Alexandre Dumas – The Three Musketeers (Novel Summary)


The French novelist and dramatist Alexandre Dumas was born in 1802, the son of a general in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army. Although the plots of his novels have been criticized as melodramatic and his writing style as careless, readers still enjoy the colorful characters and exciting action in his stories.

Because of his tremendous literary output—nearly 300 volumes—Dumas became somewhat of a legend in his own time. How was he able to produce so many more books than other writers? He hired several collaborators to search through the memoirs of earlier writers for exciting plots. Dumas cheerfully called these writing assistants his “factory” and paid no attention at all to those who criticized him for pilfering the work of others.

Today, Alexandre Dumas’ best-known works are his historical romances: The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and The Black Tulip. In France, Dumas is still noted for his plays: Henri III et sa cour and Napoleon Bonaparte.


Characters of The Three Musketeers

A brave young man who comes to Paris to seek fame and fortune as a musketeer

Count de Rochefort
Agent of Cardinal Richelieu

Milady (Lady de Winter)
Evil spy in the employ of Richelieu; Lord de Winter’s sister-in-law

Monsieur de Tréville
Captain of the king’s musketeers

A tall, proud musketeer who wears a half-golden shoulder belt

A handsome musketeer with dark eyes and a smooth face

Athos (Count de La Fère)
D’Artagnan’s closest friend among the musketeers; a sad, noble man

Servant hired for D’Artagnan by Porthos

Monsieur Bonacieux
D’Artagnan’s landlord, who proves himself to be a weak, greedy man

Madame Constance Bonacieux
Queen Anne’s maid and confidant; the object of D’Artagnan’s love

Duke of Buckingham
English nobleman and military leader; secretly in love with Queen Anne of France

Queen Anne
Wife of French King Louis XIII; secretly in love with the Duke of Buckingham

Cardinal Richelieu
Intelligent, powerful church official who vies with the king for control of France

King Louis XIII
Ruler of France; a scheming man with a streak of cruelty

Lord de Winter
Brother-in-law and enemy of Milady; friend of the Duke of Buckingham

Milady’s maid; secretly in love with D’Artagnan

Servant of Aramis

John Felton
Puritan guard who helps Milady escape from imprisonment in Lord de Winter’s castle

the abbess
Nun who offers her convent to shelter Constance Bonacieux and Milady

the executioner of Lille
Brother of one of Milady’s victims; eventually Milady’s executioner

Summary of The Three Musketeers

D’Artagnan, a young man from Gascony, pursues his dream of becoming one of King Louis XIII’s musketeers. On the road to Paris he encounters a darkhaired stranger with piercing eyes and a scar on his face. After a skirmish over an insult, the stranger steals D’Artagnan’s letter of introduction to Monsieur de Tréville, captain of the musketeers. While in Paris visiting with Tréville, D’Artagnan meets three dashing musketeers named Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. Then he unexpectedly spots the scar-faced stranger and chases after him.

D’Artagnan collides with Athos as he is chasing after the stranger; Athos challenges him to a duel. D’Artagnan teases Porthos about his half-golden shoulder belt; Porthos challenges him to a duel. Finally, D’Artagnan accidentally insults Aramis and is challenged by him as well. By chance, all four men meet at once and are accosted by the cardinal’s guards before any duels take place. D’Artagnan bravely joins in the fight and is rewarded by the king. Then Monsieur Bonacieux, D’Artagnan’s landlord, frantically tells D’Artagnan that his wife has been kidnapped.

Bonacieux suspects that the cardinal’s men have taken his wife, who is the maid and confidant of the queen. D’Artagnan meets and falls in love with pretty Madame Bonacieux when she escapes her kidnappers and returns to her apartment, which is just below his. After sending D’Artagnan to the Louvre with a message for the queen’s valet, Madame Bonacieux is seen walking down the street and talking with the Duke of Buckingham. She introduces the duke to D’Artagnan, and he escorts them to the Louvre.

Queen Anne and the handsome duke declare their love during their secret meeting at the Louvre. As a remembrance, she gives him a rosewood box containing 12 diamond buttons the king had given her. Meanwhile Cardinal Richelieu sets up a trap for the queen. He convinces Bonacieux to spy on his wife, and he sends Count de Rochefort to deliver a message to Milady. The letter tells her to steal two of the diamond buttons the duke will soon be wearing. Next, he convinces the king to plan a ball at which the queen will wear the diamond buttons. In panic, the queen sends a warning message to the duke via D’Artagnan.

