Study Guide

The Man in the Iron Mask Love

By Alexandre Dumas

Love

"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)

Aramis does not love his friends. And does he really love Philippe? He ditches him pretty quickly once he gets found out.

"Yes, Monsieur, we both love him, but each in a different manner," replied La Valliere, with such an accent that the heart of the young King was powerfully affected by it. "I love him so deeply that the whole world is aware of it, so purely that the King himself does not doubt my love. He is my King and my master; I am the humblest of his servants. But he who touches his honor touches my life. Now, I repeat that they dishonor the King who advise him to arrest M. Fouquet under his own roof." (15.35)

Is that really the healthiest relationship? In any case, we would argue that La Valliere is probably the only person close to the King who is completely free of any personal or political agenda – she really does love the King and wants what's best for him.

Athos then employed the heroic remedy. He defended Louise against Raoul, and justified her perfidy by her love. "A woman who would have yielded to the King because he is the King," said he, "would deserve to be styled infamous; but Louise loves Louis. Both young, they have forgotten, he his rank, she her vows. Love absolves everything, Raoul. The two young people love each other with sincerity." (25.33)

Why does this argument fail to resonate with Raoul?

"Oh, fear nothing! you are beloved,- you are beloved, Guiche; do you feel the value of these three words? They signify that you can raise your head, that you can sleep tranquilly, that you can thank God every minute of your life. You are beloved; that signifies that you may hear everything,- even the counsel of a friend who wishes to preserve your happiness. You are beloved, Guiche, you are beloved! You do not endure those atrocious nights, those nights without end, which, with arid eye and consumed heart, others pass through who are destined to die. You will live long if you act like the miser who, bit by bit, crumb by crumb, collects and heaps up diamonds and gold. You are beloved! allow me to tell you what you must do that you may be beloved forever." (28.93)

This passage reveals exactly the kind of torment Raoul has been experiencing since his engagement ended.

"I am strong against everything, except against the death of those I love. For that only there is no remedy. He who dies, gains; he who sees others die, loses. No; this it is,- to know that I should no more meet upon earth him whom I now behold with joy; to know that there would nowhere be a d'Artagnan any more, nowhere again be a Raoul,- oh! I am old, see you, I have no longer courage. I pray God to spare me in my weakness; but if he struck me so plainly and in that fashion, I should curse him. A Christian gentleman ought not to curse his God, d'Artagnan; it is quite enough to have cursed his King!" (32.69)

This passage is perhaps Athos's finest; it is full of moving dignity and accurately captures the spirit and tone of the novel.

"Mademoiselle: Instead of cursing you, I love you, and I die." (32.112)

Why is Raoul so determined to guilt Louise de la Valliere at every turn? This is very different from the position that if you love someone, you try to do what's best for them. Instead, Raoul and his buddies consistently attempt to remind Louise that she ruined his life.

Who knows? that dew was, perhaps, the first tears that had ever fallen from the eyes of Aramis! (51.61)

This can be seen as proof that Aramis really did love his friend Porthos.

"Never have I suffered so much as now; because then I hoped, I desired,- now I have nothing to wish for; because this death drags away all my joy into the tomb; because I can no longer dare to love without remorse." (60.22)

Although La Valliere does not love Raoul, she suffers from his death just as much as he suffered from her infidelity.

"I love madly, I love to the point of coming to tell it, impious as I am, over the ashes of the dead; and I do not blush for it,- I have no remorse on account of it. This love is a religion. Only, as hereafter you will see me, alone, forgotten, disdained; as you will see me punished with that with which I am destined to be punished, spare me in my ephemeral happiness, leave it to me for a few days, for a few minutes. Now, even at the moment I am speaking to you perhaps it no longer exists. My God! This double murder is perhaps already expiated!" (60.25)

La Valliere is in a pickle. She's caused the death of two men but still ardently loves the King, who she can tell is soon going to move on to a new mistress. This makes her one of the novel's most tragic characters.