Title and PublicationThe Three Musketeers was written in 1844. It was published in serial form in the French magazine, Le Siecle over the course of 5 months. The novel’s current publisher is Bantam Books, New York.
SettingThe Three Musketeers is set in 17th century France during the reign of Louis XIII. The story takes place predominantly in Paris, but the protagonist’s adventures take him across the French countryside and as far as England.
Though the novel is based on historical information, and many of the events, such as the siege of New Rochelle, really occurred, Dumas has taken artistic liberties with many of the characters. It should not be looked at as a factual account of this period. Instead the novel should be recognized as a fine example of the genre of Romance.
D’Artagnan, the protagonist, a poor but intelligent Gascon who has come to Paris to join The Musketeers and make his fortune.
Athos, Porthos, & Aramis, the Musketeers for whom the novel is named. These men become D’Artagnan’s closest friend and share in his adventures, his successes and his failures.
Cardinal Richelieu, the second most powerful man in France, the Cardinal is the enemy of D’Artagnan and the Musketeers and the chief antagonist of the novel. He is great statesman and strategist, but is driven by a need for control to commit devious acts designed to advance his own cause.
Anne de Breuil (Lady de Winter, Milady), an agent of the Cardinal and a woman devoured by greed and bent on vengeance. She becomes a particular enemy of D’Artagnan.
Count de Rochefort, the first enemy D’Artagnan makes and an agent of the Cardinal. His destiny is closely tied to that of D’Artagnan.
The novel follows D’Artagnan and his friends through several court intrigues and amorous encounters. These accounts are entertaining adventures that not only advance plot, but, perhaps more importantly, describe the fundamentals of court society as well as revealing character. As the story develops, its focus narrows to center on the struggle between Milady and D’Artagnan; the heart of the story is the war waged between good and evil. D’Artagnan and his friends, even considering their immoral actions, are cast as protectors of King and Queen while Milady and the Cardinal represent consummate evil.
Questions to Ponder
The questions to follow will help you detect important themes and ideas in the novel:
Structure of the novel:
- This book was first published as a serial. How may that have dictated the exposition of the plot?
- Dumas engages his readers by addressing them directly throughout the novel. What reasons might the author have had for doing this, and how does it affect the overall success of the story?
Consider the conflict between individuals:
- How do D’Artagnan and his friends differ from what we expect of our heroes?
- Can you find any sympathy for Milady? Why or why not?
Examine the traditional roles of this society:
- What is chivalry?
- Dumas tells his readers that “Our modern ideas of pride had not yet come into fashion.” How is the morality of this time different from our own?
- How does life at court drive the characters toward their destinies?
Possible First Sentences:
“The genre of Romance always contains the thematic elements of love and chivalry and The Three Musketeers is no exception.”
“Milady is a woman centuries ahead of her time.”
“Friendship is the most valuable asset one can possess.”