The Three Musketeers
by Alexandre Dumas
Analysis: Plot Analysis
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.
D’Artagnan arrives in Paris with almost no money, hoping to become a Musketeer.
A penniless youth arrives in the city who has a lot of pride and mad sword fighting skills, so let’s see how he makes out in the sophisticated world of 17th Century Paris.
D’Artagnan fights with the Musketeers against the Cardinal’s Guards, and makes friends with said Musketeers.
D’Artagnan’s pride leads him to challenge three different Musketeers to a duel. He schedules them back-to-back, but before the first fight can commence, the Cardinal’s Guards ride up and attempt to arrest them. (Dueling is illegal, but everyone does it anyway.)
The four men decide to take a stand and resist arrest. It ends up being quite a good fight, with the Musketeers plus D’Artagnan victorious. A friendship is born.
This is the Conflict stage because the conflict has been firmly established between the royalists and the cardinalists. Being on the side of the royalists, D’Artagnan gets to make friends with other royalists, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the greater conflict that frames the novel.
The Queen needs her diamond studs back.
Queen Anne is desperate to retrieve her diamond studs from her lover, the Duke of Buckingham, since her husband the King wants to see her wear them at the upcoming ball. Unfortunately, Queen Anne has no one she can trust.
One of her attendants, Constance Bonacieux, offers her aid. Constance then turns to D’Artagnan, who is renting the apartment above hers and has already saved her once from would-be captors. D’Artagnan quickly agrees to take the mission. His love for Constance is a nice bonus to the glory of being able to help the Queen.
This mission will be dangerous, since the Cardinal has spies everywhere determined to ruin the Queen’s honor, so D’Artagnan takes new friends Porthos, Athos, and Aramis along for the ride. D’Artagnan succeeds in obtaining the studs from the Duke of Buckingham and saves the Queen’s honor. Our young hero arrives back only to find that his love, Constance, has been abducted.
Complicated enough for you? We have the Cardinal determined on sowing dissent and anger in the royal marital bedroom. We have an abducted Constance, who, by the way, happens to be married to D’Artagnan’s landlord. Then we have the fact that D’Artagnan hasn’t heard from any of his three friends who were all waylaid on the road to London. Lastly, the Cardinal is really angry at whoever got the diamond studs back to the Queen. (That person would be D’Artagnan.)
Our penniless youth’s life has gotten complicated in a hurry.
D’Artagnan tricks Milady. She swears his death.
There are many climactic points in the novel (a product of it being published in serial form), but the main climax concerns D’Artagnan’s trickery of Milady. D’Artagnan sleeps with Milady pretending to be the Comte de Wardes, then sleeps with her as himself. Milady pressures him to kill the Comte de Wardes. Believing that she loves him for himself and not his prowess with the sword, D’Artagnan confesses that he had pretended to be the Comte de Wardes.
Milady is furious and tries to kill D’Artagnan. This qualifies as the climax of the novel because it is at this point in the storyline that Milady is revealed as the primary antagonist our heroes have to worry about.
While in previous chapters she had been a murky, vaguely ominous presence (see the Seven Basic Plots Analysis), here in the climax she is shown to be one scary adversary. This climax is heightened and extended as she orders two attempts on D’Artagnan’s life, showing the extent of her reach and power. As a result, D’Artagnan is forced to sleep with one eye open.
Will the heroes triumph over Milady? She escapes from prison and heads back to France, seemingly unstoppable.
Milady has demonstrated the extent of her evil power, and our heroes wait anxiously hoping that they can stop her in time. Although Lord de Winter locks her up, she is not powerless. She successfully seduces her jailer, (John Felton), convinces him of her innocence, and arranges for him to murder the Duke of Buckingham.
She then heads back to France, destined for a convent housing Constance Bonacieux—the same convent that D’Artagnan and his friends are riding towards. This is the Suspense stage because Constance’s life is in danger, but the Musketeers may be in time to save the day and bring Milady to justice.
Constance dies. Milady is executed.
Our four young heroes arrive minutes too late to save Constance’s life, but they do manage to track down, try, and execute Milady. The suspense is resolved. D’Artagnan and his friends are safe from Milady’s perfidy.
D’Artagnan is promoted to lieutenant in the Musketeers.
All the loose ends are wrapped up. Porthos gets married, Athos continues to serve in the Musketeers until he inherits some land, and Aramis enters the priesthood. D’Artagnan makes a new friend, and Monsieur Bonacieux disappears.