealously confronts the pair, only to discover the man is, in fact, the Duke of Buckingham. D’Artagnan helps them get safely to the Louvre. There, the duke professes his love to the queen, and she, in turn, presents him with a token of her esteem: a set of diamond studs. Meanwhile, M. Bonacieux is brought before Cardinal de Richelieu. Awed, M. Bonacieux tells the cardinal all he knows about his wife’s activities and, when the cardinal thanks him with gold, professes his devotion to the cardinal, henceforth. The cardinal then composes a letter to Milady, instructing her to steal two of the diamond studs from Buckingham.

Thwarting the Cardinal

The next day, M. de Treville goes to the king to secure Athos’s release. As soon as M. de Treville accomplishes his mission, the cardinal tells the king about the Duke of Buckingham’s visit to the queen the previous evening. The cardinal tells the king he believes the queen is conspiring against him with Buckingham, Spain and Austria. The king is furious, and demands that the queen be searched for incriminating papers.

The queen’s quarters and person are searched. Letters are found which reveal her involvement in a political conspiracy against the cardinal but say nothing of the king. The king is mollified. At the cardinal’s suggestion, the king decides to host a ball to get back into the queen’s good graces. The devious cardinal then adds that the king should ask the queen to wear her diamond studs – having already received news from Milady that she had successfully stolen two of the studs from Buckingham. The queen writes a letter to Buckingham about the studs, and Mme. Bonacieux takes it to her husband to deliver. M. Bonacieux refuses to go to England but then leaves the house to report on his wife. D’Artagnan begs Mme. Bonacieux to entrust him with the letter. She agrees, clearly starting to reciprocate the young man’s feelings. D’Artagnan and his friends obtain leave from M. de Treville and depart from Paris.

“The merit in all things consists in the difficulty.”

On the road to England, Porthos is waylaid by a duel at a pub, Aramis suffers a bullet wound in an ambush on the road and must stop to recover, and Athos is caught up in another ambush at an inn. D’Artagnan succeeds in delivering the queen’s letter to Buckingham but gets involved en route in a fight with a cardinal’s agent, the Comte de Wardes. When Buckingham goes to give the studs to d’Artagnan, he notices two are missing. He quickly deduces that Milady, whom he knows as Comtesse de Winter, stole them. Buckingham orders a blockade of the port to prevent Milady from sailing to France – a move tantamount to a declaration of war. The two missing studs are replaced. D’Artagnan rushes back to Paris. Later, the queen calls d’Artagnan to her chamber and gives him a ring as a token of her thanks. Back at his apartment, d’Artagnan finds a note from Mme. Bonacieux arranging a tryst for the next night. Mme. Bonacieux fails to appear at the appointed time. After questioning a local peasant man, d’Artagnan determines that Mme. Bonacieux has been kidnaped. M. de Treville suggests that d’Artagnan check on his friends. In th emeantime, M. de Treville will visit the queen and make inquiries as to Mme. Bonacieux’s whereabouts. On his way out of town, d’Artagnan picks up a letter at Aramis’s house and takes it with him.

Affairs of the Heart

At the inn where he left Porthos, d’Artagnan finds his friend recuperating from a wound. The innkeeper say that Porthos has asked his mistress for money to pay his bill, but the woman – who, it turns out, is a middle-aged banker’s wife, not a duchess as Porthos claimed – has refused, believing Porthos is cheating on her. At another inn down the road, d’Artagnan finds Aramis with a pair of clergymen. Ultimately, d’Artagnan is able to determine that the main thing driving Aramis’s decision to leave the Musketeers is his belief that his mistress, Mme. de Chevreuse, has forsaken him. D’Artagnan produces the letter he found at Aramis’s apartment, and, reassured of his mistress’s love, Aramis forgets all about his resolve to join the church. D’Artagnan next travels to the inn where he and Athos were ambushed. He discovers that, after beating their attackers, Athos and Grimaud barricaded themselves in the innkeeper’s basement larder and have remained there ever since. D’Artagnan coaxes the pair out. They’re both intoxicated, having resolved to drink all the innkeeper’s stock as revenge. Later that night, Athos makes a drunken revelation. He tells d’Artagnan that he once knew a nobleman who married a poor young woman for love. One day, the man discovered that she was branded with a fleur-de-lis: a sign that she is a serious criminal. Driven mad, the man – who Athos refers to as “I” at this point – hung the woman and left her for dead.

