Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML: The Three Musketeers follows the young d'Artagnan in his quest to become a musketeer. He befriends the three musketeers Athos, Porthos and Aramis, whose motto is "all for one, one for all." The novel is the first in Dumas' d'Artagnan Romances trilogy..
As Dumas uses historical references and events as a framework to build his story on, I was curious as to how close his interpretation were and upon a little research, the actual facts meld very well with his version. His well developed, strong characters and the fast pace at which the story unfolds has the reader engrossed and turning pages avidly. Dumas is skilful at evoking emotions as events play across the pages, and I felt many, ranging from sympathy to scorn, hatred to respect, humor to pathos.
When I mention strong characters, one in particular springs to mind. Lady de Winter is one of the best villains I have ever read about. She can be very nasty, both cruel and vindictive, yet she masks her psychotic ways with her beauty, an angelic looking yet deadly blonde temptress that created most of the best edge of your seat moments in the book. And although d’Artagnan tried my patience any number of times, I could understand his young impatient ways. My admiration went mostly in the direction of Athos, the strong, silent type, hiding his true identity and a dark past.
The Three Musketeers is a well known story and many movie adaptations have been made, but this was my first actual read and I was surprised at how different the book is from the Hollywood versions which usually play strongly upon the humor and less upon the story. Dumas delivers a kick-ass action adventure with strong undertones of his favorite themes of vengeance and intrigue. Highly recommended.
In among the duels and melees, the politics and warfare of royalty versus religion, and the passing of notes to confidantes and traitors, there are numerous thoughtful passages to lend substance to this action melodrama. A
One chapter (page 696) actually begins: "It was a dark and stormy night." Wow!
I thought the novel seemed to peter out at the end, or maybe I just didn't understand the politics of switching sides. It seemed to cancel out the theme of loyalty that had permeated the story from the beginning. But it was a lively romance anyway, with very villainous villains.
I love classics and read them often, but The Three Musketeers was not one I could get drawn into. I read The Count of Monte Cristo several years ago, loved it, and it remains one of my all-time favourites. So I hoped to revisit that experience with
I cannot not recommend Dumas and this well-loved classic, but I will say that readers who loved [The Count] will not necessarily have a similar experience with this one. The audio version is narrated by the inimitable Simon Vance, so it certainly has that in its favour.
Should there be any future for Fantasy, it lies not in the hands of Tolkien-copying machines, nor even in Moorecock's 'un-fantasy', but in whatever writer can capture Beowulf, The Aeneid, The Three Musketeers, or The White Company and make a world which is exciting not because everything is magical and strange, but because everything is entirely recognizable, but much stranger. Of course, one may want to avoid going Mervyn Peake's route with this, and take a lesson from the driving plot and carefree frivolity that Dumas Pere and his innumerable ghostwriters adhered to.
It is amusing here to note that Dumas has accredited to his name far more books than he is likely to have ever written. As he was paid for each book with his name on it, he made a sort of 'writing shop' where he would dictate plots, characters, or sometimes just titles to a series of hired writers and let them fill in the details.
So, praises be to Dumas or whichever of his unrecognized hirees wrote such a work.
Milady is a fascinating character study. She deserves her own story. Yes, the evil, man-destroying succubus was stereotypical even by the time this was written, but Milady is so brilliantly written, I can happily look past that.
A few things that surprised me...
"All for one and one for all" - is only said in the book once, and is not made a terribly big
Our 'heroes' are really not that heroic. They're constantly starting fights over no cause at all, gambling irresponsibly, being generally lying, deceitful and adulterous - and D'Artagnan can't even be bothered to pay his rent to the guy whose wife he's seducing! (All four musketeers are perennially down-and-out, and can't hang on to a gift or cash past the next tavern....) Of course, all of this makes the book *much* funnier and more entertaining than it would be if they were more upright men...
I'm pretty sure that in at least one movie version of the story, it's stated outright that Lady de Winter was branded for the crime of murder. Not so! In the book, (at least from a modern perspective) her initial crimes don't really seem to warrant her husband trying to kill her by hanging her naked from a tree. Sure, she gets really evil *later* - but you have to have some sympathy for her situation! (At least I did!)
It takes a really long time to get into the main part of the story - I got the sense that, since this was published as a serial, Dumas was initially just sending his characters on random exploits, and only once the story had gained some popularity, embarked on the more complex, involved, continuing story, going back and weaving in bits that had been mentioned earlier... I don't know if that's historically accurate, but it's the feeling I got...
Definitely worth reading....
I was impressed by the amount of political commentary Dumas was able to work into the story by showing, not telling. From the English Duke's attitude to common people to the Cardinal's power over the
Competent women? In an adventure book from the 1800s? Yes! Although the main strong woman was portrayed as a villain, it was clear enough to me that perhaps much of her evil was brought on by an intelligent woman trying to make her mark in a world where men have all the rights and power. Also, the other women in the book, while being under the power of the men around them, find intelligent and daring ways to circumvent them. I was a bit sad that the one D'Artagnan "loved" ended up helpless and not very bright when she started out brave and clever.
It almost had an aroma of satire, as the heroes were by no means without faults. They were idiotic at times, so much so that I frequently had visions of Abbott and Costello or the Three Stooges doing the routine when they were conversing. Their manners and attitudes towards the women in their lives was maddening. I frequently wondered whether Dumas meant for us to love them, laugh at them or despise them.
This was a fun way to brush up on history, if you do not rely on it as history but use it as a jumping board to learn about the characters and events within.
Honestly, I could have done without about half of the scenes with D'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. They are all great swashbuckling scenes, but their silliness is a bit exhausting. Aramis wants to be a priest, but he doesn’t really because he’s in love with a woman. Porthos is a preening fool who uses different women to fund his extravagant lifestyle. Athos, also known as emo boy, is moody and dramatic. Sure we soon learn why he is the way he is and it’s a great reason, but still the emo tendencies get a bit old.
D'Artagnan is the biggest goof of them all. When he isn’t challenging every man he meets to a duel, he’s falling in love with every woman he meets. Ironically the woman who he first falls for and who continues to love him is named Constance; her love is constant, while his certainly is not.
The book begins as D'Artagnan heads to Paris to join the king’s guard and become a musketeer. He meets three musketeers along the way, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, and after a few misunderstandings the four become inseparable. The cocky quartet is constantly getting into trouble because of the unnecessary risks they take. At the same time they are pretty great at what they do and it’s fun to watch them duel their way out of every situation.
“I foresee plainly that if we don’t kill each other, I shall hereafter have much pleasure in your conversation.”
BOTTOM LINE: The Three Musketeers doesn’t have the same complexity and depth as The Count of Monte Cristo and so it’s not quite as satisfying. It is a really fun read and gives us some wonderful characters. Lady DiWinter is certainly one that I’ll never forget. I’m looking forward to reading some of the other books in the D'Artagnan series.
“It was one of those events which decide the life of a man; it was a choice between the king and the cardinal.”
“He gave a sigh for that unaccountable destiny which leads men to destroy each other for the interests of people who are strangers to them and who often do not even know that they exist.”
If you can get past that though, or see it as a historical quirk, what remains is a story heroic, tragic and funny, all by turns and occasionally all at once.
And no, I haven't seen the film (any of 'em), and yes, I suppose now I'll have to.
"Les Trois Mousquetaires" was translated into three English versions by 1846. One of these, by William Barrow, is still in print and
D'artagnon was adorable, as were Athos, Aramis and
This is the kind of book that will get young people to see the value in reading. Though the language is a little old fashioned (it is historical fiction after all) it does not make reading difficult as in some works. Highly recommended!