Study Guide

The Three Musketeers Society and Class

By Alexandre Dumas

Society and Class

"At court, provided you have ever the honor to go there," continued M. D’Artagnan the elder, "--an honor to which, remember, your ancient nobility gives you the right--sustain worthily your name of gentleman, which has been worthily borne by your ancestors for five hundred years, both for your own sake and the sake of those who belong to you." (1.6)

The status of a gentleman is inherited. This restricts D’Artagnan to this class status while also meaning he has the honor of his ancestors to uphold.

An old proverb says, "Like master, like man." (7.8)

Evaluate this saying in the context of The Three Musketeers. How do the servants reflect the personalities of their masters?

She was a charming woman of twenty-five or twenty-six years, with dark hair, blue eyes, and a nose slightly turned up, admirable teeth, and a complexion marbled with rose and opal. There, however, ended the signs which might have confounded her with a lady of rank. The hands were white, but without delicacy; the feet did not bespeak the woman of quality. Happily, D’Artagnan was not yet acquainted with such niceties. (10.34)

D’Artagnan’s enchantment with Constance Bonacieux reveals his background as being little bit provincial. Although she is beautiful, she’s clearly not of high birth because of the roughness of her hands and feet.

"Gentlemen," said Athos, "my opinion is that it is not proper to allow lackeys to have anything to do in such an affair. A secret may, by chance, be betrayed by gentlemen; but it is almost always sold by lackeys." (19.137)

For Athos, the distinction between a gentleman and a lackey is that the latter will betray secrets for money while the former may do it only by accident. It is fitting that he makes this remark since, of the four he is the most gentlemanly of all.

As long as he was in the city, Planchet kept at the respectful distance he had imposed upon himself; but as soon as the road began to be more lonely and dark, he drew softly nearer, so that when they entered the Bois de Boulogne he found himself riding quite naturally side by side with his master. (24.4)

If you want to read into this, you might argue this passage illustrates that without society (the city), the two are really rather equal.

"You will understand, monsieur, I thought there would be still time, if you wish, to see Monsieur de Cavois to contradict me by saying you were not yet gone. The falsehood would then lie at my door, and as I am not a gentleman, I may be allowed to lie." (25.51)

Planchet understands his social position as giving him carte blanche to tell falsehoods. However, it’s critical that he told this particular lie. This supports D’Artagnan’s later argument that Planchet is the most intelligent of the four lackeys.

This was too much for the procurator’s wife; she doubted not there was an intrigue between this lady and Porthos. If she had been a great lady she would have fainted; but as she was only a procurator’s wife, she contented herself saying to the musketeer with concentrated fury, "Eh, Monsieur Porthos, you don’t offer me any holy water?" (29.23)

Ladies of high birth faint when they’re angry. Ladies like the lawyer’s wife open their mouths. Just another one of the differences that distinguish nobles from commoners in this society.

D’Artagnan looked at the two women, one after the other, and was forced to acknowledge that in his opinion dame Nature had made a mistake in their formation. To the great lady she had given a heart vile and venal; to the soubrette she had given the heart of a duchess. (35.4)

Qualities of kindness and inner beauty are not restricted to queens and noble ladies. D’Artagnan recognizes this yet, as we see later, cannot stop falling in love with Milady instead of her maid.

Athos and D’Artagnan, with the activity of two soldiers and the knowledge of two connoisseurs, hardly required three hours to purchase the entire equipment of the Musketeer. Besides, Athos was very easy, and a noble to his fingers’ ends. When a thing suited him he paid the price demanded, without thinking to ask for any abatement. D’Artagnan would have remonstrated at this; but Athos put his hand upon his shoulder, with a smile, and D’Artagnan understood that it was all very well for such a little Gascon gentleman as himself to drive a bargain, but not for a man who had the bearing of a prince. (38.133)

Here we see pride intersecting with class and with money. Although Athos isn’t exactly rich, he would never stoop to bargaining for his purchases because of his position as an aristocrat.

She knew she had only two days left; that when once the order was signed by Buckingham- -and Buckingham would sign it the more readily from its bearing a false name, and he could not, therefore, recognize the woman in question--once this order was signed, we say, the baron would make her embark immediately, and she knew very well that women condemned to exile employ arms much less powerful in their seductions than the pretendedly virtuous woman whose beauty is lighted by the sun of the world, whose style the voice of fashion lauds, and whom a halo of aristocracy gilds with enchanting splendors. To be a woman condemned to a painful and disgraceful punishment is no impediment to beauty, but it is an obstacle to the recovery of power. Like all persons of real genius, Milady knew what suited her nature and her means. Poverty was repugnant to her; degradation took away two-thirds of her greatness. Milady was only a queen while among queens. The pleasure of satisfied pride was necessary to her domination. To command inferior beings was rather a humiliation than a pleasure for her. (56.4)

Milady is a strange character in this society because she is not of high birth (her exact origins are unknown), but she works her way through the aristocracy. High society then, is like a challenging game for her. To be exiled to a lesser world causes her a great deal of pain because being queen of that world would be far too easy.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...