The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo

Poison Symbol Icon

Poison and the act of poisoning also feature in the novel, and when they do, they have a dual symbolic function. Poison in The Count of Monte Cristo can refer to a chemical used to harm another person, and it can refer to an emotional poisoning—when an idea, such as revenge, warps a character’s personality and behaviors. In both cases, poisoning is a complex phenomenon, for as Dumas presents it, any “poison,” whether a chemical or an idea, can be helpful in certain smaller doses—insofar as it inoculates against future harm—and dangerous in larger doses. Poisons can steel characters for difficult circumstances—until those poisons overwhelm them and become the difficult circumstance that figure must withstand or overcome.

In prison, the Abbe Faria demonstrates to Dantes that a small red tincture, which he uses as medicine, can ward off instances of stroke, to which he is prone. This chemical, as Dantes later finds out during his travels in the East, is called “brucine,” and it is a poison. In large doses, brucine can actually cause stroke. Thus brucine is a perfect example of a dangerous chemical that, in small-to-moderate amounts, allows a person to build up physical strength. But in large doses, brucine can shut down the body and cause death. Noirtier encourages Valentine to take small amounts of brucine when he finds out that Mme de Villefort is using that poison in large quantities to harm others in the house.

On the emotional side, the Count’s life after prison is poisoned by the idea of revenge. In small “doses,” this desire for revenge can seem righteous, and indeed the Count executes his vengeance against Villefort, Caderousse, Danglars, and Fernand with great vigor, believing as he does so that his sense of moral outrage is purifying and self-justifying. But this cleansing process, when taken to extremes, misaligns his ethical compass. For, as Mercedes warns him at the close of the novel, he has very nearly harmed people like Albert, or herself, in his attempts to damage the lives and reputations of people like Fernand. And in allowing Mme de Villefort to continue her campaign of poisoning in order to ruin the Villefort house, the Count discovers that she has also murdered her own son, Edouard, who was innocent of any wrongdoing. It is only through the countervailing power of love, for Maximilien, Valentine, and Haydee, that the Count is able to dismiss the more poisonous aspects of revenge, no matter how ethical and deserved. In rejecting vengeance and embracing love, the Count begins a new life in the novel’s final chapter, free of the poisonous intoxications of violence.

Poison Quotes in The Count of Monte Cristo

The The Count of Monte Cristo quotes below all refer to the symbol of Poison. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Count of Monte Cristo published in 2003.
Chapter 52 Quotes

A drop of that elixir sufficed to bring the child back to life when he was dying, but three drops would have driven the blood into his lungs in such a way as to give him palpitations of the heart. Six would have interrupted his breathing and caused him a much more serious fit than the one he was already suffering. Ten would have killed him.

Related Symbols: Poison
Page Number: 595
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Count of Monte Cristo quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Get the entire The Count of Monte Cristo LitChart as a printable PDF.
The count of monte cristo.pdf.medium

Poison Symbol Timeline in The Count of Monte Cristo

The timeline below shows where the symbol Poison appears in The Count of Monte Cristo. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 18 – The Treasure
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Love, Devotion, and Redemption Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
The Domestic and the Foreign Theme Icon
...family wealth of the Spada family by hosting Spada and his heir for dinner and poisoning both. But the pope and Borgia realize, once they get their hands on Spada’s will,... (full context)
Chapter 48 – Ideology
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Changes of Identity and Station Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
...that Villefort’s visit has prompted in him the surge of a great deal of vengeful “poison.” (full context)
Chapter 52 – Toxicology
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Changes of Identity and Station Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
The Domestic and the Foreign Theme Icon
...that, as the Count said then and reminds her now, can be either medicine or poison, depending on how they are administered. (full context)
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Changes of Identity and Station Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
The Domestic and the Foreign Theme Icon
Heloise seems enormously interested in this topic, and the Count notes that, in Eastern poisonings (as opposed to the theatrical poisonings of, say, the French opera), a man can seem... (full context)
Chapter 73 – The Promise
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Love, Devotion, and Redemption Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
...room that she died of tetanus, the doctor tells the crown prosecutor that he fears poisoning is to blame. Villefort is shocked at this idea and wonders if a servant has... (full context)
Chapter 79 – Lemonade
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Changes of Identity and Station Theme Icon
Love, Devotion, and Redemption Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
...stroke, similar to that experienced by the Saint-Merans. The same doctor who warned Villefort of poisoning before happens to be in the house, tending to Edouard, and so he comes down... (full context)
Chapter 80 – The Accusation
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Love, Devotion, and Redemption Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
...with Villefort, saying that it must be the case that someone in the house has poisoned the Saint-Merans and Barrois, trying, in the latter case, to poison and finally kill Noirtier.... (full context)
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Love, Devotion, and Redemption Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
...and he begins to wonder if it is perhaps Heloise who has been orchestrating the poisonings that are ruining his household and threatening its inhabitants. (full context)
Chapter 93 – Valentine
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Changes of Identity and Station Theme Icon
Love, Devotion, and Redemption Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
...for his own condition. This same potion is what the doctor formerly described as a poison which, in preparatory doses, can be used actually to prevent poisoning, if one builds up... (full context)
Chapter 94 – A Confession
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Love, Devotion, and Redemption Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
Villefort calls on the doctor who had warned him about the poisoning in his family, and after hearing that it is Valentine who has now fallen ill—Valentine... (full context)
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Love, Devotion, and Redemption Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
...the doctor has finished checking up on Valentine and realizes that she will survive this poisoning attack, the narrator relates that the Abbe Busoni has purchased the house next to the... (full context)
Chapter 100 – The Apparition
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Changes of Identity and Station Theme Icon
Love, Devotion, and Redemption Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
...confused and afraid, for she believes she was naturally sickened by some disease and not poisoned. But the Count convinces her that she has fallen ill of the same ailment that... (full context)
Chapter 101 – Locusta
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Changes of Identity and Station Theme Icon
Love, Devotion, and Redemption Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
Valentine heeds the Count’s advice and pretends to be asleep while the poisoner comes into her room that evening, ostensibly to give her more of a “healing draught”... (full context)
Chapter 102 – Valentine
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Changes of Identity and Station Theme Icon
Love, Devotion, and Redemption Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
...The doctor takes away a phial containing some liquid into which, he believes, a new poison—not the typical brucine—has been poured. (full context)
Chapter 103 – Maximilien
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Changes of Identity and Station Theme Icon
Love, Devotion, and Redemption Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
...he will have the strength to do this—for this is the fourth person murdered by poisoning in his house over the last four months. But Morrel demands that he do so,... (full context)
Chapter 108 – The Judge
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Changes of Identity and Station Theme Icon
Love, Devotion, and Redemption Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
...confronts his wife Heloise after many days spent going over evidence—evidence not only of the poisonings in his own home, but also in the case regarding Benedetto, now known publicly as... (full context)
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Changes of Identity and Station Theme Icon
Love, Devotion, and Redemption Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
Villefort abruptly asks Heloise if she still has the poison she has used on the Saint-Merans, Barrois, and Valentine. He says that he asks not... (full context)
Chapter 111 – Expiation
Justice, Revenge, and God’s Will Theme Icon
Changes of Identity and Station Theme Icon
Love, Devotion, and Redemption Theme Icon
Debt and Gratitude Theme Icon
But when Villefort reaches the home, he sees that his wife Heloise has poisoned herself and Edouard in a scene that is as macabre as it is unbelievable. In... (full context)