The Three Musketeers | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Three Musketeers | Chapters 15–17 | Summary



Chapter 15

Porthos and d'Artagnan inform Treville that Athos is missing. Treville makes inquiries until he discovers where he is imprisoned. Athos does have the alibi of dining at Treville's. Treville goes to the palace to get the king's help.

The king hates the exiled Madame de Chevreuse, the queen's best friend, mostly because she helps the queen with her love affairs. The cardinal tells the king Madame de Chevreuse was in Paris for five days eluding police, and she and the queen corresponded. Furthermore, just as the cardinal's men were about to arrest the queen's emissary, a Musketeer chased them away. The king, now furious, heads for the queen's rooms to take out his anger on her. The narrator reminds us that the cardinal has not yet even mentioned the duke.

Treville arrives and the king stays put. He tells the king his faithful servant Athos is imprisoned like a criminal. The cardinal asks about the attack on his four men. Treville mentions the alibi. The cardinal says he has a report—swords against robes. D'Artagnan's name comes up and Treville says he was with him, recalling looking at the clock together. Treville asks to let Athos go, claiming "It is not mercy ... it is justice."

After Treville leaves, the cardinal tells the king the duke has been in Paris and just left this morning.

Chapter 16

The king is jealous of the duke. Hearing the queen has been crying and writing all day, the king wants to see her letters, so he sends for Seguier, "the keeper of the seals." The king tells the queen she must comply and give Seguier her letters. Readers learn the queen had rejected advances made by the cardinal in the past, how her mother-in-law hated her, and how all her friends and favorite servants have been ruined or arrested. The king leaves as Seguier, also called the chancellor, appears.

Seguier informs the queen he has permission to search her person. She is defiant and insulted, but he obtains the letter. Written to her brother, the king of Spain, the letter says to declare war against France and then demand the dismissal of the cardinal in peace negotiations. The king shows this letter to the cardinal.

The cardinal advises the king to make up with his wife because the letter was only about politics, not romance. He suggests the king throw a ball and tell the queen to wear the diamonds he gave her. The king needs the cardinal to confirm what day to schedule the ball, but the cardinal puts him off, waiting to hear from Milady. She will arrive with diamond studs in hand in 12 days, so he tells the king to schedule it then.

Chapter 17

The king realizes some mystery is brewing with regard to the diamonds. He torments the queen by threatening her friends. Finally, she asks what he wants and he says she must wear the diamonds to the ball. It comes to light that this is the cardinal's idea, the ball and the diamonds. She believes the cardinal knows all, and her ruin is imminent. The queen is friendless, and worse, one of her trusted servants is betraying her to the cardinal.

Mme. Bonacieux appears and offers to send her husband with a letter to the duke saying he must return the diamonds. The queen gives her a ring to fund the trip. Mme. Bonacieux, not knowing Bonacieux is now loyal to the cardinal, asks him to help. He refuses and they argue. She compares the cardinal to Satan. Then she tries a different strategy, telling Bonacieux she will love him again. He almost relents. She fears she said too much. Bonacieux kicks himself—Rochefort told him to get his wife's secrets, but now she is reserved. He leaves and she realizes she hates him and wants revenge. Just then, she hears a rap on the ceiling and a voice saying to open the door for him. It is d'Artagnan; she opens the door.


The cardinal doles out information carefully in order to maintain control over the king and queen. He puts the king into a rage over Madame de Chevreuse defying his authority by staying in Paris, and worse, communicating with the queen: he projects this to mean the queen met with her lover. Then later, when the king's rage has subsided, the cardinal refreshes it with news that the duke was in town. He continues his scheming when he suggests that the king throw the ball and request the queen wear her diamonds. Characters' reactions to his schemes show their intelligence. The king is clueless about the cardinal's real motive, while the queen understands immediately.

Athos is in prison as d'Artagnan in another case of mistaken identity. Alibis are explored, part of the theme of justice, and Athos has a true alibi: he was dining with Treville when the cardinal's guards were thwarted in bringing Mme. Bonacieux into custody. The alibi of the true d'Artagnan is false, but by setting back Treville's clock, then drawing his attention to the time, d'Artagnan has a solid alibi. The larger issue is honor: the swords against the robes, Musketeers against the cardinal. D'Artagnan's false alibi is in service to that honor. Treville claims that freeing Athos is a matter of justice and not mercy, but, in fact, it is Treville's honor and the fact that his word cannot be doubted that saves the day.

D'Artagnan's request for Mme. Bonacieux to open the door is a metaphor: as she opens it, Mme. Bonacieux also opens her heart. Love went out with Bonacieux; love comes in with d'Artagnan.

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