This chapter, a portrait of society gathering at a theatrical performance, is short on exposition of plot and long on dialogue. All the members of Parisian society so far described in the novel are present: Baroness Danglars, who is revealed to be having an affair with Lucien Debray; Hermine and the Baron’s daughter, Eugenie, whom Albert has been considering marrying; Morcerf and the Countess G, who has returned to Paris from Italy; and, eventually, the Count of Monte Cristo and Haydee, who make a grand appearance much to the chattering of others in the house.
Sometimes the narrator will use the occasion of the theater to make sure that he’s placed all his characters in the same room at the same time. The theater, then, is a convenience of fiction, like a party-scene – it allows characters to talk to, and plot against, one another. Of course, the theater was also an important part of the social life of upper-crust France during this time, and so inclusion of a theater scene helps develop the reality of the society Dumas describes.
Of note is the arrival of Fernand de Morcerf, who behaves toward the Count with his typical “icy” reserve. But when Haydee comes near and the Count introduces her—and mentions that Morcerf served under the Ali Pasha during the wars in Greece and Turkey—Haydee withdraws her hand and nearly falls faint, and the Count has to excuse her and pull her aside. Haydee reveals to the audience, although the Count surely was already aware, that her father is the Ali Pasha, the famed commander in Greece, and that Morcerf made his fortune through the “treacherous” betrayal of the Ali Pasha, using his own men to stage a coup. Haydee says that she cannot stay in the theater with Fernand, and the Count escorts her home before the play is finished.
This is an important development in the Haydee subplot, as she makes it explicit that it is Fernand who behaved treacherously against her father, resulting in his death. This sheds partial light on the Count’s connection to Haydee. She is linked, through bonds of violence, to Fernand, which means that Haydee might be able to supply the kind of information that could destabilize and ultimately condemn one of the Count’s enemies.