The Count of Monte Cristo | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Count of Monte Cristo | Chapters 34–38 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 34

Franz and Albert take a safe route to the Colosseum. Once inside, Franz, who has been on the tour many times, slips away from Albert and the guides. As he sits quietly in the shadows, he witnesses a mysterious meeting in which two men discuss the upcoming executions of two prisoners. One of the men says that Peppino is only a poor shepherd who helped him by supplying food for his band of thieves. He says he plans to bring his men, with weapons, to disrupt the execution. The other man says he will use bribery to postpone the execution until Peppino's escape can be arranged. If the bribe succeeds, he'll put a signal in windows he has rented at the Café Rospoli. Franz recognizes the voice of one of the men as that of Sinbad the Sailor.

The next evening, Franz and Albert attend the opera, where Franz notices a very beautiful woman dressed in a Greek costume. She is accompanied by a man Franz recognizes as Sinbad. Franz asks the Countess G–, who is sitting near him, if she knows the man. The countess, claiming to be afraid of the man, comments on his extremely pale skin and says he looks like Lord Ruthven (a fictional vampire made famous in the works of Lord Byron). Later, back at the hotel Albert tells Franz that he overheard the mysterious man speaking to the Greek woman in Romaic. They receive an invitation to meet the next morning with their neighbor in the hotel, the Count of Monte Cristo. The count has heard about their inability to hire a carriage and wants to offer them two seats in his carriage and two places at the windows he's rented in the Palazzo Rospoli. The next morning, when Franz and Albert meet the count, Franz confirms that the man he knows as Sinbad and the Count of Monte Cristo are one and the same.

Chapter 35

The count doesn't show any recognition of Franz, and Franz decides not to mention their previous encounter. When the count rings for his steward, Bertuccio, Franz recognizes him as the smuggler who had led him into Sinbad's cave. They discuss the upcoming executions, and the count says he's heard that Peppino, one of the criminals, has received a stay of execution. They discuss punishment and justice, and the count angrily expresses the opinion that a quick death is not enough punishment for someone who has caused years of suffering for others. He points out that many people cause untold suffering without any punishment by society. Even killing an offender in a duel, he says, is inadequate punishment for someone who has inflicted "a slow, deep, infinite, eternal pain." The punishment, he believes, should fit the offense. Franz suggests that anyone who takes vengeance into his own hands risks punishment himself. The count replies that may be true of someone who is "poor and clumsy," but not of someone who is "a millionaire and adroit."

The count has rented a window overlooking the execution site and invites Albert and Franz to view the execution with him. Along the way, they pass the windows the count has rented for the carnival, and Franz sees the signal indicating that the pardon for Peppino has been obtained. The execution site is crowded with onlookers. The condemned men are led to the scaffold, and at the last minute Peppino's pardon arrives. The other prisoner struggles to get free but is gruesomely executed. Franz and Albert are each sickened by the spectacle. The count, however, stands "triumphant, like an avenging angel."

Chapter 36

After the execution, the count, Franz, and Albert don the clown costumes they will wear for the carnival. Riding in the count's carriage, they join the masked and costumed merrymakers parading through Rome's streets. The count asks to be dropped off at the Palazzo Rospoli, where he has rented windows, and he tells Franz and Albert to keep the carriage as long as they like. The next day, the count gives them full use of the carriage for the remainder of their stay. They chat with the count before they leave for the carnival, and they're impressed by his manners; his appreciation of fine art; and his knowledge of literature, history, and science.

The two friends proceed to the carnival, and Albert spends the day flirting with an attractive young woman in another carriage who is dressed as a peasant. He becomes obsessed with the idea of meeting the mysterious peasant and having a romantic adventure with her. The next day, watching the carnival from the count's window, Franz observes that Albert has managed to pass a bouquet of flowers and a note to the peasant woman. The following evening, Albert returns from the carnival with a note from the woman, requesting that they meet at the Church of San Giacomo on Tuesday, the last and most festive day of the carnival. On Tuesday at seven o'clock, Albert leaps out of the carriage near the church, and Franz watches as Albert and the peasant girl walk off arm in arm. At that moment, the bell rings to signal the end of the carnival.

