Alexandre Dumas originally published The Three Musketeers in serials, appearing one chapter at a time in the Parisian newspaper Le Siècle from March 14, 1844 to July 1, 1844. The serial form was a popular way for newspaper publishers to boost readership: think of it as today’s weekly TV shows, which keep the audience in suspense from one episode to the next. Dumas’s story of four young heroes battling for glory and women was even more popular when it was written than it is today. It is safe to say that this book has reached canonical status: it has been continuously in print ever since its release, cementing its reputation as a well-loved swashbuckling adventure novel.
Being forced to publish The Three Musketeers as a series meant that each new installment had a certain number of page or line requirements. This, in part, explains why the novel is dialogue-heavy. Dumas was trying to meet his line quota, and dialogue provides ample opportunity for line breaks. The author was particularly suited to this style of writing since he previously worked as a dramatist. This helps explain the theatrical nature of some of the scenes, particularly the chapters towards the end. The serial nature of the novel also explains why most chapters end with a cliffhanger of some sort. By today's standards, The Three Musketeers a "real page-turner," but, back in Dumas’s day, this suspenseful style simply ensured that customers would continue buying newspapers.
Part of what made Dumas’s novel so popular is his use of historical events and characters. Queen Anne of Austria was real, as was her husband (Louis XIII), Cardinal Richelieu, and others. Also, a man named John Felton really did assassinate the Duke of Buckingham.
You should also keep in mind that, although Dumas inserts history into The Three Musketeers, it’s his own particular version of history. Suggesting that the Duke of Buckingham went to war for the love of Queen Anne, or that John Felton assassinated the Duke for love of Milady is a bit farfetched. Those events did happen, but for different reasons. Even though it’s not always historically accurate, Dumas’s version sure does make for great fiction.
In the world of 21st century cinematic adventuring, we have a slew of awesome apocalyptic, end-of-the-world, the sky-is-falling-right-now stories. How many times have we heard someone like Will Smith proclaim that he’s the only one of his kind left on earth and will single-handedly save humanity? From the 2005 version of War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise, to the horribly infertile Children of Men (2006), to 2007’s I am Legend, this post-apocalyptic genre embodies an awe-inspiring concoction of all-out chaos and earth-shattering mayhem. Pick your poison: whether it’s the Terminator series or even the heart-warming Wall-E, the fate of mankind always hangs in the balance.
You might wonder what the heck this has to do with The Three Musketeers, a novel written more than 150 years ago. Well, this swashbuckling adventure novel is the mid-19th-century’s post-apocalyptic narrative. Sure it might not have the flashy weapons, one-liners, or dramatic the-world-is-ending-before-our-eyes-and-we-must-stop-it language, but we can assure you that this saga of four guys trying to save their world was every bit as captivating to Dumas’s readers as the zillion-dollar blockbusters are to us today.
Don't believe us? Let's look at the ingredients of a classic adventure story: