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The Three Musketeers | Discussion Questions 1 - 10


What does the old, yellow horse represent in Chapter 1 of The Three Musketeers?

The old, yellow horse represents the poverty, inexperience, and awkwardness d'Artagnan wishes to leave behind in Gascony as he ventures out to seek his fortune. In fact, Dumas makes a pun in French with the horse's color: yellow is jaune, while the French word for young is jeune. The horse makes onlookers uncomfortable and they project those feelings onto its rider. Rochefort even ridicules the horse. D'Artagnan must then challenge Rochefort to a duel: even though he is ashamed of the horse itself, he is not ashamed of where he came from and what the horse represents. The horse, being a reflection of its owner, is a liability to d'Artagnan's reinvention of himself in Paris, so he sells it immediately when he arrives. The horse is likely also one way in which Dumas draws a comparison between his young, eager main character and the main character of Cervantes's Don Quixote, a similar idealist on an awkward nag.

How does d'Artagnan's introduction to Paris relate to his experience in Chapter 2 of The Three Musketeers?

A young country boy experiencing the big city for the first time, d'Artagnan feels the contrast to his native Gascony. D'Artagnan must dart though the crowds of guards milling around Treville's hotel. The guards are sword fighting with real blades and actually cutting each other, all for amusement. Other guards repeat gossip so inflammatory, d'Artagnan is certain he will get arrested just for hearing it. Crowded, loud, and perilous, Paris is intimidating and potentially overwhelming for a youth from the quiet countryside of Gascony. D'Artagnan is totally out of his element, but his courage and persistence keep him going forward to meet Treville and achieve his dream of becoming a Musketeer.

How does Athos's injury relate to the idea of honor in Chapter 3 of The Three Musketeers?

Porthos and Aramis attempt to protect Athos's honor by not admitting he is injured or dead. Instead, they say he has smallpox, but Treville already knows they were in a brawl, so they relate the story in a way that restores some of their honor. There are many points of honor in the story of how Athos was injured. First, the cardinal's guards jumped the Musketeers out of the blue, which is dishonorable. The guards act dishonorably by killing two Musketeers before they could even remove their swords from their scabbards. Aramis gains approval and honor for having killed one guard with his own sword. The Musketeers never surrendered, which makes their actions honorable. Aramis tries to protect Athos's pride and honor by entreating Treville not to let the king know Athos was wounded. Similarly, Athos arrives and acts as if he is not wounded, but instead, ready for his next orders from Treville. Treville, in turn, is moved by this honorable display of courage.

How does the cause of the various duels relate to the characterization of each Musketeer in Chapter 4 of The Three Musketeers?

D'Artagnan stumbles upon the soft spot of each Musketeer as he leaves the audience with Treville. In his haste, d'Artagnan slams into Athos's shoulder, the location of his literal weakness due to his injury. Athos does not wish to be provoked and usually prefers to be left alone, so this reinjuring is cause enough for a duel. Next, d'Artagnan runs headlong into the cheap side of Porthos's fancy baldric. The illusion of wealth Porthos attempts to create is a sham, and now d'Artagnan knows it. Vain, Porthos's weakness, is exposed. Finally, Aramis has dropped a woman's handkerchief and d'Artagnan points it out in front of other Musketeers. Discreet Aramis will not admit any involvement with the handkerchief because the honor of women is his top priority. When d'Artagnan will not drop the issue, Aramis cannot avoid a duel. So, each interaction helps characterize each Musketeer: the reader knows him based on what would force him to duel.

In Chapter 5 of The Three Musketeers, what is the significance of d'Artagnan saying, "You said you were but three, but it appears to me we are four"?

Athos does the math—three of us and five of them—and gives his friends a prepare-to-die speech. D'Artagnan takes everything into consideration: his goal is to be a Musketeer, his role model and only contact in Paris is Treville, and he and Athos just became fast friends while avoiding their duel. Dueling is illegal, so he could be in a great deal of trouble. Further, aligning himself with the Musketeers means aligning himself with the king against the cardinal. He will now willingly make an enemy of the one person more powerful than the king. "My heart is that of a Musketeer," d'Artagnan says. Both parties are concerned for d'Artagnan, given his youth and inexperience. They give him the chance to run, but he defeats Jussac instead, making himself a solid friend to all Musketeers, Treville, and the king.

How do the homes of the Musketeers reflect their personalities in Chapter 7 ofThe Three Musketeers?

