Alexandre Dumas, père (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Dumas was a major playwright who helped to revolutionize French drama and theater. He was one of the best historical novelists, publishing more than two hundred novels.
Alexandre Dumas is usually designated père to distinguish him from his father and son of the same name. The son, known as Alexandre Dumas, fils, was also an important writer of drama and of fiction. Dumas’ father was an impoverished, disillusioned general in Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign. His prowess and exploits were models for the character Porthos and for many incidents in Dumas’ works.
Dumas was born in the village of Villers-Cotterêts on July 24, 1802. His boyhood was spent there and in neighboring villages (Soissons and Crépy, for example). Early influences were his father, poachers with whom he lived and hunted in the nearby forest, and the sight of Napoleon I en route to and from Waterloo. An early visit to Paris brought him into contact with his father’s friends, all field marshals under Napoleon. Dumas’ early learning was limited to reading and penmanship, later enhanced only slightly by attendance at Abbé Grégoire’s village day school. Literary influences were a production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and reading the works of Friedrich Schiller, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Sir Walter Scott, and George Gordon, Lord Byron. At the age of fifteen, he was a clerk in a...
(The entire section is 1947 words.)
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