Back in Paris, the four friends find a letter from M. de Treville informing them that they must prepare themselves for the coming battle with England. Unfortunately, none of them have the funds needed for equipment. Porthos gets money by reconciling with his mistress one day after church. D’Artagnan spies Milady in the church and becomes obsessed with learning more about her. When he sees her arguing with a man on the street, he intervenes. The man is Milady’s brother-in-law, Lord de Winter. He and d’Artagnan make an appointment for a duel.

During the duel, D’Artagnan disarms Lord de Winter but doesn’t kill him. The grateful lord promises to introduce d’Artagnan to Milady. Lady de Winter acts pleased when meeting d’Artagnan, but the young man notices that, when she thinks no one is watching, her expression turns murderous. D’Artagnan begins calling on Milady daily. In spite of himself, he falls for her. Meanwhile, Milady’s maid, Kitty, begins to develop feelings for d’Artagnan. One day, Kitty confesses her love. She also tells d’Artagnan that Milady loves the Comte de Wardes and that she hates d’Artagnan for not killing Lord de Winter, for had he done so, Milady would have inherited all the lord’s money. Milady is only being nice to d’Artagnan on the cardinal’s orders. Moreover, she played a role in Mme. Bonacieux’s kidnapping.

“Everyone knows that drunkards and lovers have a protecting deity.”

D’Artagnan hatches a plot to blackmail Milady. He sends a fake letter in the comte’s name arranging a tryst. To convince Kitty to comply with his plan, d’Artagnan makes love to her. At the appointed time, d’Artagnan disguises himself as the comte and – under cover of darkness – goes to Milady’s rooms. Once there, he forgets his plan and sleeps with her. Milady gives the pseudo comte a ring as a sign of her love. The next morning, d’Artagnan seeks Athos’s advice as to what he ought to do next. Athos, who seems to recognize the ring that Milady gave d’Artagnan, advises his friend to stay away from the woman.

D’Artagnan writes another letter to Milady in the comte’s name, saying he can’t see her again. Kitty tells d’Artagnan that the letter enraged Milady. Wanting revenge, Milady sends for d’Artagnan and then sleeps with him in exchange for a promise to kill the comte. The next morning, d’Artagnan reveals the truth that she had never slept with the real comte; it was he (d’Artagnan) all along. After showing Milady the ring as proof, the woman attacks him. As he fights her off, d’Artagnan tears Milady’s nightgown, revealing a fleur-de-lis on her left shoulder. Horrified at what the brand implies, d’Artagnan runs from Milady’s house. D’Artagnan goes to Athos’s house and tells him what happened. Both men agree that Milady must be Athos’s former wife. D’Artagnan and Athos plan to pawn Milady’s ring to obtain the funds they need for their equipment. When d’Artagnan returns home, he finds two letters. The first is from Mme. Bonacieux, asking d’Artagnan to meet her at a deserted locale that night. The other letter summons d’Artagnan to a meeting with the cardinal. D’Artagnan’s friends insist on accompanying him to both appointments.

D’Artagnan waits for Mme. Bonacieux at the determined time and place. Suddenly, a carriage passes by, and its passenger, Mme. Bonacieux, blows him a kiss. D’Artagnan is unsure if this means she is OK or if she is still in the cardinal’s clutches. The meeting with the cardinal is also perplexing. The cardinal expresses admiration for d’Artagnan’s bravery and offers to make him an officer in his Guard. When d’Artagnan politely declines the offer, the cardinal warns d’Artagnan that his refusal means he will be vulnerable to attack from enemies. D’Artagnan stands firm in his decision and parts from the cardinal on relatively good terms.

At La Rochelle

The next day, the king’s guards leave Paris for the town of La Rochelle. The Protestant townsfolk have sided with the British, and the French have laid siege. While at La Rochelle, D’Artagnan three times narrowly escapes Milady’s attempts to kill him. One evening, the three Musketeers run into the cardinal. He asks them to serve as his bodyguards at a secret meeting. At the inn where the meeting occurs, the Musketeers overhear the cardinal speaking to Milady. He tells her to take a message to Buckingham: He must stop the war against France immediately, or the cardinal will reveal his affair with the queen. If Buckingham rejects the cardinal’s proposition, Milady should arrange to have the duke assassinated. Milady agrees, but asks the cardinal to arrest d’Artagnan and discover where Mme. Bonacieux is hiding. The cardinal agrees.

