Anyway, I have a number of questions. First, what in the world were Dumas' politics? He seems to be an enthusiast for monarchy and the divine right of kings. And yet, the only monarch who is awarded a noble portrait by Dumas is the doomed Charles I. Louis XIII is a weak, shadowy figure in The Three Musketeers, easily dominated by Richelieu and even secondary to Anne of Austria, his queen. Louis XIV is a child in Twenty Years After. And yet, the musketeers are willing to risk their lives for the monarchy.
And what's with the queen's diamonds, anyway? If the queen is carrying on an affair with the Duke of Buckingham, is that not only adultery but basically treason? (The paternity of any offspring is in doubt if the queen is unfaithful.) And yet, D'Artagnan and the musketeers mightily risk life and limb to retrieve the diamonds and protect the queen's "honor." Before the king. To whom she is unfaithful. H-m-m-m.
The, there is the whole question of Richelieu himself? He employs Milady and for most of the novel, we believe that the Man from Meung is a major antagonist. Yet, it is apparently a happy ending when D'Artagnan become a lieutenant in the musketeers on Richelieu's orders. And throughout Twenty Years After, they refer to him as the "great" cardinal, constantly drawing an unfavorable comparison between Richelieu and Mazarin. I get that the fighting between the King's musketeers and the Cardinal's guards may be somewhat similar to the legendary hostility in the U.S. military between the Navy's sailors and Marines. But still, what are we to make of Richelieu?
The characterizations seem to shift some in Twenty Years After as well. D'Artagnan seems to be pretty much himself twenty years older and frustrated at remaining a lieutenant. Although it is interesting that he is now clearly the leader who has all the clever plans. Aramis, who was, I thought, the most memorably drawn of the three in TTM (poet, ladies' man, would-be priest) becomes shadowy and ill-defined in TYA. Athos, who was the most mature but deeply scarred with guilt over having hanged Milady, has become the most rigidly moral, always upright and self-sacrificing one in TYA. Maybe fatherhood did this for him. Porthos seemed under-characterized in TTM, but he comes into his own as a (relatively) slow-witted, affable giant who can fell a man with a single blow. I certainly don't recall him being so formidable in TTM.
As i said previously, my French history is not all that good, so I had never heard of the Fronde. But as Dumas paints this French civil "war," it seems to be mostly about hatred for Mazarin. In marked contrast to the English who execute their king, the French in revolt appear to revere their king and even their queen. I feel certain that in reality they didn't riot in the streets over Mazarin. At least they wouldn't if he was no more cruel than he's presented in the novel. It's interesting that Athos and Aramis are on the side of the Fronde, even though they immediately take up the request of Queen Henrietta to go and defend Charles I, while D'Artagnan and Porthos, who, for their own gain (and a sense of duty for D'Artagnan) readily work for Mazarin, but they are sent to England with Mordaunt, essentially on the Puritan's side.
And what's with so much time spent engineering the Duc de Beaufort's escape from prison when he otherwise plays virtually no part in the novel?
Both novels are oddly structured. The Queen's Diamonds are easily the most suspenseful, thrilling, and exciting part of TTM. That story is over long before the novel. As I said when writing about the earlier novel, I was somewhat unhappy with the way that Milady hijacks the last quarter of the novel, when, for me at least, D'Artagnan and the musketeers are much more interesting. Similarly, the English plot and Mordaunt are the most interesting parts of TYA, but he is dead and that plot resolved about two hundred pages before the novel ends. (Although I did enjoy the escape of the musketeers from prison and the kidnapping of the cardinal.)
And, oh yes, I'm stunned that it was possible to become a cardinal without even being a priest!
Anyway, I'm not sorry that I read them. I got a great deal of enjoyment out of them. Lots of questions, though.
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