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The Three Musketeers | Discussion Questions 41 - 50


What are some of the motivations behind the many deceptions in The Three Musketeers?

Milady de Winter is a master of deception, changing her face and demeanor—even her language, as she toggles between French and English. She had deceived Athos and Lord de Winter's brother for money and position. Then she pretends to love d'Artagnan so that he will kill the Comte de Wardes for revenge. Felton is Milady's biggest challenge because he will likely die as a result of assassinating the Duke of Buckingham, so she pretends to be a religious martyr. Her motivation is partly revenge against the duke for romantic infidelities, but also to benefit Cardinal Richelieu on whom she relies for power and protection. Cardinal Richelieu is motivated by revenge against his romantic rival, the desire to make the queen suffer, and the political motive of blocking the duke's occupation of La Rochelle.

What sacrifices are made in The Three Musketeers? Does anyone give up something they would rather not lose?

The Musketeers love fine horses; horses are reflections of their riders. The Duke of Buckingham gives them magnificent horses, but they need money more, so they sacrifice the horses for things like food (Athos gambles his money away). Athos regains a precious family heirloom he had given to Milady de Winter, which he does not want to part with, but again, practical concerns take precedence and he sells it to obtain his military equipment. D'Artagnan likewise does not wish to sell his diamond ring given to him by the queen, but he must fund the delivery of the letters warning against the assassination of the Duke of Buckingham. Material things are always sacrificed for friendship, loyalty, and honor.

How does exile play a role in The Three Musketeers?

The threat of exile is a form of power used to control others. Exile can be a punishment or a preventative measure. Even though it is not technically prison, the separation from home and disenfranchisement from family can be almost as devastating. Madame de Chevreuse has fallen from grace, but the real reason for her exile is to prevent her from helping the queen in her love affair. The king exiles Madame de Chevreuse to control her and thus indirectly control the queen. Defying his orders, Madame de Chevreuse secretly visits Paris anyway, and the king is beside himself because he cannot control her. The exile planned for Milady de Winter would be a bit more radical than that of the queen's best friend. Madame de Chevreuse stays with her cousin Madame de Bois-Tracy at her country house in Tours. Milady would be sent to Tyburn, a rough place known for public executions and prostitution, where Lord de Winter says she would "satisfy the curiosity of sailors." Her other choice is America, which would be extremely foreign and remote. Also, Lord de Winter would not give Milady enough money to bribe anyone to help her escape. She knows she would not be as charming an exile as she is an aristocrat. She also thrives on greatness: "Milady was only a queen while among queens. The pleasure of satisfied pride was necessary to her domination."

How is d'Artagnan's broken sword in Chapter 1 of The Three Musketeers different from that of Bicarat in Chapter 5?

The sword is a symbol of honor in the duel. D'Artagnan carries all the strength and protection attached to his father's large sword when he confronts Rochefort in Meung, but he has not earned it. He fails to protect the honor of his father's horse and his legacy due to his youth and inexperience. Rochefort's henchman and the host of the Jolly Miller beat d'Artagnan unconscious and break his sword; in effect, cutting him down to size, reminding him he is a novice. In contrast, Bicarat protects his honor effectively, even against four opponents, while laughing in the face of death. This courage and willingness to fight until the bitter end is highly honorable, and the Musketeers salute him for it. Bicarat is an experienced guard and swordsman in contrast to d'Artagnan. He is self-possessed during Porthos's banter in contrast to D'Artagnan's impulsivity in response to Rochefort's insults. Thus, when Bicarat's sword breaks, it is by his own hand and only because his captain orders him to surrender. Honor dictates that he cannot defy a direct order. Bicarat will not relinquish this symbol of his strength and power to his enemies. By defiantly destroying the sword himself, he retains some of his honor and even somewhat preserves his reputation among swordsmen.

How does Milady de Winter affect the trajectory of Athos's life in The Three Musketeers?

Athos was a nobleman, lord of an estate. He gave up the title, the money, the status, and his family and friends when he married the new curate's sister, Milady de Winter (named Anne back then). So, as far as Athos knows, she is good and pure, but she has already irreversibly affected his life and future. When he finds out he has been deceived and she is a criminal, he hangs her. He has no one and nothing to return to, so he lets everyone think he is dead, assumes a new name, and starts over from the bottom as a Musketeer. Athos lives alone, has no mistress, drinks enormous amounts of wine, and ruminates on women, despair, and guilt; his broken heart turning to a cold heart. He does not care if he lives or dies, illustrated by his rhetorical question, "Do you, perchance, think I set any great store by life?" What might appear to be foolhardy bravado going after the flag at the bastion is actually fueled by his indifference to staying alive. This wretchedness is caused solely by his wife. When Milady proves to be Anne, nothing changes in his worldview: he would kill her again if he must, and he does. Athos's last words to Milady indicate that no improvement in his mental state is to be expected: "I pardon you for my blasted future, my lost honor, my defiled love, and my salvation forever compromised by the despair into which you have cast me. Die in peace!"