“Never fear quarrels, but seek adventures.”

Athos pretends to ride ahead but instead confronts Milady, who is shocked to see her former husband. Athos warns Milady that if any harm comes to d’Artagnan, he (Athos) will kill her. Before leaving, he also takes the “order of absolution” that the cardinal gave her, which states that whoever bears the order is acting in the cardinal’s name. The next morning, Athos makes a bet with some soldiers that if he and his friends can hold the Saint-Gervais fort against the enemy for a full hour without outside assistance, the soldiers must treat them to a lavish repast. Athos explains to his friends that winning the bet won’t only bring them glory but will also give them the privacy they need to discuss what to do next.

At the fort, the three Musketeers tell d’Artagnan about the cardinal’s meeting with Milady. The group decides that they must send their servants to deliver two letters: one to Lord de Winter to tell him of Milady’s past and her wish to end his life – and the other to Mme. de Chevreuse, so she can inform the queen of the plot against Buckingham. As they complete these plans, the friends fight off two groups of Rochellese and manage to stay at the fort for an hour and a half before returning to the French camp as heroes. The cardinal, hearing of the exploit, becomes further convinced that it would be a good thing to have d’Artagnan and his friends on his side. He, therefore, authorizes M. de Treville to make d’Artagnan a Musketeer. The Musketeer servants successfully deliver the letters.

Two Escapes

Upon landing in England, Milady is taken into custody. Upon her arrival at a remote country house, Lord de Winter informs her she will remain there as a prisoner for two weeks, after which she will be banished to a remote island. Lord de Winter introduces her to the soldier who will watch over her: a seemingly incorruptible individual named John Felton. While Felton initially appears unmoved by her charms, in the end, Milady finds her opening: Felton is a Protestant, so Milady pretends to be one as well. Milady then tells Felton why Lord de Winter is holding her prisoner: Buckingham kidnapped her and tried to force her to be his mistress. When she refused him, he had her branded with the fleur-de-lis. She then married Lord de Winter’s brother. Before her husband could avenge her, however, Buckingham had him assassinated. Lord de Winter is acting on Buckingham’s behalf in having her banished.

Lord de Winter, suspecting that Milady has managed to win Felton’s loyalty, sends him away. Milady despairs, but the night before her banishment is scheduled to take place, Felton reappears and rescues her. Felton goes to Buckingham’s headquarters, claiming to have a note for him from Lord de Winter. After trying and failing to get Buckingham to sign an order for Milady’s release, Felton fatally stabs the duke.

Back at La Rochelle, the Musketeers receive a letter from Mme. de Chevreuse, who has discovered that Mme. Bonacieux is in a convent in the town of Bethune. M. de Treville gives the Musketeers permission to rescue her. As they travel toward the convent, the Musketeers run into the thief from Meung. He escapes them but, as he flees, drops a piece of paper with the name of a town on it: Armentieres. Unfortunately, Milady beats the Musketeers to the convent. There, she makes friends with Mme. Bonacieux, who tells Milady that d’Artagnan is on his way to retrieve her. The man from Meung arrives at the convent. His true name is the Comte de Rochefort. Milady tells the comte to arrange a carriage to take her and Mme. Bonacieux to a place called Armentieres. Once he leaves, Milady tells Mme. Bonacieux that she has learned that cardinalist agents are on their way to the convent, so the two women must leave that very evening.

The carriage arrives, but so do the Musketeers. Milady tells Mme. Bonacieux that the cardinal’s men have arrived and tries to hurry her toward the carriage, but the young woman is too frightened to move. Frustrated, Milady poisons a glass of wine, gives it to Mme. Bonacieux and escapes alone. D’Artagnan arrives at Mme. Bonacieux’s room just as the poison is starting its work. The men are confused by Mme. Bonacieux’s symptoms, but when she mentions Lady de Winter, d’Artagnan and his friends realize what has happened. Mme. Bonacieux dies in d’Artagnan’s arms. Just then, Lord de Winter arrives from England. Athos identifies himself as Milady’s first husband, and Lord de Winter agrees to help hunt down the murderess.