D’Artagnan and Planchet deliver the queen’s message to the duke. When he discovers that two of the buttons are missing, he hires a jeweler to make identical replacements. D’Artagnan delivers all 12 buttons to her just before the ball. The cardinal and the king are mystified when the queen shows up with all 12 buttons. She pretends to graciously thank the king for the two additional buttons and secretly gives D’Artagnan a diamond ring for his services.

After D’Artagnan finds that Madame Bonacieux has been kidnapped again, he takes M. de Tréville’s advice to leave Paris for a while and visits Athos. Athos drunkenly tells him a strange story about a nobleman who discovered that his beautiful young wife was branded with the fleur-de-lis, the mark of a criminal, and was sent off to be hanged. Meanwhile Milady introduces D’Artagnan to Lord de Winter, her brother-in-law. D’Artagnan is smitten with her beauty. He pursues Milady’s love even though her maid, Kitty, warns him that Milady is in love with Count de Wardes. D’Artagnan tricks Milady into thinking de Wardes has insulted her and briefly wins her love. But when he confesses his trickery, she furiously attacks him with a dagger, accidentally baring her shoulder with the brand of the fleur-de-lis.

The French city of La Rochelle revolts against King Louis XIII, and Buckingham sees his chance to attack France and claim the queen he loves. His enemy the cardinal, however, plots with Milady to stop the duke by either blackmail or assassination. The musketeers overhear Milady offer to find a Puritan assassin in return for the cardinal’s help in destroying her own enemies, Constance Bonacieux and D’Artagnan. When the cardinal leaves at last, Athos confronts Milady, threatening her with death if she harms D’Artagnan. She recognizes him as her former husband, Count de La Fère, and is terrified. Athos forces her to give him the cardinal’s letter, which reads: The person with this letter has acted under my orders for the good of France.

When the musketeers tell the queen and Lord de Winter, Buckingham’s friend, about Milady’s plot, Lord de Winter imprisons her. Fearing de Winter’s threat to have her deported, she charms her Puritan guard into helping her escape. She and the Puritan, a man named John Felton, sail to Portsmouth, where the duke is staying. After assassinating the duke, Felton plans to sail with Milady to France. But when Felton has carried out the deadly deed, he finds that Milady has betrayed him and left without him.

Milady finds shelter in the French convent where Madame Bonacieux is waiting for D’Artagnan to rescue her. Count de Rochefort, who is the scar-faced man from Meung and one of the cardinal’s men, arrives to warn her that the musketeers are coming. After agreeing to meet Rochefort later in Armentières, Milady poisons Madame Bonacieux’s wine and kills her. The musketeers arrive a few minutes later, as does Lord de Winter. The four musketeers and de Winter set off to get revenge for Madame Bonacieux’s murder.

Athos brings a masked man in a red cloak to join them in their search for Milady. When they find her hiding in a little house by the river, they conduct a trial in which they accuse her of murdering Madame Bonacieux and plotting the death of the duke. The masked man reveals himself to be the executioner of Lille. He accuses her of bringing dishonor and death to his young brother. When they pronounce her guilty, the executioner beheads her and throws her body into the river.

The news of Buckingham’s death delights the king and saddens the queen. Meanwhile, the scar-faced man introduces himself to D’Artagnan as Count de Rochefort, an agent of the cardinal. He arrests D’Artagnan and takes him to the cardinal. D’Artagnan tells the cardinal of Milady’s crimes and eventual punishment. When the cardinal says that D’Artagnan must now go on trial himself, D’Artagnan produces the cardinal’s own signed letter of pardon. Impressed with D’Artagnan’s courage and wit, the cardinal gives him a commission as lieutenant of the musketeers. When D’Artagnan offers the commission to Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, they turn it down, insisting that he is the most worthy of all the musketeers.

Porthos marries and becomes a wealthy man. Aramis becomes a monk. Athos continues on as a musketeer, as does D’Artagnan. Rochefort appoints Planchet sergeant of the guards and eventually becomes D’Artagnan’s friend. Monsieur Bonacieux is imprisoned by the cardinal.

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