Study Guide

The Count of Monte Cristo Justice and Judgment

By Alexandre Dumas

Justice and Judgment

Chapter 5
Eugénie Danglars

"Good!" Danglars exclaimed. "Everything is working out as I expected. I am now captain pro tem and, if only that idiot Caderousse can keep his mouth shut, captain for good. So, the only other eventuality is that the Law may release Dantès? Ah, well," he added, with a smile, "the Law is the Law, and I am happy to put myself in her hands." (5.147)

Danglars puts himself in a strange position, here. Even as he subverts the law, he places he surrenders his future to some larger concept of the "Law." We guess he's one for instant gratification.

Chapter 6

"Ah, Monsieur de Villefort," said a pretty young thing, the daughter of the Comte de Salvieux and a friend of Mlle de Saint-Méran, "do please try to have a fine trial while we are in Marseille. I have never been to a court of assizes, and I am told it is most interesting."

"Most interesting, indeed, Mademoiselle, since it is a veritable drama and not an invented tragedy, real sorrows in place of ones that are merely feigned. The man that you see there, instead of returning home, once the curtain is lowered […] is taken into a prison, there to meet his executioner." (6.36-37)

Justice, and being a justice, isn't play acting – it's serious business, a matter of life and death.

Chapter 35

"But, with such an outlook," Franz told the count, "which makes you judge and executioner in your own case, it would be hard for you to confine yourself to actions that would leave you forever immune to the power of the law. Hatred is blind and anger deaf: the one who pours himself a cup of vengeance is likely to drink a bitter draught."

"Yes, if he is clumsy and poor; no, if he is a millionaire and adroit." (35.44)

As we shall see, Villefort makes a valid point, and Monte Cristo shows that even he can be blinded by confidence and ambition.

Haydée

Haydée let fall her arms, groaning and looking at the count as though to ask if he was satisfied with her obedience. He got up, came across to her, took her hand and said to her in Romaic: "Rest, my dear child, and console yourself with the thought that there is a God to punish traitors." (77.252)

Monte Cristo portrays God as a justice, judging the actions of men directly.

Chapter 67
Gérard de Villefort

Villefort gave a bitter smile and said, in response more to his own thoughts than to Mme Danglars' words: "So it is true that every one of our actions leaves some trace on our past, either dark or bright. So it is true that every step we take is more like a reptile's progress across the sand, leaving a track behind it. And often, alas, the track is the mark of our tears!" (67.9)

Though he talks of all actions leaving a trace, it's the darker ones, the ones that stand out, like infractions written out on your permanent record.

Chapter 85
Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

"Poor young man!" Monte Cristo muttered, so low that even he could not hear these words of compassion as he spoke them. "It is written that the sins of the father shall be visited on the sons, even to the third and fourth generation." (85.135)

As far as Monte Cristo is concerned, Justice is a powerful and unrelenting force.

Chapter 89
Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

"and Ali, lying in his tomb, left the traitor unpunished, but I, who have also been betrayed, assassinated and cast into a tomb, I have emerged from that tomb by the grace of God and I owe it to God to take my revenge. He sent me for that purpose. Here I am." (89.43)

Here, though, Monte Cristo tells Mercédès that God requires someone to do his will, and that he is that man.

Chapter 99
Gérard de Villefort

"If he is arrested […] listen, I hear the prisons are overflowing—well, leave him in prison."

The crown prosecutor shook his head.

"At least until my daughter is married," the baroness added.

"Impossible, Madame. The law has its procedures."

"Even for me?" the baroness asked, half joking, half serious.

"For everyone," Villefort replied. "And for me as for everyone else." (99.80-85)

Though he may be corrupt, Villefort upholds the basic tenets of the law. He is impartial – at least in this case.

Villefort drew his chair up close to that of Mme Danglars and, resting both hands on his desk and adopting a more subdued tone than usual, he said: "there are crimes that go unpunished because the criminals are not known and one is afraid of striking an innocent head instead of a guilty one; but when these criminals are discovered—" here Villefort reached out his hand towards a crucifix hanging opposite his desk and repeated "—when these criminals are discovered, by the living God, Madame, whoever they are, they shall die! Now, after the oath I have just sworn, and which I shall keep, do you dare, Madame, to ask my pardon for that wretch?" (99.94)

Villefort does advocate what you might call extrajudicial justice, out-of-court justice, in certain cases. Some decisions regarding innocence and guilt are not meant to be made at the assizes. You can put this one in the same category as a duel.

Chapter 110
Benedetto

"Father, they are asking me for proof," said Benedetto. "Do you want me to provide it?"

"No," M. de Villefort stammered in a strangled voice. "no, there is no need."

"What do you mean, no need?" cried the judge.

"I mean," said the crown prosecutor, "that I should struggle in vain against the fate that holds me in its grasp. Gentlemen, I realize I am in the hands of a vengeful God." (110.68-70)

Villefort, sworn to uphold the law, is ready to surrender to it when the time finally comes. If anything, his knowledge of the law assures him of his guilt.

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