What is the purpose of the ring given by the queen to d'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers?

The queen gives d'Artagnan a diamond ring as a token of her gratitude for preserving her honor by retrieving the diamond studs she had given to the Duke of Buckingham. A big diamond on the finger of a humble guardsman could draw the wrong kind of attention, including the suspicions of Cardinal Richelieu or the king. Treville recommends selling it as quickly as possible, but pride makes d'Artagnan want to keep it. He turns the diamond inward as a compromise. At one low point, Athos nearly gambles away the diamond ring; and other times, when funds are low or when the need for equipment arises, the three Musketeers eye the ring with hopes that d'Artagnan will be generous. D'Artagnan does not want to part with this symbol of success. Finally, he has Dessessart sell the ring so he can fund the delivery of the warning letters to Madame de Chevreuse and Lord de Winter. What better use of the queen's ring than to save her lover? This ring has given d'Artagnan a certain amount of clout, not only because it is valuable, but because it comes from the queen. The money the ring can turn into gives d'Artagnan power and influence with his friends.

In The Three Musketeers, who uses money to control others, and why?

Cardinal Richelieu buys off Bonacieux, who will go forward and spy on Mme. Bonacieux and identify her to abductors. Not being terribly bright, Bonacieux might not understand the nature of the transaction: he believes the cardinal is his friend and the money is just "a pleasantry" for having been "unjustly suspected." The cardinal will get his money's worth anyway. Even though he likes to brag that he is wealthy as a way of influencing others, Bonacieux will not be able to control anyone's opinions or deeds with the cardinal's money because Mme. Bonacieux gives it to d'Artagnan to bring the letter to the duke and save the queen. D'Artagnan says, "It will be a double amusing affair to save the queen with the cardinal's money!" Stingy M. Coquenard controls his coffers—literally sleeping with his feet on his money box—and his wife. Mme. Coquenard lives in a meager house and makes a frugal meal, even when entertaining. Somehow she wrangles just enough to keep a lover with expensive tastes interested. Then she is able to express her dissatisfaction with Porthos by withholding money, such as when she refused to pay his hotel bill.

How is desirability portrayed as a means of power in The Three Musketeers?

Porthos and Milady de Winter both use their desirability to control others. Porthos wants fancy equipment for the war, and Mme. Coquenard wants to be his only love. His power comes from his desirability and her love for him. Porthos knows how to provoke her jealousy to get her to loosen her purse strings. When Mme. Coquenard fails to pay his hotel bill or procure a magnificent horse, he withholds his romantic gestures and longing looks. Similarly, Milady uses her desirability to control others. She sleeps with d'Artagnan as a kind of contract to get him to kill the Comte de Wardes. Readers must wonder if she used a similar approach with the young curate, Athos, her husband who turns against her when he realizes her treachery. Typical for Milady, this is how she controls or uses men.

How does the symbol of the fleur-de-lis relate to d'Artagnan finally becoming a Musketeer in The Three Musketeers?

When the four friends have their picnic at the bastion, they fly a dinner napkin as their flag and enemy fire punches holes in it. They leave the bastion triumphant, having entertained the troops while winning their wager. The napkin becomes a sign of their courage and honor. Cardinal Richelieu is impressed in spite of himself, and he tells Treville he will have three fleur-de-lis—royal symbols of the king—embroidered on it so the Musketeers can carry it with their other flags. Each fleur-de-lis represents one Musketeer in service to the king. Treville says it is not fair to d'Artagnan, who is in the guard under Dessessart but is not a Musketeer. There would be no symbol for him on the flag. The cardinal tells Treville to take d'Artagnan into the Musketeers because the four friends are so devoted to each other. This shows the fleur-de-lis as a positive symbol of France and the king.

How does the king embody the theme of justice in The Three Musketeers?

The king embodies the theme of justice in several ways. For example, he reminds Treville he likes to be called "Louis the Just" when he drops out at the gaming table, and insists his replacement stake the same amount of money. The king's greatest show of justice, however, comes after Treville confronts Tremouille about the duel between d'Artagnan and Bernajoux. The outcome depends on Tremouille being a man of honor and nobility and relating Bernajoux's true statement about the duel's cause. Tremouille reports to the king that Bernajoux started the fight, and Cardinal Richelieu's guards are to blame. Justice is served, the king is ecstatic, and the Musketeers are vindicated.

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