Class is a notable factor throughout The Three Musketeers. Class divides can clearly be seen when examining the relationships between the musketeers and their servants, and even among the musketeers themselves. However, the largest class divides in the novel—those between monarchs and their subjects—prove to be the most important. The Three Musketeers depicts the ruling powers as rather selfish entities who plunge their entire kingdoms into war and strife because of their own whims and desires. For instance, the Duke of Buckingham declares war on France largely because he is angry that Louis XIII won’t let him see Queen Anne. Similarly, Louis XIII knows the true reason for the war and does nothing to stop it. The cardinal is no better. He, too, wants to kill the Duke of Buckingham because he was once rejected by Queen Anne and wants to see her suffer.
While the royals play out their petty romantic drama, the people actually involved in the war suffer. Many thousands die because of the romantic rivalry between the Duke of Buckingham and Louis XIII. In particular, many of the citizens of La Rochelle are forced to die of starvation because of a siege that is part of the war effort. At several points throughout the novel, d’Artagnan stops and thinks about how his life and the lives of his friends are largely determined by the whims of two or three powerful individuals. As such, the novel emerges as a harsh critique of powerful monarchical systems and their excesses, often caused by the most trivial of matters.
Class and Power ThemeTracker
Class and Power Quotes in The Three Musketeers
Panics were frequent in those times, and few days went by when an event of this kind was not recorded in the archives of one town or another. Noblemen fought among themselves; the king was at war with the cardinal; the Spanish were at war with the king. And then, besides all this secret or open warfare, there were robbers, beggars, Huguenots, wolves, and lackeys, who were at war with everyone. The townsmen always took up arms against robbers, wolves, and lackeys, often against noblemen and Huguenots, sometimes against the king, but never against the cardinal or the Spanish.
Although his triumph over such a mediocre man as Bonacieux could scarcely be counted as a great victory, the cardinal savored it for a moment; then, as if a new thought had just occurred to him, he smiled, held out his hand to the draper, and said, “Stand up, my friend. You’re a good man.”
The king’s animosity against the queen was deftly nurtured by the cardinal, who was much warier of women than of men in matters of intrigue.
The cardinal, as is well known, had been in love with the queen. We cannot say whether his love had a simple political goal or whether it was one of the deep passions that Anne of Austria aroused in those around her, but in any case we know that the duke of Buckingham had won out over him before the beginning of this story and that in later circumstances […] the duke had outwitted him.
“The bearer of this letter has acted under my orders and for the good of the state.
She sat motionless, her eyes glowing with murderous hatred. Now and then an angry sound like the low growl of a tigress rose from deep inside her and mingled with the roar of the waves breaking against the cliff on which the forbidding castle stood.
“He’s the man who’s ravaged England, persecuted true believers, and destroyed the honor of countless women, the man who’s plunged two kingdoms into bloody war to satisfy a whim of his depraved heart, the man who protects the Protestants today and will betray them tomorrow.”
“Buckingham!” Felton said furiously. “Yes, it’s Buckingham!”
“It was God’s will,” Felton said with a fanatic’s resignation. But he could not take his eyes off the sloop, and he imagined that he could see a woman on its deck, the woman to whom he had sacrificed his life.
“You’re young,” said Athos. “Your bitter memories still have time to turn to sweet ones.”