The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers


Alexandre Dumas

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The Three Musketeers Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas was the son of Marie Louis Labouret and General Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie. Dumas’s father—and, in turn, Dumas himself—was of mixed race because Dumas’s grandfather had a child out of wedlock with an enslaved Haitian woman. Although racism against Black people was ubiquitous in France, Dumas’s father still managed to achieve a high rank in the European Army, partially because of his father’s status and partially because of his own accomplishments. Because Dumas’s father was an aristocrat, he was able to help his son become a writer by apprenticing him to Louis-Phillipe, Duke of Orléans, who was a writer himself. By age 27, Dumas had already published his first play Henry III and His Court, which was a great success. After writing a number of plays, Dumas eventually tried his hand at the novel. Eventually, in 1836, he published his first novel The Countess of Salisbury, in serial form; he published it as a single volume later in 1839. Throughout his life, Alexandre Dumas would prove to be highly prolific; he wrote over 100,000 pages that made it to print. Those 100,000 pages spanned many genres, from travel books to magazine articles to short stories to novels. However, his literary legacy is primarily due to The Three Musketeers (1844) and its sequels, as well as The Count of Monte Cristo (1844–1845). Dumas died in 1870 due to natural causes. At the time of his death, he had lost some of his popularity, but in subsequent years he became one of France’s most beloved and recognizable authors.
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Historical Context of The Three Musketeers

The major historical set piece in The Three Musketeers is the Siege of La Rochelle, a real event that occurred during the reign of King Louis XIII. Many of the characters in the novel are either real people—including King Louis XIII, the Duke of Buckingham, and Cardinal Richelieu—or based on real people such as d’Artagnan and the musketeers. However, the novel depicts the war between the English and the French as the result of petty romantic drama between King Louis XIII, the Duke of Buckingham, and Queen Anne, which is not true. In reality, the war was the result of France’s increasing power and its refusal to ally itself with England. As an act of war, England encouraged the Huguenots (French Protestants) of La Rochelle to rebel against the French government, which was primarily Catholic. These actions resulted in the famous Siege of La Rochelle, which lasted over a year (from September 1627 to October 1628). Tens of thousands of people died because of the siege, mostly due to starvation. The population of La Rochelle decreased from 27,000 to 5,000 as a result of the event.

Other Books Related to The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers is a work of Romanticism. Romanticism is a literary period that lasted from the end of the 18th century to the middle of the 19th century. Its key works include Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Novels in the Romantic tradition often were set in the past and generally focus in on a key historical event. In the case of The Three Musketeers, that historical event is the Siege of La Rochelle. Additionally, romantic novels often focused on their protagonists’ emotional states and love lives. Certainly, these qualities are found in The Three Musketeers as well. The Three Musketeers is also the most famous swashbuckling novel of all time. The swashbuckler is primarily a European phenomenon. As a genre, swashbucklers tend to focus on gentlemanly male protagonists who are experts at combat and seduction. Usually, they undergo some sort of quest to save a damsel in distress or for revenge. Certainly, all of these qualities exist in The Three Musketeers. In fact, The Three Musketeers is one of the founding works of the genre, and many of the books that came after are indebted to it. Some of the most famous works in the genre are Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1882), Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood (1922), and Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda (1894).
Key Facts about The Three Musketeers
  • Full Title: The Three Musketeers
  • When Written: 1844
  • Where Written: France
  • When Published: 1836
  • Literary Period: Romanticism
  • Genre: Swashbuckler, Historical Novel
  • Setting: Paris, France and London, England; 1625–1628
  • Climax: The four musketeers, Lord de Winter, and an executioner track down Milady. Together, they hold a trial, declare her guilty, and execute her.
  • Antagonist: Milady de Winter, Rochefort, and Cardinal Richelieu
  • Point of View: Third Person

Extra Credit for The Three Musketeers

Part of a Series. Dumas wrote two sequels to The Three Musketeers: Twenty Years After and The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later. The latter is roughly five times the length of the original novel.

Film Adaptations. The Three Musketeers is one of the most filmed novels of all time. At this point, it’s been adapted to the big screen over 50 times.