Study Guide

D’Artagnan in The Three Musketeers

By Alexandre Dumas


Zero To Hero

This is your classic rags-to-riches-to-swashbuckling-icon story. Wait, you don't know that story? Well, Shmooper: you do now.

Meet D'Artagnan. The young hero of the story begins the novel as a rather penniless boy from Gascony coming to Paris to make his fortune. After a few false starts, we learn that he’s great with a sword, he's a bro to the last... and he has a a propensity to fall  head-over-heels more often than a tween:

Then D’Artagnan, disposed to become the most tender of lovers, was at the same time a very devoted friend, In the midst of his amorous projects for the mercer’s wife, he did not forget his friends. The pretty Mme. Bonacieux was just the woman to walk with in the Plain St. Denis or in the fair of St. Germain, in company with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, to whom D’Artagnan had often remarked this. Then one could enjoy charming little dinners, where one touches on one side the hand of a friend, and on the other the foot of a mistress. (11.10)

In other words, he's a lover and a fighter. Oh yeah, and he's also filled with more pride than The Lion King:

"With a little more heart, he might have been contented with this new conquest; but the principal features of his character were ambition and pride." (33.110)

This is D'Artagnan's coming-of-age story, and we see him mature from a pretty trigger-happy (or rapier-happy) young man. Just look at this "You talkin' to me?"-esque passage:

This time there could be no doubt; D’Artagnan was really insulted. […] Unfortunately, as he advanced, his anger increased at every step; and instead of the proper and lofty speech he had prepared as a prelude to his challenge, he found nothing at the tip of his tongue but a gross personality, which he accompanied with a furious gesture.

"I say, sir, you sir, who are hiding yourself behind that shutter--yes, you, sir, tell me what you are laughing at, and we will laugh together!"

The gentleman raised his eyes slowly from the nag to his cavalier, as if he required some time to ascertain whether it could be to him that such strange reproaches were addressed; then, when he could not possibly entertain any doubt of the matter, his eyebrows slightly bent, and with an accent of irony and insolence impossible to be described, he replied to D’Artagnan, "I was not speaking to you, sir."

"But I am speaking to you!" replied the young man, additionally exasperated with this mixture of insolence and good manners, of politeness and scorn. (1.14 – 1.17)

Luckily, this aggro ugly duckling becomes an intelligent, focused young man—even if he still needs mentors (Tréville and Athos) to guide him. By the end of the novel, he is well on his way to a brilliant military career.

Although D’Artagnan is shown to be a pretty upstanding and  honest character, this trait is thrown into question with his treatment of Milady and her maid Kitty. He manipulates both of them heartlessly, arguing that it’s all in the name of eventually finding his true love, Constance. But check this out:

"What!" said he, "you have just lost one woman, whom you call good, charming, perfect; and here you are, running headlong after another."

D’Artagnan felt the truth of this reproach.

"I loved Madame Bonacieux with my heart, while I only love Milady with my head," said he. "In getting introduced to her, my principal object is to ascertain what part she plays at court." (31.56 – 31.58)

What do you think? Is D’Artagnan a heartless playboy or is Milady just that seductive? How should he have behaved with respect to Kitty? And do his ends justify his means?

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