The Three Musketeers | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Three Musketeers | 10 Things You Didn't Know

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First published as a newspaper serial in 1844, The Three Musketeers, or Les Trois Mousquetaires as it is known in French, is a historical adventure novel written by Alexandre Dumas. Set over three years in the early 17th century, The Three Musketeers tells of the many adventures of d'Artagnan, a young man who travels to Paris to join the Musketeers, the king's guard. Dumas was heavily influenced by real 17th-century French history and politics, basing many of his characters—including d'Artagnan and each of the three Musketeers—on real people.

The Three Musketeers caused quite a sensation in France. People waited in long lines for each new issue of Le Siècle, the Parisian newspaper in which Dumas's story was first published. Almost two centuries later, The Three Musketeers has not lost its spark. Today, Dumas is remembered for revolutionizing the historical novel by combining real history with fast-moving fun and adventure. Since its 1844 publication, The Three Musketeers has been adapted countless times to film, television, stage, and video and board games.

1. The three Musketeers—Athos, Porthos, and Aramis—are based on three real Musketeers.

The three Musketeers in The Three Musketeers were based on real men, whom Dumas discovered in a historical novel while doing research. Athos's real name was Armand de Sillégue, Seigneur d'Athos et d'Autevielle (Athos was a small village in southwest France). Not much is known about his life, other than that he was a King's Musketeer who died in Paris in 1643. Porthos is based on Isaac de Portau, who became a Musketeer in 1643. Aramis was Henri d'Aramitz, a Musketeer who served 15 years in the French army.

2. Dumas's father was a prominent French general.

Known for his courage and strength, General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas is considered legendary. Though he was Napoleon's leading swordsman, rumor has it Napoleon was incredibly jealous of this "6-foot-plus, incredibly dashing and physically brilliant general." Alexandre Dumas, who was only four years old at the time of his father's death, fictionalized many of his father's exploits in The Three Musketeers.

3. Dumas was the victim of racist attacks.

Many people are surprised to learn that Alexandre Dumas was a quarter black. His father's mother, Louise-Céssette Dumas, was an enslaved Haitian. As Alexandre Dumas became successful, his critics launched racist public attacks on him—one cartoon depicts Dumas boiling his white characters alive. Dumas fought back against these attacks, telling one critic, "My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends."

4. Like many of his characters, Dumas was a talented fencer.

As a child, Alexandre enjoyed hunting and outdoor exploration. He was trained by the local fencing master, starting at age 10. However, his mother had other ideas regarding his future, and she decided he should study to become a priest. Dumas ran away to the woods until his mother reassured him he didn't have to.

5. The writing of The Three Musketeers was a team effort.

Though only his name appears in the byline, Dumas owes a lot to his writing partner Auguste Maquet. Dumas and Maquet wrote dozens of novels and plays together, including The Three Musketeers, but the extent of Maquet's involvement is still under debate. A 2010 French film, L'Autre Dumas (The Other Dumas), presents a fictionalized account of the collaboration.

6. An English translator sanitized the text to conform to Victorian morality standards.

Three English translations of The Three Musketeers were published in 1846. The best known of these is William Barrow's translation, which is faithful to the original—for the most part. Barrow did, however, remove almost all of Dumas's references to sexuality and the human body, making the rendering of certain scenes, such as those between Milady and d'Artagnan, "strangely vague."

7. Dumas wrote two sequels to The Three Musketeers.

The Three Musketeers, set between 1625 and 1628, is followed by Twenty Years After, set between 1648 and 1649. The third book, The Vicomte of Bragelonne or Ten Years Later, is set between 1660 and 1671. The three books, which are together known as the "D'Artagnan romances," all focus on the life of d'Artagnan.

8. Dumas didn't invent the phrase "One for all, all for one"; it's actually Switzerland's national motto.

The phrase is traditionally associated with Dumas's novel, but it originated in 1291 to symbolize the union of Switzerland's three cantons (or states) when people from Uri, Unterwald, and Schwyz signed a pact promising to help one another. In 1902 the words Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno (one for all, all for one) were engraved on the cupola of the Federal Palace in Bern, the country's capital. Dumas's use of the Swiss motto in The Three Musketeers became one of the most famous phrases in literature.

9. The Young Blades television series is a sequel to The Three Musketeers.

Young Blades, an American television series that aired for only one season in 2005, follows the exploits of d'Artagnan's son (also known as d'Artagnan) and three other young Musketeers. One of the Musketeers is a woman named Jaqueline, who disguises herself as a man named Jacques.

10. The 2011 movie adaptation of The Three Musketeers received terrible reviews.

The Three Musketeers (2011) is a 3D action-adventure film directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and starring big-name actors including Milla Jovovich and Orlando Bloom. Though it topped box offices in several countries, it received poor reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes has reported that only about a quarter of reviews were positive. A reviewer writing for the Orange County Register called it an "epic failure."

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