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The Three Musketeers | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


How does the symbol of the fleur-de-lis affect Milady de Winter's destiny in The Three Musketeers?

The symbol of French royalty is burned into the bodies of convicts to be a permanent mark of shame, to show they are "owned" by France as prisoners or to continue their punishment outside prison walls. When Athos sees the brand on his wife, he realizes she is not who she says she is. He hangs her and leaves what is left of his old life behind for an assumed name and a self-imposed prison of isolation. When d'Artagnan sees the fleur-de-lis on Milady de Winter's shoulder, he has all the same associations—crime, shame, possibly prison—but he also thinks of Athos's wife. Milady has succeeded in hiding the brand from everyone, her lovers and her maid, and now she tries to kill d'Artagnan to keep her secret safe. The fleur-de-lis escalates from a symbol of criminality to one of evil. Milady uses the symbolism of the fleur-de-lis to control Felton, saying the Duke of Buckingham branded her to discredit her in case she told on him, so no one would believe her. This lie makes Felton want to kill the duke even more. The truth of the fleur-de-lis is told at last by the executioner, who had enacted his own form of justice by branding the fallen nun—Milady—who seduced and ruined his brother.

How does M. Coquenard show his power over others in Chapter 32 ofThe Three Musketeers?

Although Porthos has the upper hand in his relationship with Mme. Coquenard, she has some power in the form of money. Unfortunately, that money comes from the stingy M. Coquenard. Elderly M. Coquenard resigns himself to making small talk with his wife's lover: "M. Coquenard, firm upon his legs, would have declined all relationship with M. Porthos." He embarrasses his wife by making a crack about being related on "the female side," which Porthos does not get, but Mme. Coquenard knows her husband's intelligence. Neither young nor healthy nor good looking, M. Coquenard can at least hold it over Porthos that he is smarter.

What function does Rochefort serve in the story of The Three Musketeers?

Rochefort is a catalyst; whenever he appears, something is about to change. He is d'Artagnan's nemesis, starting with his very first insult of the yellow horse. From then on, d'Artagnan always runs out the door after Rochefort when he sees him, thus ending a scene, almost like a play (recall that Dumas was a playwright first). Rochefort is responsible for both abductions of Mme. Bonacieux, and he meets with Milady de Winter to keep Cardinal Richelieu's plans in motion. He tries to keep Bonacieux in line and help him become a better spy. Then he leaves his carriage for Milady to escape the convent and, in an example of uncharacteristic carelessness, leaves a clue to Milady's destination by dropping a slip of paper out of his hat. At the end of the story, Rochefort and d'Artagnan reach closure on their antagonism and put their duels aside to become friends.

What is d'Artagnan's justification for impersonating the Comte de Wardes with Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers?

When Kitty tells d'Artagnan that Milady de Winter does not love him in return, he wants revenge. His ego and pride are hurt. At the same time, he still loves Milady. Worse than not loving him, Milady hates d'Artagnan for damaging her reputation with Cardinal Richelieu and for not killing Lord de Winter when he had the chance. He decides she is a monster: "d'Artagnan ... knew Milady culpable of treachery in matters more important, and could entertain no respect for her. And yet, notwithstanding this want of respect, he felt an uncontrollable passion for this woman ... passion drunk with contempt." Not only does Milady not love d'Artagnan, she writes a desperate letter to the Comte de Wardes, professing her love for him instead. D'Artagnan then contrives the impersonation of the Comte de Wardes to satisfy his thirst for revenge and his desire for Milady at the same time, justifying it by saying Milady had committed far worse crimes and she is a monster, not human.

How does the death of the Duke of Buckingham in Chapter 59 of The Three Musketeers advance the plot?

The death of the Duke of Buckingham stops the fleet of English ships (and their allies) from sailing to La Rochelle to offer relief and support. Consequently, La Rochelle does not hold out much longer in the siege and surrenders soon after. The king and Cardinal Richelieu win the political victory. The queen's lover is dead—the king and the cardinal are triumphant over their rival. In the story, this ends the arc of court intrigue begun with Bonacieux's request for help from d'Artagnan. Mme. Bonacieux's part of the story is about to end as well, because Milady de Winter can move on to personal revenge now that the cardinal's mission of killing the duke is done. When Lord de Winter narrowly misses preventing the assassination, he resolves to stop Milady for good, saying she will not be saved. Another casualty of the event is Felton, who confesses and will surely by executed.

How does the advice d'Artagnan receives from his friends reveal their attitudes about women in The Three Musketeers?