Justice Comes to Milady

Athos visits a solitary man and convinces him to come with the group to find Milady. Lord de Winter, the Musketeers, and the stranger reach Armentieres just as Milady is about to escape France. They capture her and put her on trial for her crimes. D’Artagnan lists Mme. Bonacieux’s death and the attempts on his and the Comte de la Fere’s lives; Lord de Winter names the death of his brother and Buckingham. As Athos begins stating his charges, however, Milady interrupts, challenging him to find the man who branded her with the fleur-de-lis.

The mysterious man then steps forward. He is the executioner of Lille. Milady, he explains, was once a nun. She seduced the man’s brother (a priest) and together, the pair stole from the church. The priest was captured; Milady escaped. The executioner was forced to brand his own brother. Later, he found Milady and branded her, too. The priest killed himself when Milady abandoned him to marry Athos. Porthos and Aramis act as judges and sentence Milady to death. The executioner takes Milady across the river and beheads her.

On their way back to La Rochelle, the Musketeers encounter the Comte de Rochefort, who arrests d’Artagnan and takes him to the cardinal. The cardinal begins to tell d’Artagnan of the crimes he has supposedly committed, but d’Artagnan interjects. The charges mentioned, he states, were brought by a criminal who is now dead. He then tells the cardinal about Milady’s history and also produces the order of absolution, complete with the cardinal’s signature. Though the cardinal could reject the pardon and have d’Artagnan executed, he instead writes out a promotion to lieutenant in the Musketeers, leaving the name blank. D’Artagnan tries to convince each of his friends to take the promotion, but all three insist d’Artagnan write his own name on the order. Athos plans to retire, Porthos will marry his mistress and Aramis will finally join the church. D’Artagnan remains a Musketeer and enjoys a distinguished career.

About the Text

Structure and Style

The Three Musketeers is a historical romance with certain features drawn from the adventure fiction and coming-of-age genres. Actual historical figures and events anchor plot points, though Dumas takes substantial liberties with these elements, particularly in terms of the motives behind occurrences such as the Siege of La Rochelle. The novel is narrated chronologically in third-person omniscient voice. Descriptions of people and places tend to be drawn in broad strokes, and stock characters appear throughout the text. Although all the main characters have backstories, they lack any real interiority. The storyteller is concerned, mainly, with what individuals do, rather than what they are thinking or feeling. At times the narrator speaks directly to the audience, noting how the world of the Musketeers differs from that of the audience.

Interpretation

  • Though clear lines between heroes and villains and admirable and ignoble behavior exist in the novel, the narrator will, occasionally, break into the story to acknowledge how the morality of the Musketeer world differs from that of his audience. D’Artagnan and his friends see nothing wrong with a man living off of his mistress’s wealth, for example.
  • Though Dumas’s characterization of key historical figures such as Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu and Anne of Austria is largely factual, he often ascribes fictional motives for their actions. He claims, for instance, that the cardinal’s decision to lay siege to La Rochelle is due to his thwarted love for the queen.
  • In keeping with the tenants of the Romance genre, loyalty, love and chivalry can excuse otherwise questionable actions – such as d’Artagnan’s aiding and abetting the queen’s affair. 
  • Dumas makes a distinction between an honorable adversary like the cardinal, whose courage and loyalty to his nation can command the Musketeers’ respect, and a wholly ruthless figure like Milady, who is loyal to no one but herself.
  • Religion is treated rather mockingly throughout The Three Musketeers. The notion of Aramis following though on his promise to join the church is portrayed, alternately as a threat to the Musketeers’ friendship and various missions and as a joke – as when Dumas devotes pages to the ridiculous debate between the two churchmen over Aramis’s proposed thesis.

