By Chet Yarbrough
The Three Musketeers
By Alexandre Dumas
Narrated by Simon Vance
Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870, French Author)
“The Three Musketeers” is a character driven story loaded with romantic heroes and riven with specters of evil. In the context of today’s “me to” movement, it is a female bashing and debasing tale wrapped in a male chauvinist delusion.
“The Three Musketeers” reinforces histories’ misshapen view of women’s rightful place as hero and/or villain.
In “The Three Musketeers” women are the cause of war, heart ache, and most maladies of humankind. In that view, Dumas joins the pantheon of writers that demean women.
On the other hand, Dumas creates a female character that is an equal to diabolical protagonists in other famous novels. There is no villain more devious, complicated, and scarily drawn than Milady de Winter.
Alexandre Dumas is one of France’s most well-known writers. At the risk of being identified as a fellow misogynist, “The Three Musketeers” is a fiction writer’s tour de force and a joy to listen to when narrated by a master story teller.
Meeting d’Artagnan for the first time and learning about Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, his three gallant and inseparable friends, is a guilty pleasure. There are no male heroes more brilliantly defined than Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and d’Artagnan.
Dumas writes the story of d’Artagnan, a 19 year old romantic that leaves his homeland with a letter of introduction to Monsieur de Treville, the Captain of the Musketeers. The hero, d’Artagnan is unknowingly pitched into the middle of a jealous rivalry between the French King’s Musketeers and Cardinal Richelieu’s competing cadre of French protectors.
Dumas cleverly interlaces facts of history with stories of Musketeer bravery, hi-jinks, and romance that reminds humans of their best and worst qualities.
Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642).
England and France are on the verge of war in the early 1600s. The jealous rivalry of the King’s Musketeers and Cardinal Richelieu’s nationalists roil the relationship between the King of France and its Cardinal.
The Musketeers walk a fine line between their support of the King and Queen and Richelieu’s defense of the country.
Queen Anne of Austria (1615-1643, Louis XIII’s wife).
Richelieu is painted as a powerful French nationalist and a venal schemer who lusts for Queen Anne.
Duke of Buckingham (1592-1628).
The dastardly Cardinal goes to great lengths to expose the Queen’s affection for the English Duke of Buckingham; partly to save France from England’s covetousness, but also (in Dumas’s fiction) to break the relationship between King and Queen.
Dumas suggests Richelieu’s plan is to soil the Queen’s reputation with an already jealous King.
King Louis XIII (1601-1643).
A principal cause for the war between England and France is purported to be the Duke of Buckingham’s immoral advances toward France’s Queen Anne and Queen Anne’s suspected cuckolding of King Louis the XIII.
Women are unceasingly characterized as fickle, conniving, gullible, or duplicitous.
Dumas describes d’Artagnan’s infatuation with the married Constance Bonacieux. It is not unlike Richelieu’s alleged lust for Queen Anne. Dumas adds d’Artagnan’s dalliance with Milady de Winter, a wily protagonist, and her sometimes associate Richelieu. Neither men nor women seem entirely chaste in Dumas’s tale, but women are characterized less gallantly.
Listening to Vance’s narration of “The Three Musketeers” is an addictive pleasure in spite of Dumas’s fickle characterization of women.
The words from Milady de Winter vividly portray human nature at its worst. Both the Cardinal’s, d’Artagnan’s, and Milady de Winter’s virtues leave much to be desired. Generally, women in “The Three Musketeers” are characterized as objects, more than equals to men. How much has changed since the 19th century?
Nevertheless, “The Three Musketeers” ending is thrilling and satisfying to many deluded misogynists among us.