1. The three musketeers, plus one? Of course, fans of the d’Artagnan Romances would be cognisant of the fact that the story of d’Artagnan spans over a number of novels; and even though this first book is titled “The Three Musketeers”, d’Artagnan is not one of them. With d’Artagnan as the novel’s protagonist, the plot moves along quite quickly; nonetheless, it is interesting to note that while there is some emphasis on the story development, characterisation has not been compromised. The reader will be deeply attracted to the book’s pace, humour and multitude of action scenes; with sufficient questions and climaxes to leave the reader guessing and be constantly on his toes.
2. “Tous pour un, un pour tous” (all for one, one for all). The synergy between the three musketeers – Athos, Porthos and Aramis – and d’Artagnan is extraordinary; on a plethora of endeavours and adventures, their willingness to risk death without fully comprehending the details is remarkable. This is especially true when they ventured together to London to retrieve the Queen’s jewels from the Duke of Buckingham. When the musketeers and d’Artagnan are judged individually upon their merits and personalities, their shortcomings do surface, and respective vices become more apparent; however, when they emerge as a single entity – throughout the novel, they are more often than not identified collectively – the reader recognises their strengths through their unity and camaraderie. Having promised to help and look out for one another, the reader will be deeply drawn into the friendship shared by the musketeers, and progressively develop trust in them to get their jobs done.
3. Charting the growth of D’Artagnan; and the elements of romance and love. D’Artagnan arrives in Paris with almost nothing, and attempts to distinguish himself as one of the King’s musketeers. His adventures are eventful, and though many might contend that the supposed acts of chivalry and honour are unconstructive and often detrimental instead, the reader is left to judge the rationales of the activities. Love and romance are represented differently by the different musketeers, with interpretations contrasted greatly between Athos and d’Artagnan.
4. Athos’s advice for d’Artagnan. “I say that love is a lottery, in which he who wins gains death! You are very fortunate to have lost, believe me, my dear d’Artagnan; and if I have any advice to give you, it is to lose always”.
5. Why the narrative style? The modes of communication and narration within the novel are quite straightforward: a third person – an invisible individual – primarily charts the experiences of d’Artagnan, with momentary focuses on the other three musketeers or the other main characters. As opposed to a first-person narrative, in which the reader has to second-guess, along with the protagonist, the intentions and emotions of the protagonist’s counterparts or adversaries, the reader of “The Three Musketeers” has holistic information about the characters. Through various soliloquies and monologues, the reader has the ability to wholesomely evaluate the interactions between the characters. Dialogue between friends and foes, and even neutral parties, heightens the levels of exchanges, and plays its role of moving the story speedily forward. Because of the comfort in the proliferation of information, elements of the unknown – through clues and foreshadowing – also increase the levels of suspense.
6. Enjoying the book without knowing too much about the socio-political or religious contexts. Unlike other lengthy French texts that reserve huge sections for specific commentaries on the French society, Dumas does not go into unrelated rambles about the people or events that might not have a direct bearing upon the development of the story. Most notably, instead of going into greater details on the political impact of Buckingham’s assassination and Cardinal Richelieu’s further plans, the second part of the book is dedicated to the hunt of Milady, and its corresponding dramatic tensions. Elements such as Romanticism, political climate, discussions on the siege of La Rochelle et cetera serve as background for the novel to gradually develop.
7. The wonders of Milady’s abilities. “It was easy to conquer, as she so often had, men who were used to the gallantries and intrigues of life at court and who were quick to let themselves be seduced. She was beautiful enough not to find much resistance on the part of the flesh, and clever enough to prevail over any obstacles of the mind”.
8. Milady’s death and the considerations. Despite being the chief antagonist in the novel, the reader would be impressed by the levels of her intellect, strength and independence; traits that were not commonly associated with women during that period of time. However, it is evident that she uses these advantages of beauty, seduction and deception to help secure a better and wealthier future for herself; though it is worth contemplating whether her circumstances had compelled her to pursue the various criminal endeavours. Towards the end, there is no doubt that Milady – also known as Anne de Breuil, Comtesse de La Fère, Milady de Winter and Lady Clarick – is guilt for her crimes and villainy, but it is ultimately up to the reader to decide whether the musketeers deserve sympathy for the mock trial, or whether Milady deserved a proper trial to punish her for what she had done.
9. Cardinal Richelieu. As a historical figure, the reader who is well-informed about the history of France would be well-disposed to compare his descriptions in the text with the actual figure. The Cardinal is shown to be manipulative in his actions, though it can be contended that he ultimately has the best-intentions for his country. His particular dealings with d’Artagnan are honourable and respectable, and he is quick (and justified) to judge individuals by their merits and talents (especially with regard to the musketeers).
10. The Cardinal’s exposition. “You are young, and your bitter recollections have time to change themselves to tender remembrances”.