The Three Musketeers | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Three Musketeers | Chapters 1–3 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 1

The setting is France, the first Monday of April 1625. The arrival of a young Gascon named d'Artagnan causes a stir in the town of Meung—his horse is old, slow, and yellow. He recalls his dread when his father gave him the strange-colored horse before he left home.

D'Artagnan's father had given him three gifts—the horse, money, and a letter of introduction—as well as a sword and advice. The letter is to Monsieur de Treville, captain of the Musketeers, esteemed by the king. The advice is to honor the king and the cardinal, and model himself after Treville.

In Meung, d'Artagnan dismounts at the Jolly Miller and overhears a man, Rochefort, making jokes about his horse. They trade insults until swords are drawn. Two other men and the host beat d'Artagnan bloody and break his sword.

When d'Artagnan regains consciousness he challenges Rochefort to a duel, saying he will be sorry when Treville hears about this. Rochefort's interest grows at the mention of Treville.

Before long, d'Artagnan interrupts Rochefort talking to a beautiful young woman in a carriage named Milady. They are discussing their orders from the cardinal to inform him when the Duke of Buckingham leaves London. D'Artagnan taunts Rochefort, but Milady says they do not have time for a duel. Rochefort agrees and they part ways.

The next day d'Artagnan is ready to leave, but his letter to Treville is missing. The host says Rochefort must have stolen it.

D'Artagnan arrives in Paris where he sells the yellow horse, rents a garret, and obtains a new blade for his sword. He plans to visit Treville the following day.

Chapter 2

Treville has started his career much like d'Artagnan. He is from Gascony and had no money, but rose through the ranks through bravery and loyalty to become a friend to King Louis XIII, then captain of the king's elite guard, the Musketeers. The Musketeers live and die for Treville, defending from the slightest insult his unimpeachable reputation. Treville is "the zenith of human fortune."

Fifty armed Musketeers are standing before the residence of Treville. The antechamber buzzes with activity. D'Artagnan cannot believe it when he hears court gossip involving the cardinal. Surely they will all be jailed or hanged, including him. Eventually, he asks to see Treville.

While he waits, d'Artagnan observes a large Musketeer, Porthos, wearing an eye-catching gold baldric—a cross-body belt that holds a sword—that others are admiring. Someone says the baldric is from a lady. Porthos denies it. They do not believe him. He asks one called Aramis for validation. Stout and rosy-cheeked, speaking little and bowing often, this Musketeer silences the debate with a nod.

The conversation mentions Rochefort, a spy for the cardinal, and Aramis's postponed vocation to become an abbot, or priest. Porthos says Aramis will resume when the queen produces an heir. Aramis then makes the connection to the duke's presence in France, a scandalous joke. The Musketeers bicker until interrupted by the call for d'Artagnan.

Chapter 3

D'Artagnan reminds Treville of his home and his youth, so he receives him gladly.

Treville yells for Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, but only the last two enter. Treville says the Musketeers had rioted in a cabaret and the cardinal's guards arrested some of them, including Porthos and Aramis. Where is Athos? The two Musketeers say Athos is ill with smallpox, but Treville understands Athos is injured or dead. Treville scolds them and threatens to resign. D'Artagnan is embarrassed to witness this scene.

Porthos reviews the night's events: they were captured by unfair means and never surrendered. Athos was left for dead. Treville realizes the cardinal exaggerated. Aramis begs Treville not to tell the king Athos is wounded. Athos appears, pale but handsome, hiding his suffering. Treville reaches for Athos's hand, but the pain causes Athos to faint. The doctor arrives and diagnoses a loss of blood. Meanwhile, d'Artagnan waits to speak to Treville.

Treville recalls d'Artagnan's father. D'Artagnan tells Treville he hopes to become a Musketeer, so Treville writes a letter to get d'Artagnan into the Royal Academy for free. Nonetheless, d'Artagnan bemoans the loss of his letter of introduction and tells Treville the story of Rochefort in Meung. Treville warns d'Artagnan not to seek out Rochefort, but then wonders momentarily if d'Artagnan is the cardinal's spy.

As Treville hands d'Artagnan the letter for the Academy, d'Artagnan turns red with fury and dashes from the room, having seen Rochefort through the window.

Analysis

D'Artagnan is a Gascon, meaning he is from the Gascony region in southwestern France. Dumas characterizes a Gascon as hotheaded, stubborn, and arrogant, but also tough, loyal, and brave. D'Artagnan is from humble enough beginnings to make this a rags-to-riches story: he is leaving home to seek his fortune with aspirations of becoming a Musketeer. He is not refined, yet he wishes to join the Musketeers who guard the king and spend time in the palace. Treville is the example of a Gascon who achieved success; he has become captain of the Musketeers and the king's friend. Dumas often repeats that d'Artagnan is only a boy, creating the expectation this will be a story of growing up. His character is intentionally similar to that of Don Quixote, with his broken-down nag, in Cervantes's masterpiece of the early 17th century. The same qualities of a blind search for glory unfounded in reality haunt the young, well-born yet impoverished Gascon as they do the elderly Spanish man.

Dumas establishes the themes of pride and justice as they pertain to the practice of dueling. D'Artagnan's father tells him to fight duels and enjoy them. By the time d'Artagnan reaches Meung, he is ready to fight to the death for his horse's honor. No matter how small the slight, one man challenges the other and then kills him or makes him submit, thus dishonoring him. Reputation is everything. The king and the cardinal are rivals—they pit their guards against each other for the sake of pride and bragging rights. For them, dueling is a spectator sport, a smaller version of their power struggle over the nation.

The theme of friendship comes into play with the introduction of the three Musketeers. At the end of Chapter 1, d'Artagnan sleeps his first night in Paris "without remorse for the past, confident in the present, and full of hope for the future" and wakes to meet three friends personifying past, present, and future in Chapter 2: Athos, Aramis, and Porthos. Loyal Aramis begs Treville not to tell the king that Athos is injured to protect Athos's pride. Athos then demonstrates his pride by showing up to work pale and in pain, suffering in silence.

Chapter 3 ends with d'Artagnan resuming his pursuit of a duel with Rochefort to mend his wounded pride.

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