Study Guide

The Three Musketeers Ambition

By Alexandre Dumas


Some fragments of past splendor appeared here and there upon the walls of this modest lodging; a sword, for example, richly embossed, which belonged by its make to the times of Francis I, the hilt of which alone, encrusted with precious stones, might be worth two hundred pistoles, and which, nevertheless, in his moments of greatest distress Athos had never pledged or offered for sale. It had long been an object of ambition for Porthos. Porthos would have given ten years of his life to possess this sword. (6.12)

This passage demonstrates that Porthos cares primarily for money—his greatest ambition is to have as many trappings of wealth as possible.

"Well, well, but keep whole; that will be better, and you will be more useful to me. Tréville," added the King, in a low voice, as the others were retiring, "as you have no room in the musketeers, and as we have besides decided that a novitiate is necessary before entering that corps, place this young man in the company of the Guards of Monsieur Dessessart, your brother-in-law. Ah, pardieu, Tréville! I enjoy beforehand the face the Cardinal will make. He will be furious; but I don’t care. I am doing what is right." (6.195)

D’Artagnan must overcome many obstacles on the road to achieving his great ambition of becoming a Musketeer.

In fact, the dream of poor Bazin had always been to serve a churchman; and he awaited with impatience the moment, always in the future, when Aramis would throw aside the uniform and assume the cassock. The daily-renewed promise of the young man that the moment would not long be delayed, had alone kept him in the service of a Musketeer—a service in which, he said, his soul was in constant jeopardy. (26.23)

Bazin is sacrificing his time in service of a Musketeer in order to fulfill his great ambition of one day serving a churchman. Note that Bazin doesn’t aspire to these things himself—he understands and accepts his place in French society as a servant.

"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)

The love of Kitty does not soothe D’Artagnan’s ambitious soul—he must also have her mistress. Here ambition is presented as a major flaw.

"Now, what would you say to an ensign’s commission in my Guards, and a company after the campaign?"

"Ah, monseigneur."

"You accept it, do you not?"

"Monseigneur," replied D’Artagnan, with an embarrassed air.

"How? You refuse?" cried the cardinal, with astonishment. (40.32 – 40.36)

Despite D’Artagnan’s ambitious nature, he turns down the offer of being an ensign for the Cardinal. This shows that his qualities of loyal nature can be greater than his ambitious nature. Note the Cardinal’s incomprehension at D’Artagnan’s refusal. Clearly D’Artagnan is very different from the men the Cardinal typically deals with.

The Guards, under the command of M. Dessessart, took up their quartered at the Minimes; but, as we know, D’Artagnan, possessed with ambition to enter the musketeers, had formed but few friendships among his comrades, and he felt himself isolated and given up to his own reflections. (41.22)

Here we have evidence that D’Artagnan’s ambition can be greater than his desire for friendship.

She should certainly return from her exile--she did not doubt that a single instant; but how long might this exile last? For an active, ambitious nature, like that of Milady, days not spent in climbing are inauspicious days. (56.6)

Milady’s ambitious nature explains why she is dissatisfied with the idea of simply going to the colonies and then working her way back to Paris—she can’t stand the idea of her ambition being thwarted for just that short length of time.

"Well," said he, "they likewise have refused me."

"That, dear friend, is because nobody is more worthy than yourself."

He took a quill, wrote the name of D’Artagnan in the commission, and returned it to him.

"I shall then have no more friends," said the young man. "Alas! nothing but bitter recollections." And he let his head sink upon his hands, while two large tears rolled down his cheeks. (67.125 – 67.129)

This passage demonstrates that D’Artagnan truly prizes friendship more than fulfilling ambition. He’s genuinely upset that he’s going to be parted from his friends, even though it comes with the benefit of a promotion.

Mousqueton had a magnificent livery, and enjoyed the satisfaction of which he had been ambitious all his life--that of standing behind a gilded carriage. (Epilogue.4)

Here is seems that lackeys have a very limited set of ambitions—Mousqueton does not dream, for example, of one day riding in that carriage. Such an example might reveal that class can limit ambition.

D’Artagnan related to Porthos the substance of his interview with the cardinal, and said, taking the commission from his pocket, "Here, my friend, write your name upon it and become my chief."

Porthos cast his eyes over the commission and returned it to D’Artagnan, to the great astonishment of the young man.

"Yes," said he, "yes, that would flatter me very much; but I should not have time enough to enjoy the distinction. During our expedition to Béthune the husband of my duchess died; so, my dear, the coffer of the defunct holding out its arms to me, I shall marry the widow. Look here! I was trying on my wedding suit. Keep the lieutenancy, my dear, keep it." (67.118 – 67.120)

Since Porthos is well on his way of achieving his great ambition of possessing a lot of money, he is perfectly willing to turn down the lieutenancy.

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