Places: The Three Musketeers

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Les Trois Mousquetaires, 1844 (English translation, 1846)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Historical

Time of work: 1626

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Gascony

*Gascony. Three Musketeers, TheRegion of southwestern France between the Atlantic coast, the Garonne River, and the western Pyrenees. In making the hero, d’Artagnan, a Gascon, Alexandre Dumas early establishes the region’s association with boastfulness and flamboyance. He repeatedly demonstrates that d’Artagnan deserves his Gascon reputation for passion, daring, and astuteness. Characterized as an idealistic outsider first encountering the corruption of the capital and the court, d’Artagnan eventually tells the Englishman Lord Buckingham, “The Gascons are the Scotchmen of France.” Other admirable Gascons in the novel include Captain de Treville and Porthos of the king’s musketeers.

*Paris

*Paris. France’s capital is the scene of much of the action of the novel. Dumas’s representation of the seventeenth century capital combines striking historical accuracy with some nineteenth century anachronisms. Most of the court scenes take place in the Louvre, the royal residence before Versailles (begun in 1661). A Romantic-Gothic atmosphere dominates the fictionalized city, which emerges most memorably as a place of ambush, midnight assignation, kidnapping, eavesdropping, and dueling.

Beyond the Louvre, Dumas’s detailed naming of streets makes it possible to retrace many of d’Artagnan’s movements through Paris on modern maps. Sometimes, however, Dumas calls a seventeenth century street by its nineteenth century name or mentions a building erected years after the story takes place. He also errs by identifying d’Artagnan’s lodging on the rue des Fossoyeurs with a number; Parisian houses started using numbers later, in 1775.

*Meung

*Meung (muhn). City located on the Loire River, between Orléans and Tours, in which the novel opens. For d’Artagnan’s first appearance en route to the glittering capital where he dreams of making his fortune, Dumas chooses a site resonant with chivalry, his first sentence distinguishing Meung as “the birthplace of the author of the Romance of the Rose,” a thirteenth century poem by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meung.

*La Rochelle

*La Rochelle (lah roh-SHEHL). Protestant port on France’s Atlantic coast that first rebelled against the Catholic regime in 1622. Dumas devotes seven chapters to the Siege of La Rochelle, which started in July, 1627, when France’s last Calvinist bastion and only port open to English ships accepted the duke of Buckingham’s help against his countrymen.

In an entirely fictitious episode, d’Artagnan, his three friends and their servants take possession of the equally fictitious Bastion of St. Gervais for a private breakfast and council, in the course of which they casually kill two dozen Huguenots. The port of La Rochelle reluctantly collaborating with Buckingham serves as an appropriate backdrop for the four heroes’ private decision to warn their country’s English opponent of a murder plot against him.

*Anjou

*Anjou (AHN-zhu). Old province in western France near the city of Angers that figures indirectly in the novel as the region producing d’Artagnan’s favorite wine. Sending a dozen bottles of poisoned Anjou wine to La Rochelle is one of Lady de Winter’s murderous ploys against the heroes.

*Armentières

*Armentières (AHR-mohn-tyehr). City north of Lille on the Belgian border. The novel’s resolution there suggests the wide net of evil that Lady de Winter has spread, temporally and geographically. Her beheading by the executioner of Lille takes place at a slight remove from the heroes’ unchivalric passing of a death sentence on a woman–on the other side of the Lys River, in Belgium.

*England

*England. Although the narrative alludes to England at one point as France’s “eternal enemy,” its prominent English figures, Buckingham and Lord de Winter, prove quite sympathetic characters, even while the English are supporting La Rochelle. Dumas reduces Buckingham’s politics, including his alliance with the Huguenots, to romantic gestures motivated by love for Queen Anne. Once Lady de Winter’s plots on behalf of Cardinal Richelieu and herself take her to England, she is clearly the far greater enemy for the French heroes–a satanic femme fatale from whom they would save the dashing English lover.

Whenever Dumas shifts the action to England for several chapters, detailed descriptions of his characters’ travels between Paris and the French coast fade into a vague landscape where the most prominent feature seems to be Puritanism.

*Portsmouth

*Portsmouth. English port that is the point of disembarking for travelers from Boulogne and the scene of Buckingham’s murder by the Puritan Felton, seduced into homicide by Lady de Winter. A belated warning at Portsmouth marks the heroes’ temporary defeat by their female archenemy and the end to Queen Anne’s traitorous weakness for a national enemy.

*Spain

*Spain. Roman Catholic stronghold on the periphery of the novel. France’s uneasy relations with its neighbor Spain, and its distrust of its own Queen Anne–daughter of Philip III of Spain and an Austrian–as a double foreigner mark the Spaniards’ potential for turning from allies to foes.

BibliographyHemmings, F. W. J. Alexandre Dumas: The King of Romance. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1979. Illustrations and copious endnotes. Chapter 9, “The Novelist,” discusses The Three Musketeers at length and describes Dumas’ transition from playwright to novelist.Maurois, Andre. Alexandre Dumas: A Great Life in Brief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1955. Short but still authoritative and dramatic biography by the distinguished French author, dealing primarily with Dumas père. Several chapters discuss aspects of The Three Muske-teers.Maurois, Andre. The Titans: A Three-Generation Biography of the Dumas. Translated by Gerard Hopkins. New York: Harper & Row, 1957. This definitive biography of Dumas, his swashbuckling father, and his son (Dumas fils) was originally written in French by one of France’s leading writers. A section deals with Dumas’ most famous novel, The Three Musketeers, and its sequels.Ross, Michael. Alexandre Dumas. North Pomfret, Vt.: David & Charles, 1981. One of the few books about Dumas originally written in English, this excellent biography highlights Dumas’ collaboration with anonymous writers to produce his prodigious output of five to six hundred novels, plays, travel books, and miscellaneous works. Ross discusses Dumas’ colorful reputation and the truth about his character. Many references to The Three Musketeers. Bibliography.Schopp, Claude. Alexandre Dumas: Genius of Life. Translated by A. J. Koch. New York: Franklin Watts, 1988. This biography focuses on Dumas’ personal life, full of romance and adventure, with many love affairs and duels. Describes how Dumas earned and squandered fortunes and died in poverty. Many references to The Three Musketeers.
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