In this essay an analysis will be done regarding the work of Alexander Dumas – The Three Musketeers – in which one will address the book’s plot, the historical context in which it is inserted, and the strengths and weaknesses that Alexander Dumas has used in the writing of this book that all together have made this work a masterpiece of required reading for al generations.
This book’s plot happens in France, in the 17th century. It tells the story of a young man called D’Artagnan, who leaves his parents’ house to go to Paris and be a musketeer, just like his father.
When he arrives, he meets the musketeers, Athos, Porthos and Aramis, with whom he is goin to have duels at the same time, in the same place, but then become good friends. He also meets and falls in love with Constance, one of the Queen’s maids of company.
At the same time, in the palace, Cardinal Richelieu is planning a plot to destroy the King, Louis XIII, by exposing his wife’s, Anne of Austria, affair with an English aristocrat, the Duke of Buckingham and, thus, causing war between France and England. For this he uses Count of Rochefort and Milady, this one a spy, to get the diamond brooch of Queen Anne that she gave to the Count, before it can be returned to her to use at the royal ball.
D’Artagnan and his musketeer friends’ mission is to stop this from happening.
Alexander Dumas inspired himself to write The Three Musketeers, based on a 17th century book – Memoires de d’Artagnan – a historical story. Charles de Batz-Castelmore was the real D’Artagnan, who has his origins on Gascony. He became Sieur of Artagnan because of a property of his parents, leaving Gascony; but not in 1625 (in the novel he did), but in 1640. He served Mazarin and Louis XIV, not Louis XIII and Richelieu and he had a great career, dying in service at the Siege of Maestricht (1673).
The other musketeers were also real: Porthos was, in real life, Isaac de Portau, on Captain des Essarts’s company of the King’s Guards until 1643, and then a Musketeer; Aramis was called Henry d’Aramitz, who was related to Monsieur de Treville, and was indeed a Musketeer from 1640 on. Athos, on his turn, was Armand de Sillegue, Seigner d’Athos et d’Autevielle, and he was also related to Treville; a Musketeer, died in Paris in 1643.
Louis XIII, Anne of Austria, Cardinal Richelieu, and Monsieur de Treville are all characters that, in general, were faithful with the real personalities that existed in the French court. Louis XIII’s Musketeers also existed, being a kind of training group, before entering the elite guard of the Frech Army, and escorting the King. Treville and the Cardinal were enemies; two great adversaries, as Dumas also portrayed in his book. In the real history, Treville was involved in a plot to assassinate the Cardinal, in 1642; Louis XIII was forced to banish his friend, because of such plans. Cardinal Richelieu did also have, in real lifea private elite Guard; and these were Musketeers’ rivals, as Dumas described also.
Lady de Winter is Courtilz’s ” Milady” and one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, who was exiled, and d’Artagnan had, also in reality, an affair with her. However, she had no relation to Cardinal Richelieu. The theft of the diamond brooch happened, but the plot of Dumas was purely fictional. Milady was a dominant character on the second part of the novel, revealing a much bigger concern from Dumas with fiction, than to history.
This work of Alexander Dumas, although fictional, mixed with historical facts, does portray a religious conflict that was undergoing in France, in 1628 and that, indeed, involved both King Louis XIII and the Cardinal, among whom there was a very fragile political balance and relation, together with a potential war situation between England and France about the same religious freedom topic. The descriptions that Dumas does of the scenarios and situations that surround the characters also give the readers a good idea of the society’s structure in France during this very important period of History that is the Renaissance.
Strengths and Weaknesses
One of the things that emphasize the strength of the whole story is the setting, the context in which the plot is inserted: by that time, in the 17th century, France was facing a situation of possible war with England. Dumas, taking advantage of this and of the historical tense relation between King Louis XIII and the Cardinal, builds up the plot around that imminent conflict between the two nations for religious freedom, and also between the two power figures. For further emphasis, he uses a forbidden love between the Queen and the English Duke of Buckingham that makes, from the readers’ point of view, the situation even more appealing.
The great scenarios and strong descriptions of scenes are not used by Alexander Dumas in this book. They are not part of its strength. On the contrary, Dumas supports the strength of his work on the dialogs and interactions between the characters, and on the environment that surround and characterize those same characters. Thus, the characters are always the main focus point and all the action has to do with them; the keyword is action.
One of the examples that can be used to portray this are the descriptions around the character of Milady, which are always very dramatic, with key elements like storm, when she’s escaping, the castle to where she is brought being on the edge of a cliff, the gothic intense description of her execution, with “ stormy and dark night”, a river bank, the references about the moonlight on the sword Dumas does indeed use the tradition of the gothic novels, bringing a mixture of horror and romance that keep the readers’ attention closely, together with an appeal to the sense of being righteous brought by the men who executed such a vile woman.
Furthermore, the sword fights, the rescues of endangered damsels, escapes from near death, plots and assassinations, forbidden loves, tragic deaths continues the use of strong emotions and action all throughout the book, compelling the readers’ to be, more and more, involved with that exciting plot Alexander Dumas has created, mixing history with fictional events, and together with a always humorous tone.
It is exactly the mixture of historical events and facts with fictional ones that enriches the whole book and makes it so appealing; because the readers’ could relate to the plot, because of its veracity side, telling stories about a past time where everything evolved so quickly and was so important for the upcoming society’s evolution and sole existence – the Renaissance.
Dumas also follows, brilliantly, some of the novel traditions to further explore the magic of drama and intense feelings, which make the book unparallel to the ones of its time by not progressing slowly, but at a very quick, modern, accessible pace that anyone could understand and follow. The other strength of this book was making literature become accessible to many people, not over-dressing it with elaborate prose and complicated interpretation.
It provided an escape to another time and another place, with, at the same time, a sense of solidarity and connection to the 19th century turmoil scenario in France, and with the sense of pride on their nationality that the book also portrays. Alexander Dumas has geniously melted all those contexts together and came up with a novel that was passionate and fast-paced, accessible and full of emotion; and that captured the attention of everyone in every generation, since his time until today.
Alexander Dumas has written a very compelling novel, which keyword best described it is action. He focused essentially on strong character, full of details and interaction between them, presenting a fast-paced story with plenty of dramatic situations, so that strong feelings and appealing to the attention of the readers was constant.
In opposition with his time literature, he brought literature closer to everyone, undressing it from the elaborate writing and complex interpretation, which further emphasized its success. Furthermore, he was clever enough to both appeal to the national pride sense that was so present at that time, in a 19th century France that live in turmoil, and to provide an escape to the readers to another time and scenario, where their emotions never ceased to be fed.
This was, in conclusion, what of this novel a work of art in terms of literature and a compelling work to anyone of any generation, transcending time, from Dumas’ time to nowadays.
Dumas, Alexander . “ The Three Musketeers”. Oxford World’s Classics, 1991. 28th of February 2013.