Honor is a concept that is central to the musketeers’ way of life. The musketeers only act in ways that they believe are honorable and do their best to never bring dishonor on themselves or their friends. However, it is sometimes difficult to know what counts as an honorable action and what counts as a dishonorable action. Clearly, one way for the musketeers to act honorably is to fight well in battle. This is exemplified in the scene where d’Artagnan and his friends eat breakfast while holding off several waves of English soldiers who attack the bastion they are sitting in. Each time d’Artagnan and his friends are victorious, they are hailed with cries of approval from the watching French army, confirming that their actions are honorable from their countrymen’s perspective. After the battle is over, the cardinal is so impressed by d’Artagnan’s courage that he suggests to Monsieur de Tréville that d’Artagnan be promoted.
Battle is a straightforward example of how the musketeers bring honor upon themselves. However, the novel often complicates the notion of what counts as an honorable action. The notion of honor is defined by the musketeers’ cultural context, meaning that some degree of social agreement is necessary—especially from people in power—to make the concept of honor meaningful. For example, the musketeers only manage to receive honor from battle because those around them agree that what they are doing is valuable. However, honor gets more complicated when thinking about issues such as d’Artagnan’s relationship with the Duke of Buckingham. The Duke of Buckingham is the leader of England, which makes him an enemy of France. Nonetheless, d’Artagnan does what he can to save the duke’s life. However, in the eyes of his countrymen, it is not clear that this is an honorable action. In fact, it could very well be considered dishonorable and treasonous. In this case, honor and morality feel quite far apart from one another. D’Artagnan does what he thinks is right, rather than what he thinks is honorable. Although the novel speaks highly of honor, it is careful never to confuse honor with morality.
Honor Quotes in The Three Musketeers
Fight duels at the drop of a hat, especially since duels are forbidden: that means it takes twice as much courage to fight one.
Athos’s arrival had caused a sensation in the anteroom, for his wound was known to everyone despite all efforts to keep it a secret. The door had remained ajar, and Tréville’s words were greeted by a joyous hubbub. Two or three musketeers, carried away by enthusiasm, drew back the door curtain and looked into the study. Tréville was about to rebuke them sharply when he felt Athos’s hand tighten in his own and saw that he was about to faint.
And, as His Majesty had predicted, the cardinal was furious, so furious that for a week he did not come to the king’s card game. This did not prevent the king from greeting him graciously whenever they met, and saying in his most sympathetic tone, “Tell me about those two poor guards of yours, Bernajoux and Jussac. How are they doing?
Yes, but you know why I’m seeing you, Duke: I’m seeing you out of pity; I’m seeing you because you’ve stubbornly insisted on remaining in a city where you’re risking your life and making me risk my honor; I’m seeing you to tell you that everything separates us: the depths of the sea, the enmity of kingdoms, the sanctity of vows. It’s sacrilegious to struggle against all those things. And finally, I’m seeing you to tell you that we must never see each other again.
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.”
“Yes, Your Grace, because now that there’s talk of war, I must admit that I see you only as an Englishman and therefore as an enemy whom I’d rather meet on a battlefield than in Windsor Park or the halls of the Louvre. That won’t prevent me from doing everything in my power to carry out my mission; I’m prepared to die for it if necessary. But you have no more reason to feel grateful to me for what I’m doing now than for what I did the first time we met.”
But now he suddenly realized the advantages he could gain from the love that Kitty had candidly confessed to him: he would be able to intercept letters addressed to Count de Wardes, get useful information from Kitty, and have access at any time to her bedroom, which adjoined Milady’s. The treacherous young man was already planning to sacrifice Kitty in order to make Milady give in to him, willingly or unwillingly.
“We are conspirators, Monseigneur,” said Athos, “but as you saw the other morning, we conspire against the enemy.”