Chapter 37

After dropping off Albert at the church, Franz goes back to the hotel. By 11 o'clock, Albert hasn't returned, so Franz goes to a party, leaving word that the hotel should contact him when Albert returns. Soon after he arrives at the party, a messenger brings word that a letter from Albert is awaiting him at the hotel. The letter is a demand for ransom from Luigi Vampa. If the ransom is not received by seven the next morning, Albert will be killed. Franz and Albert together don't have enough to pay the ransom, and Franz decides to ask the count for a loan. The count readily offers to pay the ransom, but Franz asks if it's really necessary because the count has saved Peppino, one of Vampa's men, from being executed. The count agrees to go see Vampa if Franz will go with him. The messenger, it turns out, is Peppino. The count questions him and learns that the woman Albert had been flirting with during the carnival was Teresa, Vampa's mistress. The flirtation took place with Vampa's permission. However, when Albert went to meet her, it was Beppo, a 15-year-old boy disguised as Teresa, who led Albert to a carriage. Beppo and several armed men then took Albert, after a considerable struggle, to Vampa and Teresa in the catacombs of San Sebastian.

The count orders his carriage and goes to the catacombs with Franz and Peppino. They find Vampa, deep in the catacombs, engrossed in reading a book, Caesar's Commentaries. His men jump to attention and point their weapons at the count when he approaches Vampa, but Vampa assures them the count is a friend. The count asks why Vampa has kidnapped Albert, who is a friend of his. Vampa apologizes to the count for abducting a friend. Albert is found sound asleep in his cell and is released to the count. Both Vampa and the count are impressed by Albert's easygoing attitude in the face of death. After his release, Albert and Franz go back to the party that Franz had left a few hours earlier.

Chapter 38

The next morning, Albert thanks the count again for saving him from the bandits and asks what he can do for the count in return. The count says he plans to visit Paris for the first time and would appreciate it if Albert would introduce him to Parisian society. They agree that the count will visit Albert in Paris in three months—on May 21 at half-past 10 in the morning. Albert will leave for France the following morning, and Franz will go to Venice where he plans to stay a year or two. After they say goodbye to the count, Albert asks Franz why he seems so uneasy about the count. Franz tells his friend about encountering the count as Sinbad the Sailor on Monte Cristo; as a conspirator in the Colosseum; and as a friend of Vampa, the bandit. To Albert, the count's habits and travels don't seem unusual for a man of such great wealth. Franz concedes that he has no real reason to distrust the count, but still, he thinks there's something very strange about the man. The next day, Franz leaves for Venice and Albert leaves for Paris.

Analysis

Ten years have passed since we last met Dantès. This long period of elapsed time underscores the patience that Monte Cristo has developed, furthering the transformation motif. The hot-tempered Dantès, who wanted revenge as soon as possible and railed at his enemies, is long gone. In his place is a calculating, deliberate man of mystery. The views on vengeance and punishment for injustice that he imparts to Albert and Franz make clear that he has not abandoned his desire for revenge or his determination to make those who mistreated him suffer. His dismissal of execution by the guillotine as "a few seconds of physical pain" and inadequate to recompense someone who has suffered "years of moral suffering" suggest that the vengeance he will exact will be a difficult one indeed.

In Chapters 34 to 38, Dumas uses mostly the third-person limited point of view. Through this device, he reveals the Count of Monte Cristo as Franz observes him. Franz is fascinated, puzzled, and slightly repelled by the man. Dumas based the character of Countess G– (who compares Monte Cristo to a vampire) on Countess Teresa Guiccioli, the mistress of Lord Byron, creator of the fictional vampire Lord Ruthven.

The count makes himself useful to Franz and Albert, from providing them with the transportation they need to offering them window seats for the execution and the carnival to rescuing Albert from Vampa. His connection with Vampa suggests that the kidnapping of Albert was prearranged. If this is the case, the count must have spent an enormous amount of time researching and planning for his encounter in Rome with Albert de Morcerf, who, as readers learned in Chapter 27, is the son of Fernand and Mercédès. Albert will be the count's vehicle for entering into Parisian society. Readers are left to wonder if the count plans on estranging the young man from his father as part of this planned revenge.

The chapters set in Rome take the story far afield from the original setting, but add color and flavor to the novel. Dumas uses the locale to deepen the air of mystery and command associated with the count, firmly establishing the transformation that the young, inexperienced Dantès has undergone. The count is at ease in all settings. The Roman scenes also suggest the wide network of associates that he has cultivated.

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