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The Three Musketeers | Discussion Questions 11 - 20


In The Three Musketeers, what is the significance of Aramis being mistaken for the Duke of Buckingham, and vice versa?

In the first instance, Rochefort tells Aramis to get in the carriage, thinking Aramis and his companion are the Duke of Buckingham and the queen. This suggests Cardinal Richelieu knows the duke is in France and he wants the duke brought to him—whether as a captive or for an audience, it is never stated. Rochefort realizes his mistake and backs off. Later, d'Artagnan believes he sees Mme. Bonacieux walking with Aramis and he feels twice betrayed: by his love interest and by his friend. Mme. Bonacieux had sworn she did not know Aramis, even though she had been sneaking around his window at night, and d'Artagnan was inclined to believe her. But now she's walking with him. Only it is not him, it is the duke. Due to the previous confusion, readers can believe d'Artagnan's mistake and also understand how the duke in a Musketeer's doublet could walk down the streets of Paris out in the open.

In the short time between abductions, how does Mme. Bonacieux change in Chapter 17 of The Three Musketeers?

When Mme. Bonacieux first speaks of her husband Bonacieux being in prison, she says, "Poor dear man, he is innocence itself!" He may not be brave or smart, but she pities him. Also, she keeps him in the dark about their missions every evening, visiting the "linen drapers" who are actually the Duke of Buckingham and Madame de Chevreuse, so she knows he is innocent. Still, a faint smile passes over her face then and later in the conversation when d'Artagnan says Bonacieux did not suspect her but was proud of her love. This smile foreshadows her change of heart. Married young to a man twice her age, Mme. Bonacieux is entertaining thoughts about handsome and brave d'Artagnan, impressed that he is a gentleman and wears the uniform of a guard. As her affection for Bonacieux diminishes in Chapter 17, the door opens for d'Artagnan's love. In Chapter 17, at first Mme. Bonacieux still speaks highly of her husband to the queen: "He is a worthy, honest man who entertains neither love nor hatred for anybody." She thinks Bonacieux will carry the queen's letter, no questions asked. He refuses, pledges his loyalty to the cardinal, and they argue. Mme. Bonacieux tells him, "I know you to be cowardly, avaricious, and foolish, but I never till now believed you infamous!" She calls him "a miserable creature" and gazes on his "stupid countenance." After Bonacieux leaves, Mme. Bonacieux calls him an "imbecile," saying when he already has so little to recommend him, being a cardinalist makes him intolerable. "Ah, Monsieur Bonacieux, I never did love you much, but now it is worse than ever. I hate you, and on my word you shall pay for this!"

How do coincidences enable d'Artagnan to assume the identity of the Comte de Wardes in The Three Musketeers?

The first time d'Artagnan pretends to be the Comte de Wardes is at Calais, on his way to retrieve the diamonds from the Duke of Buckingham. There just so happens to be another young gentleman and his servant lining up for the boat, and they also happen to have permission papers to sail, even though the port is closed. One bloody duel later, and d'Artagnan is the Comte de Wardes for a day, and Planchet is Lubin. The next coincidence: d'Artagnan and Planchet find themselves outside the Comte de Wardes's home in St. Germain. They just happen to be passing by while tracking Milady de Winter. Even more coincidentally, Milady pulls up in her carriage. Her maid, Kitty, hands Planchet a note, mistaking him for Lubin. D'Artagnan learns Milady's weakness for the Comte de Wardes and begins forging letters in his name and eventually spends the night in Milady's bedchamber as the Comte de Wardes. A last coincidence for this ploy, though certainly not for the book as a whole, comes when Milady orders all the lights off. Her lover must leave before the first light of day. One young gentleman might look like the next to a boat captain in Calais, but in an intimate encounter, it must be dark to fool Milady.

How does Porthos manipulate Mme. Coquenard for money for his military equipment in Chapter 29 of The Three Musketeers?

Porthos's first weapon is jealousy: dressed in his finest hat and clothes, he places himself near Mme. Coquenard at church and lets her see him smiling at another woman. Then he lets Mme. Coquenard think he is offering her holy water to bless herself, but he turns at the last minute to offer it to Milady de Winter instead. Second, Porthos reminds Mme. Coquenard that she failed him—this gives him the upper hand. Add this to her jealous rage, and she is desperate to make it up to him. Porthos is punishing her for forsaking him when he was recuperating in the hotel in Chantilly. He asks after M. Coquenard: "Is he still as stingy as ever?" Finally, Porthos uses drama. Once Mme. Coquenard is crying, Porthos puts a hand over his heart, saying she has hurt him. He employs "a majestic silence" and "a melancholy tone." Porthos says the military campaign starts soon. Worse, he has a feeling he will die. Now Mme. Coquenard cries harder. He says wistfully he had thought he had friends in Paris. Mme. Coquenard is defeated: she says with a meaningful glance that her husband is old and will leave her everything very soon. That speaks to a future well beyond outfitting Porthos's military equipment.

In The Three Musketeers, how and why do the king and Cardinal Richelieu keep the queen isolated and lonely?

