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Synopsis

Alexandre Dumas, born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie (24 July 1802 – 5 December 1870) was a French writer, best known for his historical novels of high adventure which have made him one of the most widely read French authors in the world. Many of his novels, including The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, and The Vicomte de Bragelonne were originally serialized. He also wrote plays and magazine articles and was a prolific correspondent. Born in poverty, Dumas was the grandson of a French nobleman and a Haitian slave.
Dumas has himself indicated that he had the idea for the revenge in The Count of Monte Cristo from a story which he had found in a book compiled by Jacques Peuchet, a French police archivist, published in 1838 after the death of the author. Dumas included this essay in one of the editions from 1846. Peuchet related the tale of a shoemaker named Pierre Picaud, who was living in Nîmes in 1807. Picaud had been engaged to marry a rich woman, but three jealous friends falsely accused him of being a spy for England. Picaud was moved to a form of house arrest where he was placed in the castle Fenestrelle where he served as a servant to a rich Italian cleric. When the man died, he left his fortune to Picaud who he had begun to treat as a son. Picaud then spent years plotting his revenge on the three men who were responsible for his misfortune. He stabbed the first with a dagger on which was printed the words, "Number One", and poisoned the second. The third man's son he lured into crime and his daughter into prostitution, finally stabbing the man himself. This third man named Loupian had married his fiance while he was under arrest.

In another of the "True Stories" Peuchet relates the tale of a terrible affair of poisoning in a family. This story, also quoted in the Pleiade edition, has obviously served as model for the chapter of the murders inside the Villefort family. The introduction to the Pleiade edition mentions other sources from real life: the Abbé Faria existed and died in 1819 after a life with much resemblance to that of the Faria in the novel. As for Dantès, his fate is quite different from his model in Peuchet's manuscript, since the latter is murdered by the "Caderousse" of the plot. But Dantès has "alter egos" in two other works of Dumas: First in "Pauline" from 1838, then, more significantly, in "Georges" from 1843 where a young man with black ancestry is preparing a revenge against white people who had humiliated him.


The poor d'Artagnan travels to Paris to join the Musketeers. He suffers misadventure and is challenged to a duel by each of three musketeers (Athos, Aramis and Porthos). Attacked by the Cardinal's guards, the four unite and escape.

D'Artagnan and his new love interest, Constance, help the French queen give a particular piece of jewelry to her paramour, the Duke of Buckingham. The Cardinal learns of this and coaxes the French king to hold a ball where the queen must wear the jewelry; its absence will reveal her infidelity. The four companions retrieve the jewelry from England.

The Cardinal kidnaps Constance who is later rescued by the queen. D'Artagnan meets Milady de Winter and discovers she is a felon, the ex-wife of Athos and the widow of Count de Winter. The Cardinal recruits Milady to kill Buckingham, also granting her a hand-written pardon for the future killing of d'Artagnan. Athos learns of this, takes the pardon but is unable to warn Buckingham. He sends word to Lord de Winter that Milady is arriving; Lord de Winter arrests her on suspicion of killing Count de Winter, his brother.

She seduces her guard and escapes to the monastery in France where the queen secreted Constance. Milady kills Constance. The four companions arrive and Athos identifies her as a multiple murderess. She is tried and beheaded.

On the road, d'Artagnan is arrested. Taken before the Cardinal, d'Artagnan relates recent events and reveals the Cardinal's pardon. Impressed, the Cardinal offers him a blank musketeer officer's commission. D'Artagnan's friends refuse the commission, each retiring to a new life, telling him to take it himself, and so he takes it and later on he becomes a well known lieutenant.

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