Athos's home is modest but furnished with gold-encrusted vestiges of a life of nobility: a sword, a small chest, and a portrait. Athos lives humbly as a Musketeer, allowing everyone to believe the titled nobleman Comte de la Fere is dead, but he never gives up these precious objects no matter how poor he is. Also, his landlady gives him amorous looks, but he does not notice or care, as women are not a consideration for him. Porthos cares about appearances. He rents a big showy apartment, but he only points it out to friends while walking past. Porthos never stays home and does not invite anyone in. No one has any idea what the real substance is behind the facade—same as with Porthos himself. The discreet home of Aramis has a shady garden for privacy to prevent neighbors from seeing in. It is on the ground floor to facilitate sneaking in or out. He disavows any relationships with women, saying he is a man of the church and he has no mistress, like Athos. Although his interest in the church endures, the pretense serves to protect the honor and identity of his mistress, Madame de Chevreuse, as does his home.

How does the character of Bonacieux develop the idea of honor in the The Three Musketeers?

Bonacieux is a foil in contrast to the honorable and brave Musketeers. He admits he is not much of a swordsman, and even runs screaming to d'Artagnan for help when the guards come to arrest him. Mme. Bonacieux laughs aloud at the suggestion that she would seek her husband for protection. Later, he betrays his wife's confidence to the cardinal, denouncing her and taking money to spy on her. He positively identifies Mme. Bonacieux for Rochefort to abduct her again. In all these ways, Bonacieux is the opposite of d'Artagnan and the Musketeers, who would die rather than put up with insults. Aramis, for example, is willing to duel to the death over the suggestion that he might have a woman's handkerchief, all to protect his beloved Madame de Chevreuse.

What is the significance of the Duke of Buckingham and the queen having the same dream in Chapter 12 of The Three Musketeers?

The Duke of Buckingham relates the dream of his imminent death. The queen gasps, as she has had the same dream. The details are the same as well, a knife in the left side. In the scene, this shared dream unifies the duke and the queen and validates their love. "Would God send the same dreams to you as to me if you did not love me?" the duke asks. She sends him away, though, not wanting love to be the cause of his death, and gives him the diamonds as a remembrance. For the purpose of the story, the dream is a direct foreshadowing that something bad will happen to the duke. Danger gives their affair a sense of urgency, every moment becoming even more precious. When the duke is murdered exactly that way, their dream is elevated to a prophecy.

How do the fates of Rochefort and Milady de Winter compare and contrast in The Three Musketeers?

Obsessed with revenge and power, Milady de Winter kills a number of people or causes them to be killed by those she has manipulated. Felton himself will die for killing the Duke of Buckingham. She plans to kill others such as the Comte de Wardes, d'Artagnan, and Lord de Winter. Milady's ex-husband killed himself, and she poisoned Mme. Bonacieux. Not just a spy, Milady is unstoppable and evil. No convent or prison can hold her. The four friends, Lord de Winter, and the executioner hunt her down, accuse her of these crimes, and sentence her to death. The executioner beheads her and dumps her body into the river. In contrast, Rochefort has no blood on his hands. He is a spy; he carries letters and papers, fetches people, arrests them, manages lesser spies like Bonacieux, and rides his horses very fast to and fro. Although he is an ominous presence throughout the story, he is never as explicitly evil as Milady (unless wisecracking about d'Artagnan's yellow horse counts as evil). If that is Rochefort's worst offense, besides working for the cardinal, then he deserves a milder fate. He is introduced to d'Artagnan and they make peace, later dueling several times before becoming true friends. To complete the story Milady must face her retribution, and she must be stopped from committing further crimes. Rochefort's trajectory remains basically the same as he continues spying for the cardinal.

How is the siege at La Rochelle related to the intrigue involving the Duke of Buckingham, the queen, and Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers?

Aside from being an historical event, the siege is also a metaphor, a battle between the Duke of Buckingham and Cardinal Richelieu for the queen's affection. The cardinal finds new ways to persecute the queen, much like he starves the inhabitants of La Rochelle, designing and building a dyke to more effectively keep out goods and supplies. The duke, on the other hand, is standing by to rush in with aid and relief for La Rochelle and for the queen. Also, the duke is the reason the cardinal got involved with La Rochelle. He was content to let its inhabitants live in peace until his rival the duke threatened to invade. Finally, the duke tells the queen he is taking action regarding La Rochelle as an excuse to see her frequently. She acknowledges that thousands of men will die for a few moments of the duke's happiness, calling it a crime. The cardinal's plans for assassinating the duke come to fruition hours before the duke sails for La Rochelle.

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