Combined, the two novels make up a reflection on friendship, which I think is the real core subject of the series.
Coming back to "The Three Musketeers", it is amazing how Dumas plays with history. The way he builds John Felton's motivation for his real-life murder of Buckingham is perfect, if fictional, and in the end he owns his real motives when he says he killed the Duke not for Milady, but for his slighted professional hopes, closing a circle.
Richelieu is one of the best characters in the novel: one of the founders of the modern Nation-State, he is cunning and chivalrous in defeat, always with the interests of the French state in mind even when he's playing his personal revenges and plots. He certainly admires the musketeers and D'Artagnan so much as potential allies, that he can not bear to destroy such valuable assets for the State even when they obstruct his plans.
You are right when you say that D'Artagnan is no romantic hero. He's not. He's an ambitious and ruthless young man, and the musketeers are also not paragons of virtue but soldiers, adventurers, and selfish characters.
That's why this novel stands put among the hundreds of swashbuckling adventures that were penned in the XIX century: a deft combination of fiction and history, real-life characters and lots of action.
: The Three Musketeers confounded my
: expectations. I always imagined that
: D'Artagnan was a romantic hero. He's not.
: He's an ambitious kid from the provinces
: trying to claw his way ahead. He's more a
: spiritual ancestor of Julian Sorel or
: Frédéric Moreau than Robin Hood or Zorro. I
: expected Richelieu to be the villain, but
: he's not. Not really. He is much more
: complex and subtle than that. Milady is the
: only one-dimensional villain in the story.
: I imagined that the Musketeers were paragons
: of virtue. They're most certainly not.
: Every time that they do something
: reprehensible of dishonorable, Dumas makes
: an unconvincing attempt to justify their
: behavior by saying that "those were
: different times." We live in a very
: different time from Dumas, but their
: behavior is still outrageous. I don't know.
: I expected a one-dimensional swashbuckling
: adventure. I got a curious novel that,
: while certainly filled with action, is
: morally highly ambiguous. It provided me
: with much more food for thought that I
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