Study Guide

The Man in the Iron Mask Friendship

By Alexandre Dumas

Friendship

After the departure of Athos for Blois, Porthos and D'Artagnan were seldom together. One was occupied with harassing duties for the King; the other had been making many purchases of furniture, which he intended to forward to his estate. (2.1)

This is an ominous hint of the direction their friendship is taking. Porthos, Athos, D'Artagnan, and Aramis used to known as "the Inseparables" in The Three Musketeers. This is not the case in The Man in the Iron Mask.

"Have you a brother?" said the young man to Aramis.

"I am alone in the world," said the latter, with a hard, dry voice.

"But surely there is some one in the world whom you love?" added Philippe.

"No one!- Yes, I love you." (9.48 – 9.51)

It seems that Aramis does not love his friends.

"And this man, who would shed every drop of blood in his veins for me, will not open the smallest corner of his heart. Friendship, I repeat, is nothing but a shadow and a delusion, like everything else that shines in this world." (14.76)

D'Artagnan is dramatic in an effort to goad Aramis into confessing his plans.

"And this man, who would shed every drop of blood in his veins for me, will not open the smallest corner of his heart. Friendship, I repeat, is nothing but a shadow and a delusion, like everything else that shines in this world." (14.76)

Has D'Artagnan become cynical and disenchanted with the beauties of friendship? What do you think? Are there passages elsewhere that might support this conclusion?

"Look at us, Aramis! We are three out of the four. You are deceiving me, I suspect you, and Porthos sleeps; an admirable trio of friends, don't you think so?- a beautiful relic!" (14.78)

Is D'Artagnan sarcastic here or does he sincerely believe this? It certainly seems as though D'Artagnan feels that the friends are starting to grow apart.

"A friend's word is the truth itself. If I think of touching, even with one finger, the son of Anne of Austria, the true King of this realm of France; if I have not the firm intention of prostrating myself before his throne; if, according to my wishes, to-morrow here at Vaux will not be the most glorious day my King ever enjoyed,- may Heaven's lightning blast me where I stand!" Aramis had pronounced these words with his face turned towards the alcove of his bedroom, where d'Artagnan, seated with his back towards the alcove, could not suspect that any one was lying concealed. (14.104)

Is Aramis being dastardly and outright lying to his buddy, or is he, in a way, being truthful since he considers Philippe to be the true King of France?

"Your Majesty is doubtless afraid that poor Porthos may probably become a troublesome witness; and you wish to get rid of him."

"What! in making him a duke?"

"Certainly; you would assuredly kill him, for he would die from joy, and the secret would die with him."

"Good heavens!"

"Yes," said Aramis, phlegmatically; "I should lose a very good friend." (20.34)

Here "phlegmatically" means "I don't care if you kill Porthos." Not only does Aramis reveal no distress at the prospect of killing Porthos, he's even the one who suggested it.

"You also are a malcontent; you also, Raoul, have griefs to lay to the King. Follow our example; pass over into Belle-Isle. […]Will you join us?" […] "No, thank you!" (26.38 – 26.39)

Athos's refusal to join Aramis and Porthos is more evidence that their friendship is not like that of the old days, when the four unquestioningly supported one another and refused to be separated from one another.

"How good d'Artagnan is!" interrupted Athos, suddenly; "and what a rare good fortune it is to be supported during a whole life by such a friend as he is! That is what you have wanted, Raoul."

"A friend!" cried Raoul; "I have wanted a friend!"

"M. de Guiche is an agreeable companion," resumed the count, coldly; "but I believe in the times in which you live men are more engaged in their own interests and their own pleasures than they were in our times. You have sought a secluded life; that is a great happiness, but you have lost your strength in it. We four, more weaned from these delicate abstractions which constitute your joy,- we found in ourselves much greater powers of resistance when misfortune came." (33.34 – 33.36)

This is a really touching passage about the beauties and benefits of true friendship. Fittingly enough, it is a reflection on past friendships, not current.

"I have not been a friend for you, Raoul," said Athos.

"Eh, Monsieur! and in what respect not?"

"Because I have given you reason to think that life has but one face; because, sad and severe, alas! I have always cut off for you- without, God knows, wishing to do so- the joyous buds which incessantly spring from the tree of youth; so that at this moment I repent not having made of you a more expansive, dissipated, animated man." (33.38 – 33.40)

Here Athos basically defines a friend as someone with whom you have a lot of fun.

"You have friends in Belle-Isle, M. d'Artagnan; and it is not an easy thing for men like you to march over the bodies of their friends to obtain success."

[…] "Colbert was right," thought d'Artagnan,- "my baton of a marshal of France will cost the lives of my two friends. Only they seem to forget that my friends are not more stupid than the birds, and that they will not wait for the hand of the fowler to extend their wings. I will show them that hand so plainly that they will have quite time enough to see it. Poor Porthos! poor Aramis! No; my fortune shall not cost your wings a feather." (61.110 – 61.112)

For D'Artagnan, his friends come before fulfilling his ambitions.

"Athos, Porthos, au revoir! Aramis, adieu forever!" (Death of D'Artagnan.22)

It seems to be fitting that D'Artagnan's final words are directed to his friends. What's your interpretation of D'Artagnan's final words?