Athos does not trust women because of the life-changing betrayal of his young wife, Milady de Winter. His mistrust is further validated by Milady's relentless evildoings. When other men speak of women, Athos contributes "bitter words and misanthropic remarks." Athos's advice to d'Artagnan is to stay far away from women. "My dear fellow, I mistrust women. Can it be otherwise? I bought my experience dearly—particularly fair women." Treville tells d'Artagnan to mistrust one's mistress above all: "Because a mistress is one of the cardinal's favorite means; he has not one that is more expeditious. A woman will sell you for ten pistoles." When d'Artagnan does not give up his plans to rendezvous with Mme. Bonacieux, Treville says, "It is woman who has ruined us, still ruins us, and will ruin us, as long as the world stands. Take my advice and set out this evening." Even Aramis, who appears to hold women and their honor in such high regard, uses a Biblical tone to persuade d'Artagnan not to get involved with Mme. Bonacieux: "Woman was created for our destruction, and it is from her we inherit all our miseries."

In Chapter 40 of The Three Musketeers, how does d'Artagnan refusing Cardinal Richelieu's offer of a post in his guard advance the themes of friendship and loyalty?

D'Artagnan responds to Cardinal Richelieu's offer by saying if he joined the cardinal's guard, he would have no friends. The Musketeers would be disappointed in him, and the cardinal's guards are already his enemies. Aside from his dream of becoming a Musketeer, d'Artagnan is invested in his friendship with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. They provide for each other during lean periods, and back each other up during duels. D'Artagnan is also loyal to Treville, and regularly benefits from his advice. He has risked his life for the queen and her seamstress, Mme. Bonacieux. It would be foolish to switch allegiance now.

In what ways is Milady de Winter portrayed as evil in The Three Musketeers?

Milady de Winter is often referred to as a demon from hell. Athos speaks of the past and his wife, with rare sympathy, "The angel was a demon; the poor young girl had stolen the sacred vessels from a church." Later, when they meet again: "You certainly are a demon sent upon the earth ... hell has resuscitated you!" Athos continues to describe her transformation from the young girl to the devious criminal before him as if she had a pact with the devil: "Hell has made you rich, hell has given you another name, hell has almost made you another face." Though not literally the devil, Cardinal Richelieu, for whom she does work, is compared to Satan. D'Artagnan, in his fear and anxiety of Milady's plans for revenge, "exaggerated to himself the power of Milady. He credited this woman, who appeared to him the equal of a demon, with agents as supernatural as herself." Lord de Winter also refers to Milady as evil, saying if she succeeds with the marble-like Felton, "I pronounce you the demon himself." Felton even questions his own mind, wondering if she is a demon or an angel. Milady observes Felton falling for her "with the joy of a demon." When Milady half-heartedly stabs herself, Lord de Winter says, "She is not dead; demons do not die so easily." In the scene of Milady's execution, Athos reprises his previous statements: "You do not belong to the human species; you are a demon escaped from hell, whither we send you back again."

What is the significance of Athos going to prison for d'Artagnan in Chapter 11 of The Three Musketeers?

After d'Artagnan chases away the agents of Cardinal Richelieu who are after Mme. Bonacieux, they return with reinforcements to arrest him. They find Athos instead. Athos is not afraid of prison; he does not care where he goes or what he does. His reasoning is that he can buy some time for d'Artagnan to solve the mystery of Mme. Bonacieux's abduction. The cardinal will believe d'Artagnan is already in prison and will stop looking for him. All this develops the character of Athos: calm and cool, he takes what comes, much as he stays home and waits for his military equipment to come to him. Athos is circumspect—he considers the big picture rather than his immediate comfort. When the guards summon him in prison, Athos says his name, but they keep telling him he is d'Artagnan. "My guards exclaimed that they were sure of it. I did not wish to contradict them; besides, I might be deceived." This gives the reader a sample of Athos's dry wit and some comic relief. Even Athos's resolve has its limits, though; when Bonacieux begins rambling, Athos cannot get away from him fast enough, saying, "Send me somewhere. Your Monsieur Bonacieux is very tiresome."

How are the themes of friendship and loyalty developed through Athos and d'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers?

Athos and d'Artagnan hit it off when they chat before their duel: Athos does not want to offend him with his blood, d'Artagnan offers to leave on his doublet as well, and d'Artagnan offers some healing balsam for Athos's wound. Soon after fighting alongside the Inseparables, d'Artagnan is one of them. They teach him how to live in Paris, and feed him when he runs out of money. Athos, the unspoken leader of the Inseparables, develops almost paternal feelings for the younger d'Artagnan and considers his prudence the best among them. They develop the closest bond of the group. Athos defers to d'Artagnan's plans early on; this gives d'Artagnan equal status among the group members. Athos also secures the carte blanche allowing Milady de Winter to kill d'Artagnan, and threatens her life if she hurts him. He then gives d'Artagnan the carte blanche to protect him from Cardinal Richelieu. They have tensions, however, which they overcome, such as Athos gambling away the horses and almost losing d'Artagnan's ring given to him by the queen. When d'Artagnan is tempted to show pity to Milady at her execution, Athos steps in front of him with a sword at the ready. Moving past their differences gives them a more realistic and meaningful friendship, one that continues when Athos serves under Lieutenant d'Artagnan.

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