Historical Background

Unrest and Nostalgia During the July Monarchy

The July Monarchy – a period of two decades following the ouster of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814 and the failure of the Bourbon Restoration – was a time of great uncertainty in France. The ascension of the so-called Citizen King Louis-Philippe d’Orléans to the French throne in 1830 was meant to usher in a new era of peace and national sovereignty. Civil and political unrest continued, however. Legitimists refused to recognize Louis-Philippe’s rule and continued to agitate for the restoration of the Bourbons to the throne, while Republicans continued to push for greater popular rule. Despite Louis-Philippe making certain gestures toward reform, including increasing enfranchisement and repealing unpopular censorship laws, the regime’s policies heavily favored the wealthy bourgeoisie over the working classes. Though industrialization came late to France, the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution only heightened such class-based conflicts. In the midst of this turmoil, the French readily embraced versions of the arts which provided a sense of escape from the present.

Development

In his preface to The Three Musketeers, Dumas states that initial inspiration for his novel came from a 17th-century work entitled Mémoires de d’Artagnan by Gatien de Courtilz de Sandras. Dumas presents Courtilz de Sandras’s semi-fictionalized text as the starting place for further research, which ultimately yielded another manuscript which speaks of d’Artagnan and his three friends – Athos, Porthos and Aramis. Though Dumas asserts the authenticity of both narratives in the preface and indeed goes so far as to claim that his novel is merely a reprinting of the Comte de la Fere’s memoir, in truth, only Courtilz de Sandras’s work exists.

Dumas does lift a number of plot points and characters from Courtilz de Sandras’s text, which itself was based on the life of famed Gascon Musketeer Charles de Batz de Castelmore (who inherited the title Sire d’Artagnan through his mother). But Dumas adds plenty of his own fictional touches to his version of d’Artagnan’s story. Dumas’s d’Artagnan, for instance, didn’t serve under Louis XIII and Richelieu – but instead their successors Louis XIV and Mazarin. The characters of Porthos, Aramis and Athos were also based on real Musketeers.

Reviews and Legacy

The novel, which ran in serial form in the newspaper Le Siècle between March and July 1844, proved immensely popular upon its publication, boosting the newspaper’s subscription numbers significantly. While some of Dumas’s contemporaries objected to the ways Dumas used history for his own ends in The Three Musketeers (a charge which was applied to any number of Dumas’s romances), few readers cared. Indeed, Jean Lucas-Dubreton reports in his book, The Fourth Musketeer: The Life of Alexandre Dumas, that famed French author Honoré de Balzac admitted he couldn’t stop reading Dumas’s novel, despite its highly inaccurate historical elements. The Three Musketeers has inspired a number of films, including a 1933 movie starring John Wayne, a 1948 film starring Lana Turner and Gene Kelly, one in 1973 starring Raquel Welch and Oliver Reed, and, in 1993, another adaptation starring Charlie Sheen and Kiefer Sutherland. The BBC created TV versions of The Three Musketeers in 1954, 1966 and 2014.

About the Author

Alexandre Dumas (née Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie) was born on July 24, 1802, in Villers-Cotterêts, France, to Marie-Louise Élisabeth Labouret – an innkeeper’s daughter – and General Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie. Thomas-Alexandre began using the last name of his Afro-Caribbean slave mother, Dumas, after his nobleman father’s death. The poverty the family suffered after Thomas-Alexandre’s death in 1806 prevented the young Dumas from receiving much formal education. Nevertheless, the bright boy was a voracious reader and, as soon as he was able, became an assistant to a notary. When he was 20, Dumas moved to Paris. He became a clerk to Louis-Philippe, the Duc d’Orleans, who, following the Revolution of 1830, replaced Charles X as king of France. While working for the duc, Dumas began writing plays. Their positive reception allowed Dumas to become a full-time writer. The remarkably prolific Dumas always preferred working with others when writing. His most well-known collaborator, Auguste Maquet, created plot outlines for The Three Musketeers (1844) and The Count of Monte Cristo (1844–1846), among other works. Dumas earned a great deal of money as an author, but his profligate lifestyle meant he was often in debt. Though Dumas married actress Ida Ferrier in 1840, he had a host of mistresses over the course of his lifetime and fathered at least four illegitimate children in addition to his three with Ferrier. Dumas moved to Brussels in 1851 both as a means of escaping his creditors and avoiding Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, France’s new ruler, who disliked the author. Dumas moved to Russia in 1859 and to Italy in 1861 before returning to Paris in 1864. By the time of his death at age 68 in December 1870, Dumas had authored more than 1,200 works.


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