The king exiled the queen's best friend, Madame de Chevreuse. The queen and Madame de Chevreuse stay in close contact with secret letters, but the queen is still very lonely, relying on her servants for companionship and confidences. She says they are at risk of being arrested or exiled, too—Mme. Bonacieux, for example. Laporte lives in fear as well. They do not want any of her friends or faithful servants to help her arrange romantic meetings. The queen is separated from her family in Spain, increasing her loneliness, and when she does write to her brother, now king of Spain, she asks him to declare war against France and get rid of Cardinal Richelieu. The king and the cardinal intercept the letter, but they do not appear threatened by the sentiments behind it. The king is just glad it is not a love letter; the cardinal just plots her further downfall by suggesting a ball to showcase the missing diamonds. So far, they have kept the queen powerless and isolated, and the letter dictates they continue to do so. If the Duke of Buckingham and the king of Spain are already forming an alliance against France, how much worse for France it would be if they had the added motive to avenge the queen.

How do greed and vanity lead to Bonacieux's downfall in The Three Musketeers?

Cardinal Richelieu draws Bonacieux into his web with flattery, calling him "friend," and seals the deal with a big bag of money. Rochefort keeps the act going when he checks in, calling him "dear Bonacieux," saying the cardinal has great respect for him: "The mercer fancied himself already on the high road to honors and fortune." As long as they tell him what he longs to hear, vanity prevents Bonacieux from realizing he is being used. When his usefulness has run its course and he fades back into obscurity, Bonacieux's ego cannot stand it. He wants the cardinal's attention again and tries to renew the friendship: "The cardinal had him informed that he would provide for him so that he should never want for anything in future." When Bonacieux has not been seen again, his neighbors say he must be kept in a castle by the generous cardinal, but readers know it is Dumas's humorous way of saying Bonacieux will never want for anything again because he is dead.

What role does religion play in Felton's crime in The Three Musketeers?

During their conversation in the Red Dovecot, Cardinal Richelieu and Milady de Winter considered a possible scenario for assassinating the Duke of Buckingham. Take one fanatical Puritan—the Puritans despise the duke as the devil—and add a woman spurned by the duke to stir up a frenzy in the Puritan, and then stand back and watch as the Puritan commits the murder as an act of martyrdom. Once captured, Milady is not at liberty to go looking for a Puritan, though; so, call it luck or coincidence, she discovers her main guard is a Puritan. Her usual seductions do not work on the highly moral, no-nonsense Felton, so instead of coercing him to renounce his ideals, she must use his religion as a tool to control him. Milady puts on a show of praying, singing, and worshiping until he believes he is seeing and hearing an angel. She speaks of being persecuted, especially in the extended lie about the duke holding her prisoner and assaulting her in her drug-induced sleep. By now, Felton is not only in love with Milady, he also has manic dreams of an angel saying, "Strike, save England, save thyself—for thou wilt die without having appeased God!" So, Felton feels called by God to save England from the immoral duke, to appease God by killing Satan, thus saving his soul, and to avenge Milady. Knowing he will likely die while committing the crime (or soon after in an execution) does not deter Felton: to die for his faith as a martyr will surely secure his place in heaven.

How does d'Artagnan change or grow throughout the story in The Three Musketeers?

D'Artagnan begins the story as a boy leaving home, getting advice from his dad, and crying with his mother. Impulsive and headstrong, d'Artagnan follows the advice to fight duels and have adventures, but rejects the advice to keep the yellow horse and honor it. He continues to be headstrong throughout the story, often ignoring the advice of his mentors and friends, but he does begin to make plans sometimes. For example, instead of rushing to set Bonacieux free from his arresting officers, d'Artagnan reasons that he and his friends can do more to help him if they are not themselves arrested. The others follow suit and his leadership in the group increases; even Athos deferring to him at times. Mention of d'Artagnan being a mere boy decreases as his new friends show him the ropes of Paris life: he secures an apartment, a servant, a mistress, and a job. D'Artagnan achieves his goal of becoming a Musketeer and his dream of climbing the ranks to officer, so externally his experience is different and will continue to change. Inside, though, d'Artagnan is still the same young man, crying at the end over losing his friends and the sad memories of Mme. Bonacieux.

What role does the relationship between the king and Cardinal Richelieu play in the story of The Three Musketeers?

The king and Cardinal Richelieu are best friends and rivals. They compete at chess and for bragging rights as to whose guards are better. Both are vying for the affection of the queen, although the king does not know it. The king believes the cardinal to be indulgent to the queen, while behind the scenes the cardinal plots her humiliation and downfall. They have both lost the competition for the queen: her heart has gone to the Duke of Buckingham. The cardinal is technically an adviser to the king, but the cardinal's power is so extensive that they are rivals for control of France as well. Again, they are both losing to the duke as he rallies an alliance of European countries, with plans to provide relief for La Rochelle. The cardinal works tirelessly to defeat La Rochelle, while the king gets bored and goes on holiday. Taking matters into his own hands, the cardinal instigates the duke's assassination, their rival in love and politics, thus ending the arc of the queen's love affair. The king then rides into Paris triumphant when La Rochelle surrenders, perhaps bewildered at how it could all turn out so well for him.

When Milady de Winter is held captive in The Three Musketeers, how is the knife significant?

Milady de Winter hears that Felton had advocated for her to have a real knife with dinner, so she knows he has pity in his heart, which she can exploit. It continues to show her power over him: if he defies Lord de Winter and brings her the knife she requests, then she knows she has control over him. Even though he intends to stop her from killing herself, Felton brings the knife, showing her his devotion. She must follow through on stabbing herself to further convince Felton of her martyrdom. Felton takes that same knife, which had drawn the blood of Milady, and uses it to kill the Duke of Buckingham, making a clear connection between Milady's actions and the assassination. Symbolically, then, Milady kills the duke. Though she does not kill the duke with her own hands, the knife shows she